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Ndubuisi Kanu: Thinker, Soldier, Sailor, Activist
Segun James looks at the life and times of Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu as an activist and his quest for a better Nigeria
Some people are guided by reasons, fact, reality and crunchy scrutiny of questions and answers to give. To them everything must be measured, reasoned out and if questions were asked, they are ready with the answers. These were the hallmarks of Ndubuisi Kanu, a thinker, soldier, sailor and activist for a better Nigeria.
Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu was all of these and more, in all, he excelled, but it was as an activist that he derived the most pleasure.
After the June 12, 1993 election that saw the victory of Chief Moshood Abiola,the activist in the retired Admiral came to the fore. At great personal risk and as leader of the prodemocracy group, NADECO, he confronted the military regime of General Sani Abacha, a former colleague who had assumed the garb of a tyrant.
Since he left the service as an Admiral, he has epitomized the saying of retired but not tired. To him Nigeria must leap beyond its present situation. It was a goal he spent his life trying to achieve as an activist.
By 2016, Kanu had become very despaired, despondent and alarmed with the goings-on in the country. It was clear that Nigeria has serious problems. The vast country of contrasting landscape and diverse people had suddenly become divided; especially along ethnic and religious lines. The people became sensitive to issues of governance and the direction which President Muhammadu Buhari, another former colleague in the military is leading the country.
This was a rapid reversal of fortune. Over the preceding decades, the development of the nation’s politics was fueled by nationalistic fervour but the situation changed and things became dangerous. To him, Nigeria was no longer on track.
This prompted the activist him. He became an advocate for restructuring the country along fiscal federalism. Although Kanu was political, he was never a politician. He never belonged to any party and will always say it as it is without fear or favour.
Unlike other countries where retirement is a time to rest, for Kanu, it was another call to duty in the service of Nigeria. Outsiders often have fixed ideas of Nigeria: a big poor country with shambolic governments, dreadful infrastructure, and corrupt politicians. This may be annoying, but it is dreadfully true. Kanu insisted that this narrative can be changed in his lifetime, but unfortunately, that was not to be as he succumbed to an ailment which his wife blame on the Nigeria’s poor medical system, one of the infrastructural decay that he spent his retirement years trying to correct.
Following his death, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the state government would participate fully in all the programmes leading to the final burial of the former governor.
He said the state has set up a four-man committee led by the Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, to work with the deceased family and other stakeholders to immortalise and give late Kanu a befitting passage of exit.
Speaking during a condolence visit to the family’s residence in Victoria Island, Lagos, Governor Sanwo-Olu who was accompanied by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat; the Secretary to the Lagos State Government (SSG), Mrs. Folasade Jaji; Chief of Staff, Mr. Tayo Ayinde and some members of the State Executive Council, described the late elder statesman as a detribalized Nigerian.
“He (Ndubusi Kanu) was a man that I personally had come to respect. He was a man that had supported our government from day one. He was a man that I personally respect, not because he is no more with us but he had been to my office on two occasions and had attended all of our events as a pillar of support.
“He was completely detribalised. He was a builder and a brother from across the Niger. He was a true Nigerian that we all need to celebrate. So, that is why we are here humbly for and on behalf of the government and people of Lagos State to reassure you that the State is solidly beside you in this time of grief.
In the same vein, the Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu described the death of Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (Rtd) as a huge loss to the people of Abia State and Nigeria.
Governor Ikpeazu noted that the late Naval Officer was a great son of Abia State who excelled in every aspect of life.
“From his military career where he served meritoriously in the Navy to his appointment as member of the Supreme Military Council in 1975, to his appointment as the first Military Governor of the old Imo State in March 1976, Military Governor of Lagos State in 1977, amongst others, the Admiral’s life exemplified the best ideals of public service”.
Governor Ikpeazu recalled the sterling contributions of the Late Admiral as Military Governor of the old Imo State including the establishment of the old Imo Broadcasting Service (IBS) in 1976.
“Upon his retirement from the military”, Ikpeazu continued, “Kanu emersed himself in pro democracy struggles and made massive contributions to the fight for the entronement of democracy in our country through his involvement with NADECO. The democratic rule we enjoy today in Nigeria is one of the fruits of the sacrifices made by Kanu and other compatriots”.
The Governor noted further that the Late Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu never forgot his roots and made solid contributions to the political development of Abia, his home state. He was a huge reservoir of experience, knowledge and wise counsel which he gladly placed at our disposal as leaders of the State. His death has robbed us of one of our greatest sons. He was a proud son of Abia State and an outstanding Nigerian with impeccable credentials”.
The Governor sends his personal condolences and those of the entire people and Government of Abia State to the family of the Late Admiral and assures that the State Government will liaise with the family and other stakeholders to ensure that he receives a beffting farewell.
Sanwo-Olu told Kanu’s immediate family, “We and other stakeholders are right beside you because he was not just a man for one part, he was a national figure. We will work with other stakeholders to ensure that we immortalise and we give him a befitting passage of exit out of this world.”
The Governor recalled that “Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu was one of those that laid the pillar of what we benefit today as the military governor in 1976. And most importantly, his contribution to what we are now benefitting in the country, which is democracy; because if people like him were in short supply, this country will not be like this.
“People like him, even though they are not many, stood firm. They went through all sorts of terrible things but they were good men. So for us in Lagos, we celebrate his life because we know that only God will live forever and that, we as human beings will come and exit the world at some point. But what is important is, what do you do with your life? I think we can say it boldly that our father lived a good life.”
Sanwo-Olu described the the death of the chairman of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and former Military Administrator of Lagos State as big loss to the state and the nation.
Kanu, an elder statesman and leader of NADECO died at the age of 77.
To him, Nigeria was no longer on track. This prompted the activist him. He became an advocate for restructuring the country along fiscal federalism. Although Kanu was political, he was never a politician. He never belonged to any party and will always say it as it is without fear or favour. Unlike other countries where retirement is a time to rest, for Kanu, it was another call to duty in the service of Nigeria