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I didn’t want to be president

I didn’t want to be president

First civilian president, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari, who died on Friday December 28, granted few interviews in his life time.

Your favorite newspaper, The Solar, was the primary newspaper he granted an unique interview when he determined to open up on his administration, the important thing points and actors that outlined that period.

For over one hour in his Shagari village, Sokoto State, Shagari spoke on the coup that toppled him, his relationship with Buhari, Obasanjo, Ekwueme, Awolowo, Azikiwe, amongst different points on this partaking chat.

Shehu Shagari was a person of honour, an achiever – Obasanjo

Once we cornered President Shagari for an interview, he was 78 years previous, and hadn’t as at then, spoken to any information medium for 20 years on the coup that sacked him and his colleagues from workplace.

The interview was carried out in 2003, 15 years in the past, however his views are as refreshing as if it was achieved solely lately.

He had earlier vowed not to converse to the press or learn Nigerian newspapers and magazines due to, what he described as their “inaccurate reports” about him and his authorities throughout his years of incarceration.

However Shagari opened up in a uncommon method to The Solar, and within the course of, threw mild on points Nigerians have all the time needed to find out about his administration.

For instance, was it true they have been “stinkingly corrupt,” the rationale given by the army for sacking them? Did Umaru Dikko amass  stupendous wealth for which he was virtually crated to Nigeria? why did he embark on a lot globe-trotting throughout his time? And on a lighter notice, the place are his well-known Shagari caps which almost kissed the sky?

Shagari spoke on all these and much more. His relationship with Awo and Zik, two of his opponents through the Second Republic, how he acquired information of his overthrow, his views on the Obasanjo authorities, Ekwueme’s failed presidential bid, amongst different points.

At 78, Shagari is certainly an previous man and he’s additionally getting older quick. Gone is the lustre and agility of youth. Nowadays, he sits quietly in his modest sitting room, devoid of any ostentation, at his Shagari Village, studying his Quran and different literary books and political literature, sometimes touring out to Sokoto and Abuja when invited for conferences. Shagari additionally now has some strands of gray hair on his chin, which was clean-shaven whereas he held sway.

His sitting room paints the image of a person dwelling on a shoe-string . For this reporter, it’s troublesome to consider that that is the house of an ex-president, a person who as soon as dominated Africa’s most populous nation for 4 years and three months.

The previous Sony gramophone perched at a nook of the lounge shouldn’t be functioning. It’s straightforward to guess that it hasn’t labored for a very long time, so additionally is likely one of the air-conditioners.

The sitting room itself is sparsely furnished with worn-out blinds. Requested how wealthy he’s, Shagari admits: “I am slightly better than a church mouse,” including: “In our time, we believed more in service. We didn’t steal. We were not interested in amassing wealth. We were more interested in service.”

Naturally, we kicked off the interview with how he was spending his retirement and the way previous age is treating him.

Shagari: “I am enjoying my retirement. The detention in which I spent 30 months gave me a very good opportunity to reflect and it was the only time that I had to reflect on what really was the purpose of my life.”

Previous age

Sure, I am ageing. I am 78 now and naturally, I am retired however not drained. At my age, you possibly can’t do what you used to do as a teenager, even when you’ll like to do them. However proper now, I am extra all in favour of mental work. I haven’t all the time been a tutorial. However I like to learn and write and in addition talk about points with people who find themselves all for listening to me. That I will proceed to do with out relaxation.However there are a whole lot of bodily issues which, due to my age, I can’t do. However I nonetheless go to my farm. You possibly can’t for instance eat all of the belongings you would want to eat or drink what you want.”


My greatest meals is tuwo with miakuka. In fact, due to my age and my sickness, I have been restricted by docs as to what I can eat. However I assume there are issues that I like very a lot which the docs don’t permit me to eat.

As a rising man, I all the time needed to have milk, ‘meshanu’. However now, I am not allowed to do this and I am not allowed to eat meat. I solely eat hen and fish. However this isn’t due to my age, however due to my sickness. So these are a few of the issues I loved earlier than which I can’t take pleasure in now, together with in fact, train.

