By Segun James in Lagos and Udora Orizu in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari; former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu; his Imo State counterpart, Senator Hope Uzodinma; and a former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, were among dignitaries who yesterday paid tribute to a former Military Governor of the Lagos State, Rear Admiral Godwin Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), whose death was announced earlier in the day.
Kanu, a former chieftain of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the pro-democracy coalition that served as the launchpad for the campaigns that led to the rebirth of democracy in 1999, died yesterday in an undisclosed hospital at 77.
The Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere; elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; and the Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Kalu, also mourned Kanu, who once governed Imo State.
Buhari, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, mourned Kanu, saying his service to the nation would continue to inspire younger generations.
The statement reads partly, “The President condoles with all professional colleagues of the gallant military officer, who distinguished himself in all positions and responsibilities during service, taking up more daunting, but historically rewarding challenges like speaking up for the weak and vulnerable, and the struggle for the country’s return to democratic government.
“President Buhari believes late Rear Admiral Kanu’s credentials in serving the nation, as a career military officer and as an activist with NADECO in actualising the June 12, 1993 mandate, remains commendable and will continue to inspire younger generations on patriotism.”
Gbajabiamila, in a condolence message said Kanu would be remembered for his commitment to the development of Lagos State and the other state he governed.
He noted that Kanu would be remembered by all those who knew him as a patriotic Nigerian who played a role in the making of Lagos State.
Tinubu described Kanu as a rare breed for his singular consistency and unwavering commitment to social justice, democracy and federalism in Nigeria.
Tinubu, an ally of Kanu in NADECO, described the deceased as “my brother and a very courageous partner in the struggle for democracy and enthronement of true federalism in Nigeria.”
He said in a statement issued by his Media Office: “In everything he did, from his work as a former administrator of Lagos State to the sacrifices, he made to help NADECO during the struggle for the actualisation of June 12, Rear Admiral Kanu was highly principled. He provided democratic vision and meaningful ideas to advance that historic struggle.”
Sanwo-Olu, in a condolence message signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, described Kanu as a complete gentleman and officer.
He said the former military governor contributed immensely to the development of Lagos State during his tenure.
The governor also praised his contribution to the country’s democracy, especially his fight, alongside progressive elements during the dark days of the military junta for the enthronement of constitutional democracy in Nigeria.
Sanwo-Olu said the nation would miss the rich experience and knowledge of the late naval officer and democrat.
He said: “As one of Nigeria’s advocates of good governance, restructuring and true federalism, the late Ndubusi Kanu will be sorely missed by the people.”
In his condolence message, Uzodinma expressed shock at the death of Kanu.
The governor said the former governor was one of Nigeria’s finest and brightest who devoted his energy to the good of the country.
Some eminent leaders of thought, senior citizens and leaders of civil society also mourned Kanu.
The leaders, under the aegis of Project Nigeria Movement, led by elder statesman, Prof. Ben Nwabueze (SAN), condoled with the bereaved family.
According to a statement by the National Secretary, Project Nigeria Movement, Mr. Olawale Okunniyi; the other chieftains of the group are Anyaoku, Adebanjo, Solomon Asemota (SAN), Maj. Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, Prof. Akin Oyebode, Prof. Pat Utomi, and Commodore Dan Suleiman (rtd), among others.
Afenifere has also described the death of Kanu as a huge loss to Nigeria.
In an interview with NAN, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: “It was a very painful death.
“We have lost a very ebullient, vibrant and progressive someone.
“There is nothing we can do than to accept the will of God.”
Kalu described the death of Kanu as `a big loss’ to Ndigbo and Nigeria.
The Senate Chief Whip, in a condolence message yesterday, commiserated with Ndigbo, the people and government of Abia in particular over his demise.
He urged the political class to emulate the worthy legacies of the late statesman.
Kanu was appointed into the Supreme Military Council in 1975.
Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) dissolved the council when he became the Head of State in 1976.
Kanu fought on the Biafran side during the civil war but was reabsorbed into the Nigerian military at the end of the war in 1970.
As a naval chief, who occupied many command and political offices as part of his military postings, Kanu civilianised himself when he retired from service.
He was a member of NADECO, which fought for the re-validation of the annulled June 12, 1993, presidential election.
He was the chairman of NADECO’s Action Committee, which organised and participated in protest marches and public sensitisation activities.
He was among those who signed an ultimatum for the then Head of State, the late Gen. Sani Abacha, to revalidate Abiola’s mandate and hand over power to him, which brought about one of the most vicious crackdowns by a regime in peacetime Nigeria.