Tributes pour as Shagari passes on at 93


It was yesterday, December 28, 2018 when one of the last Second Republic men standing, Alhaji Shehu Usman Shagari died at 93.

The new of the former president’s death at the National Hospital, Abuja, was confirmed by one of his grandsons, Bello Shagari.

He 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.”

Since the announcement tributes has been raining down on the former president who held office from 1979-83.

In his tribute, President Muhammadu Buhari who ousted Shagari in a military coup on December 31, 1983 extolled the former president’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,” said Buhari in a statement by his spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina.

He added: “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.”

President Buhari expressed gratitude to God for Shagari, according to him, lived to a ripe age and led an exemplary life.

“Nigerians held him in the highest esteem  even when he was out of office until his demise and will forever miss his wise counsels,’’ he said.

Also, the former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, described the deceased as a “nation builder who cemented a good relationship between the North and South” as well as a patriot who placed service to humanity and fatherland above personal interest.

Jonathan, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, said: “Late President Shagari was a very nice man with a clean heart. As a President he was humble, sincere and selfless in service. He was indeed a true democrat who left no one in doubt about his loyalty to his country, love for peace, desire for unity and vision for a greater Nigeria.

“Shagari was an exceptional leader and exemplary statesman whose modesty, commitment to common good and deep sense of patriotism will continue to inspire many generations of Nigerians.

“He will be remembered as a teacher, parliamentarian and president whose model of service was anchored on diligence, broad-mindedness and humility.”

The presidential candidate of the of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Atiku Abubakar, said in his condolence message that Shagari was “meek and gentle” adding that 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.

“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,” said Atiku in a statement.”

For the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the deceased was a “quintessential public servant” and “the last of the First and Second Republic titans.”

In a statement by his media aide, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, the senate president who further described Shagari as a “man of peace” condoled with the immediate and larger family of the deceased, the government and people of Sokoto State, and the entire country on the loss of the former president.

“Let’s be consoled by the fact that Alhaji Shagari lived his life in the service of God and country.”

“My family and I join the entire nation to mourn the passing of former President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who led our nation during the Second Republic. He was a quintessential public servant; having served in seven cabinet positions and as a legislator. He was the first elected President who was chief executive of the country. He dedicated his best years in the service of our nation and its people and will be dearly missed.

“He was a man who worked for the unity of Nigeria and stabilized the country during the 50 months of the Second Republic despite the challenges of the then new presidential system of government operated by the country. Since his exit from power, he has remained a silent beacon of strength for the country” he said.

Writing on his twitter handle, the deputy senate president said in office and out of office, Shagari clothed the presidency with “decorum and social grace.”

“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,” he said.

In his reaction, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara said: “We have lost a father, man of peace, true democrat, patriot and a nationalist.

“He led an exemplary life of service to God and country worthy of emulation; he was a president for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion or region.

“President Shagari led Nigeria with dignity and honour and respected the independence of the legislature and judiciary in the second republic under the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN)

“When anti-democratic forces truncated his government, President Shagari took it in good faith and continued to play the role of an elder statesman and father without grudge or bitterness.

“His death came at a time we are in dire need of his elderly wisdom and counsel as we navigate the most challenging pace as a nation.”

For his part, Mr. Richard Akinjide who served as Shagari’s attorney general and minister of justice said his late boss was the best civilian president Nigeria ever produced.

He said Shagari did not use his office as president to line his pocket and he is the leader he knew who died as a poor man.

Akinjide described the day he won the controversial 12 two-third election case in 1979 as one of the happiest moments in Shagari’s life.

“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 has a lot to learn from his lifestyle. He served this country without blemish and without using his position to amass wealth,” he said.

Shagari will be buried today in Sokoto according to Islamic rites.

Shagari served as from 1979 to 1983 and won a second term before he was overthrown by Buhari in a coup d’état.


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