Retired Captain Muhammad Bala Shagari, the eldest son of the late Second Republic President, Alhaji Aliyu Shehu Shagari, has revealed his travails in the hands of the military men who overthrew his father in December 31, 1983 coup.
Bala Shagari, who joined the Nigerian Army before his father became Nigerian president in 1979, said the men who were behind the coup felt uncomfortable having the son of a man who was overthrown in the military. He made the revelation in an interview with The Sun.
“For being the son of President Shehu Shagari. That was all. That was my only sin, I think. I can recall that the retirement letter states that ‘by the power vested on me as Chief of Army Staff, you are hereby compulsorily retired and your service is no longer required’.”
At the time of his sack from the Army, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida was the Chief of Army Staff. According to him, the military gave him a house arrest.
“The then military secretary signed the letter while General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida was the Chief of Army Staff. The letter was his directive. Immediately they served me the letter, that was where they also picked me up and detained for six weeks. Though, it was a house arrest in Sokoto, not in a prison yard. They took me to Kaduna, I passed a night in Kaduna and they later brought me back to Sokoto, to NSO office which we call SSS now. When they brought me, I slept a night in their office. The next day, they prepared one of their guest rooms and put me there for six weeks.”
Captain Bala Shagari who holds the traditional title of Sarkin Mafaran Shagari, and also the the District Head of Shagari, the hometown of his father, said he was in Jos playing one of his favourite sports, polo when he heard about the overthrow of his father’s government and “remained calm.”
He said he wasn’t worried about continuing serving his fatherland even after the overthrow of his father as the executive president of Nigeria.
“I remember on the day of the coup d’état, I was in Jos playing polo. And I came back in the morning trying my horses because I had another game in the evening. I was with two of my Lebanese friends who played polo too. They were also from Zaria.
They called my name repeatedly asking me if I have not heard the news that my father had been overthrown in a coup d’état. I merely responded to them and continued rolling my ball. They were surprised the way I responded to them. My mates were also surprised to see me calm throughout the period.”
Capt. Bala Shagari (rtd) said he was asked severally if he was comfortable continuing in service by the former head of Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI).
When they discovered that my mood wasn’t changed, at one time, Colonel Aliyu Akilu, the then Head of Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) called me to confirm if I have any problem. And I said no sir. He then said if I am not comfortable again in the military, I can put in my resignation letter. I said no sir. I am okay.
He called me again to know if I have made up my mind to tender my resignation letter from the Army. I repeated the same no sir, and assured him that I am alright.
When the pressure from the military was much on him, he confidently told the head of DMI to sack him if they were not comfortable working with him again.
I said ‘when I joined the Army, my father was not a president. Now because he is no more a president doesn’t mean I should also quit the Army. So, I will not resign but if you people felt you cannot work with me, you can ask me to go.’ That is what I told him. Later I was served with compulsory retirement letter. That was all.
He said he was less than 10 years in the military before the government of former military head of state, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, forcefully sacked him from the military. Even after the his compulsory retirement, he wasn’t compensated.
“Nothing was done since I was retired as a captain, and I had not stayed long to earn pension. In those days, you have to be in the service for at least fourteen years before you can be on pension benefits. I was less than ten years before I was retired. Even my gratuity, I didn’t take it.”
What’s your view? Do you think Buhari was fair to Capt. Bala Shagari (rtd) for sacking him without any sin?
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