By Eric Elezuo
An accomplished soldier, politician, businessman and family man, John Nanzip Shagaya was born on September 2, 1942 to Mallam Sikji Miri Wazhi (alias SHAGAYA) and Mrs. Maryamu Zwancit. He started his early education at the Junior Primary School at Nyer, and proceeded to Sudan United Mission Primary School, Langtang between 1952 and 1959. In 1960, Shagaya enlisted to study at the Nigerian Military School Zaria, and completed his studies in 1964.
After graduation, Shagaya was posted to the Nigerian Army Corps, and then to 3 Marine Commando when he gained his commission as Second Lieutenant. He participated with the Marine Commando in the Nigeria Civil War which raged between 1967 and 1970.
In the cause of his sojourn in the military, he gained more appointments including 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.
During the Military government of General Ibrahim Babangida, Shagaya was Federal Minister of Internal Affairs (1985 – 1990), 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.
Shagaya was appointed Field Commander in the ECOMOG Peacekeeping Force in Liberia in September 1993, relieving Major General Tunji Olurin.
On November 17, 1993, when General Sani Abacha became Head of State after a military coup, Abacha recalled Shagaya from Liberia, and demoted him from Major General to Brigadier General and then retired from the army for being one of the so called “IBB boys”.
History has that Shagaya, then a Corporal with the 2nd Reconnaissance Squadron in Abeokuta, was one of the many soldiers of northern Nigerian origin (including 2nd Lieutenant Sani Abacha, Lieutenant Muhammadu Buhari, Lieutenant Ibrahim Bako, Major Theophilus Danjuma, Lieutenant Colonel Murtala Muhammed, and Lieutenant Ibrahim Babangida among others), who staged what became known as the Nigerian Counter-Coup of 1966 because of grievances they felt towards the administration of General Aguiyi Ironsi’s government which quelled the January 15, 1966 coup.
In his civil life, he became the Director of Lion Bank (Nigeria), and served between 1998 and 2003.
He ran unsuccessfully for the Senatorial seat of Plateau South in the 1999 elections as a foundation member of the United Nigeria People’s Party (UNPP). Before the 2003 elections he joined the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), but lost again.
However, he won the senatorial seat in April 2007 when he decamped to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Though his election was challenged, and nullified by the elections petition tribunal, in December 2008, a Court of Appeal in Jos overthrew this decision and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately issue a Certificate of Return to him.
He ran for reelection in April 2011 on the Labour Party (LP) platform, but was defeated by Victor Lar of the PDP.
John Nanzip Shagaya was involved in a fatal motor accident on the February 11, 2018 while returning to Jos from Langtang. He is survived by his wife and many children.