Associates of former Military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) on Thursday lauded his contributions to the growth and development of the nation, saying he assembled the best brains in the country who worked in his administration more than any other Nigerian leader.
They also said Babangida built enduring institutions many of which are still very functional today almost 30 years after he left office in August 1993.
Several keynote speakers stated this during their presentation at the IBB Legacy Dialogue, an event organised to mark the 80th birthday ceremony of the former Nigerian leader.
Among dignitaries who spoke at the event were Abdulsalami Abubakar, former Head of State; David Mark, former Senate President; