It is with a deep sense of sorrow and shock that I received today the news of the death of Chief Sunday Awoniyi, the Aro of Mopa and Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum.
Chief Awoniyi was one of the leading lights of a generation of dedicated, honest and patriotic public servants who served this country to the best of their ability. As a civil servant, businessman, politician and statesman, he was known and respected for his hard work, thoroughness, forthrightness and uncommon candour. He exemplified that rare quality of a true Nigerian who held tenaciously to his religious belief and ethnic identity in the midst of friends and associates of different convictions.
A few days before the car crash that would eventually claim his life, he had sent me a text message on my cell phone in which he counselled me not to lose faith in our dear country.
The message, which I have not deleted till date, reads:
“Dear Turaki, I know you are very disappointed with this thoroughly abused country. Please don’t lose faith in this country because it is a great country”.
The message was so touching that I immediately called him back to assure him that “I will never lose faith in our dear country”. I could hear a deep sense of relief in his voice as I spoke. As one of those who laid the foundation of this country, I suspect that he was a little disappointed that Nigeria was yet to live up to the expectations of her founding fathers and mothers. But he never lost hope in Nigeria’s ability to redeem herself and become a success story in Africa.
Looking back now, it would seem that Chief Awoniyi had a premonition of his death and he wanted the assurances of key stakeholders that his beloved country will live and fulfil its manifest destiny as one of the greatest nations on earth.
I believe that there is no better tribute we can pay to this great son of Nigeria than for all patriots to rededicate themselves to the service of our country.
I pray to Almighty Allah to grant his soul eternal rest and to give his family the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss. Chief Awoniyi made our lives richer by simply living his life as a de-tribalized, brilliant, articulate and committed Nigerian.