Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), has paid glowing tribute to the late former Head of Interim National Government (ING), Chief Ernest Shonekan, saying the former Nigerian leader chose to tread where many would not dare.
Shonekan, who served as the nation’s ninth Head of State, died last Tuesday at the age of 84.
The deceased had succeeded military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) as Head of ING in the wake of the crisis generated by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief MKO Abiola, Shonekan’s kinsman from Ogun State.
According to Gowon, Shonekan’s death “is a great personal loss to me, my wife, Victoria, and our family.”
In a letter to the Shonekan family, titled: ‘We mourn our dear friend, His Excellency, Chief Ernest Adegunle Shonekan, GCFR’, Gowon said: “The passing of our friend, Chief Ernest Shonekan, Nigeria’s ninth Head of State, on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, is a great personal loss to me, my wife Victoria, and our family.”
Gowon declared that Nigeria would surely miss Shonekan, who was called to serve his country at the height of the political crisis in Nigeria in 1993.
He noted that in accepting to head the ING, Shonekan had chosen to tread where many would not dare.
The former Head of State said Shonekan’s robust contributions to debates at National Council of States meetings were worthy of commendation, stressing that he truly put the national interest ahead of any secondary considerations.
“For several years, we interacted at deeply personal levels, not just between ourselves but with members of our respective families. Our official public service relationship was also borne out of a deep mutual respect.
“Chief was a true captain of industry who actively supported the drive of successive governments for the economic development of Nigeria. He achieved global renown on account of his achievements in business. His extensive contribution to the growth of the nation’s economy on the platform of his chairmanship of the United African Company of Nigeria (UACN), one of Africa’s largest conglomerates, remains a watershed in enterprise management.
“Chief Shonekan was a patriot, albeit a deeply misunderstood one. At the height of the political crisis in Nigeria in 1993, he was called upon to serve his country. In accepting to head the Interim National Government, he knew he had chosen to tread where many would not dare. He gave his best to the office for the good of his Fatherland. Though he paid a heavy personal price for his selfless decision, I hope that history will be kind to him.
“His robust contributions to debates at meetings of the National Council of States are worthy of commendation because he truly put the national interest ahead of any secondary considerations. Nigeria will surely miss him.
“On behalf of my dear wife, Victoria, and the entire Gowon family, I pray that God will comfort everyone that Chief Shonekan has left behind and grant eternal repose to his soul,” Gowon explained.