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Shonekan, the unforgotten, bitter truth

By Emma Aziken

The death of Chief Ernest Shonekan at 85 has been shadowed with a sort subdued national mourning with the nation’s flags being flown in the memory of the former head of an Interim National Government, ING bequeathed by General Ibrahim Babangida.

Even President Muhammadu Buhari moved beyond the routine press statements that come from the routine deaths in the land to pay a physical visit to the bereaved family. The visit on the sidelines of his visit to Ogun State demonstrated Buhari’s sense of duty as president of the country.

However, expectations that Buhari would use the visit to break the ice in the cold war between him and his predecessor, President Olusegun Obasanjo was farfetched as both men continued to ignore one another.

Now, in observing the flow of tribute to Shonekan as a man who sacrificed himself for the nation, many are rightly questioning our sense of history. Some have also not failed to figure it out that the tributes to Shonekan have mostly come from his collaborators in the military-industrial complex, to whom the deceased gave himself to in his lifetime.

Among those who have led the tribute besides Buhari are General Ibrahim Babangida, General Olusegun Obasanjo, Brigadier-General (Senator) David Mark (rtd.) among many others.

Shonekan was not just an ally of the military, but was an accomplished business leader whose grace and candour in those days of yore qualified him to be ennobled at home and abroad.

As a businessman he was said to be humane, humble and also, a good hunter of businesses.

However, he is best remembered for the 11 months he rode on the national political landscape in 1993; first as chairman of Babangida’s transition cabinet and second, as head of an Interim National Government, ING.

While few would have any quarrel with his role as head of the Transition Government constituted by Babangida to pave way for a democratically elected government, many have buried all his good attributes in the role he played after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

For many of us including your correspondent who travelled from Kaduna to Lagos to partake in the poll, the suppression of that election would remain an indelible blot in the memory of all those who partook in its annulment.

For many it was also unthinkable that Babangida, ever referred to as the Maradona of the Nigerian political class, that he took a kinsman of the winner of that election to hide the atrocity of the annulment of the best election every held in Nigeria.

Chief Moshood Abiola who won the election was not just a kinsman but also a fellow business executive as Shonekan.

In mourning him, Babangida in a statement described Shonekan as an uncommon patriot. Yes, he was a patriot in serving the selfish interest of the Babangida regime in covering the felony that suppressed the common political expression of the Nigerian people.

One of the tales Nigerians heard after the annulment of the Abiola mandate was that a group of military officers put a gun to Babangida’s head to commit the felony.

It is not known if Brigadier-General David Mark was in this group, but he is reckoned to have been among the principal actors of the government who were famously known as the IBB Boys.

Brigadier-General Mark in his statement condoling the Shonekan family narrated how the deceased made sacrifices following what he, Mark, referred to as the “The ill-fated election (that) was believed to have been won by business mogul Chief M K O Abiola.”

What made the election to be ill-fated is what Mark did not say.

Indeed, Babangida has mourned the deceased for his contributions to his administration’s free market revolution. If only Shonekan had stopped there. His advent into the political landscape at a time of national malady orchestrated by the military is what till today marked him on the wrong side of the nation’s political history.

The attempt while he was in office as head of the ING to portray him as being in charge with the NTA regularly taunting “he is in control and we know it,” was a collective insult on the nation. He was indeed, given his antecedents to that office of head of the ING a collaborator with the military.

One wonders all those years after he was kicked aside by General Sani Abacha and with Abiola in the custody of his former benefactors, how he felt. It is understandable that after he was removed that he considerably went under the radar.

The most recent memories of him were at the meetings of the National Council of State where his mien was particularly expressionless.

It was a contrast to that pleasing and welcoming appearance of the UAC business executive and charming wheeler dealer. That is what many Nigerians would want to remember of him and not the healer that Generals Buhari, Obasanjo, Babangida and David Mark would want to force on our history.

Credit: Vanguard

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