AFTER 93 years of a life marked by remarkable historical moments, President of Nigeria in the Second Republic, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, died on Friday December 28, 2018. But, not even death can diminish his relevance as an esteemed member of the pantheon of Nigerian leaders who left indelible marks on the canvas of Nigeria’s evolving nationhood.
Though well advanced in age, Nigerians across different geopolitical divides have continued to celebrate the life and times of this great gentleman. Many will for a long time remember Shagari as the humble, unassuming and soft-spoken elder statesman and one of our last surviving founding fathers.
President Shagari’s self-effacing personality did not stop him from making his presence felt in all aspects of public life: at different times serving at state and federal levels as local government Councillor, State Commissioner, Federal Minister, Member of the Constituent Assembly and to top it all, the First Executive President of Nigeria.
Alhaji Shehu Shagari attended Koranic and elementary schools in Yabo, Sokoto; Sokoto Middle School and Kaduna College. Showing early interest to become a science teacher, he later took an administrative course at Bauchi Teachers College and in the United Kingdom under the sponsorship of the British Council.
Though a trained teacher, his foray into politics began in 1945 when he organised a social circle which mobilised youths in his area against British rule. Thereafter, he became a founding member of the Northern People’s Congress, NPC. Subsequently, he took part in all the conferences that gave birth to the Richard and McPherson Constitutions.
He also won elections to represent Sokoto West in the Federal House of Representatives in 1954. It was from here that the political career that eventually catapulted him to the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria took flight.
Though Shagari had aspired to be a senator as Nigeria prepared for civilian rule in 1978, his gentle disposition became his selling point. As a favourite of the conservative North, he was drafted into the presidency and eventually beat his better-fancied opponent, the late Alhaji Maitama Sule, to the ticket of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, which eventually took over from the military under General Olusegun Obasanjo.
Shagari’s four-year reign (1979 to 1983) so soon after the civil war helped in uniting the country further as he carried all sections along in appointments and the spread of the national commonwealth. He also pardoned Biafran rebel leader, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and brought the Igbo back into the national mainstream.
The military overthrew him on December 31, 1983, just three months into his second term on allegations of corruption. Since he left the Presidency Shagari maintained a reclusive, private life till the end.
We remember President Shagari’s unifying contributions with great fondness and wish him eternal rest.