This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.
Dan Foster had a big voice, a love of giving away gifts and a light touch with a story. And when he arrived in Nigeria to work in radio in 2000, he found a public that was ready for him.
The country’s airwaves had only recently emerged from state control, and Mr. Foster’s mix of plain talk, folksy humor and American swagger — calling himself the Big Dawg or the Top Dawg — made him a new kind of morning radio host, one of the most popular in the country.
“It was the first time in Nigeria we had someone who sounded different from us, who brought that American flavor, brought stories and just changed the way everybody saw radio,” said Osikhena Dirisu, a morning host at The Beat, a station in the main city, Lagos.
The Big Dawg parlayed his celebrity into roles in movies and on reality television, as a judge on “Idols West Africa” and “Nigeria’s Got Talent.” He also promoted concerts. The Nigerian website Pulse called him “the God of radio,” waxing, “There are two eras of radio in Nigeria. Before and after Dan Foster.”
Mr. Foster died on June 17 at a hospital in Lagos a day after receiving a positive test result for the coronavirus, his wife, Lovina Okpara, told Nigerian media. He was 61.
Daniel Leon Foster was born on Sept. 26, 1958, in San Francisco, and grew up mainly in Prince George’s County, Md., outside of Washington, the oldest of four siblings. His father, Samuel Leon Foster, was a 21-year Air Force veteran; his mother, Sarah, died when Dan was 11, leaving him to spend much of his childhood with his grandmother.
He played football in high school, and put on neighborhood shows with his sisters and brother. After high school he joined the Marines, then enrolled at Towson University and, later, Morgan State University in Baltimore, studying drama and communication.
He worked at various radio jobs in between stints in college, but by the mid-1990s his life seemed headed in the wrong direction. He was arrested and pleaded guilty to a felony charge of aggravated stalking in Florida, and was sentenced to three years of probation.
He kept working and married twice in the United States, fathering a son, Joshua, before receiving a job offer in Nigeria.
It was the beginning of a new life. He was an instant sensation, embracing his new country and being embraced in return. He told stories about his father and his time in the Marines, and struggled on-air with the local languages, which only endeared him to his audience. His romantic life and career moves became fodder for entertainment websites.
He married Ms. Okpara, a Nigerian woman, and started a new family, sometimes inviting their three young children — Kayla, Daniella and Somtochukwu — onto the air with him. They survive him along with his father, three siblings and son in the United States.
Late last year Mr. Foster told Owen Gee, a top comedian, that he planned to start his own radio station. “It was something that we were waiting for, for a long, long time,” Mr. Gee said, adding, “Dan is the best thing to happen to modern radio in Nigeria.”
Alain Delaquérière contributed reporting.
John Leland, a Metro reporter, joined The Times in 2000. His most recent book is “Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons From a Year Among the Oldest Old,” based on a Times series. @johnleland
Kenya’s longest serving president, whose near quarter-century rule was marred by ruthlessness and corruption.
Daniel arap Moi, who has died aged 95, was born into a poor peasant family in the Rift Valley in British colonial Kenya, and rose to become one of post-independence Africa’s longest surviving leaders. But his ignominious departure from power at the end of 2002, after 24 years as president, when the candidate he groomed to succeed him was roundly defeated, told the real story of his years in power.
It was a story of stability maintained by ruthless manipulation of the ethnic card and of his opponents’ weaknesses, and by the refinement of a culture of corruption and impunity inherited from his predecessor, Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president.
Moi, whose given name at birth was Toroitich, spent his early years in Kurieng’wo village, in Baringo, western Kenya, with his brother, tending the few sheep and goats left by his father, Kimoi arap Chebii, a herdsman, who died when Moi was four. His paternal uncle sent him to a Protestant missionary primary school where he took the Christian name of Daniel. He went on to another missionary school for his secondary education, before joining the government school at Kapsabet, 100 miles from home. Every term he would walk to and from school.
Moi became a successful teacher, and then assistant principal of a teacher training college, before moving into colonial politics. In October 1955 he became a member of the Legislative Council of Kenya (Legco) – one of five Africans nominated by the British colonial government.
At independence in 1963 he became minister of home affairs, and three years later also vice president to Kenyatta. Moi, as a member of the small Kalenjin ethnic group, was a convenient outsider – and one who owed everything to the president – for Kenyatta to rely on, as his own group of Kikuyu politicians feuded for dominance in his administration.
Those were years of stability for the country, and Kenya prospered with investment and loans – the fruit of Kenyatta’s unwavering pro-western policies that included allowing British troops to be stationed in Kenya. The international community turned a blind eye to the flagrant corruption at the top of Kenyan politics and the political murders that removed the less pliant opposition figures.
