Nigeria lost its First Republic President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari on December 28, 2018 at 1.30 p.m. at the National Hospital, Abuja at the age of 93.
Shehu Usman Shagari was born on February 25, 1925 in the nothern Shagari village by his great grandfather Ahmadu Rufa’i who was also the village head and took the name Shagari as his family name. His father’s name is Aliyu and his mother’s name is Mariam.
Shagari started his education in a Quranic school then went to live with relatives at a nearby town where from 1931-1935 he attended Yabo Elementary School. In 1936-1940 he went to Sokoto for middle school and then from 1941 to 1944 he attended Kaduna College.
Between 1944 and 1952, he matriculated at the Teachers Training College in Zaria, Kaduna. From 1953-1958, he got a job as a visiting teacher at Sokoto Province. He was also a member of the Federal Scholarship Board from 1954 to 1958.
Shehu Shagari entered politics in 1951 when he became the Secretary of the defunct Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), a position he held till 1956. In 1954, he was elected into his public office as a member of the Federal House of Representatives for Sokoto West. In 1958 he was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary, leaving the post in 1959 to become the Nigerian Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and that year he also served as the Federal Minister of Commerce and Industry.
From 1959-1960, he was redeployed to the Ministry of Economic Development as Minister of Economic Development. From 1960-1962, he moved to the Pension Ministry as the Federal Minister for Pension. He later became Federal Minister of Internal Affairs. From 1965 up until the first military coup in January 1966, he was the Federal Minister for Works.
In 1978, Shehu Shagari was a founding member of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN). In 1979 he was chosen by the party as the presidential candidate for the general election that year which he won thus becoming the First President and Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He ran for a second term in 1983 and won the general election, however, on December 31, 1983, he was overthrown by Major-general Muhammadu Buhari.
Shagari won the 1979 election with the help of his campaign manager, the late Umaru Dikko with the support of many prominent politicians in the north and among southern minorities. The party’s motto was “One Nation, One Destiny” and was seen as the best party representing Nigeria’s diversity.
During the oil boom, Shagari made housing, industries, transportation and agriculture the major goals of his administration. In transportation, he launched some road networks across the country. He also initiated a programme to foster use of mechanical machinery in farming; he also created a low cost housing scheme.
With the rise in oil revenue in 1980, Shagari finished building the Kaduna Refinery which started operating that year, followed closely by the construction of an additional steel plant and three steel rolling mills at Ajaokuta. He completed the Delta Steel Complex in 1982. Shagari created in 1983 the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria at Ikot Abasi.
Shagari government embarked on a “Green Revolution” distributing seeds and fertilizer to farmers to increase nationwide productivity in farming he continued with his nationwide lucrative economic policy, however, his administration was plagued by allegation of corruption including electoral fraud in the 1983 election. This coupled with a decline in world oil prices and deterioration in the national finances and hardship leading to the regime becoming unpopular with citizens. He was overthrown by Major General Muhammadu Buhari in a military coup on December 31, 1983.
He married three wives, Amina, Aishatu, and Hadiza and has many children among who is Captain Muhammadu Bala Shagari (retd).
May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.