When the administration of late President Umaru Yar’Adua toyed with the idea of Vision 2020, a dream intended to birth Nigeria into the group of the best global 20 economies by year 2020, many Nigerians looked forward to the year with great anticipation.
As with human limitations, not the best of seers could foretell the disasters and destructions that were to follow. Perhaps, looking back, Nigerians ought to have peeped into year 2020 with loads of trepidation.
The real manifestations of year 2020, however, had not been one that inspired the hopes and the optimism Nigerians had longed for as it became one of the most deadly in the history of humanity considering the high number of deaths recorded on account of the COVID-19 pandemic that shook the entire world to its very foundation.
Nigeria was no exception! The country has had its fair share of tragedy from the pandemic as many prominent individuals were lost to the virus.
In this Year in Review series, we take a look at the prominent Nigerians who lost their lives as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
1) Suleiman Achimugu
Nigeria recorded its first casualty through coronavirus with the death of former Managing Director of the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the NNPC, Suleiman Achimugu, who died on March 22.
The 67-year-old Achimugu was said to have contracted the Covid-19 virus in the United Kingdom and upon his return to the country, he personally called the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and explained he was not feeling well. He was tested by the NCDC and the test proved to be positive for coronavirus and was promptly evacuated to a specialist hospital where he died while being treated.
According his family, Achimugu had underlying medical issues and had been undergoing chemotherapy for cancer in the UK.
A relative of the deceased who spoke to reporters then, said he had a normal temperature after he arrived in Nigeria from the UK.
“When he got back on March 10, his temperature was okay, but he still took extra precaution by self-isolation for 14 days. That was exactly what he did.
“But after a week in isolation, he started having unusual symptoms similar to those publicized on COVID-19. He called the NCDC personally to come to visit and run a test.
“He was experiencing symptoms that were alien to him. After the tests, the results were made available which came out positive. Then they arranged that he be evacuated to the COVID-19 centre in Abuja.”
2) Chief Victor Ikwuemesi
Another prominent death in April due to the coronavirus was that of Chief Victor Ikwuemesi, the founder of the defunct Sosoliso Airlines Limited, who died in London on April 13
The Anambra State-born Ikwuemesi who was a foremost industrialist passed on in the UK capital after being infected with the virus.
He was said to have been in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on oxygen since he arrived the London hospital, but when the oxygen was removed for him to eat, he couldn’t breathe on his own. And while he was subsequently put on a ventilator, he eventually died.
Mourning the late industrialist, the Anambra State government, in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information, Don Adinuba, described him as a great son of the state and a worthy Nigerian.
“Ikwuemesi’s death represents a huge loss not just to Anambra State, but the entire country. He was a trailblazer and pacesetter in the airline industry,” Adinuba wrote.
Ikwuemesi established Sosoliso Airlines in 1994 and the airline soon became one of the best in the country with its operations. The airline which had its head office in Ikeja, Lagos, was, however, eventually grounded in 2007 having failed to meet the April 30, 2007, deadline given by the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration for all airlines operating in the country to be re-capitalized.
The airline’s troubles actually started following an unfortunate crash that occurred on December 10, 2005, when its 1145 flight which took off from Abuja crashed at Port Harcourt International Airport.
The plane, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 with 110 people on board, including Pastor Bimbo Odukoya, slammed into the ground and burst into flames, with only two people surviving the crash.
3) Abba Kyari
The death of Abba Kyari, the very powerful and influential Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, came as a rude shock to many Nigerians who, before then, did not believe that the virus had found its way into the country.
Kyari died on April 17, at the age of 67 after he tested positive for the disease on March 24 and was receiving treatment at a private health facility.
The presidential aide who was appointed Chief of Staff in August, 2015, reportedly died from complications arising from Covid-19 at the First Cardiology Consultants, a private hospital in Ikoyi, Lagos State, and was buried at the Gudu Cemetery, Abuja, on April 18.
Stories making the rounds at the time were that the late presidential aide had contracted the virus in Germany where he had visited to hold talks on behalf of the Federal Government with top officials of Siemens, a German energy firm, on issues around the power sector.
Even the burial of Kyari was not devoid of controversies as there was a large crowd which was against the Covid-19 protocols of social distancing. Nigerian were infuriated by a viral video of one of the undertakers discarding his protective cover and throwing it away carelessly, leading many Nigerians to question whether the protocols were not meant for the rich and mighty.
4) Suleiman Adamu
Suleiman Adamu was a member of the Nassarawa State House of Assembly until his death due to coronavirus on April 30.
While announcing his death, the state Governor, Abdullahi Sule, said Adamu died from coronavirus complications at the Federal Medical Centre located in Keffi.
According to Sule, the deceased’s blood samples were taken before his death and they came back positive although he had died before then.
