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Ndubuisi Kanu: Home, heads the great statesman


By Chuka Nnabuife

TODAY the remains of one of Nigeria’s very rare personalities in political leadership, Ndubuisi Kanu, begins the final round of its homeward journey to Ovim, Isiukwuato, Abia State where he will be interred tomorrow. He was a great man by deeds and indeed. 

  The brave, sturdy and sagacious soldier who died nine months ago of COVID-19, a few years short of his eightieth birthday, posted a stellar performance as a leader and activist in both military and civilian roles.

He was also one of the few Nigerians who were as comfortable in their ethnic nativity as they were elsewhere. Much as his native Igbo of South-East Nigeria hailled him as theirs, the Yoruba of South-West regarded him wholly as one of them by association and affection.


  Chief Kanu was a former military governor of both lmo and Lagos States who left remarkable landmarks of his stewardship in those lands.


 Yesterday, the government and legislature of Lagos State gave him very topnotch, emotional valedictory sessions.


  Same yesterday, when his body arrived the Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri, Imo State held an occasion of honour for him.   Governor of the state, Hope Uzodimma, in his tribute announced the renaming of hitherto ‘Heroes’ Square, Owerri’ to Rear Admiral Godwin Ndubuisi Kanu Square. Kanu was the Governor who designed the Imo Masterplan in the mid-1970s never cared much about having a lot of money  and even built  a Methodist Church for his hometown in thanksgiving.

Last Saturday, there was a night of tributes for him in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. It was a huge Igbo Nationalities honours affair.

  Even in life, as in death, such honours were commonplace to the resolute military rule top ranked officer turned pro-democracy activist.

  Chief Kanu, departed on  January 13, 2021, at the age of 77.

  A gallant naval officer, Kanu, in whose memory there is a conspicuous garden within the Government House of Lagos State, in Alausa, Ikeja, also demonstrated his high value for democracy with zeal. He showed the world the courageous fighter for the masses in him and his preference for a greater Nigeria, against the tendency to succumb to military esprit de corps.

Following the disastrous end of Nigeria’s third republic as a result of the then military rulers refusing to hand over power to civilians he opted to be on the side of the civilians who campaigned against the junta.


 Even as the ranks of the pro-democracy activists were predominantly South-Westerners, he identified totally with the then l argely, underground National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). He rose from being one of the chieftains of the coalition to become its chairman in 2013.


  In his piercing tribute during the Lagos event, NADECO’s secretary, Ayo Opadokun, described Kanu as “a very detribalised Nigerian” who craved for truth, cherished Christian virtues, lived on high principles. This shows how even his non-Igbo friends and associates know him even up to his native home.


  In those very early years of 1990s when Nigeria was marked by heady call-for-civil-rule politics, Chief was a regular figure in rallies, protests and talk fora where he appeared with his trademark bushy hair and spectacles held by a sling over his neck — no cap, no trinket. He always presented the visage of a very serious ‘action man.’


  Then when most of his colleagues among the very politically exposed retired military officers were adjusting for positions in the upper echelon of the then budding new breed political class, Kanu pushed more to be reckoned with as a statesman.


  Quite as he was a true and thorough Lagosian, he was a passionate mentor of many Igbo socio-cultural bodies both in Lagos and Igbo land. He once served as Chairman of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo Transition Caretaker Committee.


  Organiser of the Abuja tribute event for him and convener of the Pan-Igbo Movement Initiative (PIMI), Iyke Ezeugo, who put up the Abuja event, said it was the least it could do “to honour a man who stood firmly for democracy at great inconvenience in the heady days that preceded civilian rule in 1999”.


  Kanu, Dr. Ezeugo noted, boldly “stood up to be counted whenever matters that affected Nigeria were discussed. He acquitted himself creditably in his military career, stood firm in his place discharging his duties gallantly during and after the Civil War.


  “He was a simple, intelligent, brave man, an outstanding nationalist who left us with an excellent example of service and leadership – speaking only when it mattered and without fear or favour. His sense of purpose and style of engagements in social, political and developmental matters distinguished him.”


  Born November 3, 1943, Kanu was appointed into the late Gen. Murtala Muhammed’s Supreme Military Council at the age of 31.


  Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (then Army general) who succeeded Murtala in 1976, appointed him military Governor of old Imo State (which then comprised the present Abia, Imo, and parts of Ebonyi States).


  He was later appointed the Governor of Lagos State. He returned to the Navy after those public service duty calls and won several laurels and medals for outstanding feats. He also served with the United Nations Forces in Lebanon.


  Kanu is credited with providing the vision, resources and platform for the town planners that prepared the development plan of the old Imo State which Gov.  Sam Mbakwe executed to the letter.


  He increased the number of local government areas in the state to 21 and also established the Imo Broadcasting Service (now Imo Broadcasting Corporation).


  After his retirement, he founded RANGK Ltd, a maritime consultancy firm.


  He was also a Director of Fidelity Bank PLC.


  Kanu was married with children and relations who now mourn him.


  He was one of Nigeria’s seldom hyped statesmen but he was, obviously, a great nationalists.

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