Shonekan: Buhari, IBB, others mourn as FG orders flag to fly at half-mast

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President Muhammadu Buhari, predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, and other prominent Nigerians have expressed sadness over the death of a former head of Nigeria’s interim national government, Ernest Shonekan.

Buhari, in a statement today issued by his spokesman Femi Adesina, extended condolences to Shonekan’s wife, Margaret, loved ones, as well as the government and people of Ogun State.

The president affirmed that, with courageous wisdom, Shonekan left his flourishing business career to become the head of government, at a delicate time when the country needed someone of his calm mien and pedigree to save the ship of state from sinking.

Buhari noted that Shonekan demonstrated to all that the love for country and commitment to her development, peace and unity transcend the trappings of office and the transient nature of political power.

The president added that he believed that Nigeria owes a great debt to Shonekan who even at the twilight of his life never stopped believing and working for a prosperous and democratic country.

President Buhari also ordered flags to fly at half-mast.

The order takes effect from the 12th to 14th of January, 2022, according to a statement signed by Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.

The statement read, “Following the death of the former Head of the Interim Government, Late Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan, GCFR, President Muhammadu Buhari, has directed that the national flag be flown at half-mast, effective from Wednesday 12th – Friday 14th, January, 2022 as a mark of respect for the former Head of State who died on Tuesday 11th January, 2022 at the age of 85.”

On the other hand, Jonathan described Shonekan as “an elder statesman, well-loved for his sincerity and sense of purpose.”

He said: “As a leader, Chief Shonekan was well respected because of the enormous goodwill he brought into governance. He was a compassionate and determined administrator, a peacemaker and bridge-builder who stepped in to lead the nation at a very difficult time in the history of its political evolution.

“Before he assumed office as the head of the Interim National Government in 1993, Chief Shonekan had become a boardroom guru, having established himself as a foremost industrialist and one of the leaders of the business world.

“He left enduring legacies, part of which was his considerable effort towards mainstreaming the private sector in the development drive of the nation, especially with the institutionalisation of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), which he founded.”

Former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd), has described Shonekan as “an uncommon patriot”.

In a condolence message personally signed by the retired general and circulated by his media aide, Kassim Afegbua, Babangida expressed shock at the tragic development saying, “the shocking news of the death of one of Nigeria’s finest brains and patriots came to me this morning with helpless awe.

“I hadn’t the faintest idea that Chief Ernest Shonekan would depart this sinful world too soon, even at 85.

“He was a man, a leader and an uncommon patriot who had a presence of mind and whose understanding of Nigeria was profound and remarkable. It is indeed a personal loss to me.”

According to Babangida, “Chief Ernest Shonekan was one of our cerebral minds during our time in government.

“He was the architect of our principle of free-market economy which helped to open up the system for a robust participation by the private sector.

“The liberalization of the economy, the investment and boost in the agricultural sector and budget management approach were part of his brainchild. I recollect very vividly how he used to give us tutorials on budget, planning and management of national resources, each time he was invited to our session.

“At each budget year, Chief Shonekan would be invited to critique our budget proposals, and gave us further input to enrich the final budget. He was a man of ideas and ideals. He was prudent and preached so much about fiscal discipline.

“It was therefore timely for us to appoint him as Head of the Interim Government to help stabilize the polity at a most trying period of our country’s political evolution. He was a calm personality whose managerial skills were foretold in the way and manner he managed a lot of blue chip companies.

“As Head of the Interim Government, he was able to consult with a broad spectrum of the Nigerian populace in charting a roadmap out of the political impasse at that time. His brilliance and meticulous interrogation of situations helped in large measure to forge ahead during the period. I owe a personal gratitude to him throughout his sojourn on earth as we maintained very robust mutual relationship after his exit from the corridors of power.

“Given the achievements we recorded during our time in government in the area of infrastructure, economy and social rebirth, I owe a word of gratitude to him for his experienced intervention in helping to dissect our policy frameworks each time we called upon him to do so.

“He was an engaging personality whose sense of patriotism was total. He was friendly and sociable. He understood economy and made so many projections that helped us to bail the country out of economic conundrum. We benefited from his immense knowledge, experience and brilliance,” the condolence message read in part.

Similarly, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar described the demise of the former ING boss as saddening and shocking, saying hus exit “at a time when the country would need his skills and global connections in finding solutions to many of our intractable challenges is quite saddening.”

He continued: “Either as a politician or a boardroom guru, Chief Shonekan possessed a unique set skill of bringing stability to a tumultuous situation.

“That obviously was the consideration that made him become Head of the Interim National Government following the crises that greeted the events after the June 12 Presidential election.

“Although his reign as Head of State was interim, Chief Shonekan’s contribution to the peace and development of Nigeria in those days and latter years, remain enduring.

“My condolences go to his immediate family, the people and government of Ogun state and the entire nation for the loss of a man of industry and intellect, who lived a life of service to the country and humanity. It is my prayer that God almighty receives his soul in a peaceful repose.”

In a related development, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu described the late Shonekan as “a detribalized Nigerian and elder statesman who gave Nigeria his best.”

According to Ayu, “His death is a sunset on an illustrious career that straddled both the corporate sector and the public service.

“We are consoled that he lived a fulfilled life, and that his legacy of public service will outlive him.”

He prayed for God to grant him eternal rest and also give his family the fortitude to bear the loss.