From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja, Obinna Odogwu, Awka, Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri and Magnus Eze, Enugu
Prominent Nigerians and groups, including, President Muhammadu Buhari, have paid tributes to Ndubuisi Kanu, retired naval chief and former military governor of Imo in 1975 and in 1976, who died yesterday at the age of 77.
He was a member of the pro-democracy group, National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which fought for the re-validation of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election.
He reportedly succumbed to COVID-19.
President Muhammadu Buhari said Kanu distinguished himself in all positions and responsibilities during service, taking up more daunting, but historically rewarding challenges like speaking up for the weak and vulnerable, and the struggle for the country’s return to democratic government.
In a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari condoled with professional colleagues of the military officer, saying Kanu’s credentials in serving the nation as a career military officer and as an activist with NADECO in actualising the June 12, 1993 mandate, remain commendable and will continue to inspire younger generations on patriotism.
The president prayed for the repose of the soul of the elder statesman.
Left indelible footprints in annals of Nigeria’s democracy –Orji Kalu
Senate Chief Whip, Orji Kalu, described the death of Kanu as a big loss to Igbo and Nigeria as a whole.
Kalu, in a condolence message, commiserated with Ndigbo, the people and government of Abia over Kanu’s death.
While noting that the deceased was one of the few prominent Nigerians that fought for the enthronement of democracy, Kalu urged the political class to emulate the worthy legacies of the late statesman.
The lawmaker described the retired naval officer as humble, dogged, courageous and fair in his pursuits in public service.
“I received with pain the news of the passage of a leading light in Igboland and former chairman of NADECO, Kanu.
“The late statesman contributed immensely to the enthronement and sustenance of democracy in Nigeria.
“The democracy, Nigerians are enjoying today, is attributed to efforts of the deceased and a few others. He lived a fulfilled life dedicated to national service and humanity.
“He has left indelible footprints in the annals of Nigeria’s democracy, owing to his remarkable, unbeatable and historic good deeds.
“The late statesman will be missed for his counsel at the community, sub-national and national levels,” he said.
He died when
Nigeria needs him most –Umahi
Ebonyi Governor, David Umahi, said his death came at a time the Igbo nation and Nigeria needed his experience and wisdom to tackle myriads of security challenges in the country.
In a statement by his media aide, Francis Nwaze, Umahi said as a former military governor of Imo and Lagos states, Kanu exhibited high-tech bravado and became the only Igbo man appointed into the supreme military council before it was dissolved in 1976.
“His death at this trying time in Nigeria’s existence has no doubt shrunk the nation’s security intelligence databank and placed a huge responsibility on the shoulders of those he left behind.
“On behalf of my family, government and the people of Ebonyi State, I pray for a peaceful repose of his soul,” Umahi said.
Complete gentleman –Sanwo-Olu
Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a condolence message by his Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile, described Kanu as a complete gentleman and officer.
He said the former military administrator contributed immensely to the development of Lagos State during his short tenure in office.
The governor praised the Kanu’s contributions to the country’s democracy, especially his fight, alongside the progressives in the country, during the dark days of the military junta for the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria.
Sanwo-Olu said the nation would miss the rich experience and knowledge of the late Naval officer and democrat.
Imprinted footsteps in sands of time –Uwazuruike
Former president of Aka Ikenga, Goddy Uwazuruke, said Kanu imprinted his footsteps in the sands of time while he was military governor in Lagos and Imo states
“Kanu was an enigma. He had a soft voice. Yet he became a commander. Physically, he didn’t look like a military man. What he lacked in physique he gained in his brainpower. It is, therefore, not a surprise that he rose to the height of his profession.
“As the governor of Imo and Lagos states, he left his footprint in the sands of time, he was a complete Igbo man, very passionate, brooked no-nonsense and he never stood on ceremonies. He was the chairman of NADECO and was even manhandled by General Sani Abacha for his membership of NADECO. We have lost a great man,” Uwazurike said.
Dedicated to restructured Nigeria —Adebanjo
Elder statesman and chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Ayo Adebanjo, said Kanu was a dedicated loyalist to the cause of restructured Nigeria.
“This is a great loss. He will be greatly missed. He was a gallant soldier, great patriot, nationalist, progressive politician and a dedicated loyalist to the cause of restructured Nigeria.
“He will be greatly missed. I have been in a shock at the news of his death. May his soul rest in peace,” Adebanjo said.
He said Kanu would be remembered for being a great nationalist who believed in the restructuring of the country as the only panacea to move Nigeria forward.
Former governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, has mourned the deaths of Kanu and Onyeabo Obi.
He described the duo as “authentic Igbo people who would tell the truth about a situation; who would be hungry and refuse food”, even as he lamented that Ndigbo were losing much.
“Obi was one of the authentic Igbo representatives in the Senate. He had been a frontrunner. He tells you to stand; you stand and nothing happens. He tells you to run; you run and nothing happens.
