Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Head of State Yakubu Gowon, and former President, Goodluck Jonathan Friday attended the state funeral service for the late Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, in Lagos.
Shonekan, who served from August 26 to November 17, 1993 died in Lagos on January 11 at the age of 85.
Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun and Godwin Obaseki of Edo states were at the service.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and some other members of the Federal Executive Council, members of the National Assembly, service chiefs, and traditional rulers, among others, also attended the service.
Delivering a message titled, `A Life of Two Great Halves Lived in Service: A tribute to Chief Ernest Adegunle Shonekan,’’ Osinbajo said the deceased creditably acquitted himself in various spheres of life.
“If ever a man could be said to have lived a life of two equally consequential halves and in service, that man would be Shonekan.
“Known in the business community for his personal integrity and reliability, and trusted in the corridors of political power for his counsel and guidance by successive governments, Shonekan had a position in Nigeria that few had before him or have now.’’
The vice president said that Shonekan took up the challenge to steer the nation in one of the most turbulent chapters of its history.
Osinbajo said that Shonekan saw the government that he was chosen to lead as, he, himself, described it, as “a child of circumstance” and his mission as that of ending a cycle of instability that was, as he said ‘`leading progressively to a catastrophe.’’
He added that Shonekan lived his life always conscious of and motivated by a burden of duty, as a citizen of considerable privilege, to give back, either in his many philanthropic and civic pursuits or in public service.
Osinbajo said that in the latter chapter of his life, Shonekan seamlessly assumed the mantle of an elder statesman.
He said that the deceased was supportive of all governments and served his nation in this role far above the trenches of partisanship.
“His was a consistently calm and dignified presence in the sanctums of the National Council of State and a steady voice of measured counsel to all that sought him out. But he was also a man of great wit and humour,’’ he said.
In his sermon, former Primate and Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, Anglican Communion (Church of Nigeria), Most. Revd. Peter Akinola, said Shonekan put his life on the line for the sake of Nigeria by serving as the head of the ING during the turbulent time in Nigeria’s political history.
“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. 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 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, 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,” he said.
In his tributes, Sanwo-Olu said generations of Nigerians would remain appreciative of his courage, sacrifice and stabilising influence on the polity.
He said Shonekan steered the course of the country 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.