A flood of tributes poured Friday night as the news of the death of Nigeria’s Second Republic President, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari spread after the announcement by his grandchildren and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto.
Shagari was 93 years old and will be buried in his Shagari village today at 2pm.
“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”, wrote Tambuwal on Twitter.
Bello Shagari who first announced it on Twitter had over 5,000 retweets, as he wrote: “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”.
He later tweeted that the burial will take place today 29th December 2019, by 2pm at Shagari Local Government Inshaa Allah.
Nuradeen Mahe, another grandson was the person who briefed the newsmen in Sokoto about Shagari’s death and also announced the burial that he said would take place today.
Tributes then started flowing from politicians, former military men who toppled Shagari’s government in December 1983, students, the clergy including those who had opposed Shagari’s politics in the Second Republic.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who succeeded Shagari on 1 January 1984 after the bloodless coup of 31 December, 1983 was among the early mourners.
“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,” Buhari said in a statement by Media adviser, Femi Adesina.
Buhari described the death as the departure of a patriot whose life of service and humility was widely acknowledged.
President Buhari recalled part of the birthday message he (Buhari) sent to him last February when he said, “ 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.”
The Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum, Sen Aliyu Wamakko, who tweeted a photograph of Shagari, said the death of Second Republic President Shehu Shagari is an irreplaceable national loss.
He added that his demise is a great loss not only to his family, Sokoto State, Sultanate of Sokoto, but to Nigeria as a whole
From Minna Hilltop also came a tribute from former military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida, one of the military officers who participated in the December 1983 coup. Shagari was just three months old in his second term when the military officers removed him.
In his statement of condolence, signed by him, Babangida described Shagari as the “quintessential public servant who was “Beckoned to Serve”.
“My heart and prayers go to his Family, the government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Sokoto Caliphate and Sokoto state”, Babangida wrote.
” Nigeria and indeed Africa has lost a statesman and democrat whose wisdom, counsel, presence and experience and his sterling qualities of honesty and transparency are needed in these very trying moments of our national life.
“President Shehu Shagari was a great patriotic leader and an accomplished gentleman, at first a teacher, an administrator, a technocrat and an honest decent unassuming simple Nigerian Leader.
“He will be remembered for his tolerance and politics of peace without bitterness”, Babangida added.
Chief Ebenezer Babatope, who was the spokesman of the opposition Unity Party of Nigeria to Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria, also concurred that Shagari’s death was a great loss to the nation.
Babatope said Nigeria had just lost a tolerant and peace-loving leader in Shagari, who tolerated scathing criticisms from the opposition and those who did not believe in his government.
Babatope said when he was the spokesman of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) ,the main opposition party at that time, he could not remember anytime Shagari clamped down on any politician with opposing views.
“Shagari was a nice and gentleman. He was a great leader and democrat, a model of politics without bitterness” Babatope added.
Senate President Bukola Saraki took to Twitter, his favourite platform to mourn the departed former president. Saraki’s father, Olusola was the Senate leader during the Second Republic.
Saraki, whose reaction came in two tweets via his verified Twitter handle, said the late elder statesman “dedicated his best years in the service of our nation and its people.”
“My family and I join the entire nation to mourn the passing of former President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who led our nation in the Second Republic.
“President Shagari was a quintessential public servant, haven served in seven cabinet positions and as a legislator.
“He dedicated his best years in service of our nation and its people”, Saraki added.
In Lagos, the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, also described late Alhaji Shehu Shagari as a statesman, patriot and political stabiliser who served the country well in different capacities.
In a statement issued by his Media Officer, Mr Tunde Rahman in Lagos, Tinubu said that Shagari, who entered politics in 1951, served the country in different capacities and served well.
He said that late Shagari particularly helped in advancing the country’s democracy and had the temperament for good leadership.
”Former President Shehu Shagari was a decent man and a statesman, who believed in and worked for the unity of this country.
”He served Nigeria in different capacities – administrator, provincial secretary, House of Representatives member, minister in several ministries and president – and in each capacity he did excellently well.
“He contributed his quota to the growth and development of the country”, Tinubu said.
Former Senate President David Mark said Shagari’s death had created a vacuum that would be difficult to fill.
He said that late Shagari was a rare leader who believed in the sanctity of one indivisible Nigeria that must not be compromised no matter the odds.
“He worked for the peace and unity of Nigeria. He was a man with a large heart and was ever conscious about the well being and welfare of the citizenry,” he said.
The former Senate President added that Shagari demonstrated uncommon leadership skill during his stint as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria , pointing that he ensured fairness and equity in the distribution of amenities across the country .
“Even after he left office, Shagari continued to offer useful advice to the younger generation of leaders all in the bid to ensure a better Nigeria.
He observed that Shagari left at a critical time when the nation needed his wisdom and knowledge to navigate through the murky political waters in the land.
A member of the House of Representatives, Umar Bago, described the late Shagari as a charismatic elder statesman who contributed positively to the nation’s socio-economic and political development.
“Late Shehu Shagari had a unique passion for providing solutions to governance for the country. His demise was a big loss to the political scene in Nigeria.
“Indeed Nigeria and Nigerians will greatly miss a political master that championed the course of green revolution and Shagari housing estates across the country ,” he said.
Bago, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from Niger state, extended his condolences to the immediate family of late Shehu Shagari Sultan of Sokoto and government and people of Sokoto state.
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Kukah said the death of Shagari marked a major milestone in the life of the country.
“The great man lived well and God rewarded him with a long life. The late President was a committed patriot, dedicated to the building of a peaceful and democratic Nigeria.
“In his pursuit of dialogue, he was the first Nigerian leader to invite the Pope to visit our country in 1982, thus, laying the moral foundation for his Ethical Revolution.
“He left a legacy of humility and dedication.
“On behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, I extend my condolences to President Muhammadu Buhari, Gov. Aminu Tambuwal, of Sokoto State and his immediate family,” kukah said.
The students were not left out in the outpouring of grief and tributes.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) described the Shagari as a patriotic elder statesman, who built bridges of unity in the country.
The National Public Relations Officer of NANS, Mr Bestman Okereafor, gave the condolence message in a statement issued in Enugu on Friday.
Okereafor said: “The attention of the National leadership of the apex students governing body, NANS, has been drawn to the demise of Nigeria’s first elected president, who served between 1979-1983, Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
“NANS is joining the Federal Government, all Nigerians both home and in Diaspora and the Shagari family in bidding the former president farewell.
“No doubt Shagari was a patriotic elder statesman worthy of emulation considering how he had continuously given responsive representation to the people.”