Do you watch soccer since, as president, you gave the then Inexperienced Eagles nationwide honors and homes?

I watch soccer on tv. I don’t go to the stadium to watch.

Which participant excites you most?

I like Maradona.

He makes you cheerful when he’s enjoying?

Sure, sure, he’s my greatest.

What of the native scene, native footballer?

Kanu Nwankwo, I like his type a lot.

Do you’re taking gentle drinks?

I don’t take something with sugar.

Do you’re keen on automobiles?

Not very a lot. Now that I am getting older, I don’t like touring by automotive as a result of it makes me really feel very drained. So I attempt to scale back my touring by street.

Everytime you want to be pushed round, which automotive do you want most?


Why sir?

As a result of it’s heavy, it doesn’t shake a lot and it’s quick.

Throughout your tenure, individuals stated you travelled an excessive amount of. Now, we’ve got a president (Obasanjo was in workplace when the interview befell) and he’s additionally accused of touring an excessive amount of. Did you hear such criticism of you then?

Sure. These days, individuals in positions of management, particularly of a rustic like Nigeria, have to journey. However in fact, there’s a restrict to what touring one can do. One can’t journey on the expense of his personal duties at house. Like a few of these travels are actually needed for the great picture of our nation and the president of Nigeria doesn’t go outdoors simply to take pleasure in himself. He goes there to work for the curiosity of his nation.

You have been famous for lengthy Shagari caps and as a power-dresser in your time. What’s your concept of trend?

That’s my nature since I was younger. I like to gown correctly and I don’t like sporting overseas clothes. I want to look Nigerian each time and that’s the reason I wore what I was sporting. However even the Shagari cap is now getting shorter, maybe with age.


From the sunshine points, interview quickly moved to the intense. The ex-president was requested to describe his detention expertise shortly after his overthrow, and he replied: “Painful.”

“Yes, it was a painful experience,” he admits. “Very painful. But as I said, I learnt a lot of lessons from that experience. I had time to really think and concentrate on my religion, go in-depth into religion and the purpose of my own life. So that by the time I came out, I was a different man altogether.”



Regardless that he harbours no bitterness in his coronary heart towards the person that confirmed his administration the exit door, Shagari nonetheless believes that they have been mistaken to have terminated his authorities.

“They said we were corrupt. But what happened in the other regimes that came after ours? The truth is that they had no good reason for our overthrow. That’s why I said Buhari should apologize to us. Not just to Shehu Shagari, but to all the people who were in government at the time.”

Though the 2 males had met a number of occasions after his overthrow, the previous president says the difficulty of 1983 coup plot has by no means cropped up of their dialogue.

“During his campaign for presidency (2003), he came twice to Sokoto to see me. He wanted me to give him my blessing. But I didn’t do that, because I didn’t want to be partisan.”

Umaru Dikko

Umaru Dikko

Shagari’s transport minister, Alhaji Umaru Dikko was accused of stealing billions of naira by the Buhari  regime, shortly after the autumn of the civilian regime. Was Dikko actually answerable for the then authorities’s purse and simply how wealthy was the once- highly effective chairman of the defunct presidential process drive on rice?

The ex-president is amused on the description of Dikko as a wealthy man.

“Umaru is a pauper. He has nothing at all,” he says. “He is as poor as a church rat. He is the man who was most unfairly treated. I know him very well. I know very much about Umaru. Umaru has nothing, nothing at all. He never amassed wealth,and he was not interested in wealth. Umaru was only interested in power.”

Why did he give him a lot energy throughout his regime?

“I didn’t give him power. He just grabbed power. That is his own nature. But all those things about amassing wealth were just fabrications.”

Ekwueme’s mistake


Even when he had emerged flag bearer of the Peoples dEmocratic Get together within the April 10 polls, second republic vice president, Dr Alex Ekwueme, would nonetheless have been a hard-sell to the North, says ex-President Shehu Shagari. talking with the Solar in a serial which start yesterday.

