President Muhammadu Buhari does not owe me explanations on why the Beret Boys forced President Shehu Shagari out of power in 1983.He was in Jos commanding a division before young officers crowned him Head-of-State.
What I owe him today as President is to tell him that it does appear we all should have allowed Alhaji Shagari and the Second Republic to grow. Indeed, it was a huge mistake to have sacked the Sokoto gentleman from office. I do not know what we have gained as a country ever since.
My reasons are clear. I dare say Nigeria collapsed the day the Second Republic was pulled down. We had more experienced leaders then than we have today. In fact, we have not had statesmen since December 31, 1983. We enjoyed relative peace. Nigerians were not divided. And we did not scavenge for food.
Let me start with President Shagari. Seasoned politician, he was a parliamentarian in the last years of imperialism, a minister in the First Republic, a Local Government chairman in the early years of military administration and later a Minister in the Yakubu Gowon administration.
When Shagari became President in October 1979, he knew national unity was the key to peace and stability and he worked towards it. With Dr. Alex Ekwueme , from the South-East as the Vice President, the boss weighed his options especially after the Supreme Court relied on technicalities to validate his victory.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria[UPN] went to court. Shagari’s party, the National Party of Nigeria [NPN], courted Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Nigeria Peoples Party [NPP]. An accord was struck and the Second Republic took off.
Under the NPN/NPP accord, the Senate President was Dr. Joseph Wayas, representing Ogoja/ Obudu/ Obubra/ Ikom in the South–South State of Cross River. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Edwin Umezeoke, of Nnewi, Anambra was from the South–East.
The South-West was well taken care of. The Chief Justice of Nigeria [CJN], Atanda Fatai Williams was Yoruba. The chairmen of the accord Parties, Chiefs Adisa Akinloye[NPN] and Adeniran Ogunsanya [NPP] were from the zone too. In those years, the party was supreme, in other words, chairmen were powerful.
To further pacify the Yoruba, Shagari’s military appointments said so much. General Alani Akinrinade, who was never a GOC during the Civil War, was made Chief of Defence Staff over and above Gen. Gibson Jalo, from the North–East. The former became Army chief.
Admiral Akin Aduwo was named Chief of Naval Staff, replacing fellow Yoruba, Adm. Michael Adelanwa. In the Air Force, Air Marshal Dominic Bello, from the North-East replaced Air Marshal John Yisa Doko, from the North-Central. We should note that all three Northern Service Chiefs were Christians.
For the Police, Sunday Adewusi, a Yoruba succeeded, Adamu Suleiman, from the North. Shagari was a Fulani yet none of his service chiefs was from his ethnic nationality. There was no Igbo. And the Igbo did not shout marginalization because they had the Vice President and the Speaker of the Federal House.
Alhaji Shagari was Executive President, of Hausa-Fulani background. He took Nigeria as his constituency. The Hausa-Fulani got ministerial appointments. And those were sound minds. Ibrahim Gusau[Agriculture], Bello Maitama Yusuf [Internal Affairs], Iya Abubakar [Defence], Mohammed Hassan [Mines and Power], Umaru Dikko [Aviation]. The Kanuri were not ignored. They had Adamu Ciroma [industries] and Ashiek Jarma [Public Works].
The National Assembly was not a place for all comers. There was a lot of maturity. In the Senate, Wayas defeated Justice Franklin Atake [Bendel Delta] of the UPN by 53 votes to 42. John Wash Pam [NPP, Jos] humbled Sabo Barkin Zuwo [Peoples Redemption Party, Kano] 51-43 to emerge as Deputy President.
In the House of Representatives, Umezeoke had floored Malam Hamza [ Great Nigeria Peoples Party, Biu] 245-201.The position of Deputy Speaker went to Idris Ibrahim [NPN, Minna North] who polled 245 votes against 201 for Faji Fajobi [UPN Ekiti South].
The Senate was full of wise men. Jaja Anucha Nwachukwu, the country’s First Indigenous Speaker, Ibrahim Jalo Waziri [Bauchi], his successor, David Dafinone, Ephraim Akpata, Abraham Adesanya, Jonathan Odebiyi, Obi Wali, Offia Nwali and Olusola Saraki among many others.
We had vibrant state governors. Former Central Bank Governor, Clement Isong, abandoned property lawyer; Sam Mbakwe, Journalist; Bisi Onabanjo, Scholar; Ambrose Alli and the youthful Abubakar Rimi. Some deputy governors were as good as their bosses. Sunday Afolabi, Roy Umenyi and Garba Nadama.
There were equally well grounded State Assembly Speakers and Deputies. Benson Alegbe/Francis Okpozo. Gideon Atuloma/Okechukwu Okibedi and Mokolade Gbolagunte/Pekun Adesokan.
Shagari showed the way. He did not fight Zik and Awo. He presented Dr. Azikiwe with a Benz car to mark the Owelle’s birthday. Chief Awolowo received a national award. The polity was not as heated as we have had in the Fourth Republic.
Shagari was on the move. He visited many rural areas across the nation. The president visited my community. Till date, the only one to do it officially. When Dee Sam Mbakwe wept openly about Ndiegoro floods, Shagari was there for him. From Maitatsine to Bulunkutu to Chad, Shagari acted like a Commander -in -Chief.
What I see today is a far cry from what I saw under Shagari. President Buhari could as well go back to Shagari before the light dims.