When the media announced the demise of a Nigerian political icon and first Executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari, last Friday with a reverberation effect across the world, many Nigerians with rich experience in various aspects of life began to dust their diaries for a recount of the episodes that propelled the deceased to have made history as much as he was himself made by history.
The late President Shehu Shagari’s life was like a huge elephant surrounded by blind men and women of letters and substance. To describe the features of that proverbial elephant, each of the persons that surrounded it would only be able to give an account of the area he/she is able to touch on the body of the mammoth animal and not the whole of it.
Besides, Alhaji Shehu Shagari was such a household name and quintessential role model whose legacies many Nigerians cannot afford to discountenance. Nevertheless, the aspect that concerns the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) most in his life’s odyssey is religion.
It can be recalled that it was Alhaji Shagari, as Nigeria’s first elected Executive President, that approved the sum of N10 million each for the commencement of building a National Mosque and a National Ecumenical Church in Abuja at a time when naira was really strong and the foundation of Abuja as a city was just being laid.
That Presidential gesture, which no religious group rejected, was a confirmation that Nigeria is indeed a multi-religious and not a secular country as being peddled in certain quarters for selfish reasons.
Today, the two houses of worship are conspicuous in Abuja with their grandiose postures to the finite attraction of foreign tourists who see them as symbols of national unity.
Not only that, but the late Executive President also tackled diplomatically and militarily, as then warranted, a frightening national crisis in the guise of religion engendered by one Cameroonian called Muhammad Marwa Maitatsine in most parts of Northern Nigeria in the second republic.
Though Alhaji Shehu Shagari was a quiet and easy going personality, he never wavered in taking necessary decisions in the interest of unity in the country. As a Muslim, Alhaji Shagari never hesitated in justifying the principle of justice, fairness and equity which his religion (Islam) emphasizes.
As a teacher in the early part of his life, he was exemplary in touching the lives of his students positively and in grooming those students for future leadership. As a politician, he displayed such a special trait that distinguished him as a template designer and a dark horse in Nigeria’s political racecourse. This great man’s political sagacity was like a major Faculty in the University of Life, into which many forward-looking leadership aspirants in Nigeria were eager to seek enrolment for specialization in African political education.
Alhaji Shagari was the eminent Dean of that Faculty even as the vibrancy of his tenure which remains enduring till date is a testimony to the template he set for Nigeria’s democratic dispensation. For Nigerian generations of the colonial era as well as those of the first and second republics, a major falcon of reference has flown away forever leaving some of his surviving peers to mere dreams in communication encounter.
The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) under the leadership of its President General and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, mni, and the entire Nigerian Muslim Ummah hereby commiserate with the Federal and Sokoto State governments as well as all the citizens of Nigeria while imploring them to learn from the exemplary lifestyle of this icon and emulate it for the progress of Nigeria.
The NSCIA particularly condoles with his family and chieftains of the Sultanate of Sokoto State among whom he was a front liner in his lifetime. We pray that the Almighty Allah repose his soul in eternal bliss and grant his immediate and extended families the fortitude to bear the agony that may arise from his demise.
“Surely we are all from Allah and to Allah, we shall all return”. “Inna Lillah, wa inna ilayhi raji’un”.
Femi Abbas is Chairman, NSCIA Media
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