Former Nigerian President Shehu Shagari dies at 93

Former Nigerian president Shehu Shagari, who was in power between 1979 and 1983, died on December 28, 2018, aged 93. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 December 2018

Former Nigerian President Shehu Shagari dies at 93

  • Nigeria’s current President Muhammadu Buhari said he mourns “the departure of a patriot, who served Nigeria with humility, integrity and diligence.”
  • Shagari is said to have been the first boy to go to school in his northern village of Shagari in the northeastern state of Sokoto

LAGOS, Nigeria: Shehu Shagari, Nigeria’s second president, whose civilian tenure was sandwiched between two military rulers in an era rocked by coups, has died. He was 93.
Nigeria’s current President Muhammadu Buhari, who unseated Shagari 35 years ago, said on Saturday he mourns “the departure of a patriot, who served Nigeria with humility, integrity and diligence.”
Shagari had an ambivalent relationship with the military, which initially favored his ascension to power but held him in solitary confinement for three years after toppling his government.
After military ruler Olusegun Obasanjo lifted the ban on political activity in Africa’s most populous country in 1978, Shagari beat regional political veterans in a hotly contested election the next year. The polls followed 13 years of military rule by four different men.
At his swearing-in ceremony, Shagari said the military had “succeeded in large measure in unifying us.”
It had been less than 20 years since the West African powerhouse had earned its independence from British rule, and it struggled to forge national unity within the colonial borders which tied some 250 ethnic groups together.
Those years saw a civil war, a toppled civilian government and a series of military administrations including that of Gen. Yakubu “Jack” Gowon, in which Shagari served as a civilian finance minister.
Shagari is said to have been the first boy to go to school in his northern village of Shagari in the northeastern state of Sokoto. He started out as a science teacher before entering politics. From 1954-1966 he was a member of the House of Representatives and later held a variety of ministerial posts under both civilian and military governments.
Even though the military had voluntarily paved the way for democratic rule, the threat of its interference loomed over Shagari’s time in office.
The oil-rich nation’s economy suffered from a sharp drop in global crude oil prices, fueling discontent. On Dec. 29, 1983, Shagari announced austerity measures in a country already suffering from high unemployment rates and general disillusionment after the oil boom of the ‘70s.
Shagari’s administration also was marred by corruption scandals. Even though the public considered him to be honest, his inability to rein in his government’s avarice was sharply criticized.
On New Year’s Eve in 1983, a group of military plotters toppled his government, describing Shagari’s administration as “inept and corrupt.” Buhari, then a military ruler, took over the nation.
Shagari, who had been re-elected a few months earlier, seemed to have seen it coming.
“My greatest concern is that democracy survives in Nigeria,” he told a biographer just before the coup.
It was not until Buhari returned to the presidency in 2015 that Nigeria saw the first peaceful transfer of power from one party to another. The next election is in February.

Preachers of Hate: Arab News launches series to expose hate-mongers from all religions

Updated 25 March 2019

Preachers of Hate: Arab News launches series to expose hate-mongers from all religions

  • Daesh may be defeated, but the bigoted ideas that fueled their extremism live on
  • Campaign could not be more timely, with a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes since Christchurch attacks

RIYADH: Dozens of Daesh militants emerged from tunnels to surrender to Kurdish-led forces in eastern Syria on Sunday, a day after their “caliphate” was declared defeated.

Men filed out of the battered Daesh encampment in the riverside village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border to board pickup trucks. “They are fighters who came out of tunnels and surrendered today,” Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Jiaker Amed said. “Some others could still be hiding inside.”

World leaders hail Saturday’s capture of the last shred of land controlled by Daesh in Syria, but the top foreign affairs official for the semi-autonomous Kurdish region warned that Daesh captives still posed a threat.

“There are thousands of fighters, children and women and from 54 countries, not including Iraqis and Syrians, who are a serious burden and danger for us and for the international community,” Abdel Karim Omar said. “Numbers increased massively during the last 20 days of the Baghouz operation.”

 While the terrorists have a suffered a defeat, the pernicious ideologies that drive them, and the hate speech that fuels those ideologies, live on. For that reason Arab News today launches Preachers of Hate — a weekly series, published in print and online, in which we profile, contextualize and analyze extremist preachers from all religions, backgrounds and nationalities.

In the coming weeks, our subjects will include the Saudi cleric Safar Al-Hawali, the Egyptian preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the American-Israeli rabbi Meir Kahane, the Yemeni militia leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, and the US pastor Terry Jones, among others.

The series begins today with an investigation into the background of Brenton Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist who shot dead 50 people in a terrorist attack 10 days ago on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Tarrant is not just a terrorist, but is himself a Preacher of Hate, author of a ranting manifesto that attempts to justify his behavior. How did a shy, quiet boy from rural New South Wales turn into a hate-filled gunman intent on killing Muslims? The answers may surprise you.

Our series could not be more timely — anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK have soared by almost 600 percent since the Christchurch attack, it was revealed on Sunday.

The charity Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), which records and measures anti-Muslim incidents, said almost all of the increase comprised “language, symbols or actions linked to the Christchurch attacks.”

“Cases included people making gestures of pointing a pistol at Muslim women and comments about British Muslims and an association with actions taken by the terrorist in New Zealand,” the charity said.

“The spike shows a troubling rise after Muslims were murdered in New Zealand,” said Iman Atta, director of Tell MAMA. “Figures have risen over 590 percent since New Zealand in comparison to the week just before the attack.