By Felix Nwaneri, Anule Emmanuel and Regina Otokpa
It was drama yesterday in Sokoto as President Muhammadu Buhari wrote only his name and date in the condolence register in honour of former President Shehu Shagari, who passed on Friday and was buried on Saturday. Shagari, who died at 93, was President of Nigeria between 1979 and 1983. He was overthrown in a coup d’état that brought in Buhari to power as military head of state, three months after he (Shagari) was sworn in for a second term. Although the President had, on Saturday, paid tribute to the late former president through a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, he wrote only his name – M. Buhari – and date – 30/12/ 2018 in the condolence register, when he visited the Sama road, Sokoto residence of Shagari to condole with members of his family. Buhari, who was accompanied on the visit by Governors Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) and Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Senator Aliyu Wamakko and Sokoto State deputy governor, Alhaji Mannir Dan-Iya, among others, however, presented a letter of condolence to the family, which was read by Tambuwal, who rode in the same car with him. But, former President Goodluck Jonathan, wrote in the condolence register: “I called with King A. J. Turner, Hon Tobias James, former governor of Anambra State and now the PDP vice presidential candidate, Peter Obi, to condole with the family and state on the death of our former president. “H. E. Alhaji Shagari was a man with pure heart. He was a good leader who meant well for our country. He served in various capacities and made significant contribution to the growth and development of Nigeria.
He did his best as a president from 1979-1983. May his soul rest in peace.” Buhari’s visit was cheered by a crowd chanting: “Nigeria Sai Maigaskiya” meaning Nigeria is for a truthful person. The President joined sympathisers and family members to offer special prayers led by the Chief Imam/Administrator of the National Mosque, Prof. Shehu Galadanchi, for the repose of Shagari’s soul. Promising to immortalize Shagari, Buhari said through the condolence letter read by Tambuwal that the Federal Government will, in due course, institute a suitable memorial to immortalize the late president.
The letter further read: “I received the very sad news of the passing away of Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. “This, indeed, is a grievous loss, which will be felt throughout Nigeria, irrespective of any difference. The late Alhaji Shagari was a landmark figure, being virtually our last link to the post-independence government of Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and the first elected Executive President of Nigeria. “Please convey to his immediate family, the government and the people of Sokoto State my heartfelt condolences on the passing away of this great statesman.
“The Federal Government will, in due course, institute a suitable memorial to the late former president.” A source close to the Shagaris told New Telegraph that some members of the former president’s family were not happy that Buhari, who took away their late patriarch’s mandate in 1983, did not deem it fit to say something about him in the condolence register. “We had expected President Buhari to write something in his honour. Shagari didn’t offend him, rather he was the one that took away his mandate,” the source said. However, the eldest son of the late president, Bala, expressed appreciation to President Buhari over condolence visit to the family in Sokoto. Bala, who is the District Head of Shagari town in Sokoto, told newsmen that the family was happy with the visit and Buhari’s pledge to immortalize their father. He, however, said he would not comment on the President’s pledge until it was fulfilled. He added that his father had no grudge against Buhari or anyone because he told them he had pardoned everyone. He explained that the late president’s absence at state functions was due to his ill health, saying that was why he stayed in Sokoto and Shagari town before he died. He also said that the late President did not leave any will beside the directive that he should be buried at his home, Shagari. According to Bala, the directive was strictly observed and implemented as his remains were buried at Shagari town on Saturday.
He acknowledged that the Sultan had offered that the late president should be buried at Hubbare, where Shehu Usman Danfofio was laid to rest. “We acknowledged it, but late Shagari had told us that he should be buried in Shagari town and even indicated a specific location, so we have to comply with his will,” he added. Meanwhile, Jonathan, who spoke with journalists after condoling with members of Shagari’s family, described the late president as an amiable leader, who meant well for Nigeria. He also said the late former president played a key role in the development of Nigeria and the democratic system.
His words: “A unique habit of the late former president, which only those who interacted with him will tell is, he was a very simple and humble man in spite of the various positions he held. “He possessed a very clean and good heart which he showed clearly in his life time through various engagements and activities. We are mourning today, however, we are still happy because it is not easy to reach the age of 93. I believe he has done all the works Allah has asked him to do on earth.” Obi, who represented the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, urged Nigerians to emulate the lifestyle of the late former president for the betterment of the country.Also paying tribute to Shagari, yesterday, National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, said the late former President would be remembered as a true patriot, servant leader, fine gentleman, and epitome of humility. In a statement in Abuja, Oshiomhole also said Shagari would be remembered as a poet, technocrat and an elder statesman, who genuinely loved Nigeria. “The late Shagari was a stabilising personality, who was ever ready to lend his voice and influence when the country needed it.
The country has indeed lost a rare-breed leader,” Oshiomhole said. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), on its part, noted that Shagari holds a special place in the hearts of Nigerian workers for signing the 1981 National Minimum Wage Act, which saw to an increase in workers’ salaries. NLC, in a statement signed by its president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, added that Shagari was committed to an improved welfare for Nigerian workers and in making the country an industrial hub. “We similarly hold the view that given his urbane and simple and straight forward life style, Shagari would have built an enduring culture of democratic succession in spite of some of the disputed elections in his time,” the labour body stated.