How Buhari, IBB forced me out of military – Capt. Bala Shagari, eldest son of late President Shagari

How Buhari, IBB forced me out of military – Capt. Bala Shagari, eldest son of late President Shagari

Captain Bala Shagari

Captain Muhammad Bala Shagari (Rtd), is the eldest son of the late Second Republic President, Alhaji Aliyu Shehu Shagari who passed on two weeks ago. He is also the District Head of Shagari, the hometown of his father and holds the traditional title of Sarkin Mafaran Shagari. In this exclusive interview with Saturday Sun, the retired Army officer opens up on the late Turakin Sokoto’s lifestyle and his travails in the military which began soon after his father was overthrown by the then Major General Muhammadu Buhari. It was conducted by TUNDE OMOLEHIN, in Sokoto.

What was growing up like as the first son of former President Shehu Shagari?
I think among my siblings, I have lived with my father longer than any other person. I have one older sister, of course, but she didn’t have the closeness I had with our father that could make her understand him very well. I started my closeness with him since he was a teacher, though I was a very young boy then.

What was your observation about his personality then?
Well, he was always exhibiting himself as a typical educationalist. He brought us up in a formal manner. I saw him at first as a teacher and later he became an administrator. He was a classroom teacher and later became Assistant Headmaster when I was yet to enter primary school. I went to primary school as far back as 1956. So, you can see how long the closeness started.

Was he soft on you and other siblings in all approaches or otherwise?
I can say he was quite tender on us. Not really the harsh type. I can recall that since I was born, it was only once my father lifted his hands to beat me. And that was the time I did something he disliked. I was still very young then, when somebody who was a known drunkard came and took me from the house and I followed him without my father’s permission. The fellow took me to a bar and ordered for a bottle of beer. He also ordered a soft drink for me, which was Cola. In those days, the Cola is like Coca Cola of today. That outing and the beating that followed was an evergreen lesson and a blessing in disguise. Out of curiosity, when the man excused himself to urinate, I used the bottle’s cap to taste its liquid content with my tongue, which tasted bitter to my dislike. And I hated anything bitter. That was the beginning of my dislike with anything alcohol. My father was not comfortable with that outing, believing if I continue following the man I may end up like him. He gave me the beatings for that. That was the only time I can remember he took a cane and followed me round the house to beat me. However, I always watched out and ensured that I follow his commands and deeds.

What do you really cherish most about him?

Well, what I really cherish most about him is honesty and his true sense of purpose. You know, a lot of people have this misconception about him that ‘the man is weak’. But those who had worked closely with him will tell you the contrary. He was a person with high sense of responsibility. If he believes in a course, he will definitely fight for it to the end. My father has also been a revolutionist from the beginning of time. In those days, he told me a story about when he was in the middle school after his primary education. The middle school was like junior secondary school and had expatriates as their teachers. One of the teachers gave his class a task to write an essay on any topic in English. Apparently, it happened to be my father’s first ever essay. My father’s essay was on the need for colonial masters to go back home. When the white man read the essay, he couldn’t believe it because as far as he was concerned, my father came from a remote village and couldn’t have learnt fast on the negative impacts of colonialism on his fellow citizens. He (White man) took the letter (essay) to the District Officer (D.O) and showed him what a mid-one student had written about them. The D.O. enquired about my father’s background and the teacher said he came from Yabo, a remote village then. He couldn’t believe that someone from such a village could write such essay. The essay was later passed over to the Resident Officer of the province who was like a Governor of today. The Resident Officer couldn’t believe it also, and decided to invite my father. He asked him where he got the idea of his topic from. One thing I discovered from the story was that, my father started reading very early in his life. Because, that was only where he could have gotten the idea of his essay, that is, if he had been reading newspapers or stories written on Nnamdi Azikiwe and other nationalists who were fighting against colonial rule. So, he had been a revolutionist from the beginning of his time. I can also remember that when he was a teacher, there was a newly built library in Sokoto by colonial masters. It was a standard of its kind and the colonial masters were very proud of it. My father used to visit the library for his reading. One day, a white man came to the library and was asking everyone their experience about the ‘high class library’. When he got to my father’s turn to respond, he told the white man that he had read all the books in the library. The white man was surprised and called the librarian to confirm what my father just told him. And the librarian said he wouldn’t know whether my father had read all the books but he was sure that my father had borrowed every book in the library. The white man couldn’t believe, he decided to test my father by picking the books randomly and asked him the content or story inside such books, which my father responded to perfectly. The white man was impressed and invited my father to his house to check at his personal library for more books. I really cherish his reading culture. Even, as a teacher, he was into journalism by writing articles for publication in the Citizen and its Hausa version newspapers namely Gaskya Tafi kwabo, an Hausa version and Citizen newspaper, an English version. There was a time when a white man came to Shagari town asking for him to give him compliments because he had been reading his articles in the newspapers and that got him interested.

