Pictures from the scene of the accident that killed Gen John Shagaya earlier today showed he could hardly have survived it. Again, a clear idea of what exactly happened is still difficult to come by up to this moment and only image reading provide any insight into the dynamics of his last hours. Even well placed people in the society have either not heard or are still in shock to hear of his death.
Intervention broke the story by chance or luck. A scholar close to John Shagaya sent the information. As someone whose hints require no reconfirmation, this Online platform went to the market with it, a big reputation risk if it were to turn out later that the General was not killed in the accident after all.
At that time when no other medium had reported the death, Intervention could only write as follows:
Brigadier-Gen John Shagaya, a former ECOMOG Commander, former Minister for Internal Affairs under the Babangida administration (1985 – 1993) and the incumbent Chairman of the Governing Board of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, near Jos is dead. He died earlier this afternoon on his way back to Jos from a trip to his local area in Langtang Local Government Area of Plateau State.
Shagaya, one of the intellectual minds in the military, was only recently appointed as chairman of the Governing Council of the leading national think tank known more by its acronym, NIPSS. There are no details at the time of reporting of what might have happened but a close friend of the departed General told Intervention it might be no more than the insecurity of everyone else on the type of road networks in Nigeria over whose dynamics nobody can exercise any reasonable control. The retired General who had ventured into politics was a Senator from 2007 to 2011. Intervention would update this story as more details filter in. May his soul rest in peace!
Now, the tributes are pouring in and the jury is already in regarding Gen John Shagaya’s agency: a scandal and controversy free gentleman with remarkable respect for the dignity of women. US based ace broadcaster, Regina Fali referred to the late Shagaya as “one of our finest Generals” and someone with no controversy. Gender activist, Ene Ede who has observed the late General described him as one of the most approachable and most accessible of his class. Calling him a force for upliftment and empowerment of people based on what she saw Shagaya do to some academics rotting away in some higher institutions, the activist said Shagaya would be missed. Zooming on gender profiling of him, she said Shagaya was upbeat in terms of the dignity of women.
The Arewa Research & Development Project (ARDP) where Shagaya was intellectualising the diversity crisis in Northern Nigeria has called his death as a huge loss for Nigeria and the North, adding how his death was coming just after he had been saddled with the responsibility of repositioning NIPSS, Kuru as the Chairman of Council. Taking a discursive turn, the ARDP referred to the departed as a typical Northern Nigerian who disapproved of the behaviour of Christians regarding the North and its future, adding his being the pioneer Chairman of Board of Trustees of the think tank it says has agenda of repositioning the North through ideas.
Professor Isawa Elaigwu who worked closely with Shagaya as an independent minded scholar in the Babangida regime said the departed was certainly a very decent person and a good friend of his. An Abuja based Economist referred to the late Gen’s death as depletion of the voices of moderation, a situation he described as scary.
Most accounts of military intervention in Nigerian politics which is the context in which John Shagaya came to acquire an identity in the Nigerian space show that he came to his own during the cracking of the Dimka Coup in February 1976. It was in the politics of bursting that coup that he came to himself in terms of being a player, including a rough encounter with General Obasanjo for which he might have paid dearly if Gen Danjuma had not intervened although ‘bloody civilians’ have no details of what the problem between him and the biggie was. At least three written accounts specifically mentioned how it was to Shagaya’s office Gen Danjuma relocated and planted himself in coordinating the routing of Dimka.
But, even before this time, Shagaya had been rising on merit and consolidating, transforming from a Non-Commissioned Officer to an officer. He had enetered the military as a recruit and, in a move symptomatic of ‘solid personal achievement’, he wrote the General Certificate of Education examination, a process General Ibrahim Babangida was said in one of the accounts to have contributed. In one of the texts, it was particularly mentioned that Shagaya was the officer who collected Babangida at the airport on Babangida’s return to Lagos after the August 1985 coup.
It speaks to a certain intellectual sobriety for John Shagaya to have come out unscathed from chairing the committee on the controversy over Nigeria’s OIC membership in 1986 when he was the Minister for Internal Affairs under the Babangida regime. It is a tradition he pushed farther on being made a Field Commander of ECOMOG and being opportuned to demonstrate the military face of Nigerian foreign policy in the crucial realm of peace keeping and peacemaking. It is probably not surprising that he was not so successful in politics. The now equally late Rufai Ibrahim wrote several years ago that people who reflect about things or think profoundly have a way of not striking in the street wisdom of politics.
Once again, may his soul rest in peace!