Today, February 25, is marked by the birthday of a significant person for history of Nigeria - Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari. On this occasion, President Goodluck Jonathan has this to say in his Facebook account:
"Today, I want to wish a genuine Nigerian patriot, President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, GCFR, a happy birthday. Since the time you were 'Beckoned to Serve', you have consistently demonstrated the humility of a servant leader. As a democrat per excellence, you always reached out to all the peoples of Nigeria in persuasion rather than dictation. On behalf of my family and the people of Nigeria, I felicitate with you and your family as you mark your 88th birthday and pray for God to give you a long life of further service to Nigeria. Happy Birthday sir. GEJ."
Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, Turakin Sakkwato (born February 25, 1925) served as the President of Nigeria’s Second Republic (1979–1983), after the handover of power by General Olusegun Obasanjo's military government.
Shagari is a northerner of Fulani extraction and holds the aristocratic title of Turakin Sakkwato in the Sokoto Caliphate. He worked as a teacher for a brief period before entering politics in 1954 upon his election to the federal House of Representatives.
Shehu Usman Shagari was born in Shagari village to the family of Magaji Aliyu and Mariamu in 1925. His name, Usman, means "Companion". He was raised in a polygamous family, and was the sixth child born into the family.
Prior to becoming Magajin Shagari, Aliyu, Shehu's father was a farmer, trader and herder. However, due to traditional rites that prevented rulers from participating in business, Aliyu relinquished some of his trading interest when he became the Magaji, or village head, of Shagari village. Aliyu died five years after Shehu's birth, and Shehu's elder brother, Bello, briefly took on his father's mantle as Magajin Shagari.
The village of Shagari was founded by Fulani Jihadist and cattlemen and later dominated by Hausa traders. Like many Jihadist founded towns, religious recitals were important for children growing up. Shagari was taught recitals at home and later went to a Quranic school at the age of four. However, he was obliged to attend elementary school at Yabo, a town close by. After, he went to the Sokoto Middle School and later to Kaduna college.
Kaduna College originally was created to be a teachers' training school. There were few high-level civil service professions open to indigenous in Northern Nigeria and coupled with the lack of a post-graduate school except the Yaba Higher college. The teaching profession became the dominant career path early graduates of Kaduna college took, and Shagari was no exception.
After finishing secondary school, he was called on to become the new science teacher of Sokoto Middle 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 teacher of the Sokoto Middle School. There, he was re-united with his extended family who lived nearby. Six years after, he was posted to Argungu as the headmaster of the new primary school there.
After becoming the science teacher for Sokoto Middle School, he had a close look at arranged marriages. His uncle Magaji Basharu and his brother, Bello had tried to have him marry Basharu's granddaughter. However, Shagari gave the visiting bridal train a taunting look, after the visitors left, the bride sensing the atmosphere followed them briskly. Shagari later married twice to Hadiza and Aishatu Shagari.
Early political career
Starting from the late 1930s, a few Northern Nigeria political organizations started mushrooming. Shagari, who was educated at Kaduna college, was already well-versed in the early independence movement in Southern Nigeria as an avid reader of southern newspapers. He also held strong social views about development of Yabo, his district in Sokoto.
In 1946, Shagari and Mallam Gambo Abuja started the Youth Social Circle, a political organization centered around Sokoto. They were supported by noble men such as Ahmadu 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 social circle of Sokoto agreed to the merger, and together with other groups formed the Northern People's congress.
Later on, the organization became a political party and went on to win the national parliamentary election in 1959. Before 1959, Shagari was elected to represent the constituency of Sokoto Southwest. In 1958, he was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Shagari later went on to hold the positions of minister of Economic Development in 1960, minister of Internal Affairs in 1962 and minister of Works and Survey in 1965.
However, the first republic was cut short by a military coup. Shagari returned to Sokoto to work on his farm and later to work as a councilor for the Sokoto Native Authority. In 1970, as part of a movement to broaden the government, Yakubu Gowon made Shagari a minister of Economic affairs and later of Finance.
Gowon's government was later overthrown as part of a military putsch by some military officers. A new democratic return timetable was initiated by the new Administration. As part of its preparation for democratic return, the government of Obasanjo established a constitutional conference. Members to the conference where both elected and selected. Within the conference, a national organization was formed among some members, the organization was called National Movement, it later metamorphosized to become the National Party of Nigeria and contested the 1979 election with Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari as its presidential candidate.
The campaign had 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 party best representing Nigeria's diversity.
Shagari made Housing, Industries, Transportation and Agriculture as the major goals of his administration, particularly in early on during the oil boom. Despite some successes, these programs were heavily plagued by corruption. Shagari completed the Delta Steel complex in 1982, and spent hundred of millions of dollars on the Ajaokuta Steel complex and the Steel rolling mills. However, allegations of kickbacks to prominent politicians hovers like a cloud on those projects. In transportation, he launched road networks across the country. He also initiated a program to foster the use of mechanical machinery in farming. It favored large scale farmers in order to produce mass products. However, it was hampered by the prevalence of retired military officers, who had acquired land as parting gift under the previous administration.
The fall in oil price that began in 1981 affected the finances of the Nigerian government. Shagari initiated an Economic Stabilization Program to help protect the country against a hard landing from prior highs of the 70's and to steer the economy towards positive growth. Key objectives of the program were to limit import licenses, reduce government spending and raise custom duties. However, the result from the stabilization program was minimal.
The Shagari was plagued by allegations of corruption, including allegations of electoral fraud in the 1983 election. This, coupled with a decline in world oil prices, a deterioration in the national finances, and endemic religious and political violence lead to the regime becoming deeply unpopular with citizens. Shagari was overthrown by General Muhammadu Buhari on New Year's Eve in 1983.