Prominent Nigerians, including President Goodluck Jonathan, have expressed sadness over the death of a former number two man of Nigeria, Vice Admiral Mike Akhigbe.
Akhigbe died on Monday.
Others who have expressed their sadness over the death of Akhigbe are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark; and the Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Jonathan, in a statement by his spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, said: “On behalf of himself, the Federal Government and people of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan extends sincere condolences to the wife, children and relatives of the former Chief of General Staff, Vice Admiral Mike Akhigbe (rtd.) who passed away yesterday.
“President Jonathan also commiserates with officers and men of the Nigerian Navy which Vice Admiral Akhigbe once led as Chief of Naval Staff, as well as the government and people of his home state, Edo on the passage of the very courageous officer who patriotically served his nation to the best of his God-given abilities through-out a most distinguished career in the Nigerian Armed Forces.
“The President joins Vice Admiral Akhigbe’s family, colleagues and subordinates in the Nigerian Navy, friends, associates and all who knew him in mourning the former Chief of General Staff.
“While Vice Admiral Akhigbe may have left the world of the living, President Jonathan believes that he will live on forever in the hearts and minds of all whose lives he touched positively during his long and remarkable career of national service in military commands and in the political offices he held as a military officer.
“The President believes that Vice Admiral Akhigbe will be especially remembered and honoured by present and future generations for serving with distinction as military governor of Lagos and Ondo States, and as Chief of General Staff in the military administration that mid-wifed the present democratic dispensation in Nigeria and began the commendable re-professionalization of the Nigerian Armed Forces after decades of involvement in politics.
“He prays that God Almighty will comfort all who mourn Vice Admiral Akhigbe and grant his soul eternal rest.”
Abubakar described the death of Akhigbe as another colossal loss to Nigeria at a point the country needed his private counsel to deal with its current challenges.
Abubakar took over as vice president from Akhigbe, who, as Chief of General Staffm was second-in-command to General Abdulsalami Abubakar, played a key role in that regime’s programme for return to democratic rule in 1999.
Reacting to Akhigbe’s death in a statement by his media office in Abuja, the former vice president recalled that Akhigbe’s remarkable contributions to Nigeria’s transition from military to civil rule, which lasted nine months, could not be easily forgotten.
According to him, the late Akhigbe was part of the team that contributed to the successful and faithful transfer of power to civilians on May 29, 1999.
In Abubakar’s words: “Even from a distance, the late Chief of Naval Staff would come across as a cultivated gentleman.
“He was a broadminded and patriotic officer par excellence.”
Abubakar prayed to God to grant his family the fortitude to bear the great loss.
Mark described Akhigbe’s death as the loss of a brother, confidant, friend and comrade-at-arms.
Senator Mark, who was overwhelmed by emotions, recalled their days at the Nigerian Defence Academy, noting: “Mike was fearless and very diligent in our course.
“He took these attributes to all the formations where he was privileged to have been posted either in his core military postings or political offices.
“He was one of the poster boys of our Course 3 and we were all very proud of him. His death is a huge personal loss to me, the members of Course 3, the Armed Forces, Edo State and the nation.
“But we can not question God. He alone gives life and takes it when he so desires. We are bound by His decision to take our brother and friend at this time.”
Senator Mark, who is the Chairman of Course 3 Alumni of the Nigerian Defence Academy, added: “We are however consoled that while Mike was with us, he lived his life in the service of God and mankind. May the Lord grant all of us the fortitude to bear this very painful departure.”
Oshiomhole described the death of Akhigbe as a great loss to the state and country.
The governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Peter Okhiria, said: “It is with a sad heart that I mourn the death of Vice Admiral Akhigbe, an elder statesman, a pan-Nigeria nationalist, a man of uncommon qualities and an illustrious son of Edo State.
“Vice Admiral Akhigbe’s track records as former military Governor of Lagos and old Ondo states, as Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of General Staff are indelible. He no doubt discharged his duties creditably and left huge imprints in the sands of time.
“Indeed, we owe him a great debt of gratitude for his invaluable contributions which led to the nascent democracy being enjoyed in the nation today.
“In Edo State, Admiral Akhigbe was a pillar of support as he had cause to disagree with his political party at several times while championing a good cause for the state.
“Vice Admiral Akhigbe, no doubt, had lived his life to the fullest and made indelible mark both as a disciplined military officer and as an administrator. “His death has no doubt robbed Edo state and Nigeria of one of her brightest minds.
“We feel even more pained that death robbed us of Vice Admiral Akhigbe at this time while we still mourn the passage of another illustrious son of the state, Prof Omo Omoruyi. However, as we mourn, we take solace that he contributed his best and gave his all to the state and the country; for these, the people and Government of Edo State are grateful and proud.
“I pray God to grant the soul of the departed Vice Admiral peaceful eternal rest in His bosom and grant the family the fortitude to bear the loss.”