Captain Muhammad Bala Shagari (Rtd), is the eldest son of the late Second Republic President, Alhaji Aliyu Shehu Shagari who handed on two weeks in the past. He’s additionally the District Head of Shagari, the hometown of his father and holds the normal title of Sarkin Mafaran Shagari. On this unique interview with Saturday Solar, the retired Military officer opens up on the late Turakin Sokoto’s way of life and his travails within the military which started quickly after his father was overthrown by the then Main Common Muhammadu Buhari. It was carried out by TUNDE OMOLEHIN, in Sokoto.
Shehu Aliyu Shagari (1925-2018)
What was rising up like as the primary son of former President Shehu Shagari?
I feel amongst my siblings, I’ve lived with my father longer than another individual. I’ve one older sister, of course, however she didn’t have the closeness I had with our father that would make her perceive him very nicely. I began my closeness with him since he was a instructor, although I used to be a really younger boy then.
What was your statement about his character then?
Nicely, he was all the time exhibiting himself as a typical educationalist. He introduced us up in a proper method. I noticed him at first as a instructor and later he turned an administrator. He was a classroom instructor and later turned Assistant Headmaster once I was but to enter main faculty. I went to main faculty way back to 1956. So, you possibly can see how lengthy the closeness began.
Was he smooth on you and different siblings in all approaches or in any other case?
I can say he was fairly tender on us. Not likely the tough sort. I can recall that since I used to be born, it was solely as soon as my father lifted his arms to beat me. And that was the time I did one thing he disliked. I used to be nonetheless very younger then, when anyone who was a recognized drunkard got here and took me from the home and I adopted him with out my father’s permission. The guy took me to a bar and ordered for a bottle of beer. He additionally ordered a mushy drink for me, which was Cola. In these days, the Cola is like Coca Cola of immediately. That outing and the beating that adopted was an evergreen lesson and a blessing in disguise. Out of curiosity, when the person excused himself to urinate, I used the bottle’s cap to style its liquid content material with my tongue, which tasted bitter to my dislike. And I hated something bitter. That was the start of my dislike with something alcohol. My father was not snug with that outing, believing if I proceed following the person I’ll find yourself like him. He gave me the beatings for that. That was the one time I can keep in mind he took a cane and adopted me spherical the home to beat me. Nevertheless, I all the time watched out and ensured that I comply with his instructions and deeds.
What do you actually cherish most about him?
Properly, what I actually cherish most about him is honesty and his true sense of function. You already know, lots of individuals have this false impression about him that ‘the man is weak’. However those that had labored intently with him will inform you the opposite. He was an individual with excessive sense of duty. If he believes in a course, he will certainly battle for it to the top. My father has additionally been a revolutionist from the start of time. In these days, he informed me a narrative about when he was within the center faculty after his main schooling. The center faculty was like junior secondary faculty and had expatriates as their academics. One of the academics gave his class a activity to put in writing an essay on any matter in English. Apparently, it occurred to be my father’s first ever essay. My father’s essay was on the necessity for colonial masters to return house. When the white man learn the essay, he couldn’t consider it as a result of so far as he was involved, my father got here from a distant village and couldn’t have learnt quick on the adverse impacts of colonialism on his fellow residents. He (White man) took the letter (essay) to the District Officer (D.O) and confirmed him what a mid-one scholar had written about them. The D.O. enquired about my father’s background and the instructor stated he got here from Yabo, a distant village then. He couldn’t consider that somebody from such a village might write such essay. The essay was later handed over to the Resident Officer of the province who was like a Governor of at present. The Resident Officer couldn’t consider it additionally, and determined to ask my father. He requested him the place he obtained the thought of his matter from. One factor I found from the story was that, my father began studying very early in his life. As a result of, that was solely the place he might have gotten the thought of his essay, that’s, if he had been studying newspapers or tales written on Nnamdi Azikiwe and different nationalists who have been preventing towards colonial rule. So, he had been a revolutionist from the start of his time. I also can keep in mind that when he was a instructor, there was a newly constructed library in Sokoto by colonial masters. It was an ordinary of its variety and the colonial masters have been very proud of it. My father used to go to the library for his studying. In the future, a white man got here to the library and was asking everybody their expertise concerning the ‘high class library’. When he acquired to my father’s flip to reply, he advised the white man that he had learn all of the books within the library. The white man was stunned and referred to as the librarian to verify what my father simply advised him. And the librarian stated he wouldn’t know whether or not my father had learn all of the books however he was positive that my father had borrowed each e-book within the library. The white man couldn’t consider, he determined to check my father by choosing the books randomly and requested him the content material or story inside such books, which my father responded to completely. The white man was impressed and invited my father to his home to verify at his private library for extra books. I actually cherish his studying tradition. Even, as a instructor, he was into journalism by writing articles for publication within the Citizen and its Hausa model newspapers specifically Gaskya Tafi kwabo, an Hausa model and Citizen newspaper, an English model. There was a time when a white man got here to Shagari city asking for him to provide him compliments as a result of he had been studying his articles within the newspapers and that obtained him .