When Kenyatta died in August 1978, Moi as vice president became constitutionally president for an interim period of 90 days. All eyes were on the bitter fight for the succession between two competing groups of Kikuyu political heavyweights within the ruling political party, the Kenya African National Union (Kanu). Moi, seen as colourless, and lacking an ethnic base of any importance, was not considered as even a possible contender for the top job.
Even when Moi was elected, as a unifier, his presidency was not expected to last, so dominant were the other competing candidates. But they self-destructed in power struggles with each other, and Moi, with his philosophy of “Nyayo” (peace, love and unity), was initially accepted by Kenyans. They believed he could give the country a chance of overcoming the tribalism that had so marked the corruption and influence-peddling of the previous administration.
However, intolerance and exclusion soon became the hallmarks of Moi’s regime, and in June 1982 the constitution was amended to make Kanu the only legal political party. A coup attempt led by the air force followed in August, and was put down with extreme brutality. Intellectuals, lawyers and some military officers fled into exile.
Moi weathered this challenge with more repression, and went on to consolidate his power base by allowing corruption to take on ever more extravagant dimensions. Highly personalised executive power became his recipe for governing, and imperceptibly he had become an unchallengeable leader, barely recognisable as the invisible non-contestant of earlier years.
In the early 1990s persecution of ethnic groups associated with opposition or potential opposition led to hundreds of thousands of people being displaced in the Rift Valley, hundreds of deaths in so-called tribal clashes, and the detention of many political activists. Major scandals of misappropriation of government funds erupted, but were always hushed up. Such scandals – and ethnic cleansing – continued to the end of Moi’s regime. Ministers, politicians and senior civil servants also seized great tracts of public land, depriving thousands of poor agrarian people of their livelihoods.
In mid 1995 the first major political challenge came, with the founding of a new party, Safina (Noah’s Ark). It was led by Richard Leakey, the white Kenyan conservationist with a distinguished record of work for the country, and some well-known lawyers and old politicians disgusted with the decline in the country’s prestige and the isolation of Kanu from the increasingly impoverished population. The new party encountered violent opposition engineered by Kanu.
Reformist rallies for constitutional change held two years later were so violently attacked that 22 foreign embassies protested and the IMF threatened to hold back a $36m loan – the first of what became major sanctions by donors and the international financial institutions. By 2002, the IMF had withheld $350m.
Moi was too wily a politician to attempt to change the constitution to give himself another term in power, but in 2001 he began to prepare his departure and ensure his own future. He appointed to parliament Uhuru Kenyatta, the businessman son of the first president, quickly promoted him to minister for local government, and groomed him to lead Kanu. Moi, it was clear, would mentor the inexperienced young man.
Not only did this enrage the old party barons of Kanu, who were awaiting their moment of supreme power, but Kenya’s opposition parties managed to unite after a decade of squabbling. Together they produced an upset victory in the 2002 election that humiliated both Kenyatta and his promoter. Moi was forced to hand over power to Mwai Kibaki, formerly a key member of Kanu but for 10 years an implacable critic of all the Moi regime had come to represent.
However, by 2007, in the tough world of Kenyan politics, Kibaki found he needed Kenyatta – and made him deputy prime minister. Kenyatta was charged by the international criminal court with being one of those who perpetrated the deadly electoral violence that year. But this did not end his career and by 2013 politics in Kenya came full circle with the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as president.
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By 2015 the ICC charges were dropped and Kenyatta was re-elected in 2017. With the election of Moi’s youngest son, Gideon, as the powerful chairman of Kanu as well as senator for Baringo from 2013, Moi in his old age saw his political legacy consolidated just as he had long planned.
In 1950 Moi married Lena Bommet, and they had five sons and three daughters. They divorced in 1979 and Lena died in 2004; his eldest son, Jonathan, died last year. Moi is survived by his other children.
Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, politician, born 2 September 1924; died 4 February 2020
President of Nigeria from 1979 to 1983 whose time in office was blighted by slumping oil prices and endemic corruption.
Shehu Shagari, who has died aged 93, was a rare consensual figure in Nigerian politics and the country’s president from 1979 to 1983.
He took office at the behest of the military, which sanctioned a return to civilian government after its own repeated interventions had prevented democracy taking root in Nigeria in the first two decades following independence from Britain in 1960.
Typically, the army brought an end to Shagari’s rule in a coup not long after he was re-elected in 1983. The coup leader, Maj Gen Muhammadu Buhari, is himself now the civilian president of Nigeria following his own election victory in March 2015.