Many know him as a politician rather than an educationist you talked about. Can you recall how he eventually joined politics?

Well, before coming to that. Let me start this way. When Zik and other nationalists were going round the country campaigning for revolution against colonial rule and seeking independence, my father was the only civil servant then, as a teacher to attend Zik’s rally and listening to his messages. Everybody was afraid that the white men might not be kind to them if they are caught attending such rally. As a teacher, he was so informed to the level of challenging colonial masters on some issues that affected his community. There was an incident when some people were quarantined in Shagari because of meningitis outbreak. And the outbreak had not affected Shagari town, but the white men decided to use its outskirt as quarantine camp. When a white man came to sensitize the villagers over the epidemic, my father asked him if it was right to camp people infected with meningitis in a town that the outbreak has not reached. The white man said no, and asked about my father’s name. He was popularly called Malam Shehu. The white man then ran to the Resident Officer to report him. He informed him that one troublesome man had challenged the rationale behind camping infected people near his village. That was how they quickly moved the quarantined people out of Shagari town. He was later invited by the Resident Officer who begged him not to write any article on the issue. That was how he spent his youthful life. He was always on the defence of his people, as an educated fellow.

Then, coming to how he joined politics. I will say my father was a reluctant president. He had no ambition of becoming a president. He just wanted to be a Senator. And if you had seen his autobiography, the book he wrote, he titled it ‘Beckoned to Serve’. What that means is that, he has never asked for a position before he gets it. Any position he might have occupied, he wasn’t the one that lobbied for it. He was always called to serve. He went to House of Representatives, he became a federal minister and many more. He never asked for them. When the issue of presidency came, he had no intention to run for the position. He made it clear in the media that he was only interested in going to the Senate. When the NPN was formed, they started it together with his contemporaries and the party zoned presidency to the north. At a zonal convention, the north was supposed to bring three aspirants to the Lagos General Convention for the national delegates to choose a candidate. My father was in his lodge in Kaduna, the venue of the zonal convention resting when some delegates from Plateau State came for him and declared their support for him. They asked him to join the presidential aspirants. The delegation was led by Alhaji Isyaka Ibrahim. He outrightly rejected their suggestion and pleas. They left after much persuasions without success and mobilized for more delegates from other states. I think they succeeded in including more states like, Niger, Sokoto. I can’t remember the other two states. They came again and pleaded for him to throw his hat into the race. He equally declined. They said okay, ‘We will go and call Alhaji Makama (whom he respected most).’ They left again. But before they came back, my father out of frustration decided to turn on his radio. Incidentally, an Islamic preacher was preaching a sermon about leadership. And he said ‘do not give leadership to anybody that asked to be given leadership because he may not be just. But on the other hand, Allah is angry with anybody that people come for to lead them but who decline.’ That sermon hit my father so hard to the extent that his body started shaking for a while. After sometimes, when he regained himself, the set of delegates came back with Alhaji Makama. And the man (Makama) started talking to him. They all pleaded with him and that was the turning point of his presidential bid. After the convention, he secured the highest votes and they picked six of them to Lagos for the final convention and he still emerged the winner. He once told me when giving insight on his Kaduna convention’s experience where he recalled that a delegate borrowed his pen to tick another candidate’s name on his ballot paper and returned back to him to show him that he didn’t vote for him, just to upset him in the process. But later when my father won the election and eventually became the president, he appointed the fellow chairman of a federal parastatal.

At the time he became president, where were you and how did you feel as son of the President?

