Shagari: From The Hindsight Of History Alpheaus Paul-Worika Ph.D
It is meet to refer to history with a halo on its crown, as the custodian and repository of knowledge.
Those who love to be treated with ardor as people of means and good mentality, pride themselves as rich in ideas generated from the pool of human experience over time. They stand out in every society for their capacity to power the various organs and functionalities of the system and enliven the human spirit.
Their repertoire of reflections on similar events, provide veritable foundation on which to erect strong and enduring structures and institutions; in a sustainable and progressive manner.
But history is its own enemy. For several reasons we are victims of the paradox. As a product of experience, history is susceptible to sentiments and emotions that determine and influence the chronicler. This could explain why many people do not learn from history or simply ignore its noble lessons. We repeat the mistakes that consume those who took the precipitous actions we seem set to plunge into. And often, we plunge willy-nilly into disaster.
Our failure to reckon with the subject of history gives us a farcical feeling of amnesia. We deliberately forget the ethereal summary of our actions and the possibility to be confronted with our record in our life time; sometimes as early as when we are still active in public service; enjoying the perks and pageantry that accrue therefrom.
Often it takes a sorry tale such as death to remember that we failed to do what we ought to do at some auspicious moment and simply pretend to carry on with our lives as we please. Obasanjo’s critical comments on ex-Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the volte-face evident in his support for Atiku’s presidential bid is a clear lesson. Men of history do not approbate and reprobate.
The death of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Nigeria’s first executive president, at the age of 93, also provoke several issues concerning our sense of personal history and the history of our service to our country.
Shagari, a simple school teacher, who became Chief executive of Nigeria for four years and three months, was toppled by a military regime headed by Muhammadu Buhari, a General, in December 1983.
The military clamped down on the principal leaders of the political class and sentenced them to various jail terms; over charges of corruption. That is the history. Shagari and other key actors of his second Republic were criminalized and many of them recoiled into their shells, creating a generational leadership lacuna that has proved difficult to adjust.
At some point, the second Republic was described as a disgrace to democracy. The immediate victims of the putsch remained silent and ate their shame. And for 35years, after he was shoved out of office, Shagari lived in his little town in Sokoto State with his rural folk. Then he died. And the eulogies and tributes streamed in.
President Muhammadu Buhari commiserated with the family and declared that flags fly at half mast for three days in honour of the late deposed president describing him in beautiful terms.
Did it count for nothing that President Buhari should eulogize the man who was removed forcefully from office for various infractions and treat him with reverence and platitudes at death?
The military junta set out to fix the country and introduced various policies and programmes to achieve their agenda.
To be sure, Nigerians appeared elated as they stood in queues to procure essential commodities or waited at the banks to get new monies for their survival.
Things were done differently it seemed and Nigerians saw the political class in the desired perspective as a class of thieves and crooks.
It served the justification for the new helmsmen to give commands as the politicians headed by Alhaji Shehu Shagari pined away in lamentation. They had fallen and like Lucifer, they were fit only for eternal furnace.
Many years later, it has become very clear, with the benefit of hindsight that Alhaji Shehu Shagari was a good man and that there were many good people under the classification of politician who were not well treated. Prof Ambrose Ali had one house which he could afford as a university teacher. We learnt many years later, that Dr Alex Ekwueme came out of office poorer than before he got into politics and eventually became Vice President.
Shagari as president refused to live in the official residence of the nation’s chief executive. When he left office, he returned to his modest home in Shagari village to continue from where he left for national service. These political leaders are no more, but they have left us with a moral burden which we must discharge with patriotic fervor rather than emotive outbursts.
Our attitude to our leaders is problematic. When we treat every politician as a crook, we invariably demonize everyone and give reason for patriotic and selfless leaders to be in the minority that cannot make the desired difference. This is an issue that should bother even the present leadership in Nigeria.