Shagari For Burial Today As Nigerians Mourn


BY SEGUN ADEBAYO, ABUJA – All routes lead to the ancient city of Sokoto as the body of former President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who died in Abuja on Friday at the age of 93, is expected to be buried today in his homestead.

According to the family, represented by his grandson, Nuradeen Mahe, “the late President would be flown from Abuja to Sokoto for burial on Saturday, in accordance with Islamic rites.”

Mahe told newsmen in Sokoto that Shagari, who died at 6:40pm at the National Hospital in Abuja, was flown to Abuja on Christmas Day after his health deteriorated

Competent sources also confirmed that among the many dignitaries being expected in Sokoto State, President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to personally attend the burial.

Meanwhile, Nigerians have continued to react over the passing away of the former Nigerian leader, elected president between 1979 and 1983 and won re-election before the Military junta that brought then Major-General Muhammadu Buhari to power as Head of State sent him packing on December 31, 1983.

Among the prominent Nigerians that reacted to the news include former Vice President and Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who 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.

He said Shagari’s “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.” 

Atiku’s statement in Abuja further said; “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.”

In his condolence message, the Governor of Rivers State, Barrister Nyesom Wike describes his passage as a sad loss to the country.

Commiserating with the deceased’s family, government and people of Sokoto State over the death of the eminent statesman, Wike said Shagari died at a time the entire nation would have benefited from his guidance during an important election circle.

He said the late President would be remembered for his patriotic contributions to the development of the country and prayed God to grant the immediate family the strength to bear the great loss. 

On his part, 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. 

Reminiscing on what Shagari told him after winning 12 two-third case in 1979, 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 has a lot to learn from his lifestyle. He served this country without blemish and without using his position to amass wealth.”

Also expressing his condolences, President General of 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.”

Nwodo said “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 the late elder statesman should be 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.

Two former governors of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, and Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, as well as the Senator representing Kaduna Central District, 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.”

For Depute President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu the death of the ‘sage, democrat and statesman’ is a ‘heavy loss to the nation.’

Writing on his Twitter handle, @iamekweremadu, the lawmaker 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”

In his reaction, former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori described Shagari as a gentlemanly President, who showed that power, no matter how mighty, could be used moderately.

“He showed us that a President was first of all a citizen just like every other Nigerian and was only a President to serve the cause of the citizenry”, Ibori said – With additional reports from NAN and The Guardian

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