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Monday, 4 November 2013

Mike Okhai Akhigbe (1946-2013)

Mike Okhai Akhigbe (1946-2013)
The recent death of former Chief of General Staff (CGS), Vice Admiral Mike Okhai Akhigbe (rtd), in the United States of America (USA), is a great loss to Nigeria. The former Chief of Naval Staff died at a time when his contributions to nation building were most needed. Since his demise, prominent Nigerians have paid glowing tributes to the late officer and administrator. President Goodluck Jonathan described the departed as “a very courageous officer who patriotically served his nation to the best of his God-given abilities throughout a most distinguished career in the Nigerian Armed Forces.” The Senate President, David Mark, said   Akhigbe’s death was “a huge personal loss” to him, members of Course 3, the Armed Forces, his home state, Edo, and the entire nation.” Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, described Akhigbe as a gentleman whose contributions towards the restoration of democracy in 1999 would remain indelible in the annals of Nigerian history. In the same vein, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, said the late Akhigbe was part of the team that contributed to the successful transfer of power to civilians on May 29, 1999.
Born on September 29, 1946, in Fugar, Etsako Central Local Government Area of Edo State, Akhigbe was educated at Afenmai Anglican Grammar School, Igarra from 1961-65. He joined the Nigerian Navy in 1967 and was at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) from 1967-69. In 1974, Akhigbe was at the Royal Naval School of Maritime Operations, Dryad, Southwick, United Kingdom. The deceased had a Diploma in French Studies, 1979, and Postgraduate Diploma in International Relations and Diplomacy, 1980. He was the Principal Welfare Officer, NNS Aradu, 1980-82; Staff and Command College, Jaji, 1982-83; Director of Personnel, Naval Headquarters, 1983-85; Commanding Officer, NNS Obuma, February-August 1985; Military Governor, Ondo State, 1985-86; Lagos State, 1986-88 and Commander of Naval College, 1988-89. He was at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, 1989 and University of Poitiers, Rouan, France.
The late Akhigbe became Director, Naval Plans, Naval Headquarters, Lagos, 1988-89; Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Naval Command, Calabar, 1993-94; Chief of Naval Staff, 1994-98; and Chief of General Staff, 1998-99.
He retired from the Nigerian Navy in 1999 after several years of meritorious service to his fatherland. Later, he read law and was called to the Nigerian Bar. As a lawyer, Akhigbe practised property and maritime law. In recognition of his numerous services to the nation, the deceased was bestowed with the honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), in 1998 and awarded honorary doctorate degree by the University of Benin in 2003. His military decorations include Force Service Star, Meritorious Service Star, and Defence Service Star.
Akhigbe will be remembered for his numerous services to the nation, especially his role during the transition from military to civilian rule in 1999 when he was the Chief of General Staff to Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar (rtd).
It is regrettable, also, that the nation has continued to lose some of its prominent citizens in foreign hospitals due to the parlous state of our health care delivery system. Government should do something urgently to stem the tide. It is time the nation’s health sector is improved. Some of the ailments that Nigerians travel to treat abroad can be promptly diagnosed and properly managed at home if the health sector is in order. 
Akhigbe’s life of service to the nation is truly exemplary. He maintained the honour and integrity of every public office he was privileged to hold. His outstanding and unblemished public life is worthy of emulation by the present crop of Nigerian leaders. The trajectory of his life should also be a beacon to the present generation of military officers. He deserves every honour and recognition that the nation can give him at this time.
We mourn with the Nigerian Armed Forces, especially the Nigerian Navy to which the deceased officer rendered many decades of dedicated service. We commiserate with the Akhigbe family, the people of Edo State, his military associates and friends, and the entire nation on this great loss. May God grant his soul sweet repose.


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