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Wike, Buhari, IBB, Jonathan, Obasanjo, PDP, Others Mourn Shonekan

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike; President Muhammadu Buhari; former military President, Gen Ibrahim Babangida; former Presidents, Dr Goodluck Jonathan; and Olusegun Obasanjo, have joined millions of Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora to mourn the demise former head of interim national government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, who passed on the glory, yesterday, after a brief illness at the age of 85.
Speaking in Port Harcourt, Wike said he received the news of the sudden demise of Shonekan, who succeeded the former military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida, with shock and great sorrow.
In a message of condolence signed by his Special Assistant (Media), Kelvin Ebiri, the Rivers State governor said Shonekan was a dedicated Nigerian, who was committed to the peace and stability to the country.
Wike noted that Shonekan’s strong credentials as an astute administrator enabled him to steadfastly steer the country through one of its most turbulent times.
“On behalf of the Government and good people of Rivers State, I offer our deepest condolences to the family, relatives of the former chairman, Interim National Government and the people of Nigeria.”
Wike said Nigeria has lost an elder statesman whose wisdom, foresight, and steadfast commitment to the country will always be remembered.
Also speaking, President Muhammadu Buhari said he received with profound sadness the news of the death of a great statesman and former Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan.
In a statement, yesterday, the Presidency said, “On behalf of the Federal Government, the President extends deepest condolences to Chief Shonekan’s wife, Margaret, loved ones, as well as the government and people of Ogun State.
“As an internationally-respected statesman, President Buhari affirms that, with courageous wisdom, Chief Shonekan left his flourishing business career to become the Head of Government, at a delicate time when the country needed someone of his calm mien and pedigree to save the ship of state from sinking.
“The President notes that Chief Shonekan demonstrated to all that the love for country and commitment to her development, peace and unity transcend the trappings of office and the transient nature of political power.
“President Buhari believes that Nigeria owes a great debt to Chief Shonekan, the peacemaker, who even at the twilight of his life time never stopped believing and working for a prosperous and democratic country.
“The President prays that the memory of the departed Head of Government will remain a blessing to Nigeria even as he finds perfect peace with Almighty God”, the statement said.
Reacting, the former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) described ex-Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan has “an uncommon patriot,” following the demise of the latter, yesterday, at the age of 85.
In a condolence message personally signed by the retired general and circulated by his media aide, Kassim Afegbua, Babangida expressed shock at the tragic development, saying, “the shocking news of the death of one of Nigeria’s finest brains and patriots came to me this morning with helpless awe.
“I hadn’t the faintest idea that Chief Ernest Shonekan would depart this sinful world too soon, even at 85.
“He was a man, a leader and an uncommon patriot who had a presence of mind and whose understanding of Nigeria was profound and remarkable. It is indeed a personal loss to me.”
According to Babangida, “Chief Ernest Shonekan was one of our cerebral minds during our time in government.
“He was the architect of our principle of free-market economy which helped to open up the system for a robust participation by the private sector.
“The liberalisation of the economy, the investment and boost in the agricultural sector and budget management approach were part of his brainchild. I recollect very vividly how he used to give us tutorials on budget, planning and management of national resources, each time he was invited to our session.
“At each budget year, Chief Shonekan would be invited to critique our budget proposals, and gave us further input to enrich the final budget. He was a man of ideas and ideals. He was prudent and preached so much about fiscal discipline.
“It was, therefore, timely for us to appoint him as Head of the Interim Government to help stabilise the polity at a most trying period of our country’s political evolution. He was a calm personality whose managerial skills were foretold in the way and manner he managed a lot of blue chip companies.
“As Head of the Interim Government, he was able to consult with a broad spectrum of the Nigerian populace in charting a roadmap out of the political impasse at that time. His brilliance and meticulous interrogation of situations helped in large measure to forge ahead during the period. I owe a personal gratitude to him throughout his sojourn on earth as we maintained very robust mutual relationship after his exit from the corridors of power.
“Given the achievements we recorded during our time in government in the area of infrastructure, economy and social rebirth, I owe a word of gratitude to him for his experienced intervention in helping to dissect our policy frameworks each time we called upon him to do so.
“He was an engaging personality whose sense of patriotism was total. He was friendly and sociable. He understood economy and made so many projections that helped us to bail the country out of economic conundrum. We benefited from his immense knowledge, experience and brilliance,” the condolence message read in part.
On his part, ex-President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan described Shonekan as “an elder statesman, well-loved for his sincerity and sense of purpose.”
He said: “As a leader, Chief Shonekan was well respected because of the enormous goodwill he brought into governance. He was a compassionate and determined administrator, a peacemaker and bridge builder who stepped in to lead the nation at a very difficult time in the history of its political evolution.
“Before he assumed office as the Head of the Interim National Government in 1993, Chief Shonekan had become a boardroom guru, having established himself as a foremost industrialist and one of the leaders of the business world.
“He left enduring legacies, part of which was his considerable effort towards mainstreaming the private sector in the development drive of the nation, especially with the institutionalisation of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), which he founded.
“He will be remembered for his great wisdom, peaceful disposition, the goodwill he extended to all as well as his significant contributions to the growth the economy of the nation.”
