Former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, yesterday, expressed grief over the death of his former Minister of National Planning, Dr. Chu Okongwu, who passed on at the age of 87 years, saying his demise has left him with a painful pang.
President Muhammadu Buhari also mourned Okongwu, calling him a man of many parts, who never hesitated to give his best to Nigeria everywhere he found himself.
In a statement he personally signed, IBB, as Babangida is popularly called, said no matter how old, whenever loved ones departed, there was always a deep sense of loss and pain.
He stated, “The nostalgic feelings invoke in us grief and some sort of emotional torture. Death, the ultimate end of man, has its hurtful claws clutching at humanity, each time it strikes.
“The death of Chu Okongwu, even at age 87, leaves me with a painful pang. Chu was one Nigerian, who was devoted and committed to nation-building, using his expertise and rich knowledge to create templates for national development.
“When our paths crossed, his intellect and humane disposition to discourse swayed my attention. He was incisive and analytical in his deliberations. He was profound in his elocution and didactic in his delivery.”
Babangida said Nigeria had lost another brilliant and intellectually fecund professional, with an amazing understanding of the world around, stressing, “Chu was a great man, and he died like all great men do.
“A super economist, Harvard trained, and also a lecturer with a deep knowledge of economics, Chu Okongwu was an exceptional brain that helped to shape the direction of our government.
“As a Minister of National Planning, he helped to create policy implementation strategies that facilitated our achievements in government. He later became Minister of Finance for four years and was able to lead us on the path of financial discipline and accountability. Chu Okongwu was a very strict professional and public servant.
“He was meticulous, and had eyes for little details. He enjoyed intellectual engagement and had specific interest in interrogating figures. He was one of our reservoirs of knowledge on economic and financial issues.
“At 87, Chu was still in his usual elements until the sad news of his death struck me early this morning. It is painful for me that death has snatched away one of the brightest economists we have in Nigeria. A very exposed leader of men, whose love for Nigeria knows no bounds, Chu will be sorely missed.”
IBB prayed God to grant Okongwu eternal rest and the family the grace and piety to bear the irreplaceable loss.
Buhari, who also extended heartfelt condolences to the Okongwu family, in a release by his media adviser, Femi Adesina, joined family, friends and associates in paying tribute to him.
The president said Okongwu was “a man of many parts, who never hesitated to give his best to Nigeria as a broadcaster with the Nigerian Broadcasting Service; Sub-editor, Daily Times Nigeria; lecturer, University of Nigeria; and a Minister of National Planning and later Finance.”
Buhari believed the perspectives the late professor brought to governance and economics, which centred on improving the lives of Nigerians, would not be forgotten. He prayed for the repose of the soul of the departed and divine comfort for his family during this difficult time.