He was the first governor to die in office in Nigeria. The date was 17 November 1981, and that Tuesday was one of the saddest days for the nation and Nigerians. Why, because the governor was very popular, not only among people of his state and party members, but among most Nigerians including his colleagues nationwide. And because such a thing had never happened before, it was very difficult to handle. The governor was Alhaji Shehu Kangiwa, the first civilian governor of Sokoto State.

The state was created on 3 February 1976, when the former North-Western state was divided into two: Sokoto and Niger states. From March 1976 to July 1978, the state was ruled by Umaru Muhammed, while Gado Nasco governed from July 1978 to October 1979, both were military officers. However, on 1 October 1979, Shehu Kangiwa became the first civilian governor of the state. He immediately swung into action, and his programmes became the love spell he cast on the people of the state.

Those were the good old days. The days when politicians had only one aspiration: to help the people through programmes that made meaningful contribution to the lives of the citizens. And the people paid them in kind: loving them with their hearts. Kangiwa was such of those governors; he was so dear to the people of the state. Within two years of administering the state, he brought such succour to the state that most of the citizenry believed there could be no other person like him in terms of the governance of their state.

He gave them cause to think that way. Not only because of his hardwork and sense of humour, but because he was also the architect of modern development in that part of Nigeria. Within two years, he built the Gusau Hotels, and developed the Giginya, Shukura and Argungu Grand Fishing. He built many health centres, four technical schools, four commercial schools and vocational training centres.

He built the Birnin Kebbi Polytechnic, Sokoto Investment Company, Sokoto Cooperative Bank and Sokoto Library. Kangiwa would also be remembered for many industries in the state, including the Rice Mill, Sokoto Foam Factory, Coca-Cola Factory, Tamba Animal Feeds, Modern Bakeries, Ceramic Factory and tannery, among others.

One thing about Kangiwa was that he was a very good football player from his secondary school days, and for this, he was popular as well. Before he went to London for studies, he had been playing polo, and this he did religiously. When he returned, this became his major sporting activity, and this could not be changed when he became governor. He was a member of the Kaduna Polo Club, and would be there to play when the time permitted.

But he was eager to participate in a polo competition at the club on this day in November 1981. Despite the fact that he had a tight schedule that could not have allowed him out of the state on the day, he found a way out, and left for Kaduna. When he was ready to leave, the news came that a federal minister from Sokoto, Ahmed Nahuche, had died and that a plane was bringing his corpse.

He quickly got his deputy to go and bury the minister because, as he told them, he had made arrangements in Kaduna for the trip. And when he got there, his team had won some of the games, and it was time to return home. He had told his driver he was going to the field to play his last game. But when he got there, his first horse could not go the way he wanted, and he returned quickly to change it.

But about five minutes after, his horse fell, and he was severely wounded. He was quickly rushed to the hospital, but all the doctors who had assembled could not save his life. He died, and the whole country was thrown into mourning. For the whole week, the Nigerian newspapers mourned along with the citizens as they continued to report the follow-up.

This was how the death of Kangiwa was reported by the dailies:

It was first reported on Wednesday, 18 November 1981, thus: The Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Shehu Kangiwa, died last night at the Kaduna hospital after falling from a horse while playing polo at Kaduna Polo Club.

Then on Thursday, 19 November 1981, the newspapers wrote: The Senate adjourned sitting yesterday, in honour of Alhaji Shehu Kangiwa It also resolved to send  a letter of condolence to President Shehu Shagari, the Sultan of Sokoto, the Emir and people of Argungu, the state assembly and family of the late governor. Moving the motion, the Senate leader, Dr. Olusola Saraki described Governor Kangiwa as a “gentleman loved by his people”. A delegation of the House of Representatives, led by the leader of the House, Alhaji YunusaKatungo, leaves Lagos this morning for Sokoto State to condole the Sultan and the Deputy Governor on Governor Kangiwa’s death.

In a motion yesterday, the House sent its message of condolence to President Shagari and also requested the Sokoto State Deputy-Governor, Dr. GarbeNadama to pass the message to the bereaved family and the people of Sokoto.

Governor Mohammed Shehu Kangiwa, of Sokoto State, who died in Kaduna on Tuesday evening, was buried yesterday according to moslem rites. Thousands of mourners cried their hearts out on their way to the grave, in Kangiwa, Argungu Emirate.

