Tributes poured in from across the country Monday as former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd), celebrates his 80th birthday today.
Born on August 17, 1941, Babangida was military president of the country between 1985 and 1993.
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Nicknamed ‘Maradona’, he stepped aside shortly after annulling the June 12, 1993 presidential election presumed to have been won by late business mogul Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (MKO).
We have mutual interests – Buhari
Leading the tributes, President Muhammadu Buhari wished Babangida “long and healthy life.”
Buhari, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said as former military commanders during the war and retired generals, he and IBB “have mutual interests, great hopes and expectations in a strong and united Nigeria.”
He expressed hope that privileged Nigerians like Babangida and others like himself would recommit to ongoing efforts to help the nation to reach more glory, progress and prosperity.
Your policies remain reference point – Abdulsalami
Also paying tribute, a former Head of State, General Abdulsalami A. Abubakar (rtd), said General Babangida contributed immensely to the growth and development of the country.
In a message he personally signed, Abdulsalami recalled how Babangida was appointed as Head Boy in 1962 during their final year in the then Provincial Secondary School, (now Government College Bida), Bida, Niger State.
“You never looked back thereafter since your admission in 1962 as a pioneer cadet into the then Nigerian Military Training College, Kaduna, the precursor of the present Nigerian Defence Academy.
“Without doubt, yours is one of the country’s most accomplished and illustrious military careers, fighting in its civil war during which you took a bullet in 1969 for its unity as a young officer, and culminating in your becoming the country’s Military President and Commander-in-Chief of its Armed Forces between 1985 and 1993.
As a master strategist, a refined General and as a Military President, you’ve left an indelible mark as you no doubt have contributed immensely to the growth and development and total wellbeing of our nation and its people. Your policies and actions have remained reference points,” he said.
He’s a pillar of unity – Atiku
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has described Babangida as a pillar of unity and a firm believer in one Nigeria.
In a goodwill message, Atiku said IBB established a record of an inclusive government that reflected Nigeria’s ethnic and religious diversity.
“You can’t deny IBB the credit for his sincere efforts to build a viable federation founded on equitable representation,” Atiku said in the statement signed by Paul Ibe, his Media Adviser.
The former vice president noted that even Babangida’s most stubborn critics can’t deny the fact that the former military leader built a solid national infrastructure for the country which is still standing and visible around the country.
He described IBB as a man of vast knowledge, wisdom, wealth of experience and broad outlook on life.
Also paying tribute, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said Babangida has continued to promote democracy and national unity even out of power.
Lawan, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr Ola Awoniyi, in Abuja on Monday, rejoiced with the family, friends and associates of the general as they celebrate his remarkably fulfilled life.
“President Babangida has attained this milestone in good health of mind and body, and with his legacy well established in the political history of our great country, Nigeria.
“President Babangida is a patriot and firm believer in the Nigerian project, which he promoted with courage and great wit as a soldier and a political leader.
“While in government, he worked to keep Nigeria united and to make it stable and prosperous,” he said.
Saraki, Kwankwaso, Badaru hail
A former Senate president, Bukola Saraki, has described the former military president as a blessing to the country.
Saraki, a former governor of Kwara State, said, “the impact of your patriotic service to our country continues to resonate as we work towards stronger nationhood. You were a blessing to our great nation and your contribution to lives remains indelible.
A former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, described Babangida as a bridge-builder.
“Since the past 45 years when you hit national consciousness as a fearless, patriotic officer and gentleman, you have continued to be an icon whose positive interventions at difficult times in our national life have been remarkable.
You are a great bridge builder, symbol of national unity, detribalised leader, intellectual soldier, father to all and model family man,” he said.
On his part, Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Muhammed Badaru Abubakar, has described Babangida as a symbol of unity and beacon of nationalism who worked for unity and development of Nigeria.
In a congratulatory message signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Print Media, Ahmad Muhammad Danyaro, Abubakar noted that having successfully navigated through 80 years of life as a military officer, military president and now an elder statesman, Babangida represents an embodiment of experience, wisdom and legendary leadership.
He gave his all for Nigeria’s unity, survival – Niger gov
Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello of Niger State has described Babangida as a true patriot and nationalist who gave his all for the unity and survival of Nigeria.
Bello stated this in a congratulatory message issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mrs Mary Noel-Berje, in Minna on Monday.
He said Babangida’s doggedness and commitment to nation-building were crucial to the stability, development as well as national and international unity of the country.
According to Bello, the former military president has remained an invaluable guardian, indispensable and relevant in the country’s match towards nationhood.
“I congratulate you on this special day of commemorating your birth. On a day like this, memories of your courage and invaluable service to the Nigerian Army in protecting the country remain indelible.
“Your exemplary leadership qualities have indeed been helping and stimulating the younger generation for better service to the county,’’ he said.
Bello noted that the elder statesman’s policies and programmes during his regime as military president from 1985 to 1993 were still standing the test of time.
He said IBB, as he is fondly called, had continued to symbolise statesmanship, patriotism, professionalism, vision and courage, even after his active service to the country.
The governor said the retired general remained an asset to the country in spite of his age, stressing that his advice would continue to be needed for the growth and development of the state in particular and Nigeria at large.
He is a dedicated statesman – Kalu
A former governor of Abia State and the Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Kalu has described Babaginda as a bridge builder with passion for a united and indivisible Nigeria.
Kalu, in a goodwill message issued on Monday in Abuja to celebrate the former military president at 80, acknowledged his contributions to nation building. He also described him as an accomplished and dedicated elder statesman.
According to Kalu, IBB has over the years sustained relationships across the country by building and strengthening ties among family, friends and associates.
Babangida, a detribalised leader with outstanding legacies – PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has extolled the virtues of Babangida, describing him as a detribalised leader with outstanding legacies in office.
PDP, in a statement issued in Abuja on Monday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, also described Babangida as a quintessential statesman and highly courageous.
According to the statement, Babangida is a leader with inexorable steadfastness to the unity, stability, national cohesion and development of the nation.