By Hon. (Engr) Abubakar Momoh
The news started to filter in the early hours of today weds, 13th May, 2020 of the passing of a great man, a very fearless, courageous and dependable ally – Alh. Usman Shagadi – the Osimua of Auchi sacred kingdom.
As we mourn his exit, we are however consoled by his fulfilled life of hard work, dedication, commitment and perseverance.
The life of Shagadi is one of sweet memory having transversed the political landscape of Edo North as a very vocal and defender of our people and the oppressed since 1979. My relationship with him dated back to 1980 when as a UPN youth secretary of my ward, we operated under his leadership as the then chairman of the UPN youth wing in the old Etsako LGA and EDO North senatorial district. At that time, no meaningful meeting of the party would take place without the input of Shagadi. His opinion was always sought on any issue of importance.
He was very highly respected by both the elected and appointed functionaries of that time such as late Zika Momodu of the house of representatives, sen John Umoru, J.O.Y Abekhe/ Jack Oba, both of whom were chairmen of defunct Etsako LGA, commissioner Robson Momoh,Benson Alegbe/ Charles Adoga of Bendel state house of Assembly and a host of others.
At the advent of the new breed politics of the Babagida administration in 1989, Shagadi and I , again found ourselves in the same political associations ie liberal movement to liberal convention before the military finally decreed two political parties – NRC and SDP – one, a little to the right and the other, a little to the left as crafted by our erudite Prof Omo- Omoruyi of the Centre for democratic studies (CDS). Again Shagadi and I anchored our political tents with NRC after series of meetings under the leadership of Chief MCK Orbih supported by other leaders such as JB Momoh, Bruno Oshiokpekhai, PD Rigi, Yaro Lecky, commissioner Obozuwa, and a host of others.
Under the NRC, Shagadi held various positions ranging from deputy chairman to chairman of the old Etsako LGA to Etsako West LGA. Again , he became more forceful and respected as he doubled as the chairman of the national union of road transport workers (NURTW) Edo North, with a lot of army of supporters ready at all time to give him the necessary backing on whatever he wants done.
When Babagida stepped aside in 1993 culminating in the coming of
Abacha after pushing shonekan aside, a new political agenda threw up five political parties which late Bola Ige once described as five leprous fingers of one hand because of the shameless adoption of Abacha as sole presidential candidate by the five polical parties. Indeed Shagadi and I were in Kaduna stadium together along with others as stakeholders from Edo North senatorial district to listen to our leaders in UNCP declaring Abacha as the sole presidential candidate of the five registered political parties.
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I was then a local government council chairman taking directives from Governor Baba Adamu Iyam and Youth Earnestly Asking for Abacha (YEAAH).I recalled that as we left the venue that day, both Shagadi and I beleived that that excercise will not last. I can vividly remember some of the national leaders of UNCP then as Alh Isah Mohammed – national chairman,Gbazeagwu Nweke Gbazeagu, – national secretary, Ibrahim Mantu, national publicity secretary, Sgt Awuse and Amodu Sheriff who was national treasurer . That political era was short lived with the death of Abacha and subsequently MKO Abiola who was detained for four years.
In the build up to the current political dispensation in 1998, Shagadi and I identified with PDP.
In PDP, Shagadi was again saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the affairs of the party in Etsako West LGA as pioneer chairman. He performed very well and succeeded to instal Lucky James as council chairman and subsequently Lucky Igbinedion as governor of Edo state. This time around Shagadi was always advocating equality of leadership among the three senatorial districts because of his strong feeling of a vacuum of Edo North leadership that could measure up with Tony Anenih, S.O Ogbemudia and the Esama of Benin.
The reason for this is because the notable political leader of Edo North , M.C.K Orbih was not in PDP at inception. Throughout the first tenure of Igbinedion, Shagadi, along with other leaders like Malik Afegbua, PD Rigi, JB Momoh, Zika Momodu, Mike Umoru, Naboya and I were into series of meetings on how best to have a formidable leadership in Edo North. Our focus then was how to bring on board the governorship aspiration of Mike Oghiadomhe-then deputy governor of Edo state. Infact Shagadi was in the forefront of this struggle.
This move did not come without a price as all of us and other leaders across edo north were deregistered from PDP. Although a similar thing happened in Edo south, which was a product of power tussle. The rest is now history as this ignoble art quicken our move to embrace the new political party ACD – AC -ACN put in place by Atiku Abubakar and the Jagaban- Bola Tinubu with a continued search for relevance by Edo North spear headed by Shagadi.
There was a sigh of relief one day when Shagadi told Maliki and I in one of our meetings that he got the information that our dogged labour leader – Comrade Adams Oshiomole was interested in the governorship of Edo state though not in AC. We gave ourselves the task of convincing him to identify with the new party -AC as the surest way to clinch the governorship of the state because of our strong belief that he would get the support of the state government of Lucky Igbinedion.
This move yielded positive result when Malik, Kassim Dokpesi,Eshieshi and I met with comrade in labour house in 2006 and with a follow up visit by Malik and Shagadi to his residence in Kaduna after ACN meeting to convince him to identify with ACN which he eventually yielded to.
In all the struggles during the election and the post election litigations that lasted for one year seven months in tribunal and court of appeal, Shagadi remained a strong pillar . Each time we were in court presided over by justice Orilonishe, Shagadi would always sit first on the seat which comrade would sit in order to avert any possible devilish plans against him . This was a clear demonstration of the firm belief and protection of the principal to actualize the struggle without being hunted.
From the foregoing, it is discernable why Shagadi and I easily flown together during our brief sojourn in SDP which was occasioned by our disagreement with the establishment after membership registration and election of executives of APC in 2014. The story of Shagadi’s pfatherly and friendly role in our sojourn in SDP is essentially for another time as he rightly provided the necessary shield to neutralise the barrage of forces against our movement.
I shall ever live to remember him for the embarrassment he saved us from, in the hands of the police force when it was ready to be used to crush us. When he eventually decided to return to APC in 2016 , he felt very sad that we were not together but that did not in any way affect our relationship as we were always in close contact. Certainly this was the only time since 1979 when both of us were fighting at cross divide in any election.
Though he won the governorship with Obaseki while we lost with Pastor Ize- Iyamu, however judging from what is on ground today in the state, one has no regret not to belong in that struggle.Without sounding immodest, Shagadi was a rally point, unifier, a dogged fighter, straight forward in his dealings and above all a good family man. As we mourn him, we pray Almighty Allah to repose his soul in Aljanat firdaus amen. To his children, be comforted with the legacy of fulfilled life lived by Shagadi. We will surely miss him. Adieu Shagadi, the Shagamoko of our time, till the final day when we shall all meet to part no more.