opinionBy Abba Mahmood
On Friday, November 2, Nigeria lost one of her most distinguished military generals: Mamman Shuwa was murdered in cold blood by yet-to-be-named assassins in his Gwange, Maiduguri, home.
And on Wednesday, November 14, Nigeria lost yet another illustrious son, a political general if there was one, Senator Abubakar Olusola Saraki, who died of cancer in a Lagos hospital and has since been buried in Ilorin. Both of them were 79 years old. Both of them were grassroots people who have paid their dues in the services of Nigeria and humanity.
General Mamman Shuwa had a distinguished career in the Nigeria Army. As commander 1 Division during the Nigerian civil war, Gen. Shuwa gave his life for the unity and indivisibility of the country. He became a legend during the war, having served the longest as commander and having operated in the widest and one of the most hostile territories during the war.
General Shuwa subsequently served as federal commissioner (minister) for trade and later works and member of the Supreme Military Council before retiring voluntarily in 1979 when the military handed over power to civilians that year.
Instead of staying in Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lagos, or Kaduna GRA or Asokoro and Maitama here in Abuja, Gen. Shuwa decided to go back and stay with his people right there in the high-density Gwange ward in Maiduguri. As a retired general, he had soldiers guarding him always, but, when the gunmen came to murder him, according to his cousin, Dr. Hassan Bashir, in a recent interview, "the soldiers outside could not do anything.
If any of the soldiers had made any shooting, I think the life of the general could have been saved. And, apart from the soldiers that had been stationed in the house, there were other soldiers at the cross-section of the street. Again, there are many checkpoints that the gunmen passed through before they came to this house. There was no resistance or effort to stop the gunmen".
A gallant soldier who survived wars in and outside Nigeria, having served in the Congo in the early 1960s, was killed in his house by cowardly hoodlums with guns. One of the most courageous generals Nigeria has ever known was gunned down right in front of his family while he was enjoying his well-deserved retirement.
One of the most compassionate war commanders Africa has ever produced, who has saved lives even at the peak of war, was killed in cold blood among his people for no just reason. A veteran of war and peace was murdered by those who have elected to wage war against peace.
As a soldier, Gen. Shuwa was courageous and fearless; as a leader he was fair and just; as a commander he was compassionate and caring ; as a father and husband he was loving and guiding; as a Nigerian, he was a nationalist and a patriot; as a person he was generous, selfless, detribalized, friendly, strict disciplinarian and accessible to all. History will definitely record that there was General Mamman Shuwa who fought for peace and died for peace.
Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, on the other hand, was a medical doctor who was trained to save lives. He set up a successful medical practice in Lagos soon after graduating from the UK. He used whatever money he was making in the services of the people. He was the first politician who started his politics from philanthropy and not oratory. That was the template the late Chief Abiola used to come to political limelight as well.
Dr. Sola Saraki's generosity was legendary. He gave support to the needy, the indigent, the poor and many worthy causes that came his way. He gave scholarships to many students who later came to help in nation building. He built boreholes to help communities overcome perennial water shortages.
Once he identified what was needed for decent societal living anywhere, particularly in his immediate community of Ilorin and Kwara State, he did not wait for government; he just went ahead to try to get it done for the benefit of the people. He became the real, ultimate and genuine godfather, affectionately called the Oloye by the people.
It was therefore very easy for his people to follow him when he decided to join politics at the end of military rule in the late 1970s.
He was first elected into the Constituent Assembly that drafted the 1979 Constitution and was subsequently elected senator and ultimately the Senate leader during the Second Republic. From the time he took part in the formation of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, the then ruling party, till he breathed his last on Wednesday last week, there was no single political issue in Nigeria that did not have a Saraki input.
One of the things that distinguished the late Senator Olusola Saraki and his contemporaries was the fact that he was the only one who was in absolute control of the political direction of his area consistently for over three decades. None of his peers could boast that.
Every political party he joined, his people followed him there such that, in Kwara State, there was nothing like zoning with Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki as governor and Senator Ruqayya Gbemisola Saraki a senator at the same time.
Again, unlike many of his contemporaries, he was able to raise a disciplined non-controversial and public-service oriented family.
Dr Bukola Saraki not only became the first and so far only two-term governor of Kwara State, but he was the chairman of the Nigerian Governors' Forum who gave a shot at the presidency and is now a serving senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
His sister, Gbemisola Saraki, was also a senator who tried to be governor. To their credit, there is no Saraki that is involved in any known scandal, personal or official. This is the worthy legacy that the patriarch, Senator Olusola Saraki, is leaving behind.
With the death of General Mamman Shuwa and Senator Sola Saraki, Nigeria has lost yet other pillars of national unity and nation building. Just as they were age-mates, they were also acknowledged bridge-builders who distinguished themselves in their chosen fields of soldiering and politics respectively. We are consoled with the fact that they have lived their lives successfully and died honourably. We have indeed lost great parents and mentors.
Special condolences to the entire Shuwa family of Maiduguri, to the people of Borno State; and to the Saraki family of Ilorin, to the people of Kwara State; and to the entire people of Nigeria for these great losses at this critical time in our history.
May the Almighty God forgive them their mistakes and admit them into the Garden of Eden. Amen. Allah yajikan Gen. Mamman Shuwa da Dr. Sola Saraki. Amin. God save Nigeria.