President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed sadness over the demise of a former President of Nigeria, Shehu Shagari.
Mr Shagari, 93, died Friday evening at the National Hospital Abuja after a brief illness.
The death of the elder statesman was announced by his grandson, Bello Shagari, via his Twitter handle.
In a statement signed by the president’s special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, Mr Shagari described the death as the departure of a patriot whose life of service and humility was widely acknowledged.
“On behalf of my family, the government and the people of Nigeria, it is with immense sadness that I received the news of the passing away of the First Executive President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari which event happened Friday in Abuja,” he said.
President Buhari restated part of the birthday message he sent to the late ex-president last February when he said, “we are enthralled and regaled with the many years of unequalled patriotism, sacrifices and contributions to national development. More specifically, we celebrate the role modelling qualities of integrity, diligence and humility that have been the hallmark of your visionary leadership.”
“Nigerians held him in the highest esteem even when he was out of office until his demise and will forever miss his wise counsels,” he said.
In his reaction to Mr Shagari’s death, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan described him as a “nation builder who cemented a good relationship between the North and South.”
In a statement by Ikechukwu Eze, the former president’s spokesman, Mr Jonathan described Mr Shagari as a nice man with a clean heart who was sincere and selfless in service.
“Late President Shagari was a very nice man with a clean heart. As a President, he was humble, sincere and selfless in service. He was indeed a true democrat who left no one in doubt about his loyalty to his country, love for peace, desire for unity and vision for a greater Nigeria.
“Shagari was an exceptional leader and exemplary statesman whose modesty, commitment to common good and deep sense of patriotism will continue to inspire many generations of Nigerians. He will be remembered as a teacher, parliamentarian and President whose model of service was anchored on diligence, broad-mindedness and humility,” Mr Jonathan said.
Similarly, Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki, described Mr Shagari as the “Last of the First and Second Republic Titans.”
Mr Saraki disclosed this in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, on Friday.
In the statement, Mr Saraki described Mr Shagari as a man of peace who dedicated the greater part of his life to the service of the fatherland.
He noted that Mr Shagari would be remembered for his contributions to the political and socio-economic development of the country as well as his peaceful disposition.
“Let’s be consoled by the fact that Alhaji Shagari lived his life in the service of God and country,” he said.
In his reaction, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, in a condolence message by his spokesperson, Turaki Hassan, stated that the former president was a true democrat and an icon of transparency.
“We have lost a father, man of peace, true democrat, patriot and a nationalist.
“He led an exemplary life of service to God and country worthy of emulation, he was a president for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion or region.
“President Shagari led Nigeria with dignity and honour and respected the independence of the legislature and judiciary in the second republic under the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN),” he said.
“When anti-democratic forces truncated his government, President Shagari took it in good faith and continued to play the role of an elder statesman and father without grudge or bitterness.
“His death came at a time we are in dire need of his elderly wisdom and counsel as we navigate the most challenging pace as a nation,” the speaker said.
In a similar statement, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, expressed deep grief over the passing of the Second Republic President.
He described the death as “a heavy loss to the nation”, noting that the late politician was a “sage, democrat, and statesman.”
“I received with a heavy heart the news of the passing on the Second Republic President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari,” the lawmaker wrote on his social media handle @iamekweremadu,
“He was a democrat by nature, orientation, and conviction. He was a patriot par excellence, a detribalised elder statesman, bridge-builder, servant-leader, and an epitome of humility, who served the nation and humanity most creditably. In and out of office, Alhaji Shagari clothed the Office of the President with decorum and social grace.”
Mr Ekweremadu said although the late elder statesman lived to a 93, “his wealth of experience and treasury of wisdom would still have been most invaluable in our quest to build the Nigeria of our dreams.”
The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, also described Mr Shagari’s death as a sad loss to the entire country.
Mr. Wike stated this in a condolence message signed by Simon Nwakaudu, his special assistant on electronic media.
He said the late president would be remembered for his patriotic contributions to the development of the country.
The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES, also mourned the passing of the former president.
The governor said Mr Shagari played an active role in the growth and development of Nigeria, and until his death, rendered invaluable support to successive administrations for the uplift of the country.
“As an elder statesman, Shagari maintained a rather quiet and simple lifestyle and was always available to advise the nation’s leaders. I commiserate with his family, the government and people of Sokoto State on his passing and pray that God grants them the fortitude to bear the loss,” he said.
“The former President remains a major shaper of what Nigeria has become today.”
In his own tribute, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State described the death of Mr Shagari as a major loss to the country.
The governor, who expressed shock, and his heartfelt condolences over the passage, described the late president as a compassionate leader and decent politician who was considerate of the peculiar challenges of the Niger Delta and the Ijaw Nation in particular.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media Relations, Fidelis Soriwei, the governor said Mr Shagari passed on at a critical time his vast experience and wise counsel was needed in the country.
Governor Dickson urged Nigerians to learn from and emulate the simple, decent and peaceful lifestyle the former President lived.
He condoled with the Shagari family; Muktar Shagari, former Deputy Governor of Sokoto State; Aminu Shagari, a former member of the Federal House of Representatives the Governor òf Sokoto State and others on the sad occurrence.
“Our country will miss Alhaji Shehu Shagari dearly as his passing came at such a critical time when his wise counsel, extensive historical knowledge and vast experience of the Nigerian polity would have served all of us, ” Mr Dickson said.
“On behalf of my family, the good people of Bayelsa State and the Ijaw nation, I express my sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family, community, Sokoto State and indeed all of Nigeria on this irreparable loss.
The governor prayed God to grant the departed president eternal repose and the family, community and entire nation the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
Mr Shagari was born in Shagari village in Sokoto State in 1925 and served the country in various capacities as a minister, with his political career culminating in his election as Nigeria’s first elected executive president in the Second Republic in 1979.
He led Nigeria between 1979 and 1983 on the platform of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
He was removed from office via a military coup in December 1983.
The coup plotters eventually named then Major General Muhammadu Buhari as the Head of State.