When he became president, I was already in the Nigeria Army. I can recall that when he was President-elect, my promotion also came as Lieutenant, and traditionally you cannot wear your new rank until you go back to your unit. At that time, I was in Lagos for official engagement because I was also a sportsman in the Army. I was playing snooker game for my Division, 1 Division, Kaduna. So, I was in Lagos for the game when the Supreme Court decided the case between him and Chief Awolowo. It was about the same time that my promotion came as Lieutenant. I saw it in newspapers, but I couldn’t wear it until I went back to my unit when my C.O. decorated me. Jokingly, the C.O said my father was a President-elect and I was a Lieutenant-elect. We all laughed. So, I was in the Nigeria Army when he became the president. During his tenure as president, none of his children ever went out with bodyguard or fleet of cars. We moved around freely and mixed with people freely without fear or sense of insecurity to our lives. We all feared our father for his principled lifestyle. We were so conscious of what we do as his children and what people will be saying about us. When I saw children of president maybe during Babangida regime and so on going around in presidential jet, it made me remember an incident. I came to Lagos one day because I was serving in Zaria. So, I took a commercial flight from Kaduna airport to Lagos, and when I was going back to Zaria, my father’ Aide de camp (ADC) bought me a flight ticket to return back to Kaduna, it was about N21 or so. But when my father saw the ticket he was furious. He then queried the ADC on why he should buy me a ticket because I wasn’t a staff of State House. Why should he buy a ticket for me? So, you can see the difference between then and now. He wouldn’t even allow State House to buy you a ticket talk less of you taking a presidential plane around. I also remember when his two wives wanted to go for holiday. They wanted to go to London for a few days and later move to Saudi Arabia for prayers. My father denied them to be flown in the presidential plane. He insisted that they must fly in a commercial plane or they abort the trip. He said the presidential plane can take them within Nigeria and not outside the country. So, when I see the children of these days doing things the way they like because of their fathers’ influence or position, I laugh it off.

Where were you when he was overthrown and how did you feel?
I was still in the Nigeria Army when he was overthrown. Though, I was later retired compulsorily by the Buhari’s regime.

What was your sin(s)?
For being the son of President Shehu Shagari. That was all. That was my only sin, I think. I can recall that the retirement letter states that ‘by the power vested on me as Chief of Army Staff, you are hereby compulsorily retired and your service is no longer required.’

Who was the Chief of Army Staff?

The then military secretary signed the letter while General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida was the Chief of Army Staff. The letter was his directive. Immediately they served me the letter, that was where they also picked me up and detained for six weeks. Though, it was a house arrest in Sokoto, not in a prison yard. They took me to Kaduna, I passed a night in Kaduna and they later brought me back to Sokoto, to NSO office which we call SSS now. When they brought me, I slept a night in their office. The next day, they prepared one of their guest rooms and put me there for six weeks.

What were you doing when the news was broken to you that your father had been overthrown?

I remember on the day of the coup d’état, I was in Jos playing polo. And I came back in the morning trying my horses because I had another game in the evening. I was with two of my Lebanese friends who played polo too. They were also from Zaria. They called my name repeatedly asking me if I have not heard the news that my father had been overthrown in a coup d’état. I merely responded to them and continued rolling my ball. They were surprised the way I responded to them. My mates were also surprised to see me calm throughout the period.

When you were moved to Sokoto, did NSO officials later brief you the offence you committed?

Not at all. Well, maybe the new government felt I was a threat to them because I didn’t look worried at all when my father was overthrown.

Before you were retired, what was your mood like, at least for taking orders from those who overthrew your father?

I didn’t have any mixed feelings about the whole thing. I was a young officer and well nurtured in the military. I always see myself as serving the nation. In fact, there was another polo game I went for in Lagos, and I met with Babangida. I believed he must have been thinking of me by saying ‘see this boy again, only God knows what he is planning against us.’ When they discovered that my mood wasn’t changed, at one time, Colonel Aliyu Akilu, the then Head of Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) called me to confirm if I have any problem. And I said no sir. He then said if I am not comfortable again in the military, I can put in my resignation letter. I said no sir. I am okay. He called me again to know if I have made up my mind to tender my resignation letter from the Army. I repeated the same no sir, and assured him that I am alright. I said ‘when I joined the Army, my father was not a president. Now because he is no more a president doesn’t mean I should also quit the Army. So, I will not resign but if you people felt you cannot work with me, you can ask me to go.’ That is what I told him. Later I was served with compulsory retirement letter. That was all.

