By Ayodele Fagbohun
“When beggars die, there are no comets seen. The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”
The above quotation from Shakespearean Julius Caesar aptly depicted the transition of Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari, the first elected president of Nigeria.
This great man of virtue, simplicity remained incorruptible and transparently honest amid the coteries of then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) hawks and economic vampires that looted the nation’s treasury blind until the profligate and decadent regime was ousted in a military coup led by the current president then Major General Mohammadu Buhari in December 31, 1984.
Alhaji Shehu Shagari whose main political ambition and aspiration was to be elected as a senator in the Federal Republic of Nigeria was drafted against his own personal desire to run for the presidency. The master-mind of this political intrigues and vendetta, the most tragic incident which was to shape the course of the nation’s history in retrogressive manner was no mean person than the then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo. He pretended to organize a free and fair election.
Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo actually on the eve of the ill-fated 1979 presidential election campaigned in his nation-wide TV/Radio broadcast for the candidate of NPN, Alhaji Shagari that the best candidate supposedly the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) candidate, the hottest challenger of the status quo ante, Chief Obafemi Awolowo might not win the election after all.
The die was cast! President Shagari obviously a reluctant candidate was sworn in as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The rest is history.
Shagari unassuming, humble and an enigmatic personality who was contented to be called a distinguished senator but hurriedly drafted to the presidency deserved all accolades and honours due to him. But I strongly differ from the Founder and Chancellor, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Aare Afe Babablola to re-name Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) after the fallen hero, Alhaji Shehu Shagari on the reasons adduced to it.
Babalola claimed that Shagari was responsible for the three higher institutions which now exist in Ondo and Ekiti States.
Hear him: “The people of old Ondo State, which included the present Ekiti State, will forever remain grateful to the departed hero (Shagari), the Second Republic, Senate Leader, late Dr. Olusola Saraki and the then chairman of the ruling National Party of Nigeria, late Chief Augustus Meredith Adisa Akinloye, who accepted my request to hold rally in Ado-Ekiti on Saturday October 11, 1980 where the Federal Government announced the sitting of a Federal University of Technology in Ado-Ekiti to begin academic work in October 1981…”
Let me quickly say without mincing words and emphatically without any fear of contradiction the premises on which Chief Afe Babalola asserted his claims are patiently false, strange and faulty. What is more, it lacks well known ideological base palpably in conflict with undying cherished legacies of mass education, enlightenment encapsulated in social services bequeathed to Yoruba nation through sheer socio-political exploits, industry and self discipline of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his lieutenants in the field of practical politics.
Afe Babalola, a dye-in-the wool, chief protagonist and rabid disciple of bourgeoisie and soul mate of General Olusegun Obasanjo who as Head of State and elected president of the country for upward of twelve years chose on his own accord to impoverish South West geo-political zone via his policies and programmes that were detrimental, and to obliterate the rights of Yoruba nation to self determination with the context of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
These undoubted eminent persons of Yoruba descent and their cohorts cannot afford to stand truth on the head and ipso facto try to rewrite the constitutional history of the country without corresponding, repercussions for their actions sooner than later.
Apparently, Aare Afe Babalola stirred the hornet’s nest by mentioning some die hard chieftains of NPN who sold themselves as political renegades and quislings against the progressive policies that could uplift and move Yoruba nation forward.
Names of the ultra conservative elements in Nigeria’s politics like Augustus Meredith Adisa Akinloye, Dr. Olusola Saraki and co-travelers were responsible to the reverses that still bedevil our socio-economic and political development of Yorubaland.
The names erroneously mentioned by Aare Babalola as positive contributors to the tertiary education of old Ondo State, evoked bedlam of disapproval by the majority of Yoruba elite and the entire populace who dubbed them as traitors to the cause of development and rapid progress of Yoruba race.
How on earth could Afe Babalola confess to have organized NPN rally and cowed Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the president to bypass the constitutional head of government in Ondo State, Governor Michael Adekunle Ajasin and located university to Ado-Ekiti? What was the status of Ado-Ekiti within old Ondo State?
This, to the right thinking people a high treason, sedition and injudicious manner to run good government amongst an homogeneous people of Yoruba descent. Let the readers read The Nation newspaper of Monday, December 31, 2018, Page 8 in a bid to contemplate on the enormity of statements on how to honour Shagari by Afe and the adverse effects on the integrity of Yoruba nation.
It is unfortunate that the same warped trend and ugly scenario was played out when it was mooted by the NPN incarnate PDP administration under the immediate former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan that University of Lagos (UNILAG) should be renamed after the slain business mogul and politician, Chief MKO Abiola.
Thank God Dr. Jonathan quickly withdrew to his cocoon and counted his government out of the ill advised and self serving renaming of UNILAG. The prompt decision of President Jonathan to reverse the renaming of UNILAG drew widespread and spontaneous acclamation.
However, I must say that it is wicked nauseating to the extreme that to note this strange development and gratuitous insult is invariously visited on Yoruba inspite of our status as the most articulate segment and bastion of progressive politics.
For the general will of our populace shall resist any fraudulent move to rename Federal University of Technology (FUTA), Akure after the former president, the late Alhaji Shagari on sentiment and sheer political abracadabra.
It must be reiterated that it falls within the ambit of the constituent governors to tell and inform the federal government where to locate institutions which appropriately be located in the state capital or any area which the state governors deem fit. Ondo State should and could not be different. Okay.
Doubtless, Alhaji Shehu Shagari was unassuming, gentle, kind, incorruptible and truly an elder statesman that laboured hard for the oneness of Nigeria. Shagari was never a controversial figure in Nigeria’s politics.
Shagari did not want to be president, in the first instance. It was the handiwork of General Olusegun Obasanjo as the Head of State to rob Chief Obafemi Awolowo from clinching the presidency.
It is wicked to indulge in a blaze of controversy on the peaceful transition of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. For the ex-president was a serene personality who in his lifetime could not hurt a fly,
Aare Afe Babalola should stop insulting Yoruba nation by repeatedly distorting and falsifying the contemporary Yoruba history without restraint.
Ayodele Fagbohun, writes from Akure.