Former Nigerian leader, Ernest Shonekan dies at 85

Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan, the respected business leader who headed the Interim National Government that succeeded the junta of General Ibrahim Babangida, has died.

The Guardian, which broke news of the death, reported that Shonekan died in Lagos at the age of 85. The family is yet to announce the death.

Shonekan was the interim head of the Nigerian Government between August 26 and November 17 1993 when he was ousted in a coup led by late General Sani Abacha.

Prior to his political career, Shonekan was the chairman and chief executive of the United African Company of Nigeria, a large Nigerian conglomerate, which at the time was the largest African-controlled company in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Shonekan had lobbied for debt cancellation but, after the election annulment, most of the Western powers imposed economic sanctions on Nigeria. Inflation was uncontrollable and most non-oil foreign investment disappeared. The government also initiated an audit of the accounts of NNPC, the oil giant, an organisation that had many operational inefficiencies.

Shonekan was unable to control the political crisis which ensued following the election annulment. During his few months in power, he tried to create a new timetable for democratic return, while his government was hampered by a national workers’ strike. Most members of the democratic opposition viewed Shonekan’s interim government as illegitimate.

Shonekan released political prisoners detained by Babangida and introduced a bill to repeal three major draconian decrees of the military government.

Shonekan tried to set a timetable for troop withdrawal from ECOMOG’s peacekeeping mission in Liberia. General Sani Abacha, was the minister of defence and chief of defence staff who had full control over the military. In November 1993, three months into his administration, Shonekan was overthrown in palace coup by Abacha.


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