By IHECHUKWU SUNDAY
Former Governor of Anambra State and vice-presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 presidential election, Mr. Peter Obi, has expressed sadness over the death of Nigeria’s former Interim Head of State, Chief Ernest Shonekan.
In a condolence message to the Shonekan family, government and people of Ogun State and Nigerians in general, Obi described Shonekan as an elder statesman who contributed to the growth and development of Nigeria
The late Chief Shonekan who died in Lagos at the age of 85, headed the federal government of Nigeria in an interim capacity between August 26 and November 17, 1993, but was ousted in a palace coup led by the late General Sani Abacha.
On January 2, 1993, Shonekan assumed office simultaneously as head of the transitional council and head of government under Ibrahim Babangida.
At the time, the transitional council was designed to be the final phase to a scheduled hand over to an elected democratic leader of the Third Republic.
In August 1993, Babangida resigned from office following the annulment of the June 12 elections. He had signed a decree establishing the Interim National Government led by Shonekan who was subsequently sworn-in as head of state.
But Shonekan was unable to control the political crisis which ensued following the annulment of the election adjudged the freest in Nigeria.
During his few months in power, he tried to schedule another presidential election and a return to democratic rule but his government was burdened by a national workers’ strike.
The main albatross on Shonekan’s neck was that the winner of the June 12 election, Moshood Abiola, did not recognise the interim government despite the fact that it released political prisoners detained by Babangida.
Shonekan’s administration also introduced a bill to repeal three major draconian decrees of the military government.
That effort gave the administration some level of popularity but Gen Babangida was believed to have made the interim government weak ab initio by placing it under the control of the military.
On November 11, 1993, the Federal High Court, Abuja ruled that the ING appointed by Babangida was illegal.
The court which was presided over by Justice Dolapo Akinsanya also ruled that Shonekan was sworn in illegally by General Babangida because his appointment was signed after the Babangida administration had resigned from office.
In the confusion created by the court judgment, Gen Abacha, who was Minister of Defence in the ING, took over power in a coup and dismantled all the democratic structures already erected during the phased transition to the Third Republic of the Babangida years.
Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan was born in Lagos into a family of six children, to an Abeokuta-born civil servant, on May 9, 1936.
He attended CMS Grammar School and Igbobi College before proceeding to the University of London where he obtained a law degree.
He later attended Harvard Business School.
He held the title Abese of Egbaland from 1981 in addition to a variety of other chieftaincy titles.
Expressing his sympathies to the Shonekan family, the good people of Ogun State and Nigerians in general, Obi prayed to God to comfort all who mourn him and grant the deceased eternal rest.