Photo: Shehu Shagari (left) and Olusegun Obsanjo (right). Credit: Nigerian Tribune - Photo: 2019

Nigeria’s Ex-President Shehu Shagari Mourned

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | ABUJA (IDN) – Former President Alhaji Shehu Usman Shagari, a devout Muslim, a former school teacher, son of a farmer, trader and herder, was remembered in December as a nice man, a gentle man but not a particularly strong man.

Nice, gentle and amiable – good qualities – but just short of what the opposition desired for the leader of Africa’s burgeoning colossus.

As a result, Shagari’s service to the nation from 1979 to 1983 was cut short by a coup led by military men including the current president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari.

“I mourn the departure of a patriot, who served Nigeria with humility, integrity and diligence,” Buhari tweeted after his death on December 28. “Nigerians held him in the highest esteem even when he was out of office, until his demise, and will forever miss his wise counsels.”

Shagari had been a lawmaker, minister, and Chair of Peugeot Automobile Ltd, before becoming President at age 54. He won two elections, both of them disputed by his opponents who accused him of meekness in governing Nigeria.

His term overlapped with a punishing global glut in oil that sent prices tumbling in the early 1980s. In 1983, rioting by an extremist Islamic group in the northern city of Kano led to the deaths of thousands of civilians, 100 policeman and 35 military personnel. Fears that the group was infiltrated by “illegal aliens” produced the massive deportation of immigrants from Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Up to two million people, many of them Ghanaians, fled the country in what was denounced in Britain as “an act of heartlessness and a failure of common humanity.” The U.S. State Department described the expulsions as “shocking and a violation of every imaginable human right”. Even Pope John Paul II called it “a grave, incredible drama producing the largest single and worst human exodus in the 20th century.”

Amnesty granted to 1,000 members of the so-called Maitatsine cult — sometimes depicted as the forerunner of Boko Haram — who had been imprisoned since 1980, created more enemies for Shagari.

Finally, it was on Shagari’s watch that the building of a new capital in Abuja was advanced to escape the chaos and tribal affiliations of Lagos. The grand project was riddled by questionable construction contracts.

Meanwhile, thousands viewed President Buhari’s tweet and responses were generally dismissive. “Just a question to you sir,” tweeted Wale Popoola.  “If he had all these qualities as you said, then what were your reasons for removing him from power through coup? Just asking.”

Former president, Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo, on December 31, condoled the family of ex-President Shagari, describing him as an epitome of integrity, commitment, who had faith in God.

Obasanjo visited the home of the deceased in company of Governor Aminu Tambuwal.

Condoling the family, Obasanjo said late Shagari was a man who was committed to national interest.

The former president, while recalling his days in the military and his relationship with the late Shagari as federal commissioners in General Yakubu Gowon’s cabinet, said the deceased was an honest, transparent and a committed Nigerian.

“I had the opportunity to work with him, immediately we were kicked out of government, I was appointed Chief of Staff and had the task of managing our colleagues back to their respective places. He thanked me for making arrangement for him to get back to Sokoto.

“Shagari should not be mourned. He should be celebrated as a true, honest and sincere leader who was a nationalist to the core. Nigeria has lost a gem,” he said. [IDN-InDepthNews – 01 January 2019]

Photo: Shehu Shagari (left) and Olusegun Obsanjo (right). Credit: Nigerian Tribune

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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