Kanu: It’s Goodnight to a Sea Lord

In this report, Segun James pays homage to Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, a former governor of Lagos State, who passed away in the week, due to complications from Covid-19 virus


For Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, a Nigerian trained naval officer, one of the best of his time, whose vow was to defend the country from external aggression at all costs, death arising from Covid-19 complications was cruel. For a man, who was active during the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970, when he took up arms as a naval officer of the Biafran Army, falling to the Covid-19 sword was heartbreaking.
Kanu had a rare privilege of fighting both for the Nigerian Armed Forces and the rebel Biafran army, because of his unique seamanship. He became one of the first ex-Biafran soldiers to be recalled into the Nigerian Armed Forces.

Unlike others, his days as a Biafran soldier was never counted against him as he not only regained his position in the Navy, he was deemed a nationalist at the end of the war that he was reabsorbed into the Nigerian Navy and became the first Igbo military brass after the war to be elevated to a Commodore and later an Admiral of the Nigeria Navy.

But it was not his standing as a warrior that distinguished him, what stood him out was his work for the actualisation of democracy in the country. As a soldier, he believed that the military has no business in politics. Even though he held political appointments in his days as a soldier, he was more of a sailor than a politician. Since then, he has devoted his time to political causes and human rights activities.

No wonder after he left the military, Kanu although became political; he never joined politics or became a politician. At great risk to his safety, Kanu as a leader of the opposition NADECO fought his former colleague, General Sani Abacha to a standstill in the battle to actualise the June 12, 1993 election, presumably won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola.

Born in Abia State on November 3 1943, he joined the Nigerian Navy and was sent to India for cadet officer training. His naval career included positions in Personnel, Logistics and Training.
In July 1975, as a lieutenant commander, he was appointed a member of Murtala Muhammed’s ruling Cabinet, the Supreme Military Council and was later appointed military governor of Imo State in March 1976 during the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo, soon after it was created by the General Murtala Mohammed government. He was the first military governor after the decree that established the state from part of the old East Central State. He was transferred to become governor of Lagos State in 1977, leaving office in July 1978.
Although he was Governor for barely one year, he left indelible development marks in the development annals of Lagos State.

Kanu’s appointment came soon after the capital of Lagos was moved from Lagos Island to Ikeja. He had the unique opportunity of developing a state capital from the scratch. With his successor, Navy Captain Lawal, they laid the foundation that was later built upon by Chief Lateef Jakande as governor.

As governor of Lagos, Kanu was a development colossus. He never discriminated in his effort to develop the state. Projects were evenly distributed, expertly executed and of high quality. Projects were executed for Lagosians and Lagos State. Although he was from the old Imo State, he was more of a Lagosian than an Igbo man. No wonder that he lived and died in his beloved Lagos State, including earning the epithet, Action Governor, the title the people of Lagos reserved for governors they deemed to have performed.

After he retired, he joined the pro-democracy movement and played a leading role in the agitation for the actualization of the annulled June 12, 1993, presidential election. He was Chairman of the Ohaneze Transition Caretaker Committee (OTC) and was a top National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) chieftain and became Chairman of the coalition in 2013.

As his death continues to send shockwaves across the nation, eminent leaders of thought, statesmen, women and leaders of the civil society under the aegis of Project Nigeria Movement led by Elder statesman, Prof Ben Nwabueze (SAN) have condoled with his family. Kanu was a veteran of the struggle for the restoration of Democracy in Nigeria in the 90s.

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