Eminent Nigerians on Saturday eulogised the virtues of former President Shehu Shagari as his remains were interred at his residence located in the Shagari Local Government Area of Sokoto State. Shagari died on Friday in Abuja at 93.
He was laid to rest at 3.30pm after funeral prayers led by a former Vice Chancellor of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Prof. Shehu Galadanchi.
The corpse arrived in the Sultan Abubakar Airport, Sokoto, and was received by Governor Aminu Tambuwal, alongside members of the state executive council, for onward journey to his final resting place in Shagari.
The late Shagari was Nigeria’s President between October 1979 and December 1983, under the platform of the National Party of Nigeria.
His second tenure was truncated by a coup d’état which saw incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari assuming office as Head of State in December 1983.
Nuradeen Mahe, a grandson to the late president, said the deceased was sick for some time due to age-related illness. He said, “Alhamdulilahi, he gave up the ghost on Friday at the National Hospital, Abuja.”
A Federal Government delegation led by the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and governors of Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states witnessed the burial.
Former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, former INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega; Waziri Sokoto, Prof. Junaid Wali, Senator Aliyu Wamakko, former Minister of Water Resources, Mukhtar Shagari, among others, also attended the funeral.
Obasanjo writes Tambuwal, Saraki heads for Sokoto
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo said Shagari was a man of honour and an achiever.
Obasanjo stated this in a condolence letter to Tambuwal, and the people of the state over Shagari’s death.
This came just as the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, is set to lead a delegation on Monday to Sokoto to condole with Shagari’s family as well as the government and people of the state.
The former president, in the letter obtained by SUNDAY PUNCH through his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi on Saturday, eulogised the late Shagari’s roles during Nigeria’s pre and post-independence politics
Obasanjo, in 1979, handed over power to Shagari through a democratic process, making him (Obasanjo) the first military head of state to hand over power to a democratically-elected president in the country.
The letter read in part, “In all his national assignments, he was forthright, dedicated and showed great commitment in the discharge of his duties.
“He was a unifying force for the nation, and his contribution to the growth and development of democracy in Nigeria cannot be easily forgotten. In all situations, he lived nobly and he died in nobility.
“Let us bear in mind that we all have the opportunity to act nobly in whatever position we find ourselves. President Shagari died at a time the country and its leadership is in dire need of such leadership, experience and wisdom to tackle the multifaceted challenges facing the nation.”
Meanwhile, Saraki said Shagari represented many good pages in the history book of the country.
In a statement in Ilorin, Kwara State, on Saturday, by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki noted that his demise was a national loss.
He stated, “At the most critical times in the life of the nation, Shagari was there as part of the group directing the affairs. He was part of the people who won independence from the colonialists and proved that Nigerians could direct the affairs of their country.’’
Shagari was a true democrat, says Dogara
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, said the deceased was a true democrat and an icon of transparency.
In a condolence message issued on Saturday by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, Dogara said Shagari was a ‘president for all Nigerians.’
The Speaker said, “We have lost a father, man of peace, true democrat, patriot and a nationalist. He led an exemplary life of service to God and country, worthy of emulation. He was a president for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion or region.’’
Ambode, Ortom, Fayemi, northern govs, others pay tribute
Governors of Lagos, Benue, Ekiti, Bayelsa and Osun states, Akinwunmi Ambode, Samuel Ortom, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Seriake Dickson and Gboyega Oyetola respectively, including the Northern Governors Forum also commended the life the deceased led.
Ambode, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Habib Aruna, stated that Shagari’s demise was a huge loss to the nation.
He said Shagari was a complete gentleman, a thoroughbred democrat and philanthropist par excellence, who contributed immensely to Nigeria’s growth and development.
Ambode stated, “He was also a detribalised Nigerian who was committed to the cause of a united, indivisible and prosperous Nigeria. He believed in inclusive governance and was one of the patriotic Nigerians who contributed in laying the foundation for a sustainable democracy in Nigeria.”
In a statement by Ortom’s Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, the governor described the late president as a true patriot who worked hard for the unity of the country.
He stated that Shagari played a key role in the development of the country and remained a pillar of democracy till his death.
Fayemi, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Yinka Oyebode, on Saturday described Shagari ‘as a man of peace’, who led an exemplary simple lifestyle.
He said, “The late Shagari earned greater respect as an elder statesman because of his simple lifestyle, which endeared him to many. We shall miss this great and amiable leader, who abhorred politics of bitterness.’’
