Oloye Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan (born 9 May 1936) is a Nigerian statesman, nobleman, lawyer and businessman who was appointed the interim President of Nigeria by General Ibrahim Babangida on 26 August 1993. Babangida resigned due to the annulment of the 1993 Nigerian presidential election. Prior to his political career, Shonekan was the chairman and chief executive of the United African Company of Nigeria, a large Nigerian conglomerate, which at the time was the largest African-controlled company in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Early life and education
Shonekan was born on 9 May 1936 in Lagos. 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 and Igbobi College. He received a law degree from the University of London, and was called to the bar. He later attended Harvard Business School.
In 1964, Shonekan joined the United Africa Company of Nigeria. He rose through the ranks in the company and was promoted to the position of assistant legal adviser. He later became a deputy adviser and joined the board. In 1980, he was made chairman and chief executive. Shonekan cultivated a wide array of business and political connections. Shonekan served as an Executive for the Royal Dutch Shell Company while acting as the interim president of Nigeria.
Head of Transitional Council
On 2 January 1993, Shonekan assumed office as the head of transitional council and head of government under General 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.
Shonekan learned of the dire condition of government finances, which he was unable to correct. 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 debt obligations and had to hold constant talks for debt rescheduling. Babangida’s Armed Forces Ruling Council had designed a realistic two-year economic program. The program’s outline called for reducing the petrol subsidy, to bring in 65 billion naira to government coffers. A modification of VAT was also introduced and a plan to inculcate fiscal discipline.
In August 1993, Babangida resigned from office, following the annulment of the June 12 elections. He signed a decree establishing the Interim National Government led by Shonekan. Babangida made the interim government weak by placing it under the control of the military.
Shonekan assumed the office of President of Nigeria on 26 August 1993, with General Babangida’s blessing.
Shonekan had lobbied for debt cancellation but, after the election annulment, most of the Western powers had imposed economic sanctions on Nigeria. Inflation was uncontrollable and most non-oil foreign investment disappeared. The government also initiated an audit of the accounts of NNPC, the oil giant, an organisation that had many operational inefficiencies.
Shonekan was unable to control the political crisis which ensued following the election annulment. During his few months in power, he tried to create a new timetable for democratic return, while his government was hampered by a national workers’ strike. Opposition leader Moshood Abiola, viewed Shonekan’s interim government as illegitimate.
Shonekan released political prisoners detained by Babangida. Shonekan’s administration introduced a bill to repeal three major draconian decrees of the military government.
Shonekan tried to set a timetable for troop withdrawal from ECOMOG’s peacekeeping mission in Liberia. General Sani Abacha, was the minister of defence and chief of defence staff who had full control over the military. In November 1993, three months into his administration, Shonekan was overthrown in palace coup by Abacha.
Shonekan is married to Margaret Shonekan.