Tributes as ex-president Shagari dies at 93

Tributes as ex-president Shagari dies at 93

Former President Shehu Shagari

By Olalekan Osiade and Temitope Ogunbanke

His life and times
How grandsons broke news of his death
To be buried in Sokoto today

The first Executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, is dead. He died yesterday at the National Hospital, Abuja, after a brief illness. He was aged 93. The sad news of Shagari’s demise was broken by the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, and one of Shagari’s grandsons, Bello, on their Twitter handles. “I regret to announce the death of former President Shehu Shagari who just passed away at the National Hospital Abuja. May his soul rest in peace”, Tambuwal wrote. On his part, the younger Shagari, at 7.00pm, wrote: “I regret announcing the death of my grandfather, H.E Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who died right now after a brief illness at the National Hospital, Abuja”. Another of his grandsons, Nuradeen Mahe, who confirmed the death, said the late elder statesman died at about 6.40 pm, noting that his remains would be flown to Sokoto for burial today (Saturday) according to Islamic rites. Mahe also informed that said Shagari was taken to Abuja on December 25 after his health deteriorated.

Triubutes pour in

Sequel to the passing, there have been torrents of tributes from well-meaning Nigerians for the Second Republic President. On his Twitter handle, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, wrote: “Inalilahi wa inailehi Rajiun (from God we come, to Him we shall return). My family and I join the entire nation to mourn the passing of former President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who led our nation during the Second Republic”.

Shagari man of unparalleled patriotism – Buhari

In his tribute, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed sadness at the news of the passing away of the First Executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria saying: “On behalf of my family, the government and the people of Nigeria, it is with immense sadness that I received the news of the passing away of the First Executive President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari which event happened Friday in Abuja” The President described the death as the departure of a patriot whose life of service and humility was widely acknowledged. President Buhari recalled part of the birthday message he (Buhari) sent to him last February when he said, “ we are enthralled and regaled with the many years of unequalled patriotism, sacrifices and contributions to national development. More specifically, we celebrate the role modelling qualities of integrity, diligence and humility that have been the hallmark of your visionary leadership.” President Buhari is however, grateful to God that Shagari lived to a ripe age and led an exemplary life, which he urges Nigerians of all walks of life to emulate. “Nigerians held him in the highest esteem even when he was out of office until his demise and will forever miss his wise counsels.” He prayed that Almighty God would comfort the family of the ex-president and all those who mourn him and would grant the soul of the late nonagerian eternal rest.

Kalu mourns ‘true leader’

A former governor of Abia State Governor and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Orji Kalu, has lamented the passing of Shagari, describing the late Turaki Fula of Sokoto Caliphate as a true leader. He urged Nigerian leaders to emulate the impeccable attributes of the late politician. Kalu while acknowledging the noble contributions of the deceased to nation building, commiserated with the Sultanate Council, the government and people of Sokoto State and the Shagari family on the painful loss. In a condolence message personally signed by the former governor on Friday, he extolled the virtues of the late President, adding that the nation had lost a strong advocate of peace and unity. “I was devastated when I heard the news of the demise of former President Shehu Shagari. He played laudable roles in the social, economic and political development of Nigeria. “The late Shagari offered objective and unbiased advice on national issues. He was a true believer in a united and indivisible Nigeria. “The late elder statesman was not only a role model but a pillar of support to his peers and the younger generation. He would be greatly missed because of his extraordinary humility and patriotism. Our prayers go to the Shagari family at this difficult time”. While urging the Shagari family to uphold the exem-plary qualities of their late patriarch, Kalu, prayed to Allah for the repose of the soul of the late former president.

It was a great loss – Arewa youths

The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) described his death as a great loss not only to the North but the entire country. Speaking with Saturday Telegraph in a telephone interview yesterday, President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shetima said late Shagari would be remembered for positive side of history. He said: “Indeed, it was a great loss. He died at the very moment that we would have loved to have his own side of the story, experience and wisdom to share so that we can set a very good track records for this country. He has done very well, he played a very prominent role in the country and he would be remembered for positive side of the history. It is a very sad news but certainly, he will be remembered for positive side of history. To us, and everybody; it was a great loss.

He was an active political player, says Amosun

The Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, described the death of the former president as the passing of an age in the history of Nigeria. Describing the former President as an active political player, Amosun, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Mr. Rotimi Durojaiye, said Shagari had left a most significant stamp in the courageous defence of the country. While praying for the repose of his soul, Amosun said Shagari would be missed by the country and Africa in general. “He was a peacemaker, nation-builder, opinion leader, defender of history and stood with his people till his last breath,’’ Amosun said. According to him, the former President lived an active and eventful life and history will obviously put him in his rightful place. The Ogun State governor described him as an institution that needed to be under-studied to tap his vast knowledge and experience. “He was a man of many parts whose death means the close of an era”, Amosun said, lamenting that he died when his service was needed.

