A Second Republic legislator, Dr Junaid Mohammed, has described as “insincere” President Muhammadu Buhari’s tribute to the former president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari who died yesterday at the National Hospital, Abuja at the age of 93.
It would be recalled that Shagari who served as president from 1979-1983 and won a second term was ousted by Buhari in a coup d’état on December 31, 1983.
Buhari had, in his tribute extolled Shagari’s “role modelling qualities of integrity, diligence and humility that have been the hallmark of your visionary leadership.”
“On behalf of my family, the government and the people of Nigeria, it is with immense sadness that I received the news of the passing away of the First Executive President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari which event happened on Friday in Abuja.
“We are enthralled and regaled with the many years of unequalled patriotism, sacrifices and contributions to national development.
“More specifically, we celebrate the role modelling qualities of integrity, diligence and humility that have been the hallmark of your visionary leadership.
“Nigerians held him in the highest esteem even when he was out of office until his demise and will forever miss his wise counsels,” said Buhari in a statement by his spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina.
But reacting to Buhari’s tribute, Mohammed said: “It’s not sincere. If you’ve contributed so much in bringing down a government and bringing down a man who had nothing to gain, even though he had poor eyesight and was in poor health – he was in his late 60s then – you cannot say, from 1984 till now, you got along well. How did you get along well?
“No matter what you say about the Shagari administration, he knew how to retire from public service quietly, with a tremendous amount of nobility and self-respect. You have to give him that.
“In terms of retirement and living a quiet life and garnering more respect, Shagari is certainly one of Nigeria’s most outstanding leaders and I certainly believe the nation will continue to mourn him appropriately.”
He said Shagari had gained respect by retiring and living a quiet lifestyle, unlike some in the current political class.
“Quite a number of the people who would claim to be his friends were actually his enemies and they contributed tremendously to bringing down that government and in making it impossible for us to have meaningful democratic dispensation years after his departure from office,” he added.
Mohammed said he was devastated by the news of Shagari’s death stressing that the deceased believed in the goodness of human nature, even when human nature is not always good.
“The first Shagari administration of 1979 wasn’t particularly spectacular. There are quite a number of people there who really disappointed us, both National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and Shagari, the president. He endured a lot but he didn’t want to rock the boat; so he waited until after the election in 1983 when some of the characters were simply asked to leave or reappointed.
“But even then there were others who were reappointed and I have a feeling that was because of pressure from within the party by some people who were seen to be above the law. Some of us would have been happy to see many of those who did not serve the country well outright sacked even before the end of the four-year term.
“Shagari had a very modest lifestyle. If you got to know him personally, he was very cool and had a tremendous sense of humour. He got on very well with quite a number of people. He was a very wonderful man. I really enjoyed discussing with him even though we had our political differences,” he added.
With Punch report