The people and government of Anambra State have noted with profound sadness the death, in quick succession, of two most valuable Nigerians of Igbo extraction, Rear Admiral Godwin Ndubuisi Kanu and Senator Onyeabo Chukwunedum Obi. Both distinguished men departed in the last 48 hours.
Admiral Kanu, 77, came into national consciousness when, as a mere lieutenant commander (equivalent of major in the army), he was in 1975 appointed a member of General Murtala Muhammed’s Supreme Military Council, the only Igbo member of the country’s highest decision making body. A year later, he was appointed the military governor of Imo State on its creation in February, 1976. He worked with foresight and commitment.
A man imbued with uncommon courage and a powerful sense of justice, he in 1977 told the visiting military Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, before television cameras that the basic infrastructure in Imo State was still a shambles, a whole seven years after the Nigerian Civil War came to an end on a note of “No victor, no vanquished”. He was promptly redeployed to Lagos State as military governor punitively, perhaps in the hopes that the many activists in the state would devour him. But Kanu ended up charming Lagosians with his brilliant performance.
With the return of the military in politics on December 31, 1983, Admiral Kanu, who fought on the Biafran side during the war, returned to the Supreme Military Council as a member, this time under General Muhammadu Buhari. When he was sent to the United States for an advanced professional course, he earned a Master of Science degree in addition, emerging the best student in his class.
Given his credentials as an activist of the finest hue, observers were not surprised when, in the wake of the June 12 1993 presidential vote which Chief Moshood Abiola won fair and square but was annulled by the Gen Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida regime, Admiral Kanu joined some patriotic Nigerians to form the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). Even when many of his comrades were killed or incarcerated or forced into exile, Kanu courageously remained in Nigeria, leading from the front. Admiral Kanu spent the last 25 years fighting tenaciously for a reformed Nigeria.
Anytime he visited Anambra State in the last few years, he made it a point of duty to meet Governor Willie Obiano in appreciation of the latter’s good work. He constantly referred to Anambra State under Chief Obiano’s leadership as the Star of the East.
The people and government of Anambra State have lost a great Igbo man and a great friend and supporter in Admiral Godwin Ndubuisi Kanu, Ugwumba Ndi Igbo. May the Good Lord grant him eternal rest.
No less shocking is the passage of Senator Onyeabo Obi. A scion of the great Chief ZC Obi, the deservedly storied President General of the Igbo State Union, Onyeabo Obi, 82, is generally regarded as one of the three top senators in the Second Republic of 1979 to 1983—the other two being Senator Abraham Adesanya and Senator Emeka Echeruo.
A particularly modest person, many Nigerians seldom reckon with the fact that Senator Obi was one of the founding founders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), like former Vice President Alex Ekwueme. In fact, most meetings of the committee which drafted the PDP constitution were held in his office at Western House in Lagos. Yet, he remained throughout unappreciated and unrewarded by the party.
If the PDP failed to accord recognition to one of its leading lights, the law profession didn’t fail to recognize the contribution of this respected alumnus of the world-famous London School of Economics and Political Science. He was a Life Bencher who served as Vice Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Rules of the Supreme Court. He was also a Nigerian member of the Panel of Conciliators, International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, Washington, DC. If he had concentrated on advocacy rather than commercial and corporate law, Senator Obi would have been one of the early Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs).
A man driven by competence and excellence, Senator Obi, Ose oji Nnewi, as he was fondly known, was on the same page as the Willie Obiano administration during the last two major elections in the state. The people and government of Anambra State and, indeed, all Nigerians will miss Senator Obi dearly. He will remain for long in our thoughts and prayers.