FLASHBACK: Shonekan’s place in Nigeria’s history, how he was ousted as Interim President by Abacha
Death was announced today of the former Interim President of Nigeria, Chief Ernest Shonekan. He was aged 85. He led Nigeria for a period less than 3 months, between August 26 and November 17, 1993. His tenure was a controversial one as many supporters of late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, who won the June 12, Presidential Election, that was annuled by then Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, believed he (Abiola) would not have been easily edged out if Shonekan had not accepted to head the lameduck interim government.
Irrespective of the side one belongs he had played his part in the history of Nigeria. The news of his death made ogbomosoinsightonline.com go into the archives to reproduce this report by The Associated Press about his removal from government a little over 28 years ago.
The interim President of Nigeria, Ernest Shonekan, was forced out today by the Defense Minister, who has a long history of involvement in the country’s political turmoil.
Government television announced the ouster by Gen. Sani Abacha, 50, who has been considered to be the real power behind the Government.
The ouster of Mr. Shonekan was the result of a meeting of military leaders last week to discuss the country’s political turmoil, according to a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The most recent turmoil began after the previous President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, voided a presidential election that was to end a decade of military rule. He resigned under pressure on Aug. 26 and named Mr. Shonekan, an ally, as his successor. But General Abacha, a prominent figure in the coup that ended the civilian Government in 1983 and in the rise to power of General Babangida two years later, was believed by many to be behind General Babangida’s resignation as well, an act that led to widespread dissension in the military.
Mr. Shonekan, a former business executive and ally of General Babangida, was widely perceived as a puppet of General Abacha. .
Today’s action is the latest twist in the most turbulent period in Nigerian history since the 1967 civil war that resulted in the short-lived breakaway nation of Biafra and led to the death of about a million people.
Nigeria, which achieved independence from Britain 33 years ago, is in the midst of a general strike called by major unions and pro-democracy groups to protest Mr. Shonekan’s decision to raise fuel prices sevenfold.
The June presidential election was apparently won by Moshood Abiola, a wealthy industrialist and a member of the southern Yoruba tribe. General Babangida was believed to have annulled the results of the election because Mr. Abiola was viewed as a threat to the northern tribes that have traditionally dominated the military and politics in this nation of 90 million people.
The annulment provoked a series of strikes and protests and resulted in General Babangida’s resignation. General Abacha quickly purged top loyalists of General Babangida from the military in the weeks after his resignation.
During his brief term as Interim President, Mr. Shonekan tried to win public support by freeing political prisoners, lifting press restrictions and dismantling the oil industry bureaucracy, which had often been accused of siphoning off the nation’s vast oil wealth. He also had promised to hold a new presidential election on Feb. 19.
Note: A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 18, 1993, Section A, Page 15 of the National edition with the headline: Nigerian Military Leader Ousts Interim President.
It is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions.