Prominent Nigerians including, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former President Goodluck Jonathan and ex-head of state, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) yesterday paid glowing tribute to former head of interim national government, Chief Ernest Shonekan at the funeral service of the former leader.
Others who attended Shonekan’s funeral service presided over by the Primate and Metropolitan of the Anglican Communion (Church of Nigeria), Most Rev Henry Ndukuba, are secretary to government of the federation, Boss Mustapha; Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, Dapo Abiodun Ogun) and Godwin Obaseki (Edo)
The service held at the Cathedral Church Of Christ, Marina in Lagos and was also attended by ministers of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Trade and Industry, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; Mines and Steel Development, Arc Olamilekan Adegbite; State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora; State for Works and Housing, Alhaji Mu’Azu Jaji Sambo; former Ogun State governors, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Otunba Gbenga Daniel, as well as former Kano State governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, among others.
In his address at the funeral service attended by hundreds of Anglican Bishops and priests, religious leaders, politicians, captains of industry, entrepreneurs, as well as family, friends and associates of the deceased, Vice President Osinbajo said the late Shonekan lived an extraordinary life.
Osinbajo who described the late Shonekan as a man of destiny just like Nigeria is a nation of destiny noted that the former head of interim national government had respect for all and there was a way he carried himself through life.
The vice president also applauded Shonekan’s contributions to Nigeria, first as a business mogul and later as head of the federal government, adding that the deceased believed that national development was achievable if there was a deep collaboration between the public and private sector.
He said: “Chief Shonekan lived an extraordinary life. He is a man of destiny just like Nigeria is a nation of destiny. He believes that national development is achievable if there is a deep collaboration between the public and private sector.”
In his sermon, former Primate and Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, Anglican Communion (Church of Nigeria), Most Rev Peter Akinola, said the late Shonekan put his life on the line for the sake of Nigeria by serving as the head of the interim national government during a turbulent time in Nigeria’s political history.
The clergy said Shonekan had done that which God enabled him to do for himself, his family, the church and Nigeria.
The Bishop noted that many people advised Chief Shonekan not to take up the job of heading the interim government because of the risk of a coup, but Shonekan considered Nigeria to be more important.
The Bishop recalled that even the church refused to give the late Shonekan the benefit of the doubt while some political opportunists demonised him and called him unprintable names.
He stated: “He put his life on the line for the sake of this country. Perhaps, we would like to know that Chief Shonekan was not completely unaware that the coup would take place.
“Shonekan not being a typical ambitious Nigerian politician, he refused to do many things to preserve himself in office. A typical Nigerian politician will do everything possible to continue in office come rain come fire.”
Governor Sanwo-Olu also paid glowing tribute to the late former leader, saying generations of Nigerians will remain appreciative of Shonekan’s courage, sacrifice and stabilising influence on the polity.
He said Chief Shonekan, in his calm and unflappable manner, steered the course of the country during his tenure as head of the interim national government until the military intervention that followed, noting that it was a courageous thing for him to do at such a turbulent time in Nigeria’s history.
The governor had at the wake keep service and night of tributes for Shonekan held at Victoria Island in Lagos on Thursday described the former chairman and managing director of the United Africa Company of Nigeria (UACN) as a foremost and highly respected industrialist and corporate administrator, as well as a first-class boardroom guru with an enviable track record.
The governor said whether in the boardroom or in the Council Chamber the late Shonekan could be counted on as a wise, calm and mature statesman.
He recalled Shonekan heading UACN in his early 40s made him a leading source of inspiration and a role model to generations of high-flying Nigerians behind him.
“Nigeria has lost a truly great man, a true leader and visionary, a man whose immense success in life did not alter his essential humility and goodness.
“The flood of tributes in the wake of Chief Shonekan’s passing attest to the kind of human being he was. You can also look around at the caliber of persons who have gathered here this evening, in his honour,” he said.
Governor Sanwo-Olu while speaking on the legacy of the deceased told the widow of the former leader, Mrs Margaret Shonekan, his children, grandchildren, and the entire family, to take solace in the fact that “his place in our hearts will never be diminished.”