Many know him as a politician moderately than an educationist you talked about. Are you able to recall how he ultimately joined politics?
Properly, earlier than coming to that. Let me begin this manner. When Zik and different nationalists have been going around the nation campaigning for revolution towards colonial rule and in search of independence, my father was the one civil servant then, as a instructor to attend Zik’s rally and listening to his messages. Everyone was afraid that the white males won’t be type to them if they’re caught attending such rally. As a instructor, he was so knowledgeable to the extent of difficult colonial masters on some points that affected his group. There was an incident when some individuals have been quarantined in Shagari as a result of of meningitis outbreak. And the outbreak had not affected Shagari city, however the white males determined to make use of its outskirt as quarantine camp. When a white man got here to sensitize the villagers over the epidemic, my father requested him if it was proper to camp individuals contaminated with meningitis in a city that the outbreak has not reached. The white man stated no, and requested about my father’s identify. He was popularly referred to as Malam Shehu. The white man then ran to the Resident Officer to report him. He knowledgeable him that one troublesome man had challenged the rationale behind tenting contaminated individuals close to his village. That was how they shortly moved the quarantined individuals out of Shagari city. He was later invited by the Resident Officer who begged him to not write any article on the difficulty. That was how he spent his youthful life. He was all the time on the defence of his individuals, as an informed fellow.
Then, coming to how he joined politics. I’ll say my father was a reluctant president. He had no ambition of turning into a president. He simply needed to be a Senator. And in the event you had seen his autobiography, the e-book he wrote, he titled it ‘Beckoned to Serve’. What meaning is that, he has by no means requested for a place earlier than he will get it. Any place he may need occupied, he wasn’t the one which lobbied for it. He was all the time referred to as to serve. He went to Home of Representatives, he turned a federal minister and lots of extra. He by no means requested for them. When the difficulty of presidency got here, he had no intention to run for the place. He made it clear within the media that he was solely excited about going to the Senate. When the NPN was shaped, they began it collectively together with his contemporaries and the get together zoned presidency to the north. At a zonal conference, the north was presupposed to deliver three aspirants to the Lagos Common Conference for the nationwide delegates to decide on a candidate. My father was in his lodge in Kaduna, the venue of the zonal conference resting when some delegates from Plateau State got here for him and declared their help for him. They requested him to hitch the presidential aspirants. The delegation was led by Alhaji Isyaka Ibrahim. He outrightly rejected their suggestion and pleas. They left after a lot persuasions with out success and mobilized for extra delegates from different states. I feel they succeeded in together with extra states like, Niger, Sokoto. I can’t keep in mind the opposite two states. They got here once more and pleaded for him to throw his hat into the race. He equally declined. They stated okay, ‘We will go and call Alhaji Makama (whom he respected most).’ They left once more. However earlier than they got here again, my father out of frustration determined to activate his radio. By the way, an Islamic preacher was preaching a sermon about management. And he stated ‘do not give leadership to anybody that asked to be given leadership because he may not be just. But on the other hand, Allah is angry with anybody that people come for to lead them but who decline.’ That sermon hit my father so onerous to the extent that his physique began shaking for some time. After typically, when he regained himself, the set of delegates got here again with Alhaji Makama. And the person (Makama) began speaking to him. All of them pleaded with him and that was the turning level of his presidential bid. After the conference, he secured the very best votes they usually picked six of them to Lagos for the ultimate conference and he nonetheless emerged the winner. He as soon as informed me when giving perception on his Kaduna conference’s expertise the place he recalled that a delegate borrowed his pen to tick one other candidate’s identify on his poll paper and returned again to him to point out him that he didn’t vote for him, simply to upset him within the course of. However later when my father gained the election and ultimately turned the president, he appointed the guy chairman of a federal parastatal.
