Abuja — President Muhammadu Buhari last night sent a condolence message to the people and government of Burundi over the death of their president, Mr. Pierre Nkurunziza.
In the condolence message made available by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, Buhari described Nkurunziza as a patriot who led his country through turbulent times.
He said he received the news of his demise with sadness and prayed God to give his family the fortitude to bear the loss.
"It is with profound grief and sadness that we received the news of the death of President Pierre Nkurunziza. President Nkurunziza was a true patriot that steered the country through turbulent times with wisdom and foresight.
"At this time of great pain and loss, the Government and people of Nigeria as well as myself, express our deepest condolences to the Government and people of Burundi. Our thoughts and prayers also go out to the family of the President. May God grant them the fortitude to bear the loss," Buhari said.
Nkurunziza was said to have died of heart failure, the government said yesterday.
"The Government of the Republic of Burundi announces with great sadness the unexpected death of His Excellency Pierre Nkurunziza, President of the Republic of Burundi following heart failure on June 8, 2020," it said in a post on its official Twitter account.
An evangelical who believed he was chosen by God to rule the East African nation, Nkurunziza came to power in 2005, when he was selected by parliament.
His controversial and ultimately successful bid for a third term in 2015 plunged the country into crisis.
Violence left at least 1,200 people dead, displaced hundreds of thousands and the authorities carried out a sustained crackdown on the opposition and media.
His death comes on the heels of elections on May 20 in which his hand-picked successor, Evariste Ndayishimiye, secured a seven-year term as president -- a result confirmed by the constitutional court last Thursday.
Ndayishimiye was due to be sworn in in August.
A statement from Burundi's presidency yesterday said Nkurunziza was hospitalised over the weekend and that his health "abruptly changed" on Monday.
It said the country would observe seven days of mourning beginning from yesterday.