Dickson noted that his demise was a major loss to the country.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media Relations, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, the governor said Shagari passed on at a time his vast experience and wise counsel was needed in the country.
Also speaking, Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Kashim Shettima, in a statement on behalf of other governors in the region, said Shagari’s apolitical stance 35 years after leaving office in 1983 towered him as one of the nation’s best qualified statesmen since the Second Republic.
The governor said, “He opted to remain a statesman and a father of the nation and he maintained such a dignified position till he died in December, 2018, making it exactly 35 apolitical years.
“In all these years, he measured his words and actions as a peaceful and unifying leader. To cap it up, Shagari died in Abuja, the nation’s capital which symbolises our nationalism and unity. Clearly, Shagari lived and died a nationalist and a true statesman.’’
Noting that though he died at a time his wise counsel was needed, the forum said he left behind his documented lifetime of statesmanship, good character, calmness, and selfless interest in the unity and prosperity of Nigeria.
Besides, Oyetola, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Adeniyi Adesina, described Shagari’s death as a huge loss to the nation.
He said, “The former president was a man of honour who lived a life worthy of emulation.
The governor said the late president demonstrated politics without bitterness when he deservedly awarded the country’s highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic to the leader of opposition Unity Party of Nigeria, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in 1982.’’
He said although the honour was reserved for only presidents/heads of state, Shagari recognised the contributions of the late sage to nation building by his non-partisan action.
He was a symbol of unity — Afenifere, ACF
The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said the deceased was a gentleman who believed in the country’s unity.
In a statement by its Secretary-General, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, on Saturday, the group said the late former president did his best to ensure the country’s unity.
It said, “Shagari did all he could do to unite the country. He was so gentlemanly to handle the intricacies of governance in the country.’’
Also, the Arewa Consultative Forum said he was a symbol of peace, unity and selfless service to the North and the country.
The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim-Biu, in a statement in Kaduna on Saturday, said Shagari would be remembered for his humility and democratic ideals
It noted that Nigeria had lost a gem whose wisdom greatly influenced the nation’s polity.
A Second Republic Senator, Pa Ayo Fasanmi, also said his death was a “big loss to Nigeria.”
A condolence statement signed by Fasanmi’s Personal Assistant, Adebayo Temitope, on Saturday, said the Afenifere leader, who was in the Senate when Shagari ruled the country, recalled the late president’s dedication and selfless service to Nigeria.
In his tribute, a former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, said his death was the end of an era.
Ohakim added that Shagari was a disciplined and upright man without the mentality of unbridled wealth acquisition now ravaging the country.
On his part, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos State, Mr Jimi Agbaje, noted that his demise at this time was painful.
In a statement by the Director of Media and Publicity, Jimi Agbaje Campaign Organisation, Felix Oboagwina, Agbaje described Shagari as one of the country’s most historical personalities.
He said the late president would be remembered for being a humble and unassuming politician.
Besides, the Labour Party governorship candidate in Kwara State, Issa Aremu, said the best tribute for Shagari was for politicians to rededicate themselves to the great task of nation building through statesmanship and renewed peaceful democratic conduct as elections approach.
In his condolence message, Aremu observed that the most remarkable attribute of the late president was “horizontal and vertical consensus building, tolerance and peaceful conduct in a polity rooted in acrimony and mutual war of attrition like Nigeria’s.”
Shagari was selfless, says Ekwueme’s family
Members of the family of the late Alex Ekwueme, on Saturday, also paid glowing tributes to the late president.
Ekwueme who served as Shagari’s deputy, died on November 19, 2017.
In a statement by Ekwueme’s first son, Goodheart, on behalf of the family and the people of Oko in Anambra State, the family described Shagari as an epitome of high moral leadership.
The family stated that the former President served Nigeria meritoriously without any blemish, adding that he shared the virtue with his late deputy.
The Ekwueme family noted that Shagari had a cordial working relationship with Ekwueme and both had greater hearts of service for the nation.
“They were more nationalistic in their work relation and though they both had different religious backgrounds, they were not polarised by the issues of religion and tribe.
“They were first and foremost Nigerians before being a Christian, Muslims, Fulani or Igbo. They were both selfless,” the family said.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a statement on Saturday, directed that the national flag should fly at half-mast in military and para-military formations as well as public buildings for three days, starting from Sunday (today).