By Oladipo Awojobi
First Executive President of Nigeria, Alhaji Sheh Shagari, is dead. He was aged 93.
The former president died on Friday evening at the National Hospital Abuja.
Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, announced his death on his official twitter handle @AWTambuwal on Friday.
“I regret to Announce the death of former President Shehu Shagari who just passed away at National Hospital Abuja. May his Soul Rest in Peace,” Tambuwal tweeted.
Shagari’s death was also confirmed by his grandson, Bello Shagari, who tweeted that the former President died after a brief illness.
“I regret announcing the death of my grandfather, H.E Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who died right now after brief illness at the National hospital, Abuja.” Bello Shagari tweeted on his official twitter handle @Belshagy at 7.04pm on Friday.
Governor Tambuwal was said to be by his bedside when he died. Also at the National Hospital Friday night were his sons, Hon. Aminu Shagari and Major Bala Shagari rtd.
Among the early callers at the National Hospital Friday night were Chief Audu Ogbeh, Senator Ibrahim Dansadau and House of Representatives member, Hon. Samad Dasuki.
A family source told THISDAY that the remains of the former President would be flown to Sokoto on Saturday morning. The source also said burial would hold at 2pm in Shagari Local Government Area of Sokoto State.
The late elder statesman was born on February 25, 1925 to the family of Magaji Aliyu and Mariam, both of Fulani extraction in the Northern Nigeria.
Shehu Shagari’s great-grandfather founded the village from which the family took its name.
At the age of four, Shehu Shagari, the Turakin Sakkwato, was registered in a Quranic school. From there, he attended a primary school in Yabo, and later attended Splits Middle School from where he went to Kaduna College, a school originally created to be a teacher training college.
After the college, Shagari became a science teacher at the Sokoto Middle School. From there, he moved to Zaria Middle School. Thereafter, he became the headmaster of a primary school in Argungu.
In 1946, Shagari and Mallam Gambo Abuja jointly formed the Youth Social Circle, a political organisation that operated in Sokoto.
In 1948, the Youth Social Circle of Shehu Shagari merged with some other political groups to form the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and in 1951, he became the secretary of the Northern People’s Congress in Sokoto, Nigeria, a position he held until 1956.
He was elected to represent his constituency (Sokoto Southwest) in the parliament.
Shagari was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, in 1958. In 1959, he was made the Minister of Economic Development, and Minister of Internal Affairs.
He later became the Minister of Works and Survey in 1963.
When the military ousted the First Republic government in 1966, Shagari returned to Sokoto Native Authority. In 1967 he was appointed as the secretary for Sokoto province education development fund, and from 1968-1969, Shagari was given a state position in the North Western State as commissioner for establishments.
In 1970, the then head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, made Shagari the Federal Commissioner for Economic Development, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction. He later served as Federal Commissioner for Finance.
Shagari returned to politics in the build up to the 1979 elections when he flew the presidential flag of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He emerged the winner of that election and became the first executive President of Nigeria.
However, during his regime, Nigerian economy was caught in the web of the international economic crisis of the early 1980s. Shagari took several steps to try to strengthen the economy—cutting the budget, calling in the International Monetary Fund and expelling aliens (mostly Ghanaians) in 1983.
At the end of his first four year tenure, he won the second presidential election in the Second Republic’s controversial presidential election in 1983, but the state of the economy and alleged corruption in his administration led to a military coup on December 31, 1983, led by the then Maj. Gen. Muhammad Buhari. Shagari was consequently placed under house arrest. He was cleared of all allegations of personal corruption and released from detention in 1986, but was banned from participation in Nigerian politics for life.
The ban was later lifted by the government of General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), which overthrew the government of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in 1986.
Shagari was married to three wives, Aishatu, Amina and Hadiza.