‘The kind of grand­fa­ther Sha­gari was’

30-year-old Bello Sha­gari, Pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Youth Coun­cil of Nige­ria (NYCN), is the grand­son of the late for­mer Pres­i­dent Shehu Sha­gari who passed away last week. In this in­ter­view, he speaks about his grand­fa­ther, how he shaped his life and othe

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - Haf­sah Abubakar Matazu

My late grand­fa­ther also rel­ished his free­dom more than any­thing. Thus, when he re­tired from pol­i­tics, he stayed away from na­tional pol­i­tics. I re­mem­ber, dur­ing Abacha’s time, he wanted to make him the Chair­man of African Pe­tro­leum (AP), but he re­fused the of­fer

Daily Trust: How would you de­scribe your late grand­fa­ther?

Bello Sha­gari: He was very unas­sum­ing, prin­ci­pled, sim­ple and el­e­gant. It’s not al­ways com­mon to bring sim­plic­ity and el­e­gance to­gether, but he was able to do that. He also be­lieved in fate, and I’m do­ing my best to em­u­late him in that. He was my men­tor di­rectly and in­di­rectly, and I learnt so many things from him.

DT: What are the ear­li­est mem­o­ries of him which you can re­call?

Sha­gari: When I was young, he re­ferred to me as his “lit­tle sec­re­tary”, be­cause most of the time I typed his speeches when­ever he was go­ing to events. So those mo­ments al­ways come back to me. He never sent me to any­one for any­thing, but when­ever dig­ni­taries came to visit him, he would in­tro­duce me as his grand­son and his lit­tle sec­re­tary. In fact, that is why Gen. Yakubu Gowon also calls me his lit­tle friend.

The most mem­o­rable mo­ment for me is when I read out his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy to him and he ex­plained some things to me. Such ex­pe­ri­ences re­ally got me to bond with him dur­ing his later years. Those are the mo­ments that al­ways come back to me when­ever I re­mem­ber him.

DT: What qual­i­ties of his would you say you have im­bibed?

Sha­gari: Main­tain­ing the truth, even when it wouldn’t be favourable to me or any­one else. He was very great at do­ing that. Some peo­ple don’t even like him for that rea­son, be­cause he em­bar­rassed many of them on that ground. He didn’t com­pro­mise the truth.

I would also like to be as con­tented as he was. He didn’t ask for much, but he got more than he asked for. I won­der how he did that. He was never been am­bi­tious to oc­cupy higher po­si­tions, but yet oc­cu­pied the high­est of­fice in the land: Pres­i­dent of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria.

DT: What part of his per­son­al­ity would you say most peo­ple don’t know?

Sha­gari: His op­ti­mism about Nige­ria and love for Africa. You would never hear him say any­thing neg­a­tive about Nige­ria. Peo­ple have for­got­ten how much he fought for the black race. It is some­thing he was so pas­sion­ate about even be­fore he be­came pres­i­dent.

I saw in some of his files his cor­re­spon­dences with the Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter, Mar­garet Thatcher, how he put the Nige­ria/ Bri­tish re­la­tion­ship on the line be­cause of Zim­babwe. And when they got their in­de­pen­dence in 1980 when he was pres­i­dent, he pledged $15m at the cel­e­bra­tion to train Zim­bab­weans in Nige­ria. Mu­gabe’s gov­ern­ment used part of the money to buy news­pa­per com­pa­nies owned by South Africans, thereby in­creas­ing the gov­ern­ment’s con­trol over the me­dia. The rest went to train­ing stu­dents in Nige­rian uni­ver­si­ties, gov­ern­ment work­ers in the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Staff Col­lege of Nige­ria in Bada­gry and sol­diers in the Nige­rian De­fence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna.

Strangely, he is late now and I’m yet to hear a sin­gle word of con­do­lence or trib­ute from Zim­babwe.

My late grand­fa­ther also rel­ished his free­dom more than any­thing. Thus, when he re­tired from pol­i­tics, he stayed away from na­tional pol­i­tics. I re­mem­ber, dur­ing Abacha’s time, he wanted to make him the Chair­man of African Pe­tro­leum (AP), but he re­fused the of­fer, say­ing he wanted to rest. He al­ways wanted to be free. He lamented in his book, Beck­oned

to Serve, that he wanted free­dom, but through­out his life, he was in ser­vice. And even when he re­tired from na­tional pol­i­tics, he was not al­lowed to rest.

But some of the things he got in­volved with were less de­mand­ing. Most of the po­lit­i­cal state­ments made in his name were pur­ported, and he often didn’t know be­cause he had re­tired him­self from read­ing news­pa­pers in protest of things that were writ­ten about him after his re­moval from of­fice. He felt many lies were or­ches­trated against him on the pages of the news­pa­pers.

DT: Would you say he in­spired you to take on a lead­er­ship role?

Sha­gari: One thing that makes me happy is that he saw me through be­fore he died in the sense that he in­spired me to serve, and with such in­spi­ra­tion, I be­came the Pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Youth Coun­cil of Nige­ria (NYCN) be­fore his own eyes. And the only thing he gave me was good­will and prayer, not money or a let­ter to any­body. I may not be his suc­ces­sor in pol­i­tics, but I’m glad he was alive to see me get to where I am to­day. Al­ham­dulil­lah!

Bello with his grand­fa­ther, Shehu Sha­gari

Bello Sha­gari

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