Nigerians react to Admiral Augustus Aikhomu’s death at 72

Chief of General Staff in the Ibrahim Babangida regime, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu who won a reputation for loyalty to a regime that brought him to national reckoning died, yesterday, evening on the 70th birthday of his boss. He passed away in his Apapa, Lagos residence after a prolonged sickness. He was aged 72.

Babangida in a reaction said he was jolted by the timing of the death of a “brother, a confidant and highly reliable and trusted Nigerian who gave me and the government we ran the fullest loyalty that anyone can show.”

Late Admiral Augustus Aikhomu

His death was confirmed by his junior brother, Rear Admiral Joe Aikhomu, a serving officer in the Nigerian Navy. Apprehension gripped his native Irrua, Edo State as news filtered in on the passing away of the most prominent man to ever come out from the community.

Aikhomu rose to become the Chief of Naval Staff at the inception of the Gen. Muhammadu Buhari military regime in 1984. He continued in that position after the palace coup that ousted Buhari and positioned Babangida as Nigeria’s first Military President.

In 1986 he was lifted to the position of Chief of General Staff on the exit of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe from that government. As Chief of General Staff he was in direct conduct of the affairs of the States with the military Governors reporting through him to the then ruling military junta.

Babangida Administration

Aikhomu sailed out of the Navy in 1991 following the inception of diarchy by the Babangida administration during which period power was shared between the military and civilians at the state and federal levels.

He, however, remained in the administration as a Vice-President with direct influence in the running of the Federal Government and a liaison for the civilian state Governors. He finally bid farewell to public service in 1993 upon Babangida’s exit from power in August 1993 following the debacle that shadowed the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election.

Aikhomu’s defence of that annulment raised fury in his home state leading to the invasion of his Irrua, Edo State residence by rioting students of the Edo State University. Following his exit from the public glare, Aikhomu remained largely at the background until the advent of fourth republic politics when he remained in the background as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He, however, exited the party and became a prominent member of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP and was in 2003 appointed Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the party.

His sojourn in the ANPP was, however, relatively uneventful and in later years recoiled to the PDP where the majority of his associates had found a home.

Nigerians react

Reacting to Aikhomu’s demise, first executive Governor of Edo State, Chief John Oyegun said: “We have had more than our fair share of deaths in our state, we lost Enahoro, then the governor’s wife and now we are talking of a prominent Nigerian in Aikhomu.

It is really tragic, very difficult to believe, I know he was ill but I never knew it will lead to death, it is quite painful. My heartfelt sympathy to his family, his wife, children. He contributed to the development of the nation both as a military man and a politician. He is one of the elder statesmen of both the state and the entire country. I don’t know what is happening to our medical facilities in this country.”

Senator Rowland Stephen Owie, former Chief Whip of the Senate: “It’s a disaster. Great man he was a great Nigerian. Very very detribalized Nigerian.

As a National Leader

“He was a man that said the truth always. He was my national leader in ANPP. His death is devastating to all of us. I spoke to him a week and half ago and he was sounding very healthy. We give God the glory. Its symbolic that he died on the birthday of Ibrahim Babangida his boss. May his gentle soul rest in peace.

Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma: “It’s a serious matter. Admiral is a man that will be remembered years to come. Today if you talk about Edo State he is a man that will be remembered today and tomorrow even by generations unborn. He was one of those who stood for the creation of Edo State and as vice president he gave so much to his people. This is a man that helped a lot of Edo citizens in the Navy. He was a gentle man and humble to the core. Today I was rejoicing and celebrating with my political leader IBB on his 70th birthday, but now with this mix feelings of the sudden death of our elder statesman it is sad. It is sad.”

Chief Tom Ikimi: “He was my best friend. I spoke to him last week in London; I told him I was coming to London to visit him. His death is a monumental loss to our country and the state in particular. He was a very dependable and reliable person. His contributions to the development and stability of our country cannot be quantified. He made significant contributions to the end of the civil war. He was the commander of the Nigerian flag ship NNS Nigeria. He was an unblemished naval officer.”