Also, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said former Head of the Interim National Government, Ernest Shonekan, died at a time when Nigeria was in dire need of his leadership to tackle the challenges facing the nation.
According to his family, Shonekan passed, yesterday morning of natural causes at the age of 85.
Obasanjo said that Shonekan’s contribution to the growth and development of democracy in Nigeria cannot be forgotten in a hurry.
In a condolence letter to Mrs Margaret Shonekan, copy of which was made available to newsmen in Abeokuta by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, Obasanjo said the late business mogul was “a role model and an epitome of the good in the nation’s business firmament of mixed blessings”.
Obasanjo, who received, while currently on international assignment as the High Representative of the African Union for the Horn of Africa, “with great shock, the news of the death of one of the illustrious sons of Africa, a community leader, a distinguished business baron and an exemplary leader in the private sector and, of course, the former Chairman of UAC Nigeria Limited, Chief Ernest Shonekan, with an admixture of joy for a life well spent and sadness for the loss of a beloved man after God’s heart.”
On the political scene, Obasanjo noted that, “Chief Shonekan, as the Interim National Government in Nigeria in1993, though short-lived for the period of three months through the palace coup orchestrated by General Sani Abacha, rendered outstanding service to our country, and we will never forget that.
“It is also worthy of note that as Special Envoy on the Implementation of the Abuja Agreement on Zimbabwe in 2001 under my administration as the President of Nigeria; and Chairman, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission under Yar’Adua’s administration in 2008, he was forthright, dedicated and showed great patriotism in the discharge of his duties.
“He was a unifying force for the nation and his contribution to the growth and development of democracy in Nigeria cannot be forgotten in a hurry. In all situations, he lived nobly and he died in nobility. He was an achiever. Indeed, Chief Shonekan died at a time the country is in dire need of his leadership, wealth of experience and wisdom to tackle the multifaceted challenges facing the nation,” Obasanjo was quoted as having said.
Similarly, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar described the demise of the former ING boss as saddening and shocking, saying his exit “at a time when the country would need his skills and global connections in finding solutions to many of our intractable challenges is quite saddening.”
He said: “Either as a politician or a boardroom guru, Chief Shonekan possessed a unique set skill of bringing stability to a tumultuous situation.
“That obviously was the consideration that made him become Head of the Interim National Government following the crises that greeted the events after the June 12 Presidential election.
“Although his reign as Head of State was interim, Chief Shonekan’s contribution to the peace and development of Nigeria in those days and later years, remain enduring.
“My condolences go to his immediate family, the people and government of Ogun State and the entire nation for the loss of a man of industry and intellect, who lived a life of service to the country and humanity.
“It is my prayer that God almighty receives his soul in a peaceful repose.”
In the same token, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, mourned the death of former Head of the defunct Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, describing his death as a national tragedy.
This was contained in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba.
The statement said, Chief Shonekan was a very courageous, humble and patriotic leader; a bridge-builder and an extraordinary statesman, who dedicated his life.
It said Chief Shonekan made immense sacrifices to ensure the unity and stability of Nigeria in the heat of the political crisis that threatened the nation’s corporate existence following the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election.
The statement said, “The late Head of the Interim National Government was an accomplished personality and a visionary leader, whose efforts in applying his vast experience as a consummate lawyer and businessman to reposition our nation, despite the daunting challenges faced by his three-month regime between August and November, 1993 cannot be forgotten.
“Chief Shonekan’s commitment to the entrenchment of democracy was evident in his determination to restore the rule of law and transparency in governance”, the statement said.
He said, even outside office, Shonekan remained committed to the unity, stability and development of our nation.
“Our party grieves that he left the stage at the time the nation needed his wealth of experience and wise counsel the most”, the PDP said.
The PDP commiserated with the Federal Government, the government and people of Ogun State and the Shonekan family.
The party prayed to God to grant the nation and the bereaved family the fortitude to bear the huge national loss.
Further reacting, the governors in the South-West described the death of elder statesman and former Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, as a huge loss to the country.
They said Shonekan was committed to the peace and unity of the country.
The Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum and Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu said this in Akure, yesterday.
Akeredolu, in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Richard Olatunde, said the governors “received the news of the death of elder statesman and former Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan with a heavy heart”.
The governor noted that the vast experience of the elder statesman was an asset to the country, particularly with the array of challenges confronting the nation.
He said the late Shonekan was committed to the peace and unity of the country and pursued it with vigour and dedication as a patriot.
Akeredolu noted that the service of the former Head of Interim National Government would never be forgotten in the annals of the history of the country.
“Chief Ernest Shonekan was a nationalist per excellence.
“His belief in a united and peaceful Nigeria was unparalleled. He was dedicated to the progress and development of the county. He will be sorely missed.
“His historic and patriotic role in maintaining the unity of the country was one of the many things that endeared him to many.
“He was true, an asset, his counsels were useful for national cohesion and progress”, the governor said.
The chairman prayed to God to grant the deceased eternal rest while commiserating with his wife, the government, and the people of Ogun State.