After successive governments, did the military hierarchy reach out to you to compensate you?
Not at all. Nothing was done since I was retired as a captain, and I had not stayed long to earn pension. In those days, you have to be in the service for at least fourteen years before you can be on pension benefits. I was less than ten years before I was retired. Even my gratuity, I didn’t take it.

Did your father encourage you to join the Army?

No, I picked interest in it without any external motivation. When I was in Barewa College, I was a member of cadet unit of the school. So, I joined the Army on my own.

Did you or your late father have any bad feelings against these actors you have identified in the course of your travails?

To be honest and as far as I am concerned, my father never had any bad feelings against them. If you are talking of General Babangida and President Buhari, my father never talked bad about them. We are trained to believe in destiny. After the whole thing, people around me always wondered how I could be so calm? But I just have to be calm.

After the demise of your father, there are lots of tributes by eminent Nigerians that confirmed him as incorruptible leader. But, there is this general belief that your father was surrounded by people with corruption tendency during his tenure as President. How do you react to this?

You see, you cannot rule out such misgivings. But to be honest, there are other people that have been misjudged by the public. For example, Umaru Dikko. The only thing about him was that Umaru Dikko is a workaholic fellow but people turned this against him. He is a very hard working man. Umaru Dikko can attend to people until 2am mid-night and he will still wake up by 7am to resume office. He was always working with my father overnight. My father like him because he was very hardworking. But because he was so close to my father, a lot of people became envious of him. And you know a lot of negative stories were said of him. There was a time he made a statement and that statement pitched him against Chief MKO Abiola. The statement was that ‘presidency is not for sale’, and because Abiola was very ambitious at that time, he thought Umaru Dikko was talking to him. So, he decided to stage media war against him because it was Abiola’s newspaper, The Concord that promoted the One billion pound he was accused of. When my father came out of the detention and read the story that Umaru Dikko had One billion pounds, he was so surprised about such narrative. He said the whole lifetime of Rice Task Force programme where the people thought Umaru Dikko got the one billion pounds, he was only given four hundred million Naira. So, how can four hundred million naira translate to one billion pounds. Another instance that proved that the whole stories were just propaganda against them was when I was in a car with one of the chief security officers of this country. The fellow forgot that I was in his car and was talking to his friend that Senator Uba Ahmed wrote to them from exile asking them what he did wrong because he wanted to come back to Nigeria but before then he wanted to know his offence. The man told his friend that even Umaru Dikko that they have been shouting his name, up till then, they did not have any evidence against him. So, it is better he stays there because when he returns back to Nigeria, they will be ashamed of themselves because they will have nothing to hold against him and people will know that they just lied against them.

Credit: The Sun

Shagari laid to rest after Islamic rites

Breaking: Shagari laid to rest after Islamic rites

FG, governors, dignitaries pay last respects

Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto

The remains of the Second Republic President, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari have been interred.

His body was laid to rest in Shagari town, his country home, at about 3:30 shortly after the funeral prayers were offered by sympathisers who thronged his residence.

Ministers of Justice, Trade and Investment, Women Affairs and Agriculture, Malami Abubakar, Aisha Abubakar and Chief Audu Ogbeh respectively were among of the Federal government delegates who attended the funeral rite.

Other dignitaries included Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; Kebbi State, Atiku Abubakar and their Zamafara State counterpart, Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari, who were among the early callers.

Others dignitaries at the event included Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Muhammadu Sama’ila Mera. Emir of Gwandu was represented by Alhaji Idris Koko Madawaki. Former governors of Sokoto State, Yahaya Abdulkarim, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa and Senator Aliyu Wamakko as well as former INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega were also at the event.

Earlier, the remains of the late president arrived Sultan Abubakar III International Airport, Sokoto, at about 12:55pm in a presidential aircraft marked 5N-FGZ.

The body was received by the state governor, Alhaji Tambuwal, alongside former Governor Bafarawa and members of the State Executive Council.

It later departed Shagari on Nigerian Air Force ambulance belonging to the NAF-119 Forward Base, Sokoto and arrived at about 1:50pm.

Source: The Sun

Shehu Shagari: A Good Man But Bad Leader

Shehu Shagari: A Good Man But Bad Leader

Former President Shehu Shagari, left, with President Muhammadu Buhari

By Jiti Ogunye

As we mourn the passing of President Shehu Shagari, in a country like ours where our cultures prescribe that we do not speak ill of the dead, and where our past and recent histories are often distorted or forgotten, we must truthfully state his poor leadership records, even as we recognise his warm, and genial personality.

