Grammarians Celebrate “Old Boy” Former Nigeria Interim President Ernest Shonekan At 81

by Bamidele Ogunberu Last updated on May 10th, 2017,

The Old Grammarian Society and current students of Nigeria’s oldest and premier secondary school, C.M.S Grammar School, Lagos are in celebratory mood as old boy and Nigeria’s former interim president, Chief Ernest Shonekan, turns 81 today.

Chief Ernest Shonekan’s Early schooling was at Nigeria’s oldest secondary school, Church Missionary Society (CMS) Grammar School,  (established 6 June 1859, so that technically makes the school older than Nigeria itself). He says of his days at CMS:

In my days at the Grammar School, I am proud to say that we had the best of high school education. Teachers were qualified, highly motivated and ready to teach, the needed facilities were provided and students were also willing and ready to do serious learning. We received all round education including religious and moral instruction.

Later, he proceeded to the University of London where he finished in 1962 with a degree in law. He is a member of the Nigerian and English Bars.

He is married to Chief (Mrs.) Margaret Shonekan, an anti-examination malpractice champion who contributed greatly to the development of education in Nigeria and the West African subregion as the Senior Deputy Registrar at West African Examinations (WAEC) where she headed the Nigerian National Office of the body.

A high chief among the Yorubas of Southwestern Nigeria, Chief Shonekan is the Abese of Egbaland, a traditional title among his kinsmen. Apart from the honour bestowed upon him by his people, Oloye Shonekan is a recipient of other awards:

-National Order of the Legion of Honour (Legion of Honour or Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur), bestowed upon him by the former French President, Jacques Chirac.

-The Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR): Nigeria’s highest national honour. In December 2004, he was the only recipient of the GCFR award, as announced in a list made public by the then Minister of Inter-Governmental Affairs, Youth Development and Special Duties, Mr. Frank Nweke Jnr (wait o, where is this Nweke dude sef, he was so vocal that time, his yebuke moustache reminds me of one European leader I must not mention…lol! ).

-He was also awarded the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, after eight years in power appointed Ernest Shonekan, then a 56-year-old business executive, to head the ING. His tenure, the most fugacious in the history of Nigeria, started on the 26th of August 1993 and ended abruptly on the 17th of November of the same year, lasting a mere 84 days.

On the 26th of August, 1993, at around 3.30 pm at the Presidential Villa, Chief Shonekan was sworn in as the new ‘Head of State and President of the Interim National Government’ by Justice Mohammed Bello, the Chief Justice of the Federation.

The ‘Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces’ part was skipped…lol But the intrigue did not stop there. The Decree No. 61 mentioned above stated that Abacha was going to be the ‘Vice President, Defence Secretary and Senior Minister’.

The decree stated that the ‘Senior Minister’ would take over if anything unusual was to happen, instead of leaving the Office of the Interim President vacant.

On the 31st of August, 1993, Shonekan delivered his first speech as Head of State to the nation.

Although his regime was of a most fugacious nature and the political situation as at that time was extremely inflammable, Shonekan managed to do some things while in office. He released many political activists (and people like the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti and Mr. Femi Falana who were advocates of the June 12 and organized protests) clamped into jail by Babangida, lifted the bans on journalists and allowed exiled opposition leaders back into the country.

He also opened some of the universities that IBB had ‘padlocked’ and discussed with the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to end the strikes.

Later, he was made the Chairman of the Vision 2010 Committee which drew up plans for Nigeria’s economic development in 1996-1997 under the late General Sani Abacha (I wonder what happened to Vision 2010, Seven-Point Agenda and what will happen to Vision 2020). Today, Chief Shonekan is an Economic Adviser to the President and is a Member, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Nigeria-Netherlands Chamber of Commerce.

He was also made the Chairman of the The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and in February 2012, as the ICRC Chairman, stated that sub-Saharan Africa needed a sum of $93 billion annually over the next decade for proper infrastructural development. He is still going strong in the business world: Non-Executive Partner at African Capital Alliance (ACA), Member of Boards of Nigerian-German Chemicals Plc and MAERSK Line Nigeria Limited.

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