Saraki, Nwodo, Atiku, Akinjide, Balarabe Musa mourn Shagari
It was the end of another political era, yesterday, with the death of Second Republic President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari. He was 93.
One of his grandsons, Bello Shagari, who confirmed the passage of the former school teacher and one of Nigeria’s most humble leaders at the National Hospital, Abuja, wrote on his Twitter handle, @Belshagy: “I regret announcing the death of my grandfather, H.E. Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who died after brief illness at the National Hospital, Abuja,” he tweeted.
Shagari was overthrown in the military coup of December 31, 1983 that ushered in the government of then head-of-state, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, now President.
In their reactions, Senate President Bukola Saraki, whose late father, Dr. Olusola Saraki, was a political contemporary of the deceased, said the death of Shagari has denied the country the opportunity to continue enjoying quality counsel from a quintessential former public servant, who dedicated his time to the service of Nigeria.
In a tweet on his Twitter handle, @bukolasaraki, the Senate President said: “My family and I join the entire nation to mourn the passing of former President, who led our nation during the Second Republic.
“President Shagari was a quintessential public servant, having served in seven cabinet positions and as a legislator. He dedicated his best years in the service of our nation and its people.
“May Allah grant him a place among the righteous ones in Aljannah Firdaus.”
President General of apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, described Shagari as a detribalised Nigerian, consensus builder and a selfless leader who used all in his power to keep the unity of the country.
Nwodo, who served the Shagari administration in 1979, stated that the country has lost one of its finest men in the quest for nation-building, adding: “This is a man, who, in spite of the fact that he did not have legislative majority in the National Assembly, was able to run the government successfully to the benefit of every segment of the country.
“He believed in the young people and appointed them into his cabinet and allowed them get to the pinnacle of their political careers by ensuring that they were given room to air their opinions on issues.
“In spite of all the blackmail he suffered when his government was overthrown, time has proven that he was an honest Nigerian and that those who accused him of corruption are more corrupt and are not able to match the pace he set in governance.”
On how he would want him immortalised, Nwodo urged the federal government and all those who accused him wrongly to extol his qualities as a nation and consensus builder, stressing that characters like Shagari should be emulated to move the country forward.
He commiserated with his family and the country at large over his death.
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike describes his passage as a sad loss to the country.
The governor, in a condolence message commiserated with the deceased’s family, government and people of Sokoto State over the death of the eminent statesman.
Wike stated that Shagari died at a time the entire nation would have benefited from his guidance during an important election circle, saying he would be remembered for his patriotic contributions to the development of the country.
While praying for the repose of his soul, he also prayed God to grant the immediate family the strength to bear the great loss.
Former vice president and the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said Shagari was the specimen of a patriotic Nigerian whose life was a pattern of good works, a completely detribalised Nigerian, who served Nigeria from his youth to the evening of his life, first as a teacher and moulder of minds and later as a leader and moulder of nations.
Abubakar said in a statement in Abuja: “His election as the first executive President of Nigeria on October 1, 1979 brought relief to the nation and began the process of ending tribal politics, especially as he brought the Southeast into the political mainstream by naming the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme as his running mate.
“After his unplanned and untimely departure from office, he continued to devote his time and effort to nation building through the elder statesmanly role he played, including during my time in office as vice president.
“We shared a lot in common. Like me, he held the official title of Turaki, a position of great trust. And like myself, he believed in empowering the masses, which he did through his Green Revolution.
“Shagari was meek and gentle, yet had a firm resolve and these traits led to the golden age of Nigeria’s diplomacy under his leadership.
“He was led by the power of love, rather than the love of power, as evident in the fact that he never craved political office; power came to him because of his character. Those who knew him reported that he had only one motive for being in office- service. He will be greatly missed.”
Reminiscing on what Shagari told him after winning 12 two-third case in 1979, a former minister of Justice and attorney general of the federation, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), described his former boss as the best civilian President ever produced by Nigeria, because he did not use his office to enrich himself and was the only leader he knew that died as a poor man.