Former President Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari passed on yesterday at the age of 93. Our condolences go to his family, his people in Shagari Village in Sokoto State, Sokoto State and fellow Nigerians. Being a former president of this much raped and abused country, his loss should be mourned by all. May Allah, the merciful, the beneficent, grant him Aljannah Fridaus.

Before becoming president in October 1979, Alhaji Shagari served in many capacities at the Northern Region and federal government levels. He started his career as a school teacher before his foray into politics.

He was a federal parliamentarian and minister in the First Republic, under Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the prime minister between 1958 and 1966, before the first military coup aborted that Republic. After the end of the civil war, he returned to government in 1970 as a minister, a position he held until 1971, when he succeeded Chief Obafemi Awolowo as minister of finance, on the resignation of the latter from the Gowon government. Alhaji Shehu Shagari served in that capacity between 1971 and 1975, when the Gowon government was sacked in a military coup, paving way for the emergence of the Murtala/Obasanjo military regime.

Thus, when he became the first president of Nigeria in 1979, upon a switch of the country to the American presidential system of government (from the parliamentary or Westminster system), he was not new to politics, government and power. Although his emergence as president was controversial, it was expected that he would bring his experience and knowledge to bear on the running of the business and affairs of government.

Two controversies dogged his emergence as president. First, Alhaji Shehu Shagari was said not to be an overtly ambitious, power craving politician. He reportedly had initially expressed no interest to run for the office of president, indicating his preference of becoming a senator. He was, however, persuaded by the kingmakers in that era, principally and allegedly the “Kaduna Mafia”, a Northern Nigeria political power epicentre, to vie for the office of president. He was, therefore, an unwilling and (presumably) unprepared candidate. When his performance in office became lacklustre, his leadership failures were attributed to his being an unwilling president.

The second controversy was about the very contentious election that brought him to power. The Electoral Decree No 34 of 1977 that governed the presidential election of 1979 had provided, just as it is the case currently, that in order to be elected to office, a presidential candidate must have scored at least one quarter of the total votes cast in at least two-thirds of the states in Nigeria; and the highest number of the votes cast. The requirement addressed the need for spread, since the entire country was the electoral constituency of the president. Nigeria had nineteen states then. In the election, held on August 11, 1979, Alhaji Shehu Shagari scored the highest number of votes cast (5,688,657, as against that of the top contender, Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s 4,916,651); and at least a quarter of the votes cast in twelve states. But that was not two-thirds of the nineteenth states, mathematically. In the thirteenth state (Kano), Alhaji Shehu Shagari failed to score the required one-quarter of the total votes cast. He secured 19.94 per cent of the votes cast in Kano State. Yet, he was declared winner of the election by the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) and proclaimed as president-elect. The outcome of the election was challenged by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in the subsequent election tribunal, which dismissed the petition.

When an appeal of the tribunal’s verdict eventually got to the Supreme Court (in Awolowo v Shagari), before a full panel of seven justices, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), who eventually became the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice, rehashed his arguments before the Election Tribunal, which had been accepted by the Tribunal. His contention was that in order to get one-quarter of the total votes cast in the thirteenth state, the reckoning must not be the total votes but two-thirds of the total votes; meaning that once a candidate satisfied the requirement of obtaining one-quarter of the total votes cast in twelve states and in two-thirds of the thirteenth state, then he should be accepted as having satisfied the requirement of scoring at least one-quarter of the total votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of the nineteen states of the federation.

The argument was rejected by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who counter-argued that one-quarter of the votes in the thirteenth state could not be determined on the basis of a split of the total votes cast in the thirteenth state into fractions. He pressed the Court to accept that one-quarter of the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of nineteen states must be one-quarter of the votes cast in each of at least thirteen states of the federation.

The Supreme Court in a majority decision of 6-1 (Kayode Eso, JSC, dissenting) accepted the 12 2/3 argument and upheld the earlier dismissal of Awolowo’s petition. That decision did not rest the argument about the legitimacy of the Shagari government. Especially, given the fact that the election was held under the “anti-Awolowo disposition” of General Olusegun Obasanjo, the outgoing military ruler, who had declared before the election that the best candidate might not necessarily win the election.

