A former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, and a former Vice-President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, and other eminent Nigerians on Monday felicitated with Chief Ernest Shonekan, an interim Head of State, on his 80th birthday.

Shonekan, who was born on May 9, 1936, was the Head of the Interim National Government between August 26, 1993 and November 17, 1993.

Gowon, Ekwueme and other dignitaries attended a thanksgiving service in honour of Shonekan at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos, on Monday.

Also at the programme were  a former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba; Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya (retd.), governor Ibikunle Amosun; the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Aderanti Adebule;  Alake of Egbaland, Oba  Adedotun Gbadebo, Gen.Theophilus Danjuma and others.

Gowon, who spoke briefly with reporters after the programme, congratulated Shonekan at 80 and asked the youths to emulate the virtues of the elder statesman in order to be useful to the country.

The Primate of the Anglican Communion of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, said the church was pleased to  associate with Shonekan because of his humility and legacies.

Okoh, who listed several achievements of the elder statesman, said Shonekan deserved to be emulated for his contributions to the growth of the Anglican Church in the country.

He called on Shonekan to use his wealth of experience to speak the truth to power, adding that at the age of 80, he had nothing to fear.

Okoh, in his sermon, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his anti-corruption war.

He, however, warned that the recent killings by Fulani herdsmen could sabotage Buhari’s change agenda.

The cleric said, “We appreciate the President’s vigorous pursuit of the anti-corruption war and his moves to stop the leakage of our national treasury. So  that our national anthem will continue to remain relevant-that the labours of our heroes past shall not be in vain – the new generation of herdsmen is not working for the interest of this administration.

“Herdsmen used to be an illustration of diligence and devotion to duty.But this generation of herdsmen might sabotage the change agenda if they are not controlled. President Buhari  should, in his characteristic doggedness, disarm them before it is too late. Whether they are Nigérians  or not is not the question.

“We should not degenerate to a stage where communities will be compelled to make their own security arrangements. The survival instinct is the strongest in any human.Before thèse killings get  out of hand,the President must act fast.Communities must not be forced to make their security provisions to avert further killings.”

Shonekan, who spoke shortly after the programme, thanked his friends and families who witnessed the programme.

“I thank God for His mercies on me, that I am alive to celebrate my 80th birthday today with families and friends. I’m highly elated,”  he said.

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