Life and Times of Former Nigeria’s Head of State, Ernest Shonekan…How He Died



Chief Ernest Shonekan


That former Nigeria’s head of the Interim National Government,  Ernest Shonekan, died of “natural causes” at the age of 85 on Tuesday morning is no longer news

His cause of death was revealed by Adeboye Shonekan in a statement released on behalf of the family

Chief Ernest Shonekan was a Nigerian lawyer and statesman who succeeded the military junta of General Ibrahim Babangida on August 25, 1993,  died on Tuesday, January 11, 2022 at 85.

He was born on May 9, 1936 into a family of six children and had his education at the CMS Grammar School and Igbobi College, Lagos before bagging a law degree from the University of London.

He also studied at Harvard Business School was a  businessman by profession before he ventured into politics.

He was given the Abese of Egbaland in 1981 in addition to various other titles he held.

He served as chairman and chief executive of the United African Company of Nigeria which succeeded the Niger Company.

The boardroom guru was made chairman and managing director of United Africa Company of Nigeria in 1980.

Shonekan served as the Interim Head of State of Nigeria from August 25, 1993 to November 17, 1993.

His Interim National Government was ousted by the late General Sani Abacha, who was then the Chief of Army Staff.

Shonekan was educated at CMS Grammar School and Igbobi College. He received a law degree from the University of London, and was called to the bar.

He later attended Harvard Business School.
Shonekan joined the United Africa Company of Nigeria in 1964, at the time a subsidiary of the United Africa Company which played a prominent role in British colonisation.

He rose through the ranks in the company and was promoted assistant legal adviser. He later became a deputy adviser and joined the board of directors at the age of 40. He was made chairman and managing director in 1980, and went on to cultivate a wide array of international business and political connections.
On 2 January 1993, Shonekan assumed office simultaneously as head transitional council and head of government under Ibrahim Babangida.

At the time, the transitional council designed to be the final phase leading to a scheduled hand over to an elected democratic leader of the Third Nigerian Republic.

Shonekan learnt of the dire condition of government finances, which he was unable to correct. The government was hard pressed on international debt obligations and had to hold constant talks for debt rescheduling.

In August 1993, Babangida resigned from office, following the annulment of the 12 June elections. He signed a decree establishing the Interim National Government led by Shonekan who was subsequently sworn-in as head of state.

Shonekan was unable to control the political crisis which ensued following the election annulment. During his few months in power, he tried to schedule another presidential election and a return to democratic rule, while his government was hampered by a national workers’ strike. Opposition leader Moshood Abiola, viewed Shonekan’s interim government as illegitimate. Shonekan released political prisoners detained by Babangida.

Shonekan’s administration introduced a bill to repeal three major draconian decrees of the military government. Babangida made the interim government weak by placing it under the control of the military.

Shonekan had lobbied for debt cancellation but, after the election annulment, most of the Western powers had 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,[5] an organisation that had many operational inefficiencies.

Shonekan served as an Executive of Royal Dutch Shell while acting as the interim president of Nigeria.

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.

In 1994, he founded the Nigerian Economic Summit Group an advocacy group and think-tank for private sector-led development of the Nigerian economy.

Since then Shonekan went on to feature prominently as an elder statesman. He died on Tuesday January 11th 2022 at the age of 85. At the time of his death, he was the third oldest surviving Nigerian head of state by age after Elizabeth II and Yakubu Gowon.
Shonekan was married to Margaret Shonekan.



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