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Ernest Shonekan


9th President of Nigeria In office

August 26, 1993 – November 17, 1993

Preceded by Ibrahim Babangida Succeeded by Sani Abacha

Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan (born 9 May 1936 in Lagos, south-west Nigeria) is a British trained Nigerian lawyer, industrialist and politician. He was appointed as interim president of Nigeria by General Ibrahim Babangida on 26 August 1993. Babangida resigned under pressure to cede control to a democratic government. Shonekan's transitional administration only lasted three months, as a palace coup led by General Sani Abacha via Shonekan's "resignation" forcefully dismantled the remaining democratic institutions and brought the government back under military control on 17 November. Prior to his political career, Shonekan was the Chief executive of United African Company of Nigeria PLC (UAC), a large Nigerian conglomerate.

Shonekan was born and raised in Lagos, the Nigerian commercial capital. The son of an Abeokuta born civil servant, he was one of six children born into the family. Shonekan was educated at C.M.S grammar school. He also attended and received a law degree from the University of London and was later called to the bar. He soon joined U.A.C in 1964 and was sent to the Harvard Business School for further managerial training. At U.A.C, he pursued a legal path, a few years after joining the company, he was promoted to the position of assistant legal adviser. He became a deputy adviser two years later, and soon joined the board. In 1980, he was made chairman and Chief Executive of U.A.C. In his early regin as head of U.A.C, he was the Chief Executive of the largest African controlled company in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Shonekan was a seasoned and proven businessman with wide contacts across the Nigerian landscape. However, his proven abilities, integrity and no visible political bias made him a prospective leader for Babangida's council of civilian run government, a government which was in the midst of economic turmoil and would later find itself mired in a political crisis. On January 2, 1993, Shonekan assumed office as the head of government affairs under the leadership of military president, Babangida. At the time, the transitional council was designed to be the final phase leading to a scheduled hand over to an elected democratic leader. As the head of the council, he was exposed to the dire condition of government finances which continued under his reign. The 1993 budget was pegged to include a 28 billion naira deficit with little money left in its foreign reserves. The government was hard pressed on his debt obligations and had to hold constant talks for debt re-scheduling. Nevertheless, Shonekan was also in an enviable position. The Armed Forces Ruling Council had designed a realistic two year economic program. The program's outline called for reducing petrol subsidy which will bring in 65 billion naira to government coffers. A modification of VAT was also in the works and a plan to inculcate fiscal discipline in the affairs of government. However, by the end of June, following the cancellation of the June 12 presidential elections, the Nigerian nation was engulfed in political turmoil. Fiscal discipline was not heeded and the government had exceeded his deficit target by the beginning of the second quarter. Calls for the exit of the President became much more prominent and, by August 1993, Babangida had decided to step aside and install an Interim government to succeed him.

Shonekan assumed the office of the president of Nigeria on August 26, 1993. Babangida had decided to finally exit the stage and chose Shonekan as head, potentially due to him being a loyal ally of his. In the political and economic realm of life in the country, the nation was gradually moving towards a stalemate. Shonekan had lobbied fervently for debt cancellation during his reign as head of government, but after the cancellation of the June 12 elections, most of western powers had imposed sanctions on Nigeria. Inflation was uncontrollable and most non-oil foreign investment had disappeared. The political problems continued to pile for the Interim government, the winner of the June 12 elections, had vowed to oppose the interim government and most of the democracy supporters mostly in the southwest, Shonekan's region, saw him as an obstacle to a true path towards social justice, democracy and improving the welfare of the people. During his few months in power, he had tried to create a new timetable for democratic return, while his government was hampered by workers strike. However, he sometimes presented a strong arm for major decisions. Shonekan's first major decision was to release political detainees and to set a timetable for troop withdrawal from ECOMOG's peacekeeping mission in Liberia. The government also initiated an audit of the accounts of NNPC, an organization that was mired in operational inefficiencies, and presented a bill for banning three major draconian decrees. However, his loose control of the military proved to be his achilles' heel. The defense secretary who was appointed with other members of Shonekan's cabinet on August 26, 1993, took control of power in November 1993, just a few months into the adminsitration.


   * "Military swears in transitional government", Agence France Presse -- English, January 4, 1993
   * "Nigeria prepares medium-term plan", Financial Times (London,England), January 28, 1993
   * "NIGERIA: HARD ROAD AHEAD FOR INTERIM GOVERNMENT", IPS-Inter Press Service, August 26, 1993