By DURO ADESEKO
Death visited all segments of the Nigerian society this year. From leading politicians to religious leaders, icons in the entertainment industry to captains of industry and, of course, those referred to as ordinary Nigerians. Starting from March to December, Nigerians heard the announcements of the obituaries of prominent people.
In the political front, a leading politician in Oyo State opened the floodgate of what turned out to be season of deaths for prominent Nigerians towards the end of the year. Lamidi Onaolapo Adesina of the Awolowo school of progressive politics died on November 11. He was a former governor of Oyo State. He died at the Nicolas Hospital, Lagos. Three days after Adesina’s death, the undisputed strong man of Kwara State politics, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, died in Lagos.
He died of cancer. He was the Senate leader during the Second Republic. He successfully installed five civilian governors in Kwara State between 1998 and 2007. He bowed out gracefully on November 14. Nigerians were told of the death of the retired Justice Kayode Eso on Friday, December 16. He died at Hammaaersmoth Hospital, London. Justice Eso was a respected retired Supreme Court judge, who was involved in several landmark judgments.
After retirement, he was invited to chair several fact-finding committees set up by states and the Federal Government. He played prominent roles in the constitution drafting committees set up by the military governments. It was also in November that the private sector lost a leading light and one of the drivers of the economy. Chief Hope Harriman, who was the pioneer president of the Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyor and Valuers (1969-1975), died on November 7.
He was the first charter president, International Real Estate Federation. He was also a fellow of the Royal Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers as well as Nigerian Institute of Management. He died in Springfield, Maryland, United States two months before he was to mark his 80th birthday. The nation was in shock when the news filtered out that former governor of Kaduna, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa and retired General Andrew Owoye Azazi died in a helicopter crash on December 15. The two prominent Nigerians had attended the burial of Pa Obebara Douglas, father of the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Documentation and Strategy, Oronto Douglas.
The two leaders were returning to Port Harcourt from Okoroba, in Balyesa State, to connect flight to their different destinations when the crash claimed their lives. Yakowa was a former governor of Kaduna State, while Azazi was a former National Security Adviser (NSA). On March 14, the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Mr. John Haruna, lost his life in a helicopter crash while on duty. He was in Jos, Plateau State along with Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Garba Yalwa, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Alexander Pwol-Ja and Sgt Sonatian Shuirunam, who is an orderly to Haruna.
Nigeria also lost former University of Lagos Vice Chancellor, Professor Adetokunboh Babatunde Sofoluwe, on Saturday, May 12. He collapsed in his office at the Faculty of Science building at about 7. 30pm. He was rushed to the University Health Centre and later to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Idi Araba, where he died the following morning.
The academic world also lost Professor Tunde Cole-Onitiri, who slumped in hospital. He was the medical Director of Shalom Hospital and Chairman of Clinical Pathology, College of Medicine, UNILAG. Gunmen murdered the Principal Private Secretary to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Mr. Olaitan Oyerinde, in cold blood on May 4 at his residence in Benin City. In the corporate world, Oba Oladele Olashore, the Owaloko of Iloko Ijesha in Osun State, died on June 2. He was a former Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of First Bank Plc.
He was also a former Federal Secretary for Finance during the Ernest Shonekan Interim National Government (ING) contraption. The crash of the Dana Airplane in Iju Ishaga area of Lagos shook the nation. The plane crashed on June 3 and none of the 153 passengers on board survived. No fewer than 10 people on ground died. Among those on the plane were Dr. Levi Ajuonuma of the NNPC, son of former Vice President Augustus Aikhomu, Ehime; and former Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Professor Onwuliri, among others.
From Plateau State came the gory tale of the attack of those that wanted to perform mass burial for 20 people killed on July 8 in Barkin Ladin Local Government Area. Mourners, including Senator Dantong Gyang Dalyop, representing Plateau North Senatorial District in the National Assembly on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), were gunned down. He was the chairman, Senate Committee on Health until his death. The murder of Cynthia Osokogu, 24-year- old student of Nasarawa State University, became a sensational story both in the electronic and print media.
The postgraduate student was tricked to a hotel in FESTAC Town, in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos. She was strangled to death with her hands and legs chained to the bed. She met her killers on Facebook. She was the only daughter of General Frank Osokogu (rtd). The media also had its share of death when the Group Entertainment Editor of the Vanguard newspapers, Mr. Ogbonaya Amadi, from Ohafia, in Abia State died in a hospital in Apapa.
He died of asthma. The Islamic community in Nigeria lost one of its shining stars when the Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA) and an Egba High Chief, Dr. Abdulateef Oladimeji Adegbite, died on September 28. Mrs. Sheila Solarin, wife of the late social crusader, Dr Tai Solarin, passed on in Ikenne at 88. She held the forte at the popular Mayflower School after the passage of her husband some years ago. She died on October 21.
General Muhammadu Buhari, former Head of State, lost his 40-year-old daughter, Zulaihatu, who died after childbirth at a Nasarawa Hospital, Marafa Estate, Kaduna. President Jonathan also lost his younger brother, Meni who died at the National Hospital, Abuja in November. Death also hit the entertainment industry hard. One of the outstanding Nollywood actors, who died was Enebeli Elebuwa. The 65-year-old veteran actor died on December 5 at New Delhi Hospital, India.
The Nigerian Christian community had its share of death when the former Primate and Archbishop, Metropolitan Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Joseph Abiodun Adetiloye, died on Friday, December 14. He was to celebrate his 83 birthday on Christmas day.