Upon being sworn into office, President Shehu Shagari exhibited humility, geniality and generosity of spirit. He conferred the highest honorific title in Nigeria, the title of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), usually reserved for heads of state, on Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

When patriots began warning that poverty had become accentuated under his government, a garrulous and cynical member of his cabinet reportedly taunted Nigerians that no Nigerian had started eating from the refuse dump! The government boasted that the economy was strong, and when the bubble burst, President Shagari, faced with the grim situation of an unraveling economy introduced “austerity measures”.

Unfortunately, President Shehu Shagari was a genial leader who presided over a profligate and financially reckless government that squandered the opportunities for a post-thirteen years of military era development of Nigeria. With the hawks in his government like Senator Uba Ahmed (secretary general of the ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN) Umaru Dikko (the transport minister), Meredith Adisa Akinloye (chairman of the NPN) and inspector general of Police, Sunday Adewusi, who he couldn’t rein in, a budding fascism was being implanted in Nigeria. Every patriotic admonition by the opposition, principally the Obafemi Awolowo-led UPN, that Nigeria was headed in the wrong political and economic direction was derided as a prophesy of doom from an ever-lamenting Jeremiah (a reference to Obafemi Awolowo, whose baptismal name was Jeremiah).

Most of the policies and programmes of the administration were incoherent and not well thought through. In the agricultural sector, for example, a meaningless Green Revolution programme, patterned after the previous Olusegun Obasanjo administration’s Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), was put in place, with millions of naira being voted for the importation of fertilisers to help farmers. Yet, evidently, the fertiliser importation frenzy was largely a scam to siphon money. So also was the rice and cement importation policies. The ports became congested, with task forces set up to clear them. It was an era of the unbridled importation of goods, including luxury goods, leading to the depletion or evaporation of Nigerian foreign reserves.

To the credit of the administration, however, there was an expansion of the country’s education system at the federal level; establishment of River Basin Authorities, irrigation schemes and dams across Nigeria; and the laying of the foundation of the steel development sector in the country.

In a departure from the pretentious “low profile” culture of the Obasanjo era, when the official car of members of the military executive (military governors and the head of state) was a Peugeot 504, for example, President Shehu Shagari brought a thoughtless flamboyance into government; a lifestyle that the economy could not support. Mercedes Benz saloon cars became the official vehicles of government officials (just like the Toyota SUVs of today). And Nigerians were quick in naming the car “Shagari Style”. His government bought a presidential jet, thereby starting the tradition of acquiring and maintaining a wasteful presidential fleet, a tradition that continues to rule our lives as a country till date.

When patriots began warning that poverty had become accentuated under his government, a garrulous and cynical member of his cabinet reportedly taunted Nigerians that no Nigerian had started eating from the refuse dump! The government boasted that the economy was strong, and when the bubble burst, President Shagari, faced with the grim situation of an unraveling economy introduced “austerity measures”. It was the hardship brought about by that gross mismanagement of the economy that the military used as a pretext to stage a come back coup, which unfurled a chain of unbroken military rule for another 16 years, until the death of General Sani Abacha led to a short transition to civil rule programme, which brought Olusegun Obasanjo, the retired military general, back to power.

Unfortunately also, President Shehu Shagari ran a political party (the National Party of Nigeria) and a government, which obviously did not exhibit the character of having learnt any lesson from the tragedy of the First Republic. That Republic collapsed, in part, because the politicians of the era, who were in control of the federal government, took democratic opposition as treason, and political dissent as insurrection. It’s war on the opposition and persecution of opposition politicians presaged the collapse of the First Republic. Alhaji Shehu Shagari was a participant in that era. He was a Northern People’s Congress (NPC) minister. He was in attendance at the meeting that the remnants of the Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa government had with Major General Aguiyi Ironsi on January 15, 1966, following the abduction and killing of the prime minister, and also the assasination of the Northern Nigeria premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello; the Western Nigeria premier, Samuel Ladoke Akintola; finance minister, Okotie Eboh; and other military commanders. The meeting purportedly transferred powers to the military.

The historical significance and lessons of that meeting ought to have been etched in the memory of Alhaji Shehu Shagari for ever, such that when he had the privilege of taking over power back from the military, thirteen years after those unfortunate occurrences, he ought to have striven to run a government and played a politics that would avoid the mistakes of the First Republic’s civilian administration, in order to inoculate the Second Republic against self-inflicted destruction, and prevent it from coming to grief in the hands of ambitious soldiers, who had seen themselves as the military wing of the Nigerian ruling class and the alternative to a “fumbling” civilian administration.

