By Danusa Ocholi
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that he is “profoundly saddened” to learn of the tragic accident that took the life of Senator John Shagaya, a retired army general and former senator.
President Buhari, in a statement Sunday by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu also offered his “heartfelt condolences to the Shagaya family, friends, the Government and people of Plateau State on the painful passing of their illustrious son”.
The President paid tribute to the great Nigerian whose legacies, he said, will live on in the patriotic work he did as a military officer, who rose to the position of a general, and a senator representing Plateau South.
“The President affirms that at each step of his distinguished career in national service and politics, General Shagaya brought his deep convictions and discipline to national, regional and community assignments and was ready to always offer his best to the development and stability of the country.
“President Buhari prays that God Almighty will comfort all who mourn him and grant his soul eternal rest,” Garba Shehu, President Buhari’s spokesperson said.
In his reaction, a former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, said he “received with great shock the sudden demise of one of the brilliant retired military officers.”
“General Shagaya until his death had been an ardent supporter of the unity of Nigeria as a nation and a peace builder irrespective of ethnicism, tribalism and religious bigotry,” former President Babangida said.While providing details of his death, a former Chairman, Langtang North Local Government Area, Dan Dandur, said Senator Shagaya died in a road accident along Langtang-Pankshin road in Plateau State.
“Shagaya died in a road crash today; we are right now with the corpse at the Air Force Military Hospital, Jos,” Mr. Dandur told the News Agency of Nigeria, in a telephone interview.
Mr. Dandur said that the 75-year-old retired army general was on his way to Jos from his village in Langtang, when the accident occurred at Amper in Kanke Local Government of the State.
“Shagaya was traveling along with his driver and orderly when the accident occurred, but the two survived with serious injuries and are receiving treatment at the hospital,” he said.
Mr. Dandur described Shagaya’s death as “shocking and unbelievable”.
“His death is too sudden. I just can’t believe that he has left us,” Dandur, who holds the traditional title of “Baraya Lang tang”, told NAN.
Born in Langtang North, on September 2, 1942, Mr. Shagaya served as minister of internal affairs under Mr. Babangida, and represented Plateau South in the senate from 2007-2011. Until his demise, he was a chieftain of the APC in Plateau State.
Senator Shagaya, who attended Junior Primary School at Nyer and Sudan United Mission (S.U.M) Primary School, Langtang between 1952-1959, later went to the Nigeria Military School (N.M.S) Zaria in 1960-1964.After graduation from the Nigeria Military School, Zaria, Mr. Shagaya was posted to the Nigerian Army Corps before attending the first short service Combatant Commission Course at Nigeria Defence Academy (N.D.A) Kaduna, in 1967.
He was posted to 3rf Marine Command upon commission, where he participated in the Nigeria Civil War from 1967-1970. Senator Shagaya became the first Field Commander to chair the Conference of the Joint Chief of Staff of the enlarged ECOMOG having commanded the 1st Mechanized Division in the Nigerian Army including a Platoon, Company, Battalion and Brigade.
In addition to being an active politician, Senator Shagaya was Director of the defunct Lion Bank (Nig.) Plc between 1998-2003, and is the author of a book: “The Tarok History”, after publishing two other books – “Governance in Nigeria: The IBB ERA, an Insider’s View” and ”The Ministry of Internal Affairs, an Overview”
In a related development, the Federal Road Safety Corps on Sunday gave its official account of how former Senator John Shagaya died in Plateau State Sunday afternoon.
Senator Shagaya was travelling along Langtang-Pankshin Road on his way to Jos when his vehicle crashed into a tree around 2:25 p.m., the FRSC said in its preliminary findings released by its spokesperson, Bisi Kazeem.He suffered a head injury during the crash and subsequently died, the report said. His body has since been deposited at a morgue run by the Nigeria Air Force in Jos, the state capital. The details were similar to what the public had already learnt in news reports of the incident Sunday evening.
Mr. Kazeem said Shagaya, a retired brigadier-general, was travelling in a Toyota Land Cruiser SUV with his driver and orderly, a civil defence officer, when the accident occurred.
The driver and the officer survived and are currently receiving treatment at the general hospital in Pankshin. The driver and the officer survived and are currently receiving treatment at the general hospital in Pankshin.
The FRSC team from Langtang Unit Command was at the scene of the crash almost immediately after it occurred, the spokesperson added.