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Ernest Shonekan

Ernest Shonekan




Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan, GCFR, was a distinguished Nigerian lawyer, astute businessman, and revered statesman. Born on May 9, 1936, in Lagos to a family with roots in Abeokuta, he was the son of a civil servant and grew up as one of six siblings. His early education at CMS Grammar School and Igbobi College laid the foundation for a remarkable journey marked by academic excellence and professional achievement.

Shonekan pursued his legal education at the University of London, where he earned his law degree and was subsequently called to the bar. Later, he honed his business acumen at Harvard Business School, solidifying his dual expertise in law and commerce.

His illustrious career began at the United Africa Company of Nigeria in 1964, a subsidiary of the influential United Africa Company. Rising through the ranks, he displayed exceptional leadership and strategic vision, eventually ascending to the position of chairman and managing director in 1980. Under his stewardship, the company flourished, solidifying its status as the largest African-controlled conglomerate in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Amidst his thriving business career, Shonekan heeded the call to public service during Nigeria's tumultuous political landscape. In January 1993, he assumed office as the head of a transitional council and government under Ibrahim Babangida, with the mandate to facilitate the transition to democratic rule. However, the transition was marred by economic challenges and political unrest, exacerbated by the annulment of the June 12 elections.

Following Babangida's resignation in August 1993, Shonekan was sworn in as the interim head of state, facing daunting obstacles including a national workers' strike and opposition to his government's legitimacy. Despite his efforts to restore stability and pave the way for democratic elections, his tenure was short-lived, as he was ousted in a palace coup by General Sani Abacha in November 1993.

Undeterred by this setback, Shonekan continued to contribute to Nigeria's development, co-founding the Nigerian Economic Summit Group—a pivotal platform for private sector-led economic growth. Throughout his life, he exemplified unwavering dedication to his country and its progress.

Outside of his professional endeavors, Shonekan cherished his role as a husband to Margaret Shonekan and a father. His passing on January 11, 2022, marked the end of an era, leaving behind a legacy of leadership, integrity, and service to Nigeria. As one of the nation's elder statesmen, his impact resonates as a beacon of inspiration for future generations, solidifying his place in Nigeria's storied history.


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