Ekwueme, within the considering of his former boss, is believed to have injured the sensation of some ‘powerful elements’ within the North together with his views throughout Abacha’s Constitutional Convention of 1995.

Shagari recollects telling Ekweme: “Alex, if at anytime you are interested in contesting for the presidency, you will have a lot of work to do. You have to mend fences with the Northerners. Many of them either don’t understand you or you don’t understand them.” That was my frank view. That he had to work arduous. As a result of in the course of the Constitutional Convention, he did a number of issues which the Northern delegates didn’t like they usually have been saying it. It was not for me to right it, it was for him to mend fences with them and if he was in a position to achieve this, my very own is to say go forward.”

Nevertheless, when Ekwueme lastly determined to run for the presidency, he didn’t precisely seek the advice of together with his former boss, although he visited him in his Shagari village.

“I would say, yes and no,” the previous President replies, when requested if his former deputy intimated him of his plans to contest the presidential polls.

“He came here to see me. He used to come on friendly visits. And after a long discussion like I have had today with you (The Sun), he said he must go back to Sokoto because he was flying back the next day. So, as he stood up to leave, I said to him,”you haven’t stated something about your candidature or no candidature for the presidency. He stated sure, he intentionally prevented that dialogue as a result of he had not made up his thoughts but. I left it like that.”

The ex-president stated he was later shocked to hear on the radio that his former No.2 had not solely declared his curiosity, however did so in distant Minna. “I said what! What took Alex to Minna to make this kind of declaration when he had told me that he would consult me when he makes up his mind. So, why should I hear from the radio and from MInna? Even if he decided to make his announcement in Enugu or Abia, I won’t bother, but I didn’t know why he should do it in Minna. so, I was really worried. Later on, we met in Kaduna when Babangida was launching his book, so I raised it with him. I said, “Alex, what happened? I heard that you are interested in the presidency? He said “no, I am not going to say anything to you here. I will come and explain, just as I came last time to you. I will not say anything until I come to you.”

Two days later, Ekwueme boarded a constitution flight with two of his pals en route Sokoto. It was then he broke the information of his intent to run towards Obasanjo within the 2003 polls. He additionally defined to the ex-President how he had visited Minna on a unique mission and the press had “ambushed” him when he was leaving the Authorities Home (Minna) and requested if he had withdrawn from the race and he replied “who told you?” Having denied his ambition earlier in Enugu, he couldn’t maintain doing so, since he was really eager in operating. He solicited the ex-President’s help.

Shagari stated he would have supported Ekwueme if he had emerged his social gathering’s flag bearer, despite the fact that he initially didn’t seek the advice of him. He maintained nevertheless, that it might have been extraordinarily robust for the ex-vice president to make an in-road into the north or win election in that a part of the nation.

“He would have had a lot of work to do in the North,” Shagari insists. “The Northerners don’t seem to understand him, especially his views during the Constitutional Conference (of Abacha).”

After the failure of Ekwueme within the presidential primaries, does the ex-president consider an Igbo man can be president of Nigeria some day? “Sure, I do.



In lots of quarters, Shagari is seen as a supporter of President Olusgun Obasanjo. Is it as a result of he was the one who handed over energy to him in 1979, the ex-President was requested? Shagari: “No, no, I am not supporting him as the president. I am supporting the truth. People think I am supporting President Obasanjo because I intervened in the fight between him and the National Assembly when they threatened to impeach him. But I was not doing it for Obasanjo’s sake. I was doing it for the sake of Nigeria. And I knew that the way things were going then, if something was not done and quickly too, we would be back to square one. We will be inviting military to come back. so, it was for the sake of Nigeria that I did it, not for the sake of Obasanjo.”


Regardless of ruling the nation as first government president for 4 years and three months, Shagari says he by no means had the intention of being president.

