Monday February 25 2008 marks former president Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari's 83rd Birthday. Although he does not celebrate his birthdays as usually done in Nigeria, we at the Shehu Shagari World Institute for Leadership and Good Governance (SSWI), join numerous individuals and organisations to wish him a very happy and memorable birthday, excellent health and peace of mind.
Shehu Shagari's 83rd birthday is being marked without any pomp and pageantry as usually accorded persons of his public stature. The absence of any formal celebration of his birthday is by his choice; based on principled tradition, among other reasons. Although we at the Institute initially planned to organise a public lecture to coincide with this very important date, however, some unforeseen circumstances prevented it from happening. The Institute's Special Annual Public Lecture series has been programmed for the month of February of every year.
However, even in the absence of formal organised events to mark the birthday of this Nigeria's living legend, idol and icon of our time, words cannot express our happiness when we join you, your family, relations, friends, contemporaries and admirers in the celebration of your 83rd birthday â€“ celebrating 83 years of great historic and unprecedented landmarks in the life of a great, humble and very lucky gentleman statesman!
To us at the Institute, you are a mirror that we always have to look at it to gauge our commitment to the mission, vision and objectives of Institute; founded to advance and promote the basic and fundamental principles of responsible leadership, good governance and multi-party democracy in Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world. The principles and ideals you cherish throughout your life history.
For over sixty years of your productive life, you sincerely and assiduously provided selfless service to our great country, Nigeria and humanity. As a student, you were often called upon by your class teacher to assist in teaching your fellow colleagues; some your age mates and some older than you were. As a classroom teacher, you excelled in all the subjects you were trained to teach and even going on sojourn in other subjects, for example, poetry and written Hausa songs laced with philosophical messages. As an administrator and bureaucrat, you laboured tirelessly from your local rural place of abode to far flung places such as the Niger Delta region in pre-independent Nigeria to investigate and find solutions to human misery.
In and out of government, your sincerity of purpose, commitment to the upliftment of human welfare, dignity and prosperity and above all, honesty, transparency and accountability have never been in doubt to the generality of Nigerians living or dead. Your life history has remarkably touched and transformed millions of Nigerians in the course of your public service to the nation. There is no any Nigerian that we know, dead or alive, that, in his or her life history gone through what Almighty Allah providentially thrust upon you â€“ from an ordinary class teacher all through the different levels and layers of administrative, bureaucratic, parliamentary and executive positions at village, town, province, division, local government, state and national levels. Allahu Akbar â€“ God is great!
Your presidency though illegally terminated by the same people whom you trusted, is still treasured and cherished by millions of Nigerian irrespective of the deliberate lies, blackmail and outright attempts by those who treacherously terminated your earned second term mandate, in concert and collaboration with the then Lagos â€“ Ibadan axis of partisan and hate-minded press. Nevertheless, your presidency and the previous sacrifices of Nigeria's founding fathers, laid the foundation for a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.
Also, your presidency tried assiduously and worked to concretise in your life time ideals which will make Nigeria a great nation. However, the efforts were abruptly terminated and landed you in solitary confinement for several months by those who betrayed your trust, confidence and the free choice of the Nigerian electorates.
All the disappointments not withstanding, you extended an olive branch to those who betrayed your trust and confidence by forgiving them and accepting them once again, as beloved friends. Your occasional interventions in times of local and or national distresses cannot go unrecognised. Your statesmanly intervention in the 2002 executive and legislative stand-off was a remarkable success â€“ it saved Nigeria's cherished nascent democratic experiment. Where all others failed to deliver, your matured and selfless intervention prevented Nigeria from been plunged into darkness by democratic pretenders.
We implore the Almighty Allah to give you excellent health and strength so that you can continue to guide those of us in the political leaderships blinded by power greed and corruption in all its colourations. You have been an inspiration to millions of Nigerians; to strive to be better Nigerians by working towards a better life for all. May you enjoy your special day in full knowledge that you have played your role and there are many more Nigerians who are prepared to learn from your excellent deeds and from your unintended mistakes because they have been inspired by you. Happy birthday Turakin Sokoto, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, GCFR at 83
Abubakar Atiku Nuhu-Koko
The Shehu Shagari World Institute for Leadership and Good Governance (SSWI)