On the time he turned president, the place have been you and the way did you are feeling as son of the President?
When he turned president, I used to be already within the Nigeria Military. I can recall that when he was President-elect, my promotion additionally got here as Lieutenant, and historically you can’t put on your new rank till you return to your unit. At the moment, I used to be in Lagos for official engagement as a result of I used to be additionally a sportsman within the Military. I used to be enjoying snooker recreation for my Division, 1 Division, Kaduna. So, I used to be in Lagos for the sport when the Supreme Courtroom determined the case between him and Chief Awolowo. It was about the identical time that my promotion got here as Lieutenant. I noticed it in newspapers, however I couldn’t put on it till I went again to my unit when my C.O. adorned me. Jokingly, the C.O stated my father was a President-elect and I used to be a Lieutenant-elect. All of us laughed. So, I used to be within the Nigeria Military when he turned the president. Throughout his tenure as president, none of his youngsters ever went out with bodyguard or fleet of automobiles. We moved round freely and combined with individuals freely with out worry or sense of insecurity to our lives. All of us feared our father for his principled way of life. We have been so acutely aware of what we do as his youngsters and what individuals might be saying about us. Once I noticed youngsters of president perhaps throughout Babangida regime and so forth going round in presidential jet, it made me keep in mind an incident. I got here to Lagos in the future as a result of I used to be serving in Zaria. So, I took a business flight from Kaduna airport to Lagos, and once I was going again to Zaria, my father’ Aide de camp (ADC) purchased me a flight ticket to return again to Kaduna, it was about N21 or so. However when my father noticed the ticket he was livid. He then queried the ADC on why he can buy me a ticket as a result of I wasn’t a employees of State Home. Why ought to he purchase a ticket for me? So, you’ll be able to see the distinction between then and now. He wouldn’t even permit State Home to purchase you a ticket speak much less of you taking a presidential aircraft round. I additionally keep in mind when his two wives needed to go for vacation. They needed to go to London for a couple of days and later transfer to Saudi Arabia for prayers. My father denied them to be flown within the presidential aircraft. He insisted that they need to fly in a business aircraft or they abort the journey. He stated the presidential aircraft can take them inside Nigeria and never outdoors the nation. So, once I see the youngsters of today doing issues the best way they like as a result of of their fathers’ affect or place, I snicker it off.
The place have been you when he was overthrown and the way did you are feeling?
I used to be nonetheless within the Nigeria Military when he was overthrown. Although, I used to be later retired compulsorily by the Buhari’s regime.
What was your sin(s)?
For being the son of President Shehu Shagari. That was all. That was my solely sin, I feel. I can recall that the retirement letter states that ‘by the power vested on me as Chief of Army Staff, you are hereby compulsorily retired and your service is no longer required.’
Who was the Chief of Military Employees?
The then military secretary signed the letter whereas Common Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida was the Chief of Military Employees. The letter was his directive. Instantly they served me the letter, that was the place additionally they picked me up and detained for six weeks. Although, it was a home arrest in Sokoto, not in a jail yard. They took me to Kaduna, I handed an evening in Kaduna they usually later introduced me again to Sokoto, to NSO workplace which we name SSS now. Once they introduced me, I slept an evening of their workplace. The subsequent day, they ready one of their visitor rooms and put me there for six weeks.
What have been you doing when the information was damaged to you that your father had been overthrown?
I keep in mind on the day of the coup d’état, I used to be in Jos enjoying polo. And I got here again within the morning making an attempt my horses as a result of I had one other recreation within the night. I used to be with two of my Lebanese buddies who performed polo too. They have been additionally from Zaria. They referred to as my identify repeatedly asking me if I’ve not heard the information that my father had been overthrown in a coup d’état. I merely responded to them and continued rolling my ball. They have been stunned the best way I responded to them. My mates have been additionally stunned to see me calm all through the interval.
Once you have been moved to Sokoto, did NSO officers later temporary you the offence you dedicated?
