Wife of the President, Hajia Aisha Buhari has said that the late Head of State, Gen. Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi, who was assassinated during the July 29, 1966, counter-coup, fought and stood for the unity of Nigeria.
Mrs. Buhari who stated this Friday in Umuahia, Abia State, during the 50th memorial anniversary of the late Head of State, enjoined Nigerians to emulate the virtues of the slain leader.
The wife of the President who was represented by the wife of the Anambra State Governor, Mrs. Ebere Obiano, described Ironsi as “a great patriot and a soldier’s soldier.”
She said that Ironsi “stood for everything good about Nigeria in the beginning”, and regretted that he was forced to his early grave at a time he was making frantic efforts to unite and navigate Nigeria to greatness.
Her words: “From all indications he stood for one Nigeria. We appreciate and support the ideals he lived and died for”.
She commended the widow of the late Head of State, Lady Victoria Ironsi, for her service and commitment to the Nigerian project despite losing her husband in active duty.
In his tribute, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu also described Ironsi as a strong believer in one Nigeria who “represented everything good about Nigeria in the beginning”.
Ikpeazu who was represented by his wife Mrs. Nkechi Ikpeazu, urged Nigerians to emulate the virtues of hard work and patriotism exemplified by Ironsi.
He said that Nigerians would continue to miss him for his lofty dreams and plans to unite and move the country to greater heights.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Major General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin, who also poured encomiums on the late former Head of State, described him as a soldier who placed professionalism and patriotism above other considerations.
The CDS, who was represented by Maj Gen. Edward Nze, however, blamed the death of Ironsi on “actions and inactions of past leaders”.
He regretted that Nigeria had not recovered from the effects of the unfortunate incident, and advised those in leadership positions to always consider the impacts of their actions and inactions on the future generations.
The Army boss appealed to leaders to always put the collective interest of the country first to avoid actions that could undermine the future of the country.
His words: “We should therefore learn from experience and think deeply before we take actions; let’s aspire to serve our country, love more, hate less and build a nation where justice and peace reign”.
Earlier in a sermon at the memorial church service, Rev Fr Aloysius Nwabeke regretted that Nigeria was yet to attain nationhood 50 years after Ironsi was brutally murdered.
The cleric said that the only people that really believe in Nigeria are those benefitting from the inequitable system which has rather continued to divide the country.
He further noted with regret that majority of Nigerians still wallow in abject poverty while the leaders engage in all sorts of opulent and ostentatious living.
He also regretted the absence of constitutional democracy in Nigeria, and called on the leaders to retrace their steps.
“Nigeria is too big to be ruled by one selfish man. We need constitutional democracy; we need a change”, he posited.
He described Ironsi as “a champion of unity who gave his life for his country and yet is not remembered by his country”.
In his remarks, the first son of the late Supreme Commander, Ambassador Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, thanked the people who came to identify with the family at the memorial service as well as those who had stood by them since the assassination of their father.
He specially eulogized the then military Governor of the defunct Western Region, the late Col Adekunle Fajuyi, who was killed along with his father by the coupists.
Ironsi’s son saluted Fajuyi’s courage to die with his father who was his guest when the coupists struck.
His words: “Lt Col Fajuyi was a great man. He became a sacrificial lamb and followed the Head of State to death,” he said, adding, “We salute the entire Fajuyi family and urge them to keep the flag flying”.
Later at the cenotaph of Ironsi, his widow, Lady Victoria, described her husband as “a caring husband and a true lover”.
She said that if given another opportunity, she would still marry Ironsi who showered her and the family with love and care before his untimely death.
“You are a good husband; I will not hesitate to marry you again in the next world; go in peace”, she said in an emotion laden voice.