Tributes were instantaneous in pouring in yesterday for a former Minister of Works and Housing during the Ibrahim Babangida’s regime, Maj-Gen. Mamman Kontagora (rtd), who died on the same day.
Kontagora, 69, died at the National Hospital, Abuja, prompting President Goodluck Jonathan, the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) and Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, among others, to eulogise a man whose dedication to duty as a minister was legendary.
The deceased, who was born on April 20, 1944 in Kontagora, Kontagora Local Government Area of Niger State, was the deputy chairman of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).
He was also the administrator of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), a position he was appointed into on August 22, 1998.
He was a senatorial aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2003 National Assembly election, but was defeated in the primaries by Isa Maina, who was eventually elected into the Senate.
He also vied for the 2007 presidential ticket on PDP’s platform, but lost out to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua during the party’s primaries.
Reacting to his death, Jonathan in a statement by his media aide, Dr. Reuben Abati, extended his condolences to the late General’s family, the Kontagora Emirate Council, Governor Babangida Aliyu and all the people of Niger State.
The president mourned the deceased, whom he described as “the illustrious and indefatigable former Minister of Works and the Federal Capital Territory who, even in retirement, continued to serve his fatherland with zeal, vigour and enthusiasm whenever he was called upon to do so.”
“President Jonathan believes that the nation would always honour the memory of the late army engineer for having served Nigeria with commendable patriotism and distinction during an excellent career in the Armed Forces and in various other capacities in the public service, including federal minister, Sole Administrator of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and Chairman of the Presidential Committee on the Development of National Stadia for the World Youth Soccer Championship in 1995.
“He prays that God Almighty would grant General Kontagora’s soul eternal rest,” the statement said.
A federal government delegation, led by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Mohammed, is to represent Jonathan at the former minister’s interment.
Other members of the delegation include the Minister of State for Power, Mrs. Zainab Ibrahim Kuchi, and the Chairman of Sure-P, Dr. Christopher Kolade.
The NSGF also expressed shock and sadness at the death of Kontagora, describing it as a monumental loss to Niger State in particular and the nation in general.
Chairman of the forum and Governor of Niger State, Aliyu, in a condolence message signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Danladi Ndayebo, described the late Kontagora as a patriot who died in the service of his fatherland.
The governors said they were pained by his demise but took solace in the fact that he lived an exemplary and purposeful life with remarkable achievements as a military officer, administrator, community leader and a dedicated family man.
Mourning Kontagora, Obi said his death had further depleted the ranks of the nation’s statesmen.
The Anambra governor said the former soldier’s glowing record of public service made his death a painful loss for every Nigerian.
"He was a professional soldier, a fine officer. As a minister, he established a reputation as a workaholic and an achiever. I never heard of accusations of any infraction against him. No wonder he was even made a university administrator to help manage a crisis.
“His exit at this period of national challenges will be felt. His conflict managing skills would have been useful now,” he said in a statement yesterThursday.
A former Minister of Sports, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, who worked with the late Kontagora as vice-chairman of the federal government Administrative Audit Panel to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, in 1995, described the deceased as a hardworking, honest, dedicated and incorruptible Nigerian.
Adedoja said during his tenure as sole administrator at ABU after the report of the visitation panel in 1996, "his vision for repositioning of the university stood the test of time in higher institution management.”