Former military governor of Imo and Lagos states and Nigerian military officer, Rear Admiral Godwin Ndubuisi Kanu (retd), passed on January 13, 2021 in Lagos. The naval chieftain, who was a patriotic and a highly detribalised Nigerian, died in a Lagos hospital due to complications arising from COVID-19 pandemic.
Born in Ovim in Isikwuato, Abia State on November 3, 1943, Kanu attended the Methodist Primary School, Enugu before he joined the Nigerian Navy in 1962. Later, Kanu went to India for his cadet training. He also obtained a B.Sc degree at the National Defence Academy, India. He served the Nigerian Navy in various capacities in Personnel, Logistics and Training. However, during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970, he fought on the Biafran side. Lieutenant Commander Ndubuisi Kanu was appointed a member of the Gen. Murtala Muhammed’s Supreme Military Council in July 1975.
When Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo came into office in February 1976 as the new military Head of State, Kanu was appointed the military governor of Imo State in March 1976. He developed the master plan for the development of the then new state and constructed new roads in Imo. Besides, he established the Imo Broadcasting Service, now known as Imo Broadcasting Corporation and reportedly increased the number of local governments in the state to 21.
He also served as the military governor of Lagos State from 1977 to July 1978. As a Rear Admiral and Naval chief, he served with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. He was Flag Officer, Eastern Fleet, Chief of Personnel, Naval Headquarters, Flag Officer, Naval Training Command; Chief of Naval Operations, Naval Headquarters, and Director of Logistics, joint operations.
As a military officer, Ndubuisi Kanu was courageous and disciplined. When he retired from military service, he devoted his entire life to the cause of a better Nigeria in a well- structured federal system and he never gave up the struggle till his death early in the year.
Kanu will be remembered for his giant strides in the pro-democracy struggles and the defence of human rights in the country. He played a leading role in the agitation for the actualisation of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election under the umbrella of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), and became the Chairman of the Action Committee of the coalition in 2013.
In May 2008, he called for a return to true federalism in Nigeria. He sued for fundamental dialogue among the different ethnic groups in Nigeria and demanded a conflict- free society. He attributed the militancy in the Niger Delta then to the lack of a regional power. Kanu was among Nigerian leaders, who spoke in January 2010 at a Lagos rally of the Save Nigeria Group calling for Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to be made acting president during President Musa Yar’Adua’s protracted illness.
He also steered the affairs of Ndigbo Lagos, an affiliate of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, for about two decades. He was founder and chairman of RANGK LTD, a maritime consultancy outfit and was also at a time the chairman of the Ohanaeze Caretaker Committee.
He was awarded honorary doctorate degrees by the Imo State University, Owerri and Federal University of Technology, Owerri. The Lagos State government also named a park, “Ndubuisi Kanu Park,” in his honour. The outpouring of tributes from notable Nigerians since his demise underscores his outstanding leadership qualities. It is very commendable that Lagos State government has already laid out elaborate plans to give him a befitting state burial. We urge Imo and Abia states to do the same.
As a role model, a compatriot of great repute, a distinguished military officer and a strong believer in the Nigerian project, we urge the Federal Government to name one national monument after him. There is no doubt that Kanu will be missed by his friends and numerous admirers.
We commiserate with members of his family, his associates, the military clan and the government and people of Nigeria on the irreparable loss. May God grant his soul eternal repose.