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FLASHBACK: ‘We brought honour to government’ — Shonekan’s resignation speech after Abacha deposed him


On Tuesday, Ernest Shonekan, former head of the interim national government, died in Lagos at the age of 85. 

Shonekan was head of the interim government after Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, former head of state, stepped down from office.

However, only three months after taking office, Sani Abacha, the late military ruler, deposed him in a coup.

Delivering his resignation address on November 17, 1993, Shonekan said the national government under his watch “tried very hard to bring honour to government” and took steps to tackle corruption and indiscipline.

Below is Shonekan’s resignation speech after he was ousted from office.

Fellow colleagues of the Interim National Government, I have summoned you this evening on an unusual occasion. Earlier today, I met with the secretary of defence in company of the Chief of Defence Staff and the Chief of Army Staff, and we discussed the state of the nation.

They expressed serious concern about the general uneasiness in the country and the apparent lack of stability over the past three months. They spoke about the restiveness of the rank and file in the military. You will recall that today is our eighty-second day in office, having been sworn in on August 26, 1993. Needless to say that we have all worked together to the best of our ability, and as a coherent team. I want to put it on record that I have enjoyed the period we worked together in the Interim National Government. It is common knowledge that the ING is a child of circumstance. It was conceived in crisis and born in crisis.

If I may recount some of the achievements of the Interim National Government to which you have all been witnesses, we may not have recorded landmarks, but we have taken the first step. In the social sector, we have brought back normalcy in the institutions of higher learning. On human rights, our records are impeccable and perhaps, unbeatable in the annals of our country. We freed all jailed human rights activists, we pardoned all political offenders both dead and alive, allowed all politicians in exile to return home, and we have not restricted the free movement of any activist in and out of the country. We also took the appropriate steps de-proscribe the newspapers proscribed by sending the Bills to the National Assembly to be repealed.

On the political arena, we have continued to work ceaselessly towards full democratization of our dear country. We have extended our right hand of fellowship to the legislature and have put in place the machinery for local and presidential elections next February.

On the economic scene, we were able to put in place an Economic Action Agenda for the nation in conjunction with the private sector operators. Let me assure you that our seemingly tough policies have received commendation from far and beyond. Ordinarily, I would have wished that the Interim National Government would be saddled only with economic problems. This derives from my belief that our country faces more economic challenges than anything else. Although we have not been able to implement some of our policies, nonetheless we have started out in the right direction by curbing frivolous expenditure and working closely with the private sector of the economy. I can only hope that the successor administration will take off from where we are leaving and continue courageously with the budgetary and other reforms we have adopted as well as our campaign for debt relief.

Distinguished colleagues, most importantly the Interim National Government has tried very hard to bring honour to government and has taken steps to campaign against the incidence of corruption and indiscipline in the society. Several times, I have publicly acknowledged the collective transparency and integrity of this cabinet. Let me say loud and clear that here that we have all made sacrifices for these past 82 days in the strong belief that our country deserves the best. I have an unshaken faith in the promise of Nigeria and I believe that the best is yet to come.

However, I regret to inform you that in the light of recent events and after due consideration of all the facts, I am left with no alternative but to take the most honourable and dignified step of resigning, with immediate effect, my appointment as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

Once more, I thank you very much and hope that the fellowship we have shared in this past period will continue to be the basis of good memory for long.

May God bless and long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.



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