By Princess Simon (Bureau Chief North Central, in Minna)
Former Military Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), has described the former Head of the Interim Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, as one of Nigeria’s finest and an uncommon patriot who contributed in the shaping of Nigeria’s fiscal policies.
Babangida in a press statement made available to newsmen in Minna, said he received the news of the demise of Chief Shonekan with shock. “The news of the death of Shonekan, one of Nigeria's finest brains and patriots came to me this morning with a helpless awe”.
“I hadn't the faintest idea that Chief Ernest Shonekan would depart this sinful world too soon. Even at 85, he was a leader and an uncommon patriot who had a presence of mind and his understanding of Nigeria was profound and remarkable. It is indeed a personal loss to me”.
Late Chief Ernest Shonekan, Babangida said, ‘was one of our cerebral minds during our time in government. He was the architect of our principle of free market economy which helped to open up the system for a robust participation by the private sector’.
Babangida said the life and time of Shonekan was impactful to Nigeria and Nigerians generally. “The liberalisation of the economy, the investment and boost in the agricultural sector and budget management approach were part of the brain child of Ernest Shonekan”.
According to the statement personally signed by Babangida himself, “I recollect very vividly how he used to give us tutorials on budget, planning and management of national resources, each time he was invited to our session. At each budget year, late Shonekan would be invited to critique our budget proposals”.
The life of the late elder statesman was very impactful to the country, Babangida pointed out, adding that, “Shonekan gave us further input to enrich final budgets during our time. He was a man of ideas and ideals, prudent and preached so much about fiscal discipline”.
It was therefore timely for us to appoint him as Head of the Interim Government to help stabilize the polity at a most trying period of our country's political evolution, Babangida said, describing him as, ‘a calm personality whose managerial skills were foretold in the way and manner he managed a lot of blue chip companies’.
As Head of the Interim Government, late Shonekan was able to consult with a broad spectrum of the Nigerian populace in charting a roadmap out of the political impasse at that time, his brilliance and meticulous interrogation of situations helped in large measure to forge ahead during the period.
Former President Babangida said, “I owe a personal gratitude to late Shonekan throughout his sojourn on earth as we maintained very robust mutual relationship after his exit from the corridors of power given the achievements we recorded during our time in government in the area of infrastructure, economy and social rebirth”,
“I owe a word of gratitude to him for his experienced intervention in helping to dissect our policy frameworks each time we called upon him to do so. He was an engaging personality whose sense of patriotism was total. He was friendly and sociable. He understood economy and made so many projections that helped us to bail the country out of economic conundrum”.
While asking that Almighty God console those he left behind to mourn him, including his family, associates, friends of late Shonekan and Nigerians who had a relationship with him when he was still alive, Babangida prayed that God grant his soul eternal rest.
“Nigeria has lost a patriot, an urbane and refined gentleman, a thoroughbred boardroom maestro and a cosmopolitan mind who was devoted to the growth and development of his country. Rest in peace Chief Ernest Shonekan! NNL.