Since independence in 1960, many problems have rocked Nigeria to its foundations ruining the promise of a country which was once held the priceless promise of becoming Africa`s first world superpower. From the first military coup in 1966 which precipitated a calamitous and precipitous Civil War in 1967 to subsequent military coups, military regimes of dubious legacies and Nigeria`s struggle to enshrine an accountable democracy since 1999, the Giant of Africa has known rabid and rapid depredations at the hands of those who would fetter a giant.
If Nigeria`s ship has stuttered in the stormy waters of local and international affairs, it is because many times it has been famished for competent sailors and sages in spite of the mushrooming elder statesmen many of whom have become comical fixtures in the Nigerian theatre of the absurd for the frequency of their unguarded statements.
After 85 years during which fate briefly but forcefully fixed him in the eye the Nigerian storm, Mr. Ernest Shonekan, former head of the Interim National Government, died in Lagos on the morning of 11 January 2021.
A man of surging dignity and searing intellect, he it was who was chosen to steady the ship of the country after the terror- and-graft-ridden government of Mr. Ibrahim Babangida. His precarious position was only a few months old when Mr. Sani Abacha burgled his way into government via a military coup before proceeding to bundle billions of Nigeria`s money into the Swiss banking system while dipping his iron fist in the blood of his opponents.
With the pages of Nigerian history rapidly turning on those days when the Giant of Africa was forced to cower at the feet of military men whose plunder of the public purse knew no parameters, Mr. Ernest Shonekan`s place is fastened to these pages by the proud pegs of prudence.
Despite being booted out of office and brushed aside in brusque manner, Mr. Shonekan did not take the backstage of Nigeria`s national affairs with the kind of vindictive and vituperative bitterness that marks the vile venue of vultures many former Nigerian leaders enlist in once they leave office. Instead, with the defiant dignity of a man who had danced vigorously when the flutes of history beckoned and the serenity of a conscience that had done nothing unconscionable, Mr. Shonekan was content to weigh in with his wise counsel and wish the country well whenever he had the opportunity to. In this regard, the Nigerian lawyer and the Agbese of Egbaland was invaluable. His exit at a time when Nigeria stands in critical need of leadership is a lamentable loss which already reverberates across the length and breadth of the country. He will be sorely missed.
A country in dire need of good leaders will forlornly look at the vacuum created by Mr. Shonekan`s exit and find and feel only nostalgia especially as it appears Nigeria`s leadership crisis is worsening by the day. The Giant of Africa is being led by the nose by gnats and goblins who only want to reap from where they did not sow. Thus, where there should be granite decisiveness, there is dereliction. Where there should be rectitude, the stench of rot raps the air.
With the country retreating everyday into the teeth of terror and the 2023 elections drawing ever closer, Nigeria needs men like Mr. Shonekan who always had the presence of mind to see the trees for the wood.
He will be dearly missed. Decidedly, the shoes he has left behind already terrify the many charlatans who occupy Nigeria`s halls of power.