Centenary Nigeria Countdown; Shehu Shagari, The Humble Nation Builder
Former President Shagari is known in the country and outside the shores of Nigeria as a leader with uncommon humility, foresight and
visionary ideas for the well be- ing of his nation. A century after the late American Evangelist and publisher Dwight Layman Moody (1837-1899) told the world that ‘‘light houses do not fire cannons to call attention to their shinning- they just shine, the recognition quintessential leaders like Alhaji Shagari commands continue to give relevance to the age long ex- pression.
An environmentalist Professor Steve Azaiki recently wrote in a national Daily Newspaper that ‘‘Shagari’s courage in speaking out when it is necessary reminds us of the words of Andrew Jack- son, the 7th President of the Unit- ed States (US) when he said: One man’s courage makes a majority. (Every nation has the government it deserves).
Azaiki a Bayelsa indigene under- scores the former number one citi- zen’s detribalised stance thus: ‘‘In 2010 when the Federal Govern- ment wrote to him to nominate a Nigerian worthy of national hon- ours, of the 150 million Nigerians, Shagari nominated me, sighting my effort at fighting environmen- tal degradation as the president of World Environmental Movement for Africa, the establishment of the National Think-Tank, educa- tional contribution and my service to my people and Nigeria; hence I got the Officer of the Order of Niger, OON’’. Besides, ‘‘Shagari has honoured and humbled me in so many ways-his wisdom, humil- ity, courage, pains and losses. His life and love has challenged me’’, he stated.
Born on February 25, 1925 in Shagari village in present day Sokoto State to the family of Magaji Aliyu and Mariamu in 1925, his place of birth was founded by Fulani Jihadist and cattlemen and later dominated by Hausa traders. Like many of such towns, religious recitals were im- portant for children growing up. So, Shagari was taught recitals at home and later went to a Quranic school at the age of four. At29,Shagariwaselectedmem- ber of the Federal House of Rep- resentatives, representing Sokoto West. Later in 1958, he was ap- pointed parliamentary secretary to the first Prime Minister of Ni- geria, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Aliyu Shagari, Turakin Sakkwato, was President dur- ing Nigeria’s Second Republic (1979–1983), after the handover of power by General Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime.
Shagari a northerner of Fulani ex- traction worked as a teacher for a brief period before entering poli- tics in 1954 upon his election to the Federal House of Representa- tives. His father was a farmer, trader and herder, Magaji, or vil- lage head, of Shagari village. He died five years after Shehu’s birth. Young Shehu Shagari attended elementary school at Yabo, a nearby town and subsequently went to the Sokoto Middle School and later to Kaduna College. After secondary school, he was called on to become the pupil- science teacher of Sokoto Mid- dle School; shortly after, he was appointed the science teacher for Zaria Middle school. In 1945, after the end World War II, he moved back to become the science and also history and geography teach- er of the Sokoto Middle School. There, he was re-united with his extended family that lived nearby. Six years after, he was posted to Argungu as the headmaster of the new primary school there. Shagari married twice to Hadiza and Aishatu Shagari. In 1946, Shagari and Mallam Gambo Abuja were said to have startedtheYouthSocialCircle, a political organisation centred around Sokoto. They were sup- ported by noble men such as Ah- madu Bello, Ibrahim Gusau, and Mallam Ahamdu Dabbaba. By 1948, a consolidation idea was initiated in the region to merge all the nascent political organizations under one group. The Youth So- cial Circle of Sokoto agreed to the merger, and together with other groups formed the Northern Peo- ple’s Congress. Later on, the organisation be- came a political party and went on to win the national parlia- mentary election in 1959. Before 1959, Shagari was elected to rep- resent the constituency of Sokoto Southwest. Shagari later held the positions of Minister of Economic Development in 1960, Minister of Internal Affairs in 1962 and Minis- ter of Works and Survey in 1965.