A devout Sunni Muslim from northern Nigeria, Shagari – customarily dressed in Islamic robes – cut a contrasting figure to the bemedalled military men seen in almost constant attendance during his presidency. But for many senior officers, Shagari, with his reputation as a mild-mannered conciliator without a known agenda or power base of his own, was the ideal leader to take office under a new constitution, modelled on that of the US, which gave significant powers to Nigeria’s 19 federal states.
Forging national unity was to be Shagari’s aim in a country riven with ethnic tensions that had been highlighted by the bitter (Biafran) civil war of the late 1960s.
Shagari’s presidency would be marked by the two issues so familiar to contemporary Nigerian politics: endemic corruption and the often fierce divisions between northern Muslims and southern Christians.
But he was also singularly unfortunate to become president at a time when the global glut in oil – Nigeria’s main commodity – sent prices tumbling, slashing the revenues available for Shagari to deliver on his election promises to raise the population’s living standards.
His reputation in the region was severely damaged by his expulsion of more than a million, mostly Ghanaian, workers, who were accused of outstaying their visas and taking jobs from Nigerians.
Internationally, Shagari used high-profile visits to the US and Britain to highlight Nigeria’s opposition to the apartheid regime in South Africa. On his first overseas visit to Washington he found a sympathetic host in President Jimmy Carter. During a state visit to Britain in 1981, he called on Margaret Thatcher’s government to do more to combat “the horrible state of affairs” in South Africa.
Shagari was born in the north-western state of Sokoto in the village founded by his great-grandfather from which the family took its name. He grew up in a polygamous family and his father was a farmer and trader. After studying at a Koranic school he was educated at Barewa College (then known as Kaduna College), in Zaria, Kaduna state.
Shagari worked briefly as a teacher before entering local politics in 1951. Three years later he was elected to the (still colonial) federal House of Representatives. Following independence in 1960, Shagari was a member of every administration – serving variously as minister for the economy, pensions and internal affairs – up until 1966 when the army stepped in to end civilian rule for the first time.
Shagari went back to Sokoto and served in local administration before returning to Lagos in 1971 to become federal commissioner for economic development under the military head of state, General Yakubu Gowon. He would go on to be Gowon’s civilian finance minister, building links with the World Bank and the IMF.
Later in the decade, as a new military leader, Olusegun Obasanjo, unveiled plans for a return to civilian rule, Shagari helped found a new political party, the National party of Nigeria. He was chosen by the party to be its candidate in the presidential election held in April 1979.
Under the slogan One Nation, One Destiny and enjoying the backing of many prominent politicians in the north of the country but also significant support in the south, Shagari won a narrow but not undisputed victory. But his election honeymoon was to prove short-lived.
After initial investment in improving infrastructure and building low-cost housing – both election pledges – the fall in oil prices, which began in 1981, severely affected government finances. Shagari took several steps to strengthen the economy, cutting spending, increasing import duties and expelling foreign workers. Against this background he won re-election in a bitterly contested vote in the summer of 1983. But within a few months, Shagari’s presidency was over: he was deposed in a New Year’s Eve coup.
Accused of being “inept and corrupt”, Shagari was arrested and held for three years. He was later cleared of personal corruption but banned from participation in Nigerian politics. His removal was the prelude to a long period of military rule.
Shagari had four wives, two of whom are reported to have survived him. He is also survived by many children and grandchildren.
• Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, politician, born 25 February 1925; died 28 December 2018
His death was confirmed by multiple sources including his son who said the family would release a statement later tonight.
Mr Anenih, 85, died on Sunday evening at Cedarcrest Hospital, Abuja, where he was receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment, a family source said.
Born in Edo State, Mr Anenih was one of the most influential politicians of his era. He was nicknamed ‘Mr Fix It’ for his ability to manipulate the electoral process.
Mr Anenih was a state chairman of Nigeria’s then ruling party, NPN, between 1981 and 1983. He is believed to have played a major role in the controversial 1983 general elections including in his home state of Bendel (now Edo State) where he helped Samuel Ogbemudia to victory.
Mr Anenih was also the national chairman of the Social Democratic Party in 1993 under whose platform Moshood Abiola won the June 12, 1993 presidential election. Mr Abiola was later imprisoned by the Sani Abacha dictatorship with many of his supporters accusing Mr Anenih of betraying the June 12 cause.
Upon return to democracy in 1999, Mr Anenih was also a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party and was appointed works minister by then President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was accused of masterminding the mismanagement of tens of billions of naira while he held sway as works minister.