By Laleye Dipo in Minna
Former Military President General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida has said that he received “with awe” the news of the demise of Chief Ernest Shonekan, the man he made the Head of the Interim Government, describing the deceased as “an uncommon patriot”.
Babangida in a statement said: “The shocking news of the death of one of Nigeria’s finest brains and patriot came to me this morning with a helpless awe. I hadn’t the faintest idea that Chief Ernest Shonekan would depart this sinful world too soon, even at 85”.
Babangida described late Chief Shonekan as “a leader and an uncommon patriot who had a presence of mind and whose understanding of Nigeria was profound and remarkable”. adding that his death “is indeed a personal loss”.
Babangida said :”Nigeria has lost a patriot, an urbane and refined gentleman, a thoroughbred boardroom maestro and a cosmopolitan mind who was devoted to his country
“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 former military leader said, adding, “The liberalisation of the economy, the investment and boost in the agricultural sector and budget management approach were part of his brain child.
“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”.
Babangida added that the former Head of the Interim Government “was a man of ideas and ideals. He was prudent and preached so much about fiscal discipline”.
General Babangida said because of the qualities of the deceased “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,” he added.
” 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”
Babangida declared: “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”, pointing out that, “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 former military president added.
He prayed God to console the deceased family and “other Nigerians who had a relationship with this gentle giant of quintessential orientation”.