Tinubu, Buhari, govs mourn as ex-minister Onu dies at 73

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PRESIDENT Bola Tinubu, former President Muhammadu Buhari and other prominent Nigerians have expressed sadness over the passage of the former Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation and the first civilian governor of Abia State, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu.

Onu, who served as minister in the immediate past administration of President Buhari, before he resigned to contest the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress, which he lost to President Tinubu, died in an Abuja Hospital.

His family confirmed the death on Thursday, disclosing that he died after a brief illness in an undisclosed hospital.

The late 73-year-old politician, author and engineer hailed from Uburu in the Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

A graduate of the University of Lagos, Onu became a teacher at St. Augustine’s Seminary in the Ezzamgbo area of Ebonyi State.

After the completion of his doctoral studies at the University of California, he became a lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Port Harcourt, where he rose to become the pioneer Head of the Department.

The ex-minister began his political career as an aspirant for a senatorial seat in the old Imo State, under the umbrella of the National Party of Nigeria.

In 1991, he contested for the position of Governor of Abia State on the platform of the National Republican Convention and won and was sworn in as the first civilian governor of the state in January 1992.

He governed Abia State before the creation of Ebonyi State out of the old Abia and Enugu states.

His family, announcing his death in a statement, said, “In total submission to the will of the Almighty God, the family of His Royal Highness, the late Eze David Aba Onu, Eze Adu of Uburu, in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, announces the death of our distinguished illustrious son, His Excellency, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, who died earlier today, the 11th day of April 2024 at the age of 73 years.”

Mourning the APC chieftain, President Tinubu, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, described Onu as a luminous star in Nigeria’s political firmament.

He extended his condolences to the family of the deceased, whom he praised for being a principal draughtsman in the founding of the APC and a valiant partner in the victory of the party in the 2015 elections.

“Most importantly, the President celebrates the life of an accomplished scholar, first-class engineer; a man of proven integrity; defiant to indiscipline, but ever yielding to the highest standards of rectitude,” Tinubu said.

According to the President, Onu “believed in and defended Nigeria’s unity, advocated peace, and promoted fellowship across the Niger.”

Also, ex-President Buhari, in a statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, described Onu an “intellectual giant” and “one of Nigeria’s most outstanding scientific minds and intellectuals.”

Buhari extended his condolences to the family of the former chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, whom he termed a notable politician.

Similarly, the APC described Onu’s death as a big loss.

“He was a gentleman, focused and very deliberate. Everything we know about life is a continuum. He has run his race and gone to his Maker. We can only continue to wish for his soul to be at rest wherever he is,” the APC Deputy National Organising Secretary, Chidi Duru, said.

Also, the APC National Vice Chairman (South-East), Dr Ijeoma Arodiogbu, said, “Onu was a wonderful man. He was one of our best. You remember he was a presidential candidate but had to drop his ticket for Chief Olu Falae when the Presidency was zoned to the South-West.

“During the merger, he was one of the founding fathers of the party and remained a party man until his death. He was a big wig of the party in the South-East. We will miss him so much,” he stated.

Also, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, expressed sadness over Onu’s death.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Levinus Nwabughiogu, Kalu described Onu’s death as a huge loss to Ndigbo of the South-East and Nigeria in general.

According to Kalu, Onu championed “people-oriented policies that elevated the status of Abia State” during his stewardship as governor.

He added that as a minister, Onu was zealous about the scientific growth and the technological development of the country.

Also mourning, the founding National Chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, Chekwas Okorie, said, “The sad reality is that my long-standing friend, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, has returned to his Maker, the Almighty God.”

The Governor of Abia State, Dr Alex Otti, expressed shock and sadness over Onu’s death.

In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Ferdinand Ekeoma, Otti described Onu’s death as “a huge loss to Abia State, Ebonyi State, the Igbo nation and Nigeria as a whole.”

He added, “Dr Onu is one of such living statesmen with the character, carriage and statesmanly disposition required to reposition the nation for the better.”

Otti promised that Abia State would honour and immortalise Onu by ensuring that the democratic journey he started in Abia State as a civilian governor many years ago is advanced to a level where the welfare and well-being of Abia people would be made an institutionalised priority at all times.

Also, ex-Abia State governor, Dr Orji Kalu, expressed his sadness, describing Onu as “a frontline politician and a nationalist with passion for unity and progress of Nigeria.”

“The demise of former Governor of Abia State, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, is a huge loss to Ndigbo and Nigeria in general. The late statesman was a consummate politician and selfless philanthropist who was committed to nation-building.

“Having served meritoriously in various capacities in the public sector, his wise counsel on national issues will be greatly missed,” Kalu said in a statement.

Similarly, a former Deputy Governor of Abia State and former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, expressed shock and sadness at Onu’s death.

Abaribe, who represents Abia South in the Senate, in a statement by his Media Adviser, Uchenna Awom, in Abuja, on Thursday, described Dr Onu’s death as a huge loss to Nigeria, Ebonyi and Abia states.

“Dr Onu charted the course for the modern-day Abia State, such that he is still being remembered for long after Afikpo was carved out of the state.

“As the first civilian governor of the state, he laid a solid foundation for which the God’s Own State became the first in all ramifications in the comity of states in Nigeria.

“His demise came to me as a shock and I will continue to remember what he stood for while alive: uprightness. straightforwardness and epitome of civility and politics,” Abaribe said.

Similarly, ex-Abia governor, Theodore Orji,  described Onu as “a frontline politician whose invaluable contributions to Abia State and to nation-building as a nationalist will continue to be cherished.”

Also, the immediate past governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, in a statement, said, “An iroko has fallen, a brilliant scholar and astute democrat! One who believed in politics without bitterness is gone! Abia State, Ndigbo and indeed Nigeria have lost one of our best!”

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