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Shehu Shagari


6th President of Nigeria In office

October 1, 1979 – December 31, 1983

Preceded by Olusegun Obasanjo Succeeded by Muhammadu Buhari

Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, Turakin Sakkwato (born May 25, 1925) was the President of Nigeria's ill-fated Second Republic (1979 - 1983), after the handover of power by General Olusegun Obasanjo's caretaker government. Shagari is a northerner of Fulani extraction and holds the title of Turakin Sakkwato in the Sokoto Caliphate. He was a schoolteacher for a brief period before entering politics in 1954, when he was elected into the federal House of Representatives.

Shehu Usman Shagari was born in Shagari village to the family of Magaji Aliyu and Mariamu.[1] He was raised in a polygamous family, and was the sixth child born into the family. Prior to becoming the Magajin of 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 Magajin or village head.[1] Aliyu later died, five years after Shehu was born. Shehu's elder brother, Bello briefly took on his father's mantle as the Magajin of Shagari village.

The village of Shagari is noted for its serene atmosphere, founded by Fulani Jihadist and cattlemen and later dominated by Hausa traders, the influence on Shehu was more religious and social. Like many Jihadist founded towns, religious recitals was important for children growing up, Shehu was taught recitals at home and later went to a Qua'ranic school at the age of four. However, Shehu was obliged to go to elementary school at Yabo, a town close by. After, he went to the Sokoto Middle school and later to Kaduna college. Also, coming from a village which had some health scares, the problems of his early abode influenced his early thinking on social issues.

Kaduna College originally was created to be a teachers training school. There were few high level civil service professions open to indigenes 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 Shehu Shagari was no exception. After finishing secondary school, he was called on to become the new pupil-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 2, 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.

Starting from the late 1930's, 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.

Shagari won the 1979 election with the help of his campaign manager, Umaru Dikko, political men of prominence in the North and among Southern Minorities, and some money bags interested in protecting their interest. Nevertheless, the party captured the ethnic and social demographics as good or even better than his adversaries. The party's motto was "One Nation, One Destiny" and it tried to promote this motto even to its detriment. Shagari, made Housing, Industries, Transportation and Agriculture as the major goals of his administration, particularly in his early stages of governance during the oil boom. However, most of his programs had incongruous outcomes. In Housing, he launched a large scale housing program that built estates such as "Shagari Estate" but also launched the careers of Nigeria's legendary money bags who swamped the Nigerian ports with imported cement to complete the housing projects. In Industries, 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, the ministry headed by Umaru Dikko, was vital in the programs of the NPN led government. In terms of agriculture, a Green Revolution program was initiated 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 and had the necessary hectares to influence large favors under the program.

The fall in oil price that started since 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 steward the economy towards positive growth. Key objectives of the program was to limit import licences, already abused by money bags and officials, reduce government spending and raise custom duties. However, the results from the stabilization program was minimal and the country fell into further economic quagmire.

The prominence of money bags who financed the elections of 1979 and lapse ethical judgement by ministers under Shagari heightened allegations of corruption. This included the Nigeria election of 1983 marked by accusations of electoral fraud, coupled with a decline in world oil prices, led to a marked deterioration in the national finances under Shagari's watch, while religious and political violence became so endemic that his overthrow by General Muhammadu Buhari on New Year's Eve in 1983 was actually looked upon with relief by most of the Nigerian public at the time.


   * Shehu Othman: Classes, Crises and Coup: The Demise of Shagari's Regime. African Affairs > Vol. 83, No. 333
   * "Special advisers to the Nigerian President", 1979. The British Broadcasting Corporation.
   * "Nigerian Cabinet Changes", the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, February 17, 1982.