Art and Life

Paul Unongo dies at 87: Life and times of an ideologue

A former Minister of Power and Steel in the Second Republic, Paul Unongo, is dead.


Unongo, who hailed from Jato Aka in the Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State, died Tuesday morning in Jos, the Plateau State capital at the age of 87. His death marks an end to an era of politics anchored on intellectual and robust engagements.


A strong politician, he ran for governor of Benue State in 1979 on the platform of the defunct Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP), which was led by the first president of Nigeria, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. He lost to the late Aper Aku, but was made a federal minister in the coalition government of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the NPP.


He was among the ideologues of the defunct Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP), who helped in articulating and espousing the welfarist policies of the party. He was in fact, the pioneer Secretary General of the Party and an ally of Azikiwe.


His efforts for the governorship in the current dispensation on the platform of the All Peoples Party (APP) in 2003, did not work out as his party lost to the Peoples Democratic Party. Unongo tried to get justice at the election tribunal in Makurdi, but lost at both the tribunal and the Court of Appeal.


Subsequently, he concentrated more in rallying round the North Central geo-political zone and voicing out the marginalisation of the region by the establishment North.


In 2017, Unongo succeeded Maitama Sule as the chairman of the Northern Elders’ Forum.


Details of his death were sketchy by the close of the day as no formal statement has been issued by his family. However, according to The Punch Newspapers, a close family source, who confirmed his death to reporters on the phone in Makurdi on Tuesday, simply said that his death would be announced in due course.


“Yes Wantaregh Paul Unongo died today Tuesday but I cannot say more than that because I am not authorised to do so. But our family will issue a formal statement on the development,” he said.


Another source in the state, who did not want to be mentioned, confirmed his death.


“This morning, I called and was told that they were bathing him but about 20 minutes after they told me he passed on,” said one of Tiv prominent sons.


Until his death, Unongo was the chairman of the Governing Council of Nigerian Educational Research Development Council.


Born on September 26, 1935, Paul Unongo, belonged to the Kwaghngise-Anure-Abera ancestry, in Turan, Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State.


Largely respected for his depth and intellectual prowess, the late Unongo was among the few Nigerians of his era, whose views on national issues, were taken seriously. By his traditional title of Wantaregh, he prided himself as the spiritual head of his Tiv Nation


Until his death he was the Chairman of the Governing Board of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, (NERDC).





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