The sudden passing away of a retired Army General, John Nanzip Shagaya must have come as a rude shock, not only to the Taroh nation of Plateau State, but the Nigerian nation as a whole. He died in a ghastly road accident along the Langtang – Pankshin road in Plateau State at the age of 75.
The late Shagaya started his military career from the Nigerian Military School, Zaria and attained the rank of Brig-General in the Nigerian Army where he held many command positions. He was at a time, Nigeria’s minister of Internal Affairs.
The apex Northern socio-cultural body, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) where the late Shagaya was its vice chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT) in a statement issued by its national publicity secretary, Muhammad Ibrahim said John Shagaya will be remembered for his commitment to national unity, selfless service to his fatherland, vision and intellect.
John Nanzip Shagaya was born September 2, 1942. He was a Nigerian Senator and former senior military officer who was elected in April 2007 to represent the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Plateau State as member of the Nigerian Senate for Plateau South. He ran for re-election in April 2011 on the Labour Party (LP) platform, but was defeated by Victor Lar of the PDP. As a non-commissioned officer (NCO) with the 2nd Reconnaissance Squadron in Abeokuta, he participated in the Nigerian counter-coup of 1966.
Late Shagaya was born to the family of Mallam Sikji Miri Wazhi, fondly called Shagaya and Mrs. Maryamu Zwancit. He attended Junior Primary School at Nyer and Sudan United Mission Primary School, Langtang (1952–1959). He studied at the Nigerian Military School Zaria 1960-1964.
After graduation, Shagaya was posted to the Nigerian Army Corps and later posted to 3 Marine Commando when he was commissioned as Second Lieutenant. He participated with the Marine Commando in the Nigeria Civil War (1967–1970).
His later appointments included Grade III staff officer, Nigeria Army School of Infantry, Jaji, Director of Cadets, Nigerian Defence Academy, Director of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, Brigade Commander, 9 Mechanised Infantry Brigade, Military Secretary, Army Headquarters, and General Officer Commanding, 1st Mechanised Infantry Division
Under the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida, Shagaya was Minister of Internal Affairs, a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council and a member of the Police Council. He also served as chairman of the committee set up in 1987 to decide on Nigeria’s membership of the Organisation of Islamic Conference.
Shagaya was involved in drafting the main protocols for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). As a member of the National Boundary Commission, he helped resolve disputes with Benin and Chad.
He was appointed Field Commander in the ECOMOG Peacekeeping Force in Liberia in September 1993, relieving Major General Tunji Olurin. Shagaya, as a Corporal with the 2nd Reconnaissance Squadron in Abeokuta, was one of the many soldiers of Northern Nigerian origin who staged what became known as the Nigerian counter-coup of 1966.
The late Shagaya was also Director of Lion Bank (Nigeria) between 1998 and 2003 and a foundation member of the United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP), running unsuccessfully for the Senatorial seat of Plateau South in 1999 elections. Before the 2003 elections, he joined the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), but was defeated again.
He was elected as Senator for Plateau South in April 2007 under the PDP platform. His election was challenged and nullified by the elections petition tribunal, but in December 2008 a court of appeal in Jos upturned the decision and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately issue a Certificate of Return to Shagaya.
In June 2009, Shagaya warned that offering amnesty to the Niger Delta militants might not end the violence, as the militants might hide their best weapons and return only disused and damaged ones.
As the nation mourns the passing away of this remarkable soldier and gentleman, we are consoled that his legacy of uncommon commitment to the ideals of nationhood will endure and well be a reference point for many years to come.
It is our view however, that the late Shagaya should be immortalised, while the federal government commences plans for a posthumous award for the soldier hero who contributed immensely to the development of Nigeria’s Armed Forces.