By Ismaila Chafe, Folasade Adeniran and Olajide Idowu
President Muhammadu Buhari has once paid tribute to the late President Shehu Shagari and directed that the national flag and other flags should fly at half-mast in military and para-military formations as well as public buildings for three days, starting from Dec. 30.
In a statement personally signed by him, Buhari declared: “The late President represented almost the last link with the government of our founding fathers under Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. He was also the first elected President of Nigeria.
“The late Alhaji Shagari was a man of many parts: teacher, local authority administrator, politician, minister, and finally President. He served his country with dedication and moderation. Over the years, through interaction at the Council of State, he and I came to understand and appreciate each other, whatever the differences we may have had in the past.
“On behalf of the Federal Government, myself and family, I send my condolences to the people of Nigeria, particularly to the late President’s family and the government and people of Sokoto State. May his soul rest in peace.”
Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State had declared Monday, Dec. 31 a public holiday to enable residents offer special prayers for the repose of the soul of Shagari, who died at the age of 93 and has since been buried in his home town according to Islamic rites.
Meanwhile, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State and his Osun State counterpart, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola have expressed sadness over the demise of the first elected President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
Ambode, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Habib Aruna, described the late Shagari as a complete gentleman, a thorough bred democrat and philanthropist per excellence who contributed immensely to Nigeria’s growth and development.
“The late President lived an exemplary life; he was a democrat and a fine gentleman whose idea of power was that of being a tool to serve his fatherland and humanity. He was an elder statesman in the true sense of the word. He was also a detribalised Nigerian who was committed to the course of a united, indivisible and prosperous Nigeria.
“He believed so much in all inclusive governance and was one of those patriotic Nigerians who contributed in laying the foundation of a sustainable democracy in Nigeria,” Ambode said.
While commiserating with the family of the late elder statesman, the governor urged them to uphold the ideals he stood for, saying that the nation will continue to draw inspiration from his life and times.
“His demise, just like that of our heroes past, must never be in vain. There can be no better time to unite together to achieve a better and more prosperous Nigeria. On behalf of the government and people of Lagos State, I want to express our heartfelt condolence to the family of Alhaji Shehu Shagari on this great and irreparable loss. He was a pride to our country and we will surely miss him,” Ambode said.
On his part, Oyetola described the death of the first executive president of the country, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, as a huge loss to the nation. Oyetola also commiserated with the family members, the people and government of Sokoto State and Nigerians.
Oyetola, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Adeniyi Adesina, on Saturday also described the former president as a man of honour, who lived a life worthy of emulation. The governor said Shagari demonstrated politics without bitterness.
Shagari awarded the country’s highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) to the then leader of opposition Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in 1982, Oyetola said. He said although the honour was reserved for only presidents/heads of state, Shagari recognized the contributions of the late sage to nation building by his non-partisan action.
Oyetola said that that the late ex-president maintained a dignified posture and respectability out of office. He urged contemporary politicians to emulate the attributes of the late former president.
He said that Shagari served the country diligently and to the best of his ability in various capacities from the pre-independence era during the first republic. He also served as the President of the country between 1979 and 1983, Oyetola said.
He prayed that God would grant the Shagari family and Nigerians the fortitude to bear the huge loss