Nseobong Okon-Ekong finds the inconspicuous element connecting the late Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan and former President Goodluck Jonathan
Between the late Chief Ernest Shonekan, Chairman of the Interim National Government (ING) and former President Goodluck Jonathan, there existed a mysterious link that could only be understood by the decerning. Like Shonekan, Jonathan’s emergence as a national leader was undeniably fortuitous.
Shonekan became Head of State following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election which was presumably won by Chief Moshood Abiola, a wealthy businessman from Abeokuta in the South-west of Nigeria. The overwhelming need to placate the Yorubas for the apparent injustice against Abiola brought Shonekan, an equally internationally respected boardroom guru and an Abeokuta man to national reckoning as Head of the ING.
In the case of Jonathan, he was twice lucky. First, he replaced his erstwhile principal, Chief Diepriye Alamieyeseigha as Governor of Bayelsa State. Again, when the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua passed, Jonathan succeeded him.
Therefore, it stands to reason that Jonathan would seek a sober period to commiserate with the Shonekans on the passage of their patriarch at their Luggard Avenue home in Iloyi-Lagos.
The Jonathan entourage was devoid of fanfare. It crept into the premises almost unnoticed and departed in the unassuming way it came, after about half an hour. Journalists who laid ambush for Jonathan were outwitted as he entered the Shonekan home without the expected ceremonialflourish. He was on his way out when the newshound accosted him.
Ever the soft-spoken gentleman, the former Nigerian President, told journalists that he regrets that the late Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan’s administration was shortlived.
“Probably we would have been moving in a different direction today,” if the Shonekan government was allowed to run its course, noted Jonathan.
Speaking to after a condolence visit to Shonekan’s home in Ikoyi, Lagos on Monday, Jonathan who praised the exemplary lifestyle of the late Chairman of the ING said, “my only regret is that he left government within a short time. I wish the Interim National Government had been left to properly midwife the political process
All the controversies we are having today with the 1999 Constitution, we would not have it. He left government because of military intervention. The government was hurriedly given to civilians and today we are still cursing our Constitution. He was a serious minded person. He would have made sure that all the Is are properly dotted and the Ts properly crossed.”
Continuing the former President said, “When he took over the government as Interim Government Head of State, the first thing he did was to release all political prisoners and created the environment for Nigerians to begin to participate in political and economic activities.”
Harping on Shonekan’s contributions to the development of Nigeria, Jonathan recalled that Shonekan was brain behind VISION 2010. “He had a vision, but we lost him early in government and now finally, we lost him. He contributed to the development of this country within the few months he was in government.”
“He was a man with wisdom. A man with a good background in the corporate world; with a good background in economic issues and as a private citizen, he founded the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) that is still there till today. He was such a person who had that kind of vision for this country,” commented Jonathan.
While praying to God to give his family the fortitude to bear the loss, Jonathan recalled that he learnt so much from the late Head of State. He was a man with great wisdom.
He also expressed optimism that Shonekan would be honoured by the Federal Government, Ogun, his own state government and the government of Lagos State, where he lived. “In one way or the other, they will do something to immortalise his name. ”