11 facts about Nigeria's first executive president, Shehu Shagari on his posthumous birthday


On this day in 1925, Alhaji Shehu Shagari was born. He served as the President of Second Republic (1979–1983). Shagari was the fifth child of Aliyu and Mariamu Shagari. His father was a farmer and a trader before he became the village’s headman. He studied at a Koranic school and an austere government boarding school before attending a teacher training college in Kaduna. He later returned to teach science at his old school in Sokoto.

Shagari was active in local youth politics in his 20s and held ministerial posts in the governments that followed independence. But after the first military coup, in 1966, he fled the capital to avoid arrest and returned to farm in Sokoto. He remained there during Nigeria’s civil war, which started in 1967, pitting government forces against eastern secessionists in the self-proclaimed state of Biafra.

On his posthumous birthday, here are some things to always remember about the late Nigerian leader. 

1) Shehu Shagari was the first democratically elected President of Nigeria, after the transfer of power by military head of state General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1979 giving rise to the Second Nigerian Republic. He ruled Nigeria from 1 October 1979 till 31 December 1983.

2) Shagari died 28 December 2018 at the National Hospital, Abuja. On his death, the man who toppled his government, Buhari described him as a patriot, who served Nigeria with humility, integrity and diligence. 

3) Shehu Shagari, sought to revive democratic rule in Nigeria but was deposed by military officers impatient with his seeming inability to confront endemic corruption and economic crisis. Muhammadu Buhari, as an army general, removed Mr. Shagari from power in 1983.

4) He was the first civilian leader to take office under a constitution modeled on that of the United States, with an executive president, a bicameral legislature and significant powers given to the governors of the country’s 19 federal states.

5) Mr. Shagari, in his flowing Islamic robes and distinctive beaded headgear, often described himself as a conciliator who operated above the daily joust of Nigeria’s politics.

6) During his administration, up to two million people, many of them Ghanaians, fled the country in what was seen as one of modern Africa’s biggest population shifts.

7) During his administration as well, in northern cities like Kano and Maiduguri, followers of an Islamic cult rampaged for three successive years, sacking churches, attacking religious rivals and threatening the authorities’ ability to deal with sectarian passions. In October 1982, he was criticized for granting amnesty to 1,000 members of the so-called Maitatsine cult — sometimes depicted as the forerunner of Boko Haram — who had been imprisoned since 1980. 

8) It was on Mr. Shagari’s watch, too, that the authorities made it a priority to proceed with the construction of a new capital in Abuja, to escape the chaos and tribal affiliations of Lagos, which remained the commercial heart of the country.

9) Shehu Shagari had a very humble beginning. He was born on Feb. 25, 1925, in a thatch-roofed house built of sunbaked clay in the village of Shagari, founded by his forebears near the city of Sokoto.

10) As permitted by Islamic law, Mr. Shagari was a polygamist, and he fathered numerous children. He is said to have three wives, though some say four. 

11) The reason General Buhari gave to have planned a coup against Shagari, was that his country had been “enslaved by a handful of people who had been sharing the wealth among themselves and who were determined to stay in office at any cost.”

What do you think of Shehu Shagari as a person? 

Looking at the reasons Buhari gave, to gave toppled Shagari's government back then, is he (Buhari) living up to expectations now? 

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