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Eid-El-Kabir: Sultan felicitates Nigerians, urges greater commitment to farming

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Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), has extended his felicitations to Nigerian Muslims on the occasion of Eid-el Kabir.

In his Sallah message on Sunday, Abubakar urged Nigerians to commit more to farming as a means to alleviate societal economic hardship and address the high cost of living in the country.

“We are fully aware that the leaders in the country are doing their best to ease the hardship, but more needs to be done.

“Our people, particularly in the North, are in a very difficult situation. Therefore, leaders need to do more in tackling the current challenges,” he said.

The Sultan further urged farmers to make the most of the rainy season to ensure sufficient food production to meet societal demand.

“We should all go back to farming and produce food because doing so will ease our condition and boost the country’s economy,” he advised.

Abubakar also called on Muslims to continue praying for the leaders, emphasising that only prayers could support the desired needs of any society.

He appreciated the security agencies in the country for their sustained dedication to ensuring the safety of all citizens.

The Sultan applauded Gov. Ahmed Aliyu of Sokoto State for his commitment to supporting the less-privileged in the state and urged the people to continue living peacefully with one another.

He thanked the Muslim community for the continued dedication to propagating the true essence of Islam, and urged them to have full faith that the country’s challenges would soon be over.

He also prayed for the safe return of the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, urging them to pray for Nigeria and its leaders.

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Presidency clears misconceptions on New York Times report on Nigeria

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Mr Bayo Onanuga, Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Information and Strategy, yesterday, reacted to a recent report published in New York Times on Nigeria’s economy.

He said Ruth Maclean and Ismail Auwal’s feature story titled, ‘Nigeria Confronts Its Worst Economic Crisis in a Generation,’ published on June 11, appeared typically predetermined and followed the usually denigrating way foreign media establishments reported African countries for several decades.

He said that because of the misleading slant of the report, there was need to clear up some misconceptions conveyed by the reporters as regards the economic policies of the Tinubu administration that came into power at the end of May 2023.

“Most significant about the report was that it painted the dire experiences of some Nigerians amid the inflationary spiral of last year, and blamed it all on the policies of the new administration.

“The report, based on several interviews, was all gloom and doom, as it never mentioned the positive aspects in the same economy as well as the ameliorative policies being implemented by the central and state governments,” said Onanuga.

According to him, President Tinubu did not create the economic problems Nigeria faces today.

“He inherited them. As a respected economist in our country once put it, Tinubu inherited a dead economy.

“The economy was bleeding and needed quick surgery to avoid being plunged into the abyss, as happened in Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

“This was the background to the policy direction taken by the government in May/June 2023, with the abrogation of the fuel subsidy regime and the unification of the multiple exchange rates standing out.”

The Special Adviser said that for decades, Nigeria had maintained a fuel subsidy regime that gulped 84.39 billion dollars between 2005 and 2022 from the public treasury in a country with huge infrastructural deficits and in high need of better social services.

He said the state oil firm, NNPC Ltd, the sole importer, had amassed trillions of naira in debts for absorbing the unsustainable subsidy payments in its books.