All he needed to be was senator. However he was actually “ambushed” by the north to run for the very best workplace. He regards that interval of drafting him for the presidency as one of many hardest second of his life. “It was a tug of war before I eventually agreed” Shagari says. “I made it public, very early, even earlier than the Constituent Meeting in 1978 that if politics returned, I want to be a senator. Individuals requested me you don’t want to be president? I stated no. I want to be a senator, and I meant it! Many individuals didn’t consider me however individuals stored saying to me that I had the great probability of turning into president and they’ll again me and so forth and so forth.

“I said sorry, but I don’t want to be president. So one day, while at the Constituent Assembly, a man came straight from Sokoto, from the Sultan, not the present Sultan, his father, and told me that the Sultan wanted to see me. I didn’t know why he wanted to see me. And of course his word is an order to me, so I had to leave the Constituent Assembly, went to the airport, picked a plane and went to Sokoto, but I still don’t know why he wanted to see me.”

On the airport, Shagari met Sultan Maccido and a mutual good friend, the late Alhaji Aminu Tafida who intimated him of the rationale of his summon. “They said before we take you to the Sultan, let’s go and have a private discussion at Aminu Tafida’s house. We are going straight to that place, not your house, note to the Sultan’s palace. So we went there and they told me that there has been a lot f pressure on the Sultan to persuade me to be a presidential candidate and these pressures were not coming just from Sokoto but from many parts of Nigeria and that he felt that since they had been sent to meet me, they wanted me to please re-consider my position. I said well, thank you very much, but I will tell you why I am not accepting, even before seeing the Sultan. So I told them that I had seen what happened to our past leaders. I have seen how hard they worked, and how genuine they were. BUt that I had also seen how their own people misled them, people nearest to them misled them, and I know that I am not as strong as anyone of them; people like Sarduana or Tafawa Balewa, and if they can be misled, there is no reason why I cannot be misled. And I didn’t want a repeat performance, I wanted to remain in the background. We spent about three hours discussing this issue but they were not able to convince me. One of them said “look, what the Sultan asked us to do is to discuss with you and if you are still adamant, he will not force you, you can go back, he doesn’t need to see you.”

However all the identical, the ex-president nonetheless insisted on seeing the Sultan who had despatched for him within the first place. “I said well, I am sorry, but I have to see the Sultan, since he sent for me and when I see hi I will tell him that I don’t want to do it.”

In fact, earlier than we went to see the Sultan, Maccido who introduced us to the place advised the Sultan that we had mentioned and I was not yielding.So once we got here, the Sultan didn’t even increase the matter as a result of he already knew I will say no and he wouldn’t want me to say no and he additionally feared that I would say sure sir, due to my respect for him, not as a result of I needed to do it. So, the perfect factor was not to discuss it in any respect. So when I went there, we simply mentioned usually. He stated “how is Lagos and so forth? I despatched for you, I needed to see you and I have seen you however you possibly can go, thanks.

And Shagari left, considering he had gained and that no one else will be in a position to persuade him if the Sultan was not in a position to achieve this. He was flawed.

“One thing occurred after that. Aliyu Makama Bida who was quantity 2 to the premier who was then the Interim Chairman of the NPN despatched for me at some point in Lagos. He stated he needed to talk about a matter with me. He stated that they had a gathering of the Government Council of the get together they usually gave him an task, they stated he ought to go spherical, as a result of the north was requested to produce a candidate, however we’re going to produce three candidates to the conference after which the conference will vote and the person who will get the very best votes will be the events presidential candidate. So the Executives despatched Makama to go around the north, all of the states of the north to seek the advice of NPN leaders there to inform him privately who was their selection. He stated I have gone spherical, and I can inform you now, earlier than I have consulted and I have been to all of the northern states. I stated I am sorry sir, I am afraid I can’t settle for it. He insisted that I am the selection and the north has been requested to produce me, that I haven’t any various than to settle for. I stated nicely, I am sorry sir. He stated let me inform you, we’re going to have a gathering in Kaduna and all of the states have been requested to ship their delegates to produce three names, and your identify is one in every of them. I stated no sir, I don’t settle for. I am not going to be a candidate, he stated okay. After I left him, we have been invited to this Kaduna assembly and the day earlier than the assembly, Umaru Dikko met me on the Kaduna airport and requested me to go and see Makama. That Makama needed to know my place. I stated my place stays the identical. I noticed Makama who requested if I had seen the delegates from Sokoto, as a result of I was coming from Lagos, I stated no. He stated properly, they got here to inform me that I am their candidate, whether or not I prefer it or not and the Sokoto delegation stated if I don’t agree I would be denying them their selection of presenting their presidential candidate.