Obaseki mourns

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has also mourned the passing of the former president, saying, Shagari played an active role in the growth and development of Nigeria, and until his death, rendered invaluable support to successive administrations for the uplift of the country. “It is with great sadness that I received the news of the passing of former President, Shagari. As an elder statesman, Shagari maintained a rather quite and simple lifestyle and was always available to advise the nation’s leaders. “I commiserate with his family, the government and people of Sokoto State on his passing and pray that God grants them the fortitude to bear the loss.” The governor noted that it was quite regrettable that Nigeria was losing someone like the former president at a time the country needed his wisdom and experience to forge ahead and build a more united nation. According to him, “the former President remains a major shaper of what Nigeria has become today.”


Born in 1925 in the northern Shagari village founded by his great-grandfather, Ahmadu Rufa’i, who was also the Village Head, he took the name Shagari as his family name. His father’s name is Aliyu and his mother’s name is Mariamu. He was raised in a polygamous family, and was the sixth child born into the family. Shagari started his education in a Quranic school and then went to live with relatives at a nearby town, where from 1931-1935 he attended Yabo elementary school. In 1936-1940, he went to Sokoto for middle school, and then from 1941-1944 he attended Kaduna College. Shagari joined politics in 1951, when he became the secretary of the Northern People’s Congress in Sokoto, a position he held until 1956. In 1954, Shehu Shagari was elected into his first public office as a member of the federal House of Representatives for Sokoto west. In 1958, Shagari was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a position he left in 1959, to serve as the Federal Minister for commerce and Industries. From 1959 to 1960, Shagari was redeployed to the Ministry of Economic Development, as the Federal Commissioner for Economic Development. In 1960, he was moved to the Pensions Ministry as the Federal Minister for Pensions. From 1962 to 1965, Shagari was made the Federal Commissioner for internal affairs. From 1965 up until the first military coup in January 1966, Shagari was the Federal Minister for works. In 1967, he was appointed as the secretary for Sokoto province education development fund. From 1968-1969, Shagari was given a state position in the North Western State as commissioner for establishments. After the Nigerian civil war, from 1970-1971, Shagari was appointed by the then Military Head of State General Yakubu Gowon as the federal commissioner for economic development, rehabilitation and reconstruction. From 1971 to 19 75 he served as the Federal commissioner for finance. During his tenure as the commissioner of finance for Nigeria, Shagari was also a governor for the World Bank and a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) committee of twenty. In 1978, Shehu Shagari was a founding member of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). In 1979 Shagari was chosen by the party as its presidential candidate for general election, which he won becoming the president. Shagari ran for a second four-year term in 1983 and won the general election, however, on December 31, 1983, Shagari was overthrown by President Muhammadu Buhari, who was then a major general in the army. He served as the first and only Presidentof Nigeria’s Second Republic (1979–1983), after the handover of power by General Olusegun Obasanjo’s military government. Shagari was made the Turaki of the Fula Sokoto Caliphate in 1962 by the Sultan of Sokoto Siddiq Abubakar III. Turaki means an officer at court, in this case referring to the sultan’s court at the palace of Sokoto. In addition, he also holds the chieftaincytitles of the Ochiebuzo of Ogbaland, the Ezediale of Aboucha and the Baba Korede of Ado Ekiti. He worked as a teacher for a brief period before entering politics in 1951 and in 1954 was elected to the federal House of Representatives.

Policies Oil boom

During the oil boom, Shagari made Housing, Industries, Transportation and Agriculture as the major goals of his administration. In transportation, he launched some road networks across the country. He also initiated a program to foster the use of mechanical machinery in farming. It favored large scale farmers in order to produce mass products. Shagari created a low cost housing scheme. In 1980, with the oil revenue, Shagari finished building the Kaduna refinery, which started operation that year. Also with the oil revenue, Shagari concluded the construction of an additional steel plant and three rolling mills at Ajaokuta, Nigeria. Shagari completed the Delta Steel complex in 1982. In 1983, Shagari created the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria at Ikot Abasi, Nigeria. However, Shagari reduced the share of oil royalties and rents to state of origin from 30 to 2 percent.

Green Revolution

Shagari’s government embarked on a “Green Revolution”, distributing seed and fertilliser to farmers to increase nationwide productivity in farming. The Shagari administration was plagued by allegations of corruption, including allegations of electoral fraud in the 1983 election. This, coupled with a decline in world oil prices, and a deterioration in the national finances, hardship, lead to the regime becoming deeply unpopular with citizens. Shagari was overthrown by General Muhammadu Buhari in a military coup on December 31, 1983.

Personal life

Shehu Shagari married three wives: Amina, Aishatu, Hadiza Shagari. He has many children. However, His most visible children are Captain Muhammad Bala Shagari Rtd. and Aminu Shehu Shagari. On August 24, 2001, his wife, Aisha Shagari, died in a London hospital from a brief illness. The Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR) title holder, in his autobiography, ‘Beckoned To Serve’, Shagari shared his experience from early childhood through his period as president in 1979-1983, and beyond. As the son of a village chief, who became a school teacher, political activist and committed democrat and nationalist, his story is told within the context of the transition from colonial rule to independence and the struggle to build a stable country with democratic institutions and values.

Credit: New Telegraph

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