“By the time Tinubu took over the leadership of the country, there was no provision made for fuel subsidy payments in the national budget beyond June 2023.

“The budget itself had a striking feature: it planned to spend 97 per cent of revenue servicing debt, with little left for recurrent or capital expenditure. The previous government had resorted to massive borrowing to cover such costs.

“Like oil, the exchange rate was also being subsidised by the government, with an estimated 1.5 billion dollars spent monthly by the CBN to ‘defend’ the currency against the unquenchable demand for the dollar by the country’s import-dependent economy,” explained Onanuga.

He stated that by keeping the rate low, arbitrage grew as a gulf existed between the official rate and the rate used by over 5,000 Bureau de Change (BDCs) that were previously licensed by the Central Bank.

“What was more, the country was failing to fulfil its remittance obligations to airlines and other foreign businesses, such that FDIs and investment in the oil sector dried up, and notably Emirate Airlines cut off the Nigerian route.

“President Tinubu had to deal with the cancer of public finance on the first day by rolling back the subsidy regime and the generosity that spread to neighbouring countries. Then, his administration floated the naira,” said Onanuga.

He said that after some months of the storm, with the naira sliding as low as N1,900 to the US dollar, some stability was restored, though there remained some challenges.

“The exchange rate is now below N1,500 to the dollar, and there are prospects that the naira could regain its muscle and appreciate to between N1,000 and N1,200 before the end of the year.

“The economy recorded a trade surplus of N6.52 trillion in Q1, as against a deficit of N1.4 trillion in Q4 of 2023. Portfolio investors have streamed in as long-term investors.

“When Diageo wanted to sell its stake in Guinness Nigeria, it had the Singaporean conglomerate, Tolaram, ready for the uptake,” he said.

He was emphatic that with the World Bank extending a 2.25 billion dollar loan and other loans by the AfDB and Afreximbank coming in, Nigeria had become bankable again.

He explained that such was all because the reforms being implemented had restored some confidence.

“The inflationary rate is slowing down as shown in the figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics for April. Food inflation remains the biggest challenge, and the government is working very hard to rein it in with increased agricultural production.

“The Tinubu administration and the 36 states are working assiduously to produce food in abundance to reduce the cost. Some state governments, such as Lagos and Akwa Ibom, have set up retail shops to sell raw food items to residents at a lower price than the market price.

“The Tinubu government, in November last year, in consonance with its food emergency declaration, invested heavily in dry-season farming, giving farmers incentives to produce wheat, maize, and rice,” he said.

According to Onanuga, the CBN has donated N100 billion worth of fertiliser to farmers, and numerous incentives are being implemented, adding that in the western part of Nigeria, six governors had announced plans to invest massively in agriculture.

“With all the plans being executed, inflation, especially food inflation, will soon be tamed.

“Nigeria is not the only country in the world facing a rising cost of living crisis. The USA, too, is contending with a similar crisis, with families finding it hard to make ends meet. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen raised this concern recently.

“Europe is similarly in the throes of a cost-of-living crisis. As those countries are trying to confront the problem, the Tinubu administration is also working hard to overturn the economic problems in Nigeria.

“Our country faced economic difficulties in the past, an experience that has been captured in folk songs. Just like we overcame then, we shall overcome our present difficulties very soon,” said Onanuga.

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Rivers Tourism Agency, Mayor of Housing Seal Deal After Economic Summit

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…..Set to Restore Rivers Leadership Status In Tourism, Entertainment

The Rivers State Tourism Development Agency (RSTDA) has sealed partnership deal with the Mayor of Housing to boost tourism and entertainment.

This is aimed at rebooting the economy of the state  as the state government seeks to boost ease of doing business (EoDB).

The partnership was sealed after the Rivers State Economic and Investment Summit which ended on May 23, 2024.

The partnership was unveiled at an event at the GRA where the Director-General (DG) of the RSTDA, Mr Yibo Koko, gave details of what he called the low hanging fruits initiative to tap into obvious advantages.

He presented the Mayor of Housing, My-Ace China, the CEO of the Housing and Construction Limited, who has demonstrated capacity and willingness to join in the task.

It was gathered that some banks have also indicated interest in partnering with the Agency to achieve the objective of Sir Sim Fubara’s administration in the Tourism sub-sector.

It was gathered that tourism alone can restart the economy, based on what worked for the state in years past when the city led other states and cities in entertainment and tourism.

The new role of the RSTDA seemed to have been rediscovered at the economic summit and fresh mandates with marching orders may have been issued.