“I said kai, this is another challenge. So I said ‘sir, I would ask you to please give me until tomorrow to think about it’ but he said tomorrow will be the primary election, that he will come to my house before early morning.”

That night time Shagari couldn’t sleep, “I was thinking of what to do,” he recollects. “When I came in the morning I said to Makama ‘because of your pressure I accept, but on condition that if we go to the primary, if there is anybody that wins, then I will concede to him and then I am out.”

He didn’t know that Makama had already lobbied the opposite delegates on his behalf.

“When we came, every states was asked to bring the name of their candidate and they did. When Sokoto was asked they wrote my name, Shehu Shagari. But to my surprise when Niger, where Makama comes from was asked they said their candidate was Shehu Shagari, Kaduna State said their candidate was Shehu Shagari. so I was the only candidate who was nominated by states other than my own. The thing came to me as a big surprise, but I didn’t know that Makama had already organized it. He called people from all these states talked to them and said they should not bring any candidate other than Shagari. Of course, Umaru Dikko who is very close to me is from Kaduna, Abubakar from Niger and Ishaku Ibrahim, those were the people who were the agents of Makama Bida. So in short, I was just trying to tell you that this was the most trying time of my life because everybody was on one side and I was on the other side. Nobody was on my side.”

And thus started for him his sojourn as Nigeria’s first government president!

Awo was a troublesome opponent


In his 4 years as president of the nation, Alhaji Shehu Shagari had many testy moments, in addition to vocal opponents of his fashion of administration.

However the man he would always remember is the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, chief of the defunct Unity Celebration of Nigeria, UPN.

The ex-president describes Awo as an implacable foe who noticed nothing to commend within the programmes of his authorities. “I respected him as a leader. But Awo was a very stubborn opponent,” Shagari says. Shagari additionally recalled how Awo and Zik broke the peace pact leaders of the three political events then had, shortly earlier than the 1983 presidential polls, which ultimately led to the sack of the civilian authorities, three months into a brand new tenure.

“I keep in mind earlier than the top of my first time period, I invited Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe who have been our topmost leaders at the moment to a personal lunch on the State Home, Marina. Solely three of us, with none aides. I requested them not to include their aides as a result of I was not coming with mine. So, we sat down. I advised them that it’ll quickly be election time very quickly we’ll begin attacking each other and by the point we all know the place we’re, our followers will come out in battle gears dying to end each other. They won’t keep in mind that no matter we do, individuals are watching and the army is there wanting to see if one thing will occur to allow them to are available.

“So, I stated we have now to sit down to assume how greatest to forestall the army from coming again. I informed them I wanted their real recommendation on how to maintain away the army. How can we keep peace through the subsequent election? How can we cause? How can we forestall the army from coming again? And we had an extended dialogue. It was very intimate and since there have been no individuals watching us, we talked freely. Then, they agreed that we should always all converse with our followers, to inform them to take issues straightforward, not to come down harshly on each other. That in no matter we do, we should keep in mind the way forward for our nation, that we should stay in peace and should present good instance of management, in any other case the army will discover excuse to are available, drive away all of us.

