Shettima Ali Monguno [1926-2016]
The death in Maiduguri on Friday, July 8 2016 of Shettima Ali Monguno marked the passing of one of Nigeria’s most eminent statesmen. He died at the age of 90 after a life of devoted public service, community leadership, deep religious devotion and philanthropy. Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State said with Shettima Ali’s death, Borno State had lost “a father and a distinguished statesman.”
He was being modest because Nigeria as a whole has produced few statesmen of Monguno’s calibre. Shettima Ali Monguno was born in Monguno town, northern Borno State in 1926 and he was among the first generation of children to go to Western schools. He attended Monguno Primary School, Teacher’s Colleges in Bauchi and Katsina; College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria; Moray House College of Education and the University of Edinburgh. He was a member of the Nigeria Parliament in 1959 as well as education secretary and councillor for education, works and social welfare for Borno Native Authority between 1959 and 1965. Shettima Ali was also Federal Minister for Air Force and Internal Affairs in 1965-66; Federal Commissioner for Trade and Industries in 1967-71 as well as Federal Commissioner for Mines and Power, Petroleum and Energy in 1972-75. He was President of OPEC in 1972-73 and was a presidential candidate during the Option A4 elections in 1993.
Monguno was a member of Nigeria’s delegation to the United Nations for over 10 years. He received the keys to the cities of New York, Louisville, Kentucky; Quito, Ecuador and Lima, Peru and was an Honorary Citizen of Oklahoma State, USA. He was also Pro-chancellor, University of Calabar in 1978-80; Pro-Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1980-84 and a recipient of the National Honours of Ethiopian Empire, Republic of Egypt, Sudan and Cameroon. He was also conferred with the Nigerian National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR) in 1982.
In his tribute, President Muhammadu Buhari said Monguno “left behind an untainted and unblemished career which should be emulated by Nigerian leaders at all levels.” Senate President Bukola Saraki said “Monguno’s steadfastness, commitment to the cause of one Nigeria and optimistic spirit towards national development will continue to inspire us now and in the future” while former President Olusegun Obasanjo said, “There are those we call founding fathers of Nigeria at independence and Shettima Ali Monguno is one of them. So, from the truthful point of view, we have lost one of the architects of Nigeria at independence; we lost a great citizen.”
Since he retired back home to Borno after six decades in public life, Shettima Ali engaged in continuous community service and philanthropy. He enrolled hundreds of children in schools and at one time, he sold his only house in Abuja and built a female hostel at the University of Maiduguri. He donated his rich private library including books, autobiographies, cartridges and collections of proceedings from the First Republic parliament to the Borno State Library Board. Over 400 children have been named after Shettima Ali Monguno in the last five decades and over the years, he organized yearly meetings with all of them.
When the Boko Haram crisis enveloped Borno State and the North East, Shettima Ali Monguno quickly emerged as chairman of Borno Elders Forum and the voice of conscience and reason. At the height of the insurgency, he condemned the insurgents’ atrocities as well as the Jonathan regime’s poor handling of the situation. He was among the few prominent people of Borno that refused to leave Maiduguri through all the crises. He paid a heavy price when the insurgents abducted him at a Friday mosque in Mafoni on May 3, 2013. He was released him after some days. His death has left a leadership and morality vacuum too big to be filled. May Allah reward Shettima Ali Monguno with Jannatil Firdaus.