“He was the same kind of person as Kanu. True Igbo; Igbo bu Igbo, who would be hungry and refuse food. Not like the people of today that are hunting for any kobo for themselves. We, the Igbo people, have lost two very important people,” he said.
Laid solid foundation on which Imo is built –Iwuanyanwu
Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu said as a pioneer military administrator of Imo State, he did well in opening of new roads and was also responsible for the planning of the New Owerri.
The elder statesman equally said Kanu laid a solid foundation on which the state is built.
“His death is very painful because we have hearty memories of him, he pioneered the military administration in Imo and laid a solid foundation on which the state was built.
“He did well in infrastructure development, when he came in, Owerri has only two streets, Wetheral and Douglas but he was able to create other ones, including Aladinma, where civil servants lived.
“He was one of the best of the military administrators in the state, he would be missed greatly because he did well, he was military administrator but he was democratic, he consulted people like us then,” he said.
Similarly, his colleague, Rear Admiral Luke Ochulor, former military administrator of Delta State, described him as a strong man, especially during the civil war where he gave a good account of himself.
“We were together then, he was almost in charge of the Biafran Navy, and going back to the Nigeria Navy, he played his role as you can see from his rank then.
Politically, he was one of the leaders of NADECO, he is patriotic, as a matter of fact, he developed the first estate civil servants lived in Imo. I sincerely sympathise with his family and Imo.”
Navy Commodore Sunny Emmanuel Akintomide Olamilokun (retd) described him as a charismatic and professional officer who would be greatly missed.
Death devastating –Okei-Odumakin
President, Women Arise and Centre for Change, Joe Okei-Odumakin, described the death as devastating.
“A great ‘Iroko’ has fallen in our forest and we deeply mourn him. Goodnight, great patriot,” she said.
Okei-Odumakin described the deceased as a worthy National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) leader, adding that he would forever be remembered.
“The naval chief gave his all to the anti-military struggle in one of the darkest moments of this country’s history. He was at the forefront of the struggle for the restructuring of Nigeria into a proper federal arrangement. He stood against injustice of any form and defended righteousness at all times. He was a regular face at all remembrances for our departed heroes and he has just become one of them,” she said.
–South East PDP
South East chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in a statement by Augustine Okeke, described the deceased as a nation builder, and said his death was a national tragedy.
“It is a national tragedy to lose this nation builder, especially at this time when the nation is facing dire security challenges requiring all hands, especially such knowledgeable and experienced hands on security as that of Kanu are expected to be on deck,” Okeke said.
Kanu championed the development of old Imo with giants strides in all sectors like the establishment of Imo Broadcasting Corporation and others.
Dedicated his life to good causes
Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, described the death of retired Rear Adm. Ndubuisi Kanu as a huge loss to Nigeria.
Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said: “We have lost a very ebullient, vibrant and progressive someone.
“There is nothing we can do than to accept the will of God. He has lived a fulfilled life and dedicated his life to good causes for which we shall always remember him. May his soul rest in peace and may God protect all that he left behind.”
Ohanaeze: Deaths catastrophic
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday, described as a chain of catastrophe, the deaths of Kanu and Onyeabo Obi.
A statement by National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Alex Ogbonnia, said Kanu made indelible footprints as pioneer military governor of Imo State.
According to the body, as a robust thinker, he engaged the services of town planners to prepare a master plan for Owerri metropolis; built durable roads and was instrumental to increasing the number of local government areas in Imo State to 21.
Ohanaeze said they were devastated because Ndigbo and Nigeria will miss his disarming intellect and wise counsel.
On Obi, Ohanaeze said the renowned lawyer and graduate of the London School of Economics, England, followed his family tradition in the love for the Igbo nation.
His father, Z. C. Obi was the national leader of the Igbo Union before the Nigerian civil war. He served as the president of the Otu-Oka Iwu, Lagos, a body of prominent Igbo lawyers.
During the 1994 National Constitutional Conference, Obi worked assiduously with the late Alex Ekwueme and Emeka Ojukwu to produce an Igbo position paper.
Like Kanu, Ohanaeze said his sagacity and outspokenness will be missed.
Liberation fighter –ADF
For the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), Kanu’s life as a military officer, even after retirement meant so much for the civil society.
Chairman of ADF’s Media and Publicity Bureau, Abia Onyike, said his tenures as military governor in old Imo and Lagos states in the 1970s showed that he belonged to the liberating and popular military pedigree personified in the African continent.
“In his later days after retirement, he became one of those who took some radical steps to oppose continuous military dictatorship after the annulment of the 1993 presidential election by military head of state, Ibrahim Babangida.
History will remember Kanu as an African military officer who used his training and exposure to liberate his people from political obscurantism.
“He was a liberation fighter. His life was a shinning example in simplicity, courage and competence,” ADF said.