Letter to my grandfather, by Bello Bala Shagari
Dear Mallam, I was beginning to entertain the thought of you being immortal after the several encounters and escapes you had with death, but its eventual inevitability proved me wrong.
Announcing your death was a great honour to me, after working relentlessly to be not just a grandchild, but an active actor in your Life and story.
I couldn’t hold back the tears when it dawned on me that you have departed this world to never return, but remembering that it was on a Friday cushioned my pain, bringing a forced smile on my face.
Mallam, hope you are resting well? I wonder how wonderful your eternal rest is turning out after completing the holy Qur’an more than 200 times during your 34 years of retirement.
The other side of you which do not get the media attention slightly got revealed the day I brought out the paper you were using to track your progress with Tilawatul Qur’an (the recitation of the holy book), it was a joyful moment as I could see the astounding amazement on people’s face.
So many amazing things about you did not make to the public, but the legacies you have left is a story am eager to tell very soon.
Praises and condolences rained on you when you departed, whether they are true or just mere words, only time will tell.
It was unfortunate that your death came at a period of an intense political campaign as there were a lot of politicizing around your death.
Meanwhile, there was so much controversy over what President Muhammadu Buhari wrote in the condolence book which sparked outrage among the public.
Some family members were also quite furious about it, but President Buhari actually lowered the flags for you for 3 days and promised to immortalize you but we have no idea when.
There was also an argument about the location of your burial when the Sultan offered you the privilege of being buried close to your role model, Shehu Usman Danfodio at Hubare, the sacred cemetery but your son, my father, Bala, Sarkin Mafara insisted that you must be buried according to your wish. Uncle Aminu was quite emotional about it because he believed that you wouldn’t have rejected such an honour.
I actually wish you could intervene at that point, but it was the intervention of your son-in-law Prof. Shehu Galadanci that resolved the argument when he also supported the move that your wish should be respected as required by Islamic rights and he led your burial prayer respectively.
The turnout was extremely massive, the whole Shagari town and beyond was present to witness the burial rites, I must mention the presence of your adopted son from Yenagoa, Prof. Steven Azaiki who managed to travel all the way.
Aminu Waziri Tambuwal led every high delegation to your house for condolence and Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko too was always around to receive guests. It was a home for all political leaders in Sokoto state. Goodluck Jonathan came thereafter and shed some tears while Gen. Babangida called severally because he was abroad. Many countless dignitaries came too.
But did you know that your best friend Gen Yakubu Gowon is yet to come? I wonder what you must have told him? Well, both of you will sort that out because no one comes between the two of you and even your very own distant son Adamu Mu’azu!
Well, the world is full of wonders. Meanwhile, I’m sure it is not that they didn’t want to come, you know them well, they must have some very important excuses. I also learnt that your very own pal Shehu Malami Sarkin Sudan has been dealing with his health issues during that period!
I am not mincing any word because that is what you have taught me, to say the truth no matter what it will cost me.
Many do not know what the truth has cost you, which makes me break into laughter when some people talk about integrity.
I have been asking them “what is integrity”? Integrity is when a former Minister of finance for 6 years cannot afford to transport his family back to his hometown immediately after leaving office.
Integrity is when a seven-time Minister will retire to run for a local government councillor.
Integrity is when you’ll be the President of the oil-rich Nigeria during the oil boom and leave office having not less than N67,000 in your bank account and have no domestic or foreign investment.
Even though I know you despise praise, but today that you cannot stop me, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Turakin Sokoto, uban Ahmadu da Ibrahim, you are the embodiment of integrity.
People have always said to me that you ran one of the most corrupt government in Nigeria’s history and I agree with them.
But they have forgotten that it is credit that despite being surrounded by such corruption which you did not create either did you help create, you still remained incorruptible amidst Jackals and Hyenas.
But during that time you took giant strides that could not be matched today. Which government in Nigeria hasn’t been accused of corruption anyway?
Your only sin was that you were not ruthless with those who were corrupt! but what was the end of those who were ruthless with them?
It takes wisdom in leadership not ruthlessness, hence your Initiative of ethical revolution which also gave birth to War against Indiscipline.
People have no knowledge that it was your idea and you never claimed it throughout your lifetime.
What have you ever claimed anyway? Not even Abuja that you have started from the scratch, of which you never had even a single plot of land until when the Obasanjo government deemed it fit to raise a simple house for you in Maitama.
Well, I have vouched to claim and defend your legacies, your friends will support me and your enemies will hunt me.
Mr Bala-Shagari is the President of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN.
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