It is not often that we have opportunity to celebrate icons that leave monumental land marks in the sands of time in a nation. Building a nation, especially a diverse one like Nigeria, is such a herculean task that statesmen look back and urge for patience and onward match into their greater visions. It is heart bleeding when they remonstrate on what they consider deviation or outright displacements of priorities by younger generations that inordinately tilt to wrong directions. But their counsel persists. Elders still command rallying points if they had cultivated personality of trust in sustenance of good governance that earns them enormous respect. It is a privilege history bequest to them. It is today the place of First Executive President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, GCFR who clocked 89 years on 25 February 2014.
To the northern Nigeria he stands tall as one of the greatest teachers of his time specializing in science education, but also very active in humanities. He became instrument of campaign for education in the northern Nigeria through participation in formulation and execution of policies of the Native Authority system. The traditional institution was made to mobilize the grassroots to appreciate combination of western education with the Islamic education. The district heads were involved in campaign for enrollment of children into formal education.
“Mallam” became an appellation of respect among the populace because of their awe and importance in dissipation of ignorance through education – teachers that disciplined for better tomorrow. Sardaunan Sokoto, Alhaji (Sir) Ahmadu Bello, the former premier of Northern Nigeria was in the forefront of campaign for education in the North. He recruited acolytes like former President Shehu Shagari. Sarduna was also preoccupied with appropriate placement of Northerners into strategic employments. Former President Shehu Shagari was one of the major instruments in actualization of Sarduna was also preoccupied with appropriate placement of Northerners into strategic employments. Former President Shehu Shagari was one of the major instruments in actualization of Sarduna’s aggressive drive by the north to become pillar of nation building.
The solid north as a philosophy meant creation of strong force that would bestride greater bargain in aggregation of the nation. Former President Shehu Shagari because of intellectual prowess and dexterity was a trusted person used by both Sir Ahmadu Bello and the late Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. That confidence necessitated making Alhaji Shehu Shagari to superintend every known ministry of that era. He devoted his life to the service of his fatherland and his people who were his primary constituents. A politician’s constituency should be of primary concern because of interest representation. That informed the former president’s declaration that a politician neglects his constituency at his own peril.
Former president, Shehu Shagari functioned in the era of the spirit of service to the people. He jettisoned personal accumulation of work for the uplift of the entire north and Nigeria. A statesman of great repute, he mainly focused on building infrastructure for education of his people. He opened up opportunities for the young northerners of that period to acquire education anywhere in the world and return home to serve their people. He was instrumental to the free education enjoyed to date by northerners which has produced great intellectuals and captains of industry. He was a major contributor and indeed executor policies that sharpen the northern frontier in our nation building. He shaped the destiny of the generals that later betrayed him.
Those close to the former president attest to his consummate readership. He is known to have read popular books within a short time. He is credited to have read an entire school library within an amazing period and answer every question from the British teachers. He never believes in just signing documents but must read them carefully and thoroughly. He has written sensitive articles in journals. He has personally written a number of books including “Beckoned To Serve”. He remains a literary icon to scholars who constantly seek his guidance from time to time.
The year 2014 it calls for sober reflection at the fairness of the overthrow of Shagari’s government in 1983. The first four years of that regime was characterized by unnecessary press war against it. Moreover, after many years of military dictatorship and aftermath of the civil war instruments of democratic governance completely collapsed. Four years could not be enough to restructure civil rule for representative government. The mistakes of the first term could have been corrected during the second tenure.
By: Mohammed Umar
Mohammed S. Umar is the President of Sokoto Liberal Democrats Media Foundation (SOLID).
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