The 41-year-old governor died in a Kaduna hospital from head injuries he received after falling off his horse at a polo competition. He was said to have led the Sokoto team to victory in one of their encounters before tragedy struck. As the news spread in Sokoto that his body was to be flown from Kaduna, hundreds of people in motor cars, on motorcycles and bicycles raced to the airport. Many of them wanted to be sure the governor had really died.

And when the Airforce plane which bore his coffin taxied at the Sokoto Airport and it became apparent that he was dead, the wailing began. Hospital sources said that, after his fall, Governor Kangiwa, bled profusely from his left ear and nose. The brain was hurt and some ribs were fractured and for hours doctors tried in vain to save him.

Yesterday morning, President Shehu Shagari, some ministers and high-ranking federal officials flew to Sokoto to pay the late governor their last respects and condole his family. Also at the burial were some governors, commissioners, state and federal legislators, emirs, chief judges and ‘leading figures from all parts of the country. The burial crowd seemed to have been kept down by a sudden cancellation of flights from Lagos to Sokoto by the Nigeria Airways. The cancellation prevented the representative of Governor Lateef Jakande, of Lagos State.

He was to have been represented by Deputy Governor, RafiuJafojo and four high-ranking officials –The Commissioner for Public Transportation, Alhaji M. O. Hamzat, Special Adviser on Political Affairs, Alhaji R.A Williams, Mr. A.M Balogun, of the house of assembly and the Chairman of Water Management  Board, Chief Tele Olukoya. Yesterday, Lagos State legislators observed two minutes silence in memory of the late governor.

Meanwhile, messages of condolence have been reaching the late governor’s family from all parts of the country. One of them came from Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the UPN leader. He described the governor’s passing as “an irreplaceable loss to the nation.” And in a telegram which he sent to President Shagari, Chief Awolowo described the late Governor Kangiwa as a worthy compatriot and a great fighter for progress.

“As the first Nigerian governor to die in office, Alhaji Kangiwa has thrown all of us into an unprecedented sense of grief. I send you, therefore, Mr. President, the heart- felt condolences of both myself and family as well as my party”, the UPN leader said. In another telegram, Chief Awolowo asked Sir Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, “to bear the grievous loss with fortitude” and bestowed abundant blessings on the late governor’s successor.

Governor Kangiwa graduated from the London University in 1966 and worked briefly in London as a representative of the Nigerian Railway Corporation.

He returned to Nigeria in 1972 and was appointed Secretary to the Kaduna Polytechnic. He later transferred his services to the Sokoto State Government as a permanent secretary.

The late governor served as the Federal Commissioner for Mines and Power until 1978, when he resigned to contest the governorship of Sokoto State, on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).

The late governor, who is survived by four wives and several children, came from Kangiwa, in Argungu Emirate of the Arewa Dandi Local Government area. He was turbaned the TurakinArgungu in 1976, for services he rendered to his community.

Among those at his graveside yesterday were the Minister of Transport, Dr. Umaru Dikko, the Presidential Adviser on National Assembly, Dr. Kingsley Mbadiwe, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Sunday Adewusi, and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Alhaji Jallo Waziri.

GOVERNOR Lateef Jakande of Lagos State described the death of his Sokoto state counterpart, Alhaji Shehu Kangiwa, as a great loss to the country. Alhaji Jakande said though he did not agree with certain view points, he was satisfied that Governor Kangiwa spoke out of conviction always. Governor of Rivers State, Chief MelfordOkilo, has sent a message to condole the government and people of Sokoto State on the death of Alhaji Shehu Kangiwa.

Governor Okilo regretted the untimely death of yet another illustrious son of Sokoto State. Governor Solomon Lar has also sent another message of condolence to the Deputy Governor of Sokoto  State, Dr. GarbaNadama, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sir Abubakar iii, and the people of Sokoto State over the death of Alhaji Shehu Kangiwa.

The message was carried by a delegation from Plateau State headed by the Grand Khadi for Benue and Plateau states, Alhaji Yahaya Kanam. In the message, Mr. Lar hoped that God would give people of Sokoto State in particular, and Nigeria in general, the courage to bear the loss.

Two days after the death of Kangiwa, his Deputy, Dr. Garba Nadama was sworn in as the new governor and he ruled from that day till 31 December 1983, when the military sacked the civilian regime. Sokoto State had now been divided again into three: Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states.

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