Under no circumstances. Nicely, perhaps the brand new authorities felt I used to be a menace to them as a result of I didn’t look fearful in any respect when my father was overthrown.
Earlier than you have been retired, what was your temper like, at the very least for taking orders from those that overthrew your father?
I didn’t have any combined emotions about the entire thing. I used to be a younger officer and nicely nurtured within the military. I all the time see myself as serving the nation. Actually, there was one other polo recreation I went for in Lagos, and I met with Babangida. I believed he should have been considering of me by saying ‘see this boy again, only God knows what he is planning against us.’ Once they found that my temper wasn’t modified, at one time, Colonel Aliyu Akilu, the then Head of Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) referred to as me to verify if I’ve any drawback. And I stated no sir. He then stated if I’m not snug once more within the military, I can put in my resignation letter. I stated no sir. I’m okay. He referred to as me once more to know if I’ve made up my thoughts to tender my resignation letter from the Military. I repeated the identical no sir, and guaranteed him that I’m alright. I stated ‘when I joined the Army, my father was not a president. Now because he is no more a president doesn’t imply I also needs to give up the Military. So, I can’t resign however should you individuals felt you can’t work with me, you possibly can ask me to go.’ That’s what I advised him. Later I used to be served with obligatory retirement letter. That was all.
After successive governments, did the military hierarchy attain out to you to compensate you?
Under no circumstances. Nothing was executed since I used to be retired as a captain, and I had not stayed lengthy to earn pension. In these days, it’s a must to be within the service for no less than fourteen years earlier than you may be on pension advantages. I used to be lower than ten years earlier than I used to be retired. Even my gratuity, I didn’t take it.
Did your father encourage you to hitch the Military?
No, I picked curiosity in it with none exterior motivation. Once I was in Barewa School, I used to be a member of cadet unit of the varsity. So, I joined the Military alone.
Did you or your late father have any dangerous emotions towards these actors you could have recognized within the course of your travails?
To be trustworthy and so far as I’m involved, my father by no means had any dangerous emotions towards them. In case you are speaking of Basic Babangida and President Buhari, my father by no means talked dangerous about them. We’re educated to consider in future. After the entire thing, individuals round me all the time questioned how I could possibly be so calm? However I simply need to be calm.
After the demise of your father, there are tons of tributes by eminent Nigerians that confirmed him as incorruptible chief. However, there’s this common perception that your father was surrounded by individuals with corruption tendency throughout his tenure as President. How do you react to this?
You see, you can’t rule out such misgivings. However to be trustworthy, there are different individuals which were misjudged by the general public. For instance, Umaru Dikko. The one factor about him was that Umaru Dikko is a workaholic fellow however individuals turned this towards him. He’s a really onerous working man. Umaru Dikko can attend to individuals till 2am mid-night and he’ll nonetheless get up by 7am to renew workplace. He was all the time working with my father in a single day. My father like him as a result of he was very hardworking. However as a result of he was so near my father, so much of individuals turned envious of him. And you already know so much of unfavourable tales have been stated of him. There was a time he made a press release and that assertion pitched him towards Chief MKO Abiola. The assertion was that ‘presidency is not for sale’, and since Abiola was very formidable at the moment, he thought Umaru Dikko was speaking to him. So, he determined to stage media struggle towards him as a result of it was Abiola’s newspaper, The Harmony that promoted the One billion pound he was accused of. When my father got here out of the detention and skim the story that Umaru Dikko had Oone billion kilos, he was so stunned about such narrative. He stated the entire lifetime of Rice Activity Pressure programme the place the individuals thought Umaru Dikko received the one billion kilos, he was solely given 4 hundred million Naira. So, how can 4 hundred million naira translate to at least one billion kilos. One other occasion that proved that the entire tales have been simply propaganda towards them was once I was in a automotive with one of the chief safety officers of this nation. The guy forgot that I used to be in his automotive and was speaking to his good friend that Senator Uba Ahmed wrote to them from exile asking them what he did improper as a result of he needed to return again to Nigeria however earlier than then he needed to know his offence. The person informed his pal that even Umaru Dikko that they’ve been shouting his identify, up until then, they didn’t have any proof towards him. So, it’s higher he stays there as a result of when he returns again to Nigeria, they are going to be ashamed of themselves as a result of they’ll don’t have anything to carry towards him and other people will know that they only lied towards them.