Obituary: John Sagaya,The Man Who Chaired Committee to Decide Nigeria’s Membership of Organisation of Islamic Conference

By Chibuike Nwabuko

Abuja (Sundiata Post) – Senator John Nanzip Shagaya was a Nigerian senator and former senior military officer who was elected in April 2007 to represent the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Plateau State as member of the Nigerian Senate for Plateau South.

As a Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) with the 2nd Reconnaissance Squadron in Abeokuta, he participated in the Nigerian Counter-Coup of 1966.

Born on September, 2nd 1942, John Shagaya attended Junior Primary School at Nyer, and Sudan United Mission Primary School, Langtang (1952–1959). He studied at the Nigerian Military School Zaria 1960-1964.

After graduation, Shagaya was posted to the Nigerian Army Corps, then posted to 3 Marine Commando when he gained his commission as Second Lieutenant. He participated with the Marine Commando in the Nigeria Civil War (1967–1970). Later appointments included Grade Three staff officer Nigeria Army School of Infantry, Jaji, Director of Cadets, Nigerian Defence Academy, Director of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, Brigade Commander, 9 Mechanised Infantry Brigade, Military Secretary, Army Headquarters, and General Officer Commanding, 1st Mechanised Infantry Division.

Shagaya was Federal Minister of Internal Affairs under the Military government of General Ibrahim Babangida. He a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council and a member of the Police Council.

He also served as chairman of the committee set up in 1987 to decide on Nigeria’s membership of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Shagaya was involved in drafting the main protocols for the Economic Community of West African States. As a member of the National Boundary Commission, he helped resolve disputes with Benin and Chad.

John Nanzip Shagaya was appointed Field Commander in the ECOMOG Peacekeeping Force in Liberia in September 1993.

Upon assuming the leadership of the country on November 17, 1993 as Head of State, General Sani Abacha recalled Shagaya from Liberia and demoted him from Major General to Brigadier General and retired him from the army due to distrust as he was on of the “IBB’s Boys” a term used to describe those serving military officers loyal to General Ibrahim Babangida.

Shagaya, a Corporal with the 2nd Reconnaissance Squadron in Abeokuta, took part in the counter coup of July 1966 which was staged because of grievances they felt towards the administration of General Aguiyi Ironsi’s government which quelled the January 15, 1966 coup. Other that took part in the coup eith him were; 2nd Lieutenant Sani Abacha, Lieutenant Muhammadu Buhari, Lieutenant Ibrahim Bako, Major Theophilus Danjuma, Lieutenant Colonel Murtala Muhammed, and Lieutenant Ibrahim Babangida among others.

His Public service encroached into the banking sector as he was the Director of Lion Bank (Nigeria) between 1998 and 2003.

Shagaya also proved that being a military does not imply lack of civility, he was a founding member of the United Nigeria People’s Party (UNPP), run unsuccessfully for the Senatorial seat of Plateau South in 1999 elections. Before the 2003 elections he joined the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), but was defeated again.

John Nanzip Shagaya was elected as Senator for Plateau South in April 2007 under the platform of PDP. His election was challenged, and nullified by the elections petition tribunal, but in December 2008, a Court of Appeal in Jos upturned this decision and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately issue a Certificate of Return to Shagaya.

It was Senator Shagaya who, in June 2009, warned that offering amnesty to the Niger Delta militants might not end the violence. The militants might hide their best weapons, and return only disused and damaged arms.
In an interview in October 2009 he defended the various military interventions since Nigeria gained independence, and stated that the influence of generals in politics since 1999 simply reflected their training and discipline.

Late Senator John Nanzip Shagaya died on February, 2018 in a ghastly motor accident while returning to Jos from Langtang, his home town.

Nigerians will miss late Senator John Shagaya who died at the age of 76 for his military and political contributions for the growth, unity and peaceful co-existence of Nigeria.