• Atiku, Kalu, Adebanjo, Musa, Mimiko, Utomi, others pay tribute
By Iheanacho Nwosu, Chris Iwara, Willy Eya, Ndubisi Gbolangunte
WITH the passing of Dr. Tunji Braithwaite on Easter Monday, Nigeria has lost one of its most colourful politicians, foremost nationalist and legal luminary, consistent and progressive politician, elder statesmen and patriot. And understandably, the demise of the 82-year-old legal icon at St. Nicholas Hospital, which was confirmed by Olumide, his eldest, has thrown the nation into mourning.
Since the news of the death broke yesterday, tributes have continued to pour in from eminent personalities across the nation. Among those who have reacted to the demise of the founder of the National Advance Party (NAP) are politicians, activists and elder statesmen and they include Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Chief Ken Nnamani, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Prof. Pat Utomi, Balabe Nusa, Federick Fasuhun among others.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar says the death has robbed the country of one of its greatest giants not only in the field of law, but also in politics.
Atiku, in a statement by his media office in Abuja, says he particularly admired the late Braithwaite because of his unwavering commitment to constitutional reforms, especially his agitation for restructuring of the country.
The Turaki Adamawa explains that he shares in Braithwaite’s passion for creating a fairer federal system that would reduce the fear of too much power and resources at the centre at the expense of the federating units.
Atiku says he keenly followed Braithwaite’s contributions on the issue when he was a delegate at the 2014 National Conference, adding that his consistency in the pursuit of his convictions was remarkable.
According to him, the late veteran lawyer and politician was not “your typical Nigerian politician that opportunistically changes his opinions to ingratiate himself with the new powers that be.”
Former governor of Abia State, Dr. Uzor Kalu, while expressing sadness over the demise of the famous lawyer and activist, noted that he was a patriotic Nigerian, whose contributions to the social and political advancement of the country will not be easily forgotten.
According to Kalu, Dr. Braithwaite was an accomplished legal luminary, astute politician and a resolute activist, who used his intellectual endowment in fighting for a just and equitable society.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser, Kunle Oyewumi, Kalu said, “the passing of Dr. Tunji Braithwaite is painful as he died at a time the country needed his counsel on national issues. He was an outstanding statesman by all standards. He demonstrated selflessness and forthrightness in his legal and political endeavours.
“Dr. Braithwaite’s memories will linger forever in the minds of Nigerians. As we mourn him, our hearts and prayers are with the deceased’s family at this mournful period.”
The former governor admonished the Braithwaite family to sustain the good legacy their patriarch left behind.
On his part, former Senate President, Chief Nnamani described his death as a big blow to the nation, saying he was a man whose picture is on the minds of every progressive Nigerian.
“He stood for truth and fought for the practice of true federalism and democracy in Nigeria. He worked with those who wished Nigeria well. We will miss his intellect, patriotism and dedication to the cause of true democratisation of our dear nation,” Nnamani said.
Frontline Yoruba, Chief Adebanjo described him as not only a patriot and leading light but an advocate of true federalism.
“Nobody can forget a man like Braithwaite. He used everything he had to seek a better Nigeria. During the Abacha days, he was with NADECO. He never shied away from speaking his mind on issues that concern Nigeria. He stood with the people till the moment he breathed his last,” Adebanjo eulogised.
Reacting to the news, Mimiko said the death of the politician has created a great vacuum which will be difficult to fill.
“Dr Braithwaite’s death came to me as a rude shock because it was never envisaged that he was going to transit to the great beyond at this critical time in our nation’s history given his concern for the nation and commitment to the general wellbeing of the masses,” he said.
Former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Musa said the progressive community has lost a very reliable personality.
His words: “Since I started associating with him since the 1970s, he has been with the progressives in the fight to move Nigeria forward. I have had no regret associating with him and I condole with his family, associates and Nigerians”.
For the founder, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, Braithwaite “should not have died at this time. It is regrettable and like all other deaths, it is very painful.”
Similarly, Prof Utomi described the death as a big blow to the struggle for a true democratisation of Nigeria.
“We are to mourn a man who had the courage to battle few narrow minds who stood on the development of Nigeria. Nigeria will surely miss him. My thought goes out to the family to whom he was a true pillar and to others who believe in true democracy in Nigeria,” he said.
Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Olisa Agbakoba summed his reaction thus: “Oh dear, a giant highly principled gentleman has gone to meet his maker. I knew Dr Braithwaite personally and applaud his outstanding and honest contributions to Nigeria.”
For the former Secretary General of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers Association of Nigeria, Chief Frank Kokori, Braithwaite was a hero of democracy whose demise at age 82, should be celebrated by Nigerians.
In his tribute, the Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Chief Yinka Odumakin said Braithwaite’s death is a sad closure to a glorious era and recalled that his last major outing was at last year’s National Conference where he canvassed for Confederal Constitution.
He said his death has left a yawning gap in the politics of the nation.