Chief Dan Orbih, Edo State PDP Chairman: “A great Nigerian. A man of peace, leader, diplomat and a statesman. May his gentle soul rest in peace.”

Gen. Charles Airhiavbere: “It is a sad day for the military and Nigerians in general. I cannot tell you how shocked I am. It is a sad news for all of us. An intelligent man, politician and a man of truth. Those of us in the military know his worth. So his demise is a big blow to the Nigerian Armed Forces and Edo people in particular.”

Governor Adams Oshiomhole: “Although he served under military administrations, he managed to cut the image of a father figure and a moderate influence. In later years as a politician, he was vibrant and demonstrated a competitive spirit. Admiral Aikhomu was one of those leading personalities in Edo politics, who offered goodwill and support, despite political differences with my government.”

Dr. Anthony Aziegbemi, former Member, House of Representatives: “The Ishans and indeed Nigeria have lost a great man and it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to fill the vacuum created. My condolences to the family and may his soul rest in perfect peace.”

Captain Osa Okunbor: I am lost for words because he was a man that endeared his heart to me like a father. He was always there for me for any advice. He has been a pillar to me and many others. We have lost an Iroko in Nigeria, he will be remembered for his goodwill and perseverance.

Former Chief of General Staff, Rear Admiral Ebitu Ukiwe: “Admiral Augustus Aikhomu death is a great loss to the Navy and Nigeria as a country.”

Senator Oserheimen Osunbor, former Governor of Edo State: “With the death of Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, Nigeria has lost one of her finest ever military officers, a patriotic leader and statesman whose abiding passion was to help our country attain greatness.

Edo State has lost an illustrious son. As an Esan man, he brought pride and dignity to Esan people. When the history of Nigeria is written, Admiral Aikhomu, will be remembered for being a stabilizing factor during one of our darkest period of turmoil and uncertainty when he assumed the position of Vice President.”

His biography

AIKHOMU was born on October 1939 in Irrua-Ishan, Okpebho in Edo State.

He began his early education at Irrua Government School in Edo State, after which he attended Yaba Technical Institute (now Yaba College of Technology), 1954-1958.

He attended the Higher College, Yaba, after which he proceeded to the Royal Britannia Naval College, Dartmouth in England. He further attended the Royal Naval Engineering College, Manadon, England; Long Gunnery Specialist Course, India, 1969-70; Defence Services Staff Course, Wellington, India, 1973 and National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in 1982.

He joined the Nigerian Navy on December 1,1958; commissioned Sub-Lieutenant, Nigerian Navy in 1964; Lieutenant, 1967. The late Admiral was thereafter elevated to the post of Commander in 1974 and later Captain in 1977. He was promoted Commanding Officer in-Shore Patrol Crafts. From 1974 to 1975, he was the Commanding Officer, Nigerian Navy Donna.

Commanding Officer, NNS Nigeria (now NNS Obuma), then the Flag Ship, 1975-78; Flag Officer Commanding, Flotilla, 1978-80; Navy Commodore, 1980; Chief of Personnel, Naval Headquarters, 1980-83; Chief of Naval Operations, 1983-84; Rear-Admiral, May I, 1984; Chief of Naval Staff: 1984-86.

He doubled as Chief of General Staff and Vice President between 1986 and 1993. On October 1987, Aikhomu became a Vice-Admiral, October 1987 and also a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council in 1986. In 1987, he was made chairman of the National Boundary Commission. Passed Staff College, 1973; Nigerian Alliance Assurance Corporation Limited; Regency Alliance Insurance Plc; he was a member of the National Institute, 1982 and a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management, 1988.

He was decorated with national honours such as the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON, in 1992; Forces Service Staff (fss); Steering Committee, United Nigeria Democratic Party. Naval officer, former chief of general staff and Vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; politician, businessman.

Until his death, he was chairman, Board of Trustees, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Married to Rebecca Madojemu in 1967, he is blessed with two sons and four daughters.

This trend was provided by: Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Kingsley Omonobi, Simeon Ebegbulem Henry Umoru, and Dapo Akinrefon – all of Vanguard.

Source: Vanguard

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