Ernest Shonekan and Interim National Governance in Nigeria

Oladiti Abiodun Akeem


This article examines the contributions of Ernest Shonekan to the political history of Nigeria, his roles and activities in governance, the challenges experienced in the administration of the country, his contributions to nation-building, and how he managed political crises during his tenure as head of an Interim National Government (henceforth ING). Ernest Shonekan was born on May 9, 1936 in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria. Shonekan’s father was a civil servant. He was educated at the famous Church Missionary Society grammar school, popularly known as CMS grammar school in Lagos.[1] After his secondary education in Nigeria, Shonekan proceeded to the University of London to obtain an LLB degree in law, where he graduated in 1962, and in the same year he was called to the bar.  He returned to Nigeria to join the legal department of the United African Company (U.A.C), a subsidiary of the Unilever Group of Companies in 1964.  Shortly after he joined the UAC, he was sent for further training in managerial skills at Harvard Business School in the United States of America.

A few years after the completion of his managerial training, he was promoted to the position of the assistant legal adviser: two years later he became deputy legal adviser and soon joined the board of management of the company. He was appointed Chairman and Chief Executive of the United Africa Company (UAC) in 1980.[2]

Shonekan possesses business acumen and proven leadership ability. Having been a leader of many business organizations, he transferred the skills to political leadership when chosen as the Head of the Interim government. Before Shonekan’s appointment as the head of the Interim National Government (ING), he was a seasoned administrator, a lawyer, and a business man with wide contacts across the Nigerian landscape. Oba Oyebade Lipede, the Alake of Egbaland conferred on him the traditional title of Abese of Egbaland. General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida used his position as Head of State to influence the joint session of the House of Assembly and the House of Representatives to approve the establishment of the ING.  He thereafter presented Ernest Shonekan as presidential transitional council chairman to become the Head of government.[3]

[1] Omo Omoruyi, The Tale of June 12: The Betrayal of Democratic Rights in Nigeria (New York: New York Press Alliance Network Ltd, 1999), 268 – 269.

[2] Ibid., 269.

[3]Peter Adeniyi, Nigeria: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow A Unique Critique of Successive Governance (Ibadan, Nigeria: Daily Graphics Nigeria Limited. 2010), 606-632.


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