…HE WAS TOO YOUNG TO DIE -OBASANJO
Former Chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih, yesterday broke down in tears at the Apapa, Lagos residence of the late former military vice-president, Augustus Aikhomu.
This is even as scores of eminent Nigerians, including ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senate President David Mark, his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, serving and former governors paid glowing tributes to the former Naval chief.
Speaking with journalists at the Presidential wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, enroute to Jalingo, Taraba State, Obasanjo said that the former military vice-president died at a time the nation was in need of men like him with great wealth of experience to move forward.
'It is a great loss to Nigeria that our former number two man in this country died comparatively still young when his experience would have been still vital to the service of the country,' Obasanjo said.
Former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, described Aikhomu's death as another great loss, considering his nation-building roles while he served the country. Atiku said in a statement, issued by his media office in Abuja, that Aikhomu's contributions to the stability of the country cannot be forgotten so soon.
He said the late Aikhomu was a detribalized gentleman, who combined his God-given qualities with humility and joviality. 'He was accessible to almost all Nigerians while he was in office.The late Aikhomu had demystified public office to a point public office was no longer feared or considered a no-go area for the citizens in a strictly military environment,' he said.
A former Army General himself, Senator Mark said the late Chief of General Staff (CGS) was a distinguished officer who exhibited high sense of patriotism, loyalty and commitment to the indivisibility of the nation.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, the Senate President described Aikhomu's passage as 'a personal loss, adding, 'he was a leading light and among the first set of officers in Africa that brought pride and honour to the continent because of his exploits and successes abroad.'
In his tribute, Deputy Senate President Ekweremadu said the late Aikhomu was 'a perfect gentleman and patriot, who gave his very best to Nigeria.' In his reaction, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, also described Aikhomu's death as a glorious exit of a foremost Naval officer. Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN), yesterday paid a condolence visit to the Apapa family home of the late Aikhomu, saying Nigeria would miss his patriotism.
Fashola, who was received at the Aikhomu family home by the widow, Rebecca, and one of the children, Ohimeh, as well as other close family members, said that it was impossible to discuss modern Nigeria without a mention of the late Admiral Aikhomu. His Ondo State counterpart, Dr Olusegun Mimiko described the late Admiral as 'a conscientious, loyal and dedicated officer, who served his fatherland with all his might during his lifetime.
FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed. noted that Aikhomu distinguished himself as a refined military personnel and bridge builder when it mattered most. He remarked that the new generation of leaders have a lot to learn from his selfless and uncommon contributions to Nigerian military as well as political history. Former military administrator of Lagos and Ondo states, Admiral Mike Akhigbe (retd) also expressed sadness on the demise of Aikhomu, whom he described as 'a mentor.'
'His concern for the welfare and professional grooming of his subordinates, as well as the professional development of the Nigerian Navy were unparalleled. Under his watch, the Navy restructured to accommodate modern technology and acquisition of modern naval asset.
'He was a man who served his country well. In government as the Vice President of Nigeria, we, who were privileged to serve under him, found him a very loyal officer both to his superior and to his subordinates, because he instilled loyalty and discipline in us and in the management of state affairs. We, the governors, fondly referred to him as the headmaster', Akhigbe stated.
In his condolence message, former Osun State Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, described the late Aikhomu as a very patriotic Nigerian, who served the nation loyally.'Admiral Aikhomu's death is undoubtedly a great loss to our dear nation which the deceased served faithfully and diligently in various capacities with resourcefulness, foresight and a commendable high sense of discipline and patriotism. It is to be noted with pleasure that the deceased had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve and pursued his goals with the best of intentions,' Oyinlola noted.
On his part, former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, said that late Aikhomu paid his dues and worked for the greater glory of Nigeria in different capacities where fate placed him. Publisher of the rested Third Eye newspapers, Chief Akanni Aluko, expressed shock, sadness and disbelief at the report of Aikhomu's demise.
'This is a great loss to Nigeria as the country has lost an important player in her political development. he had a sterling professional career as a Naval officer and proved later to be a vibrant politician with a competitive spirit', Aluko stated. In Irrua, the country home of Aikhomu, Daily Sun spoke with notable indigenes of the town, who equally eulogized the late CGS.
Pa Alfred Aikhomu, eldest brother of the statesman, described the demise of the former Naval Admiral as painful
'It is very, very painful. It is painful because he was all in all. About seven days ago, when he came from London and stopped in Lagos, he did not come home and about five days later we heard that he was dead.
'I am most senior to him in the family. He gave some signs and statements, in which I thought he was trying to pass a message. Now, after his death, I realised that he was saying that I should take care of the family and all that are his.'
Traditional ruler of Irrua, His Royal Highness W. O. Momodu, Ogierrua of Irrua, also lamented the death of the late CGS, saying he was responsible for many developmental projects in his domain. Rev, Peter Obadan, former deputy governor of Edo State, said Aikhomu's death is devastating 'because he was a fine gentleman, man of honour, integrity, who contributed to the development of Edo State. He was here when Edo State was created and as the first deputy governor, I can attest to it that he supported us in all areas.'
' Admiral Aikhomu was not an Esan man; he was a Nigerian. The much I knew of him, is that he was a nationalist.' To Professor George Akpede, Chief Medical Director (CMD) Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua, Aikhomu's vision led to the establishment of the teaching hospital. He said the late CGS's legacies in Irrua will continue to keep his memory alive.
When Daily Sun visited Aikhomu's Abuja home as at 6pm yesterday, seven persons had signed the condolence register placed close to the entrance door to the main building. But reacting, former Minister of Foreign Affairs in the General Sani Abacha regime, Chief Tom Ikimi, said that the late Admiral was a detribalized individual.
'I have just come back from Lagos to visit the family of the late Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, who was very close to me and a great friend.
'He is a very important man to our community in Esanland, Edo state. He has distinguished himself as a statesman and as a professional sailor and Naval officer.'He is a totally detribalized individual who in fact, endears himself to anyone who come across him. He, in fact, does not carry himself as someone above anybody else. He mixes very freely with the lowest person as well as the highest person.'