Akinjide recalled that he met Shagari at the parliament before Nigeria attained its independence and they both served in the Council of State in the First Republic under the late Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, who was the Prime Minister.
He described the day he won the controversial 12 two-third election case in 1979 as one of the happiest moments in Shagari’s life, recalling: “When we won the case, I saw him very happy and he told me that was the happiest day in his life and described the judgment as watershed in his career.
“I will never forget his controlled appetite for acquiring wealth. As a member of the parliament before independence, we were surprised that he did not build a house when we went to visit him after independence.
“The present crop of leaders have a lot to learn from his lifestyle. He served this country without blemish and without using his position to amass wealth.”
Two former governors of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, as well as the senator representing Kaduna Central zone, Shehu Sani, expressed grief and shock over the death, saying Shagari’s demise came at a time when the country’s democracy is at the crossroads.
Musa said Nigeria would miss the counsel of a great leader like Shagari, who used his wealth of experience to unite the country during his tenure in office and also inculcate the tenets of democratic governance during the Second Republic and all we can do for him now is to pray for his soul to rest in peace.
While describing Shagari as a bridge-builder in the country, Musa added: “He was civil and democratic in his approach to governance and you cannot compare his leadership to what we have today.”
Makarfi, who prayed for the repose of the soul of the elder statesman, said: “He had lived a good life and contributed immensely to the development of democracy before his tenure was cut short by military dictators and undermine democracy then in Nigeria.
“Shagari’s effort was not appreciated while in office. That is the same thing wrong with our democracy now with cabals running the government. His death is a great loss to the nation and we would miss his fatherly counsel, especially now that the nation is approaching an election year, to help us stabilise democracy.”
Sani, who commended the contribution of the former President to nation-building, said: “The same undemocratic elements that cut short his regime are in government now, but we only pray that we shall be delivered by God.”
He argued: “Shagari was a democratic leader and he would be remembered for that, even at death. We should all emulate his virtues for a greater Nigeria’s future.”
Also mourning, former governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, described the deceased as a gentleman who was “presidential” in character and behaviour even after leaving office, saying: “He left a legacy of how an elder statesman should conduct himself.”
Osoba said his death was a great loss not only to his family, but also to the country as a whole and prayed that God should give the family the fortitude to bear the loss.
On his part, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, also a former governor of the state, noted that Shagari was one of the “last of the titans,” saying: “I thank God that He gave him (deceased) longevity.”
Describing the deceased as a man of peace, Daniel stated: “Despite all the challenges, he was able to keep the country together as President.
“Indeed, Shagari was a man of peace. Nigeria has lost one of its finest gentlemen.”
Depute president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu expressed grief, describing the death of the “sage, democrat and statesman as a heavy loss to the nation.”
Writing on his Twitter handle, @iamekweremadu, the senator said: “He was a democrat by nature, orientation and conviction. He was a patriot per excellence, a detribalised elder statesman, bridge-builder, servant-leader and an epitome of humility, who served the nation and humanity most creditably.
“In and out of office, Shagari clothed the office of the President with decorum and social grace.”
Ekweremadu said although the late elder statesman lived to a ripe age of 93, “his wealth of experience and treasury of wisdom would still have been most invaluable in our quest to build the Nigeria of our dreams.
“I, therefore, send heartfelt condolences to his family, the government and people of Sokoto State, President Muhammadu Buhari and the nation over this irreparable loss.”
Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun, describing Shagari as an exceptional public servant and statesman, said his death was a huge loss to Nigeria.
“I join Nigerians to mourn the death of Shagari, who indeed served our nation meritoriously and zealously. The deceased distinguished himself at a devoted public officer, when he served as federal minister and commissioner between 1958 and 1975. He lived a fulfilled life and noted as an exceptional public servant and statesman.
“His foray into politics saw him being elected as the president of our nation, between October 1, 1979 and December 31, 1983. Though his tenure was cut shot by a military coup, it should be acknowledged, to his credit, that he bore no grudge over the subsequent challenges, but rose above them and continued to offer his service for the growth of the nation.”