That was not to be. In spite of President Shagari’s personal geniality, he lacked the requisite discipline in leadership. Just as the NPC had behaved earlier, intolerant of the opposition, the NPN government, under Shagari, began persecuting the opposition. In Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, the governor from the Aminu Kano-led Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) was impeached by an NPN-led House of Assembly. Bala Muhammed, the radical Marxist lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) was mobbed and burnt to death by political thugs. And, Shugaba Abdurrahman Darman, the house leader of the Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP)-controlled Borno State House of Assembly was deported from Nigeria to Chad, for purportedly not being Nigerian. The minister of internal affairs signed a deportation order in 1980 to ground the forced eviction. Darman’s ostensible offence was that of being a fierce critic of President Shehu Shagari. It took the UPN-inspired legal intervention of Chief GOK Ajayi (SAN) to restore Darman’s citizenship and bring him back into Nigeria. He won the legal battle in the High Court in Maiduguri, and the appeals that followed up to the Supreme Court. Not without drama though. At the High Court hearing, a woman who had been procured from Chad to claim that she was the real mother of Shugaba surfaced. She wailed all through, pleading that her son “who had run away from home in Chad should be returned to her.” But it was noted that in 1980, Shugaba, born in 1920, was a sixty year old man!

President Shehu Shagari certainly was not like many politicians of the Fourth Republic, who engaged in massive asset stripping of the Nigerian state in the name of privatisation. Nor did he recklessly loot the treasury of the country, as many of them have done. But, by his laissez faire approach to governance, his negligence of duty, his permissiveness and his lack of exhibition of a disciplined leadership, he created a basis for the collapse of the Second Republic.

Of course, the apogee of the political infamy of the Shagari administration was the massive rigging of the 1983 general elections. Political violence to terrorise the opposition ahead of the election was combined with actual police clampdown to spread terror before and during the elections. Ondo State resisted the political robbery of that perios with tragic consequences. And predictably, three months after being sworn into office for a second term of four years, the military struck and overthrew his administration.

Instructively, while he and the vice president, Alex Ekwueme, were detained following the coup, notable truculent members of his administration, whose actions contributed to the collapse of the Second Republic escaped into exile, including: Adisa Akinloye, Richard Akinjide, Umaru Diko, and Uba Ahmed.

President Shehu Shagari was not known to be a personally corrupt ruler, as some of the military rulers before and after him were known to be. He was flamboyant in his resplendent, well embroidered “Shagari Style” dress, with the tall cap to match. He enjoyed the pomp and pageantry of presidential power; and he enjoyed traveling the world. He liked paying state visits. In 1983, he left Nigeria on a scheduled trip to India on the sad day that the NITEL Building in Marina, the tallest structure in Nigeria, was consumed by an inferno. On that day, he visited the burning NITEL building on his way to the airport, left it burning, and embarked on his trip.

President Shehu Shagari certainly was not like many politicians of the Fourth Republic, who engaged in massive asset stripping of the Nigerian state in the name of privatisation. Nor did he recklessly loot the treasury of the country, as many of them have done. But, by his laissez faire approach to governance, his negligence of duty, his permissiveness and his lack of exhibition of a disciplined leadership, he created a basis for the collapse of the Second Republic.

It was sad that when the possibility of a military coup stared him in the face, he attempted to dissuade senior military officers from embarking on the coup by allegedly providing luxuries for them, including gifting Mercedes Benz cars to the upper echelon of the military. That did not stop the planned usurpation of power.

As we mourn the passing of President Shehu Shagari, in a country like ours where our cultures prescribe that we do not speak ill of the dead, and where our past and recent histories are often distorted or forgotten, we must truthfully state his poor leadership records, even as we recognise his warm, and genial personality.

This is the right thing to do. By so doing, history is not robbed. Facts are not distorted. And the current power welders, who are “good people” surrounded by some “bad people” may take heed in the realisation that personal character and integrity means nothing if they are not matched with transparent competence, and if it cannot be used to prevent bad people who find their ways into power from being the determiners of the direction of government, while the elected good people wring their fingers and do nothing.

Adieu President Usman Aliyu Shehu Shagari.

