Buhari, Ortom mourn second republic minister, Unongo

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President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed sadness over the death of a former Minister of Steel Development in the Second Republic and ex-Chairman of Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), Paul Unongo, who died on Tuesday at the age of 87, saying the country has lost an elder statesman.

The president, in a statement issued on Tuesday night by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, recalled that the deceased also held several political positions and was involved in constitutional conferences, adding that until his death, Unongo was Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC).

President Buhari further acknowledged the close relationship he had with the deceased, saying: “In all the positions he held as a politician and public officer, he displayed a high level of decorum. He was a colossus in public life, very articulate and witty. He served his community and the nation extremely well.”

“My deepest condolences go to the bereaved family, the government and people of Benue State.”

In the same vein, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State Governor has expressed deep pains over the death of the elder statesman, saying “we have lost a pathfinder and leader of an inestimable value.”

While lamenting over Unongo’s death, Ortom, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Nathaniel Ikyur, described the late elder statesman as a father figure who championed the emancipation of the ordinary citizens without ethnic or religious barriers.

He noted Unongo’s leadership role in the political evolution of Nigeria showed that he was a mentor to many present day leaders who had great ideas for the socio-political and economic development of the country.

According to him, “In Pa Unongo, our Iroko tree has fallen. He is one of the last icons of political leadership in Nigeria whose contributions to the politics of the country from post-independence till date cannot be quantified. Benue State has lost a leader and mentor. His death has created a vacuum that would be difficult to fill.”

“We shall miss his intellect, great ideas, oratory prowess and immense capacity for mobilization and organization of the people.”

Governor Ortom, however, said the consolation is that Unongo’s legacies of patriotism, pan Nigerian and philanthropy will remain.

He, therefore, promised that Benue State will do the needful to immortalise the deceased for his selfless services and contributions to the development of the state.

He also prayed that God grants the deceased eternal rest and the immediate family the fortitude to bear the loss.