In a statement, Sule said: “The deceased was admitted at Federal Medical Centre, (FMC), Keffi. He had symptoms of coronavirus, his sample was taken, but before it was out, he died and was buried. His result came out positive on Saturday May 3.
5) Senator Esho Jinadu (Buruji Kashamu)
Another coronavirus-related death that shook the nation was that of Senator Esho Jinadu, popularly known as Buruji Kashamu, who also died at the First Cardiology Hospital in Ikoyi, Lagos, on August 8. He was a revered politician loved and adored by the people of Ijebu-Igbo in Ogun State, whom he represented at the 8th National Assembly.
His death was announced on social media by his close friend, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, who penned an emotional tribute to the late politician.
“I have just lost my good friend of forever to #COVID19. Until his death, Sen. Buruji Kashamu and I were inseparable. He died today at First Cardiology Consultants, in Lagos. May his gentle soul rest in peace. I pray his family and loved ones the fortitude to bear this heavy loss,” Murray-Bruce wrote on Twitter.
Kashamu was the founder of Western Lotto Limited, one of Nigeria’s lottery operators and his long-drawn battle with the Chief Kessington Adebutu, the founder of the popular Baba Ijebu Lotto had pitted him against many, but while on his death bed, there was a leaked viral video where he was seen begging Adebulu (Baba Ijebu) for forgiveness as well as those he had offended.
He served as the senator representing Ogun East in the National Assembly and for years, Kashamu was declared wanted in the United States for alleged drug offenses, though he had denied being the person involved till he breathed his last.
6) Adebayo Sikiru Osinowo
The Senator representing Lagos East Senatorial district in the National Assembly, Adebayo Sikiru Osinowo, aka Pepperito, also died from complications due to coronavirus on June 15, at the age of 64.
Osinowo who was a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly for 16 years, representing the Kosofe constituency, began his political life in the Second Republic serving as a youth chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
On February 23, 2019, he was elected Senator representing the Lagos East Senatorial District at the Nigerian National Assembly and was appointed the Chairman, Senate Committee on Industries.
There were conflicting reports concerning what cause of his death. It was gathered at the time that Osinowo was admitted at the special intensive unit of Lagos Cardiologist Centre, Ikoyi, where dignitaries are known to have been treated for COVID-19 complications.
Another conflicting report had it that he was taken in at the Yaba Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH), before his eventual death.
7) Abiola Ajimobi
Former Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi was another prominent Nigerian who died of complications from coronavirus on June 20, at the age of 70.
Ajimobi’s death generated widespread controversies as news of his death had circulated a week before it was confirmed and announced.
It was first reported that Ajimobi died from multiple organ failure at the same health facility Kyari died, but it was later confirmed that his death was as a result of complications from the virus.
While battling with the virus, Ajimobi was declared the acting chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), after the Court of Appeal upheld the suspension of its former chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
Between 2003 and 2007, Ajimobi, under the platform of the Alliance for Democracy, served as Senator representing Oyo South. In 2011, he won the Oyo State governorship election under the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and was re-elected for a second term in 2015, making him the first governor in the history of the state to complete two terms in office.
8) Wahab Adegbenro
The Ondo State Commissioner of Health, Wahab Adegbenro, was another prominent Nigerian who succumbed to the cold hands of death due to COVID- 19 complications in 2020.
Adegbenro who was at the forefront of the fight against the disease in the state, died at the state’s infectious diseases hospital on July 2. He was a prominent son of Ilara-Mokin, in Ifedore local government area of the state.
9) Tunde Buraimoh
Tunde Braimoh, the former Chairman of Kosofe local government area of Lagos State, was another prominent Nigerian who succumbed to the cold hands of death in 2020 due to coronavirus.
Braimoh was a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly before his death on July 10.
According to reports, Braimoh allegedly contracted the virus from Oshinowo who was his close friend and confidant.
Before his death, he was the Chairman, Lagos House of Assembly Committee on Information, Strategy and Security.
On June 16 after the death of Osinowo, Braimoh had written a poem in honour of the late Senator whom he described as his leader and mentor.
10) Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga
The former military governor of Akwa Ibom State during the regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, was another prominent Nigerian who died in 2020 due to complications from Covid-19 infection.
Until his death on December 24 at the age of 68, Nkanga was the Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).
While announcing his death, the Secretary to Akwa Ibom Government, Emmanuel Ekuwem, confirmed that Nkanga passed on at a Covid-19 isolation centre in the state.
Nkanga was Akwa Ibom governor from September 1990 to January with Ufot Ekaette, who later became the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, his deputy.
He retired as an Air Commodore in the Nigerian Airforce and was the Chairman of Ibom Airport Development Company and Ibom Air.
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