The pioneer National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and first civilian governor of Plateau State, Chief Solomon Lar, is dead.
Lar, 80, died of old age-related sickness yesterday in the United States where he was flown to about a year ago.
His death drew an instant outpour of tributes from President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President David Mark; Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal; former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih; All Progressives Congress (APC) leader, Senator Bola Tinubu and both factions of the PDP, among others.
The Plateau State Government, which confirmed Lar's death in a statement, described it as "great sadness."
The government, in the statement by the Director of Press to the governor, Mr. James Mannok, said: "It is with great sadness that the Government of Plateau State received the death of Chief Solomon Daushep Lar, the first civilian governor of the state and the first national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, who passed away in the United States of America.
"Governor Jonah Jang, who was informed of the death by the family paid tribute to Chief Lar as a pillar of democracy, steadfast politician and a man of the people who is leaving a legacy that will stand the test of time."
While calling on his family, the people of Plateau and Nigerians to take the loss as an act of God, the governor recalled how the late elder statesman distinguished himself in the polity thereby making the state proud.
Immediately the news broke in the state, sympathisers thronged his Beach Road residence in Jos to console the family.
Reacting to Lar's death, Jonathan said he received the news with sadness and a feeling of immense national loss.
He described the late Lar as a hero of democracy and extended his condolences to the Lar family, Jang, the people of Plateau State, the people of the Middle Belt and all others for whom Lar was a much beloved, charismatic and inspirational political leader.
Jonathan said he joined those the late politician left behind in mourning the "passage of a truly great leader whose eventful and highly successful political career predated Nigeria's independence, having started with his election as a councillor in the Langtang Native Authority in January 1959 and continued with his election to the federal parliament in December, 1959."
He urged the people to take solace in the knowledge that the late Lar lived a long and most fulfilled life, and that his immense contributions to communal, state and national development have assured him of a place amongst the eternal heroes of the Nigerian nation.
According to him, the late Lar would always be remembered for the exemplary humility, great vision, wisdom and maturity which he brought to political leadership in Nigeria for over 50 years as a legislator, executive governor, party leader and highly revered elder statesman.
Like Jonathan, Mark lamented the demise of Lar, describing him as a rare Nigerian who propagated the tenets of democracy and lived to see the actualisation of the people's will.
According to him, the deceased will be remembered for fighting for democracy and the enthronement of the people's mandate against all odds.
He recalled that it was the late Lar who led the group of G-34 which later metamorphosed into the PDP that has sustained the democratic rule all Nigerians now enjoy.
Mark said: "We owe him a great deal of gratitude. He surely has a place of pride in the political history of Nigeria. Lar was a different kind of leader. He put the people and the nation first before self.
"He was an easy going man. He was calculated, gentle and result-oriented leader. Regrettably, the nation has lost one of her shinning stars. We shall miss his robust contributions to national issues. We shall miss his humour.
In his reaction, Tambuwal, said with the passage of Lar, Nigeria has lost one of its great political leaders.
The speaker, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal said Lar would be remembered as a man of integrity whose forthrightness and wisdom stood him out among his peers.
While praying for the repose of the soul of the elder statesman, the speaker urged his family, friends and associates to be comforted by the knowledge that he will always be remembered as a visionary and a universally acclaimed pacesetter who delivered positive results in all the public assignments he undertook.
Also, Atiku described the death of Lar as the loss of one of the country's greatest statesmen.
"He was a leader Nigeria needed at each time of crisis," he said in a statement from his media office, noting that his departure will be most felt at this time when there is growing disagreement among the political elite.
Atiku said the late Lar's "fight for his middle-belt region in particular and Nigerians in general will be remembered by every worthy historian of this era." In his part, Anenih described Lar's death as a great loss to both the party and the nation.
"This is, indeed, very sad and painful. Chief Solomon Lar was a great leader and pillar of our party. He was a titan of democracy whose leadership and invaluable counsel will be missed by the PDP family, especially at this time when efforts are being made at genuine reconciliation," he said in a statement.
In his condolence message, APC leader, Tinubu, said the late Lar would not be easily forgotten in the country.
According to Tinubu, "When the history of the development of Middle Belt politics is told, nay that of Nigeria, his name will go down as one of the political juggernauts of our generation. He was a progressively-minded politician upon which the soul and the rise of Middle Belt politics were anchored. For nearly two decades, he was the main issue in Middle Belt politics.
"He was a colourful politician, yet principled. He was grassroots, yet urbane in his approach to issues. Even in the twilight of his political stewardship, he remained a reference point and a fountain of political knowledge and wisdom. Though saddened by his passing, we all must be encouraged by the fact that he served his people and Nigeria well."
The late Lar also got tribute from the Northern States' Governors Forum (NSGF), which described his death as a devastating loss to the people of Plateau State and the nation in general.
According to the Chairman of the forum and Niger State Governor, Dr Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu, with the death of Lar, Nigeria has lost a patriot of uncommon courage.
Aliyu in statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Danladi Ndayebo, said the late Lar was a recurrent decimal in the nation's polity for over five decades: either as a legal practitioner, member of the nation's first national parliament, governor, first national chairman of the PDP or an elder statesman.
The forum described the late Lar as a nationalist who lived a purposeful life of dedication to the cause of the nation's unity and dedication as well as commitment to the upliftment of the citizenry.
It called on the Plateau State Government to honour the memory of the late Lar to serve as an inspiration to the younger generation.
The PDP, while mourning its founding national chairman, described his death as a loss to Nigeria.
PDP's National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olisa Metuh, in a statement said the death of the politician had "left a big vacuum not only in the party but in Plateau State and the nation at large."
The party described Lar as a quintessential politician and patriot who sacrificed the greater part of his life for the entrenchment of true democracy and an egalitarian Nigeria.
"Our hearts reach out to the government and people of Plateau state, the millions of PDP family nationwide, but most importantly to his loved ones and immediate family.
"Chief Solomon Lar will be remembered for his insistence on the emancipation of the masses and his white handkerchief. That is why he was fondly called "The Emancipator". PDP members will not forget the image of Chief Solomon Lar on the podium with his white handkerchief singing and dancing to the PDP song," the party said.
The splinter group of the party, led by Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, also expressed shock over the death of Lar.
In a statement by its spokesman, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, the New PDP described the late Lar as a "colourful politician of substance, a first-class patriot and an accomplished administrator."
"As pioneer chairman of PDP, he played a significant role in laying a solid foundation on which his successors built to make the party the poster boy of Nigerian politics and in sustaining and growing our hard-won democracy," it said.
It condoled with the family of the deceased, the Plateau State Government, Jonathan and Nigerians.