21 Interesting Facts About Shehu Shagari

President Shehu Shagari (1925-2018) was a phenomenon and there are many inherent qualities I admire about him. As Nigeria’s President, Head-of-State, he had his flaws which were some of the factors that torpedoed his presidency just three months into his second term in office via a military coup.

However, one of the most underrated leaders in African history, Shagari did etch his name in the annals of Nigerian history. Although he presided over one of the most corrupt administrations ever experienced by Nigerians, the man from Yabo amassed no personal wealth for himself nor stashed monies in foreign accounts.

In fact, corruption probes in 1975 and 1984 against Shagari were fruitless and unyielding as nothing implicating was traced to him.

Image of young Shehu Shagari
25-year-old Shehu Shagari as a young schoolteacher, 1950.

In no particular order, I bring to you 21 interesting facts you did not know about President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, the Turaki of the Sokoto Caliphate.

Shehu Shagari Interesting Facts

1. Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari started his education in a Quranic school and then went to live with relatives in a nearby town, where, from 1931 to 1935, he attended Yabo elementary school. From 1936 to 1940, he went to Sokoto for middle school, and then from 1941 to 1944, he attended Kaduna College.

2. Shagari was born on Wednesday, February 25, 1925. He was a teacher, farmer, and aristocrat who hailed from Shagari village in Sokoto State.

3. On December 28, 2018, at about 6:30 pm, Shagari died from a brief illness at the National hospital, Abuja. He was 93.

4. Shehu was the principal secretary to Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa during much of the First Republic until the military coup of January 15, 1966.

5. One of the most “rigged elections” in the history of Nigeria was conducted during his tenure in 1983.

Shehu Shagari was the only elected president in Nigeria’s history to attain the age of 90.

6. Shagari was targeted in Nigeria’s first military coup of January 15, 1966, but escaped death.

7. On February 2, 1983, President Shehu Shagari deported more than 2 million Ghanaians. Hence the phrase, ‘Ghana must go’.

Image of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria's Military Head-of-State
Major-General Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s Military Head-of-State, 1984.

8. Rain fell on the day of his inauguration in Lagos on October 1, 1979.

9. He married his first wife, Amina Shagari, twice.

10. On December 31, 1983, on New Year’s Eve, President Shagari was overthrown by then Major-General Muhammadu Buhari who became Nigeria’s military Head-of-State and later a civilian president on May 29, 2015.

11. Shehu Shagari was the 6th child of his father, the 6th Head-of-State of Nigeria, and also had 6 federal government appointments before he became President.

12. As of December 28, 2018, President Shehu Shagari of Nigeria was the 15th oldest former president in the world still living and the 37th former world leader still alive.

Image of President Shehu Shagari
President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, First Executive President of Nigeria, 1979-1983.

13. During Shagari’s term as President, thieves, and armed robbers would break into people’s houses not to steal money and other valuables, but food items like rice, beans, pepper, etc., especially in the capital city of Lagos. It was that bad.

14. As President, he was projected as weak, indecisive, and corrupt due to the billions of dollars spent on steel development. As the years progressed, Shagari lost control of the military.

15. Shagari held the chieftaincy titles of the Ochiebuzo of Ogbaland, the Ezediale of Aboucha, and the Baba Korede of Ado Ekiti.

16. After Shagari was booted out of office, he had no house anywhere in Nigeria not even in Sokoto, the capital of his state. He lived in his family house in Yabo.

Because of this, General Sani Abacha created the Department for Former Heads-of-State in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The department caters to the welfare of former Presidents and Heads-of-States of the country.

17. As president, Shehu Shagari was a chain smoker. However, he never smoked in public places and he so much respected the Office of the President that he stepped outside the office whenever he wanted to smoke.

18. In 1979, President Shehu Shagari established the Ministry of Science and Technology “which shall develop policies to be reflected throughout our educational system.”

19. Shagari served as the first and only President of Nigeria’s Second Republic (1979–1983), after the handover of power by General Olusegun Obasanjo’s military government.

20. Shagari was made the Turaki of the Fula Sokoto Caliphate in 1962 by the Sultan of Sokoto, Siddiq Abubakar III.

21. In 1986, President Shehu Shagari was banned from participation in politics for life. The ban has still not been lifted.

Are there any other facts about Shehu Shagari? Kindly share in the comments.

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Chemist. Novelist. Writer. Author, A Carnage Before Dawn, 2020.