Jiti Ogunye, lawyer, public interest attorney, legal commentator, author, and essayist, is the legal adviser to PREMIUM TIMES.

Ten facts about former President Shehu Shagari

10 things you should know about Late Alhaji Shehu Shagari

Former President Shehu Shagari until late Friday had being one of the surving Nigerian leaders whose wealth of Knowledge and experiences have been helping immeasurably in shaping the scheme of things in the country. His dead yesterday at the National hospital Abuja has been a collosal lose to the nation in dire need of professional direction in its journey to civil and democratic rule. As the nation mourns the exit of this great leader, the following are what you should know about the second republic president.

Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari was a Nigerian politician who served as the only president of Nigeria’s second republic between 1979 and 1983.
He was born in 1925 in the northern Shagari village, a village said to have been founded by his great-grandfather, Ahmadu Rufa’i.
Shehu Usman Shagari started his political career 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 the first public office as a member of the federal House of Representative for Sokoto west. In 1958, Shagari was appointed the parliamentary secretary to the Nigerian Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and that year he also served as the Federal Minister for commerce and Industries.
From 1959 to 1960, Shagari was redeployed to the ministry for economic development, as the Federal Minister for Economic Development. From 1960 to 1962, he was moved to the Pensions ministry as the Federal Minister for Pensions. From 1962-1965, Shagari was made the Federal minister 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’s education development fund. From 1968-1969, Shagari was given a state position in the North Western State as commissioner for establishments.
Following the Nigerian Civil War, from 1970 to 1971, Shagari was appointed by the military head of state General Yakubu Gowon as the federal commissioner for economic development, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
In 1978, Shehu Shagari was a founding member of the National Party of Nigeria. In 1979 Shagari was chosen by the party as the presidential candidate for general election that year, which he won becoming the president and head of state of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Shagari ran for a second four-year term in 1983 and won the general election, however, on 31 December 1983, Shagari was overthrown by Major General Muhammadu Buhari.
During the oil boom, Shagari made Housing, Industries, Transportation and Agriculture 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. This initiative favored large scale farmers in order to produce mass products. Shagari also created a low cost housing scheme.

Credit: Daily Trust

Shagari’s last moments as ex-President dies at 93

Shagari’s last moments as ex-President dies at 93

Former President Shehu Shagari

Asked about his last moments, Mahe responded thus: “What I can say is that he was doing fine until of recent. His death may be due to old age.”

Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto

Former President Shehu Shagari is dead. He died at the age of 93, on Friday, at about 6:20 pm, at the National Hospital Abuja. According to a family source, the nonagenarian died while receiving medication. His remains will to be flown to Sokoto, the state capital, today, for burial.

IBB condoles with Shagari family, urges politicians to emulate late president
Nurudeen Mahe, one of the former President’s grandsons who spoke with our correspondent in Sokoto, said the former President was flown to the hospital on Tuesday when his health condition deteriorated.

Asked about his last moments, Mahe responded thus: “What I can say is that he was doing fine until of recent. His death may be due to old age. On Tuesday, he was flown to Abuja for medication where he later died this evening.”

In a posting on his Twitter handle, the state governor, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal stated thus: “ I regret to announce the death of former President Shehu Shagari who just passed away at National Hospital, Abuja. May his Soul Rest in Peace.”

Spokesman of the National Hospital, Abuja, Tayo Haastrup, confirmed that the former President, Shehu Shagari, died in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital on Friday afternoon after several effort by team of doctors to save his life.

He said: “He was surrounded by few family members when he died. His death was kept secret until late in the evening when all necessary confirmation have been made. His body was kept in the hospital pending the time of burial.”

Haastrup declined comment on the time of admission of the former President and the ailment which he was being treated.

Late Shagari was last seen in public in late November when members of Barewa Old Boys Association (BOBA) led by the chairman of the Association’s Centenary Celebration Committee, Dr Umar Abdulmutallab CON paid him a courtesy visit at his residence on Sama Road in the state capital.

The late former President who was also a member of the old boys association responded through his eldest son, Alhaji Bala Shagari by thanking the association while wishing them a successful stay in the state.

Born on February 25, 1925, Shagari served as the first Executive President of Nigeria in the Second Republic (1979–1983), following the handover of power by the military government under General Olusegun Obasanjo. But before then he had served as a cabinet minister and federal commissioner, respectively.

Credit The Sun