Shehu Shagari: Born to serve

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Nigeria’s first Executive President, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, who died around 2.00pm Friday has been buried in Shagari town of Sokoto State, in deference to Islamic practices. The grand old man was 93. He died at the National Hospital Abuja, after suffering old age related illness and it was brief.
Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, announced his death on his official twitter handle @AWTambuwal on Friday. “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”. Also one of his grand sons, Bello Shagari, had earlier tweeted of the passing of the former president using @Belshagy handle.
Among the early callers at the National Hospital Friday night were Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh. Ogbeh was a minister in Shagari’s government. Others were, Senator Ibrahim Dansadau and House of Representatives member, Hon. Samad Dasuki. Bello was to later inform the nation of the funeral rites of the late president. He stated that the remains of the former president would be conveyed to Sokoto on Saturday morning. Burial was later held at 2pm in Shagari Local Government Area of Sokoto State.
Shagari was Nigerian President from 1979 to 1983 when his government was overthrown by a military coup in December of 1983 after winning a second term. Incidentally Muhammadu Buhari who became head of state at time, is president today.
The late elder statesman was born on February 25, 1925 to the family of Magaji Aliyu and Mariam,  both of Fulani extraction in Northern Nigeria. Shehu Shagari’s great-grandfather founded the village from which the family took its name. At the age of four,  Shehu Shagari, the Turakin Sakkwato, was registered in a Quranic school. From there, he attended a primary school in Yabo, and later attended Splits Middle School from where he went to Kaduna College, a school originally created to be a teachers training college.
After the college, Shagari became a science teacher at the Sokoto Middle School.  From there, he moved to Zaria Middle School. Thereafter, he became the headmaster of a primary school in Argungu. In 1946, Shagari and Mallam Gambo Abuja jointly formed the Youth Social Circle,  a political organisation that operated in Sokoto. In 1948, the Youth Social Circle of Shehu Shagari merged with some other political groups to form the Northern Peoples Congress, NPC and in 1951, he became the secretary of the Northern People’s Congress in Sokoto, a position he held until 1956. He was elected to represent his constituency, Sokoto Southwest in the parliament. Shagari was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, in 1958. In 1959, he was made the Minister of Economic Development, and Minister of Internal Affairs.
He later became the Minister of Works and Survey in 1963. When the military ousted the First Republic government in 1966, Shagari returned to Sokoto Native Authority. In 1967, he was appointed as the secretary for Sokoto province Education Development Fund and from 1968-1969, Shagari was given a state position in the North Western State as commissioner for Establishments. In 1970, the then head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, made Shagari the Federal Commissioner for Economic Development, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction. He later served as Federal Commissioner for Finance.
Shagari returned to politics in the build up to the 1979 elections when he flew the presidential flag of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN. He emerged winner of that election and became the first executive President of Nigeria. His government was bedeviled by economic issues which were not helped by the global economic crisis of the early 1980s.  Shagari took several steps to strengthen the economy—cutting the budget, calling in the International Monetary Fund and expelling “aliens” (mostly Ghanaians) in 1983. To his credit, his government invested in mass housing and agriculture. At the end of his first four year tenure, he won the second presidential election in the Second Republic’s albeit controversial presidential election in 1983, but the state of the economy and alleged widespread corruption in his administration led to a military coup on December 31, 1983. Shagari was consequently placed under house arrest. He was cleared of all allegations of personal corruption and released from detention in 1986, but was banned from participation in Nigerian politics for life.
The ban was later lifted by the government of General Ibrahim Babangida, retd, which overthrew the government of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in 1985. Shagari’s history is one of service. He served Nigeria all through till old age reduce his public appearances. Shagari was married to three wives, Aishatu, Amina and Hadiza. He was survived by many children and grand children.

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