The DG of the Rivers State Tourism Development Agency (RSTDA) spoke glowingly about the gains of the Rivers State Economic Summit and the Creative Art, saying the Mayor of Housing was part of the panel on creative economy and his participation led to the decision to go back and start from the ‘Low Hanging Fruits Initiative’.

He said Gov Fubara’s body language suggests positivity and this has led to trickling effects on creative economy and the young people.

He gave insight into how reputations are ruined online, saying Algorithm or Artificial Intelligence (AI) picks what comes online most frequently and uses it to characterize a person or place for profiling.

“So, when people click on your name, what comes up is the thing AI says you are. For Rivers State, it’s the steady bad news in the media that AI picks to brand the state.

“The RSTDA wants to reverse that and we want the many good things happening in the state to be brought up deliberately.

“The state government wants entrepreneurs and investors to be the ones driving wealth creation and the growth of the economy. We want to bring back the vibrancy of the Garden City and we know the role tourism and entertainment can play.”

He took time to articulate what constitutes the low hanging fruits and how the RSTDA planned to harvest them with support from partners, especially the Mayor of Housing.

Speaking, the Mayor of Housing (My-ACE China) expressed delight working with the RSTDA.

He said: “I started estate business in Abuja. In 2021, we wanted to extend to Port Harcourt, but the first thing the CEO of our company then told me was all about insecurity in the Garden City and all the associated hypes.

“He asked me how I would need over five Mopol (Military Police Operatives) to move about in Port Harcourt. The narrative then was that Port Harcourt was unstable and unsafe. We argued and agreed I would be the one to go, and if I was killed, he would stay away.

“Coming into Port Harcourt at last, I was shocked at the peace and stability, at the hospitality, at the liveliness, cuisine, housing potentials, etc.

“In housing, we were more than 100 brands in Abuja hustling for space, but I came into Port Harcourt and saw only two active brands. It was like I could beat them ad be the topmost.

“I called my people and said, this is a deep market. I staged the biggest event in Port Harcourt. It was shocking. People came out because of the shouting I did.

“This was the same Port Harcourt they said would swallow me.

|When I went into the nitty-gritty of doing business in Port Harcourt, I found why the narrative was looking gloomy.”

He said there was a political dilution of people’s goodwill  and  most persons in the state were victims, including top people doing so well.

“I discovered that there are very many unsung people here that felt they would not make it unless they went to Lagos.

“So, I chose the comedy industry to start the push to sell Port Harcourt with positive narrative and restart of the story of the city.I began to sponsor them with whatever little I had.

“I am the first corporate body to scale Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) because others start CSR when they make it, but I started from the start or even before the start of my project.

According to him, as at this year, we have won ‘brand of the year’ for three years running just by doing little by little.”

“So, part of the fundamental things why we are here today is to tell everybody that the awareness and deliberate narrative change can start now and here; and we can begin to talk about the positives of Rivers State, we can skew the algorithm back in our favour.

“If Lagos State has 15 million people and they have less people talking about their potential, that would reduce visibility to the work of about three million people. Rivers with six million people need to work harder. If 50 per cent or more of our people talk about the positives of this state, it will beat that pattern or algorithm.

So, the idea is, who else will tell them. The good book said how will they hear, if somebody doesn’t preach to them. We thus put this meeting together so you can all preach the message of the positives of Rivers State.

“When this competition as outlined by the DG (of the RSTDA) begins, it would launch Rivers State back as the tourism capital of the world. By the story told by the DG, if the tourism promoters of Dubai could come to Port Harcourt to promote a show and only seven persons showed up, the small number was not because there was scarcity of talent or lack of interest from the youths of Rivers State, it was because of lack of narrative-pushing to tell the youths that there was opportunity somewhere.

“When I started my project in Alesa Eleme, I was told don’t go, they do worry. But today, I have not even started the project proper and I have got an award from the same Alesa Elele youths as ‘Hero of Development’ all because of little corporate social responsibility (CSR) things I did for them.

“It broke my heart when they came to me and said they could secure our facility. They said all we needed to give them were equipment and gears not costing up to N5m. We did that donation in December 2023 but I was weak when they said for 20 years, no company had donated those things.

“It is about the narrative being peddled around the state and around the communities. The story is not being told. If you don’t load the search engine with good stories, you won’t move up on the scale of attractive cities and investments.

“Let’s get to the level of knowing what to tell and what not to”, he said .

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