“I advised them that I solely considered bringing the 2 of you since you are our elder statesmen. However you recognize there are different events, I want your recommendation. Can we deliver them in or we simply depart them out? Zik stated he thought we should always convey the others in. However Chief Awolowo disagreed. He stated if we convey individuals like Waziri Ibrahim in, he’ll speak an excessive amount of and can go and convey the army boys. So, we now agreed to maintain it to ourselves. That even when we’re going to inform others, we should always not inform them as if we had mentioned beforehand.

Then Zik stated we should always seek the advice of the chiefs, Emirs and others, however Chief Awolowo was towards it. He insisted that we should always simply depart it amongst ourselves. The rationale why I am relating this dialogue is that this was a really critical dialogue. We have been very frank with ourselves and we outlined methods on how to save Nigeria from one other hassle.”

The essential dialogue and pact turned out to be a fluke. It was damaged by the leaders who had sworn to abide by it. Shagari says: “In the heat of the elections (1983), these leaders seemed to have forgotten the agreement or pact that we had. We started quarreling and castigating one another in the public, on the soap box. And before you knew it, we were back to square one.”

The previous president believes this acrimonious relationship amongst the get together leaders was partly answerable for the army coup of 1983.

“The break in the pact was painful to me,” he says. “They (Awo/Zik) violated the pact.”

One other testy second for the previous president was Nigeria’s feud with Cameroun, when Nigerian troopers have been allegedly killed by Camerounian gendarmes and the temper was for conflict within the nation.

“The defence council had met and all the ministers said we can’t take this. “We have to go and attack Cameroun.” They have been mad about it.

Everyone I consulted stated there isn’t a various, we’ve got to go and punish them. However I was very restrained.”

For his restraint, the ex-president says he was lampooned and referred to as names. However he didn’t want to be a struggle chief.

“Yes, they said I was weak. But I knew the consequences (of war). You can only know the beginning of a war, you can never know the end of it. And we had just come out of a civil war and for us to go into another war would not help matters. And I will be put on record as the leader who led Nigeria into war against her neighbours. I didn’t want to be that kind of vicious opponent at the time, and even though they supported the idea of war, at a point they would have turned round to say “look at where you have put us.” So, I was very cautious.”

Two different important occasions the ex-president wouldn’t overlook in his life embrace the deaths of his political chief and mentor, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the premier of the North and his spouse.

On Sarduana’s demise, he says: “I don’t want to keep in mind that incident. It was very painful. I was in Lagos as minister when I heard. I was shocked.

‘My wife’s demise was additionally painful. She died two years in the past.”

Did he love her greater than the opposite two wives? “It is not fair to say so,” Shagari says. “If you are a polygamist, everybody knows you must be fair to all your wives and even if you love one more than the others, you must not show it. You are not allowed to show it.”

Two different points: Why did he have a bloated cupboard: ‘ministers for and ministers of?” Shagari reveals that he couldn’t belief the civil servants to implement his insurance policies. “They could always sabotage you. I needed my own ministers to implement our programmes.”

Why did he refuse to amass wealth regardless of holding strategic positions within the Fist Republic and being president for 4 years and three months?

“That’s not my attitude (amassing wealth),” he says. “Otherwise, I would have grabbed as much as I wanted even before I became president. I am not a kid. I have had several experiences. I was Minister of Works in the First Republic. I was Minister of Internal Affairs. I was Minister of Finance under Gowon’s government. I was Commissioner of Education in Sokoto here, but throughout all these experiences, even before I became president, I never had any money at all. I don’t want to grab money.”

Shagari describes Paris as the town he loves most, whereas Lagos tops the listing of cities he doesn’t fairly fancy. His cause? “I don’t like Lagos,” he says. “Yes, I lived in Lagos as minister. I had no choice. But I don’t like it at all. Too fast and rowdy for me.”

He says of Paris: “It is a beautiful place, well planned, with history and very clean too.”

When the top comes what would he want written on his epitaph? “I want to be remembered as a teacher,” he says merely. A easy man certainly!

Shagari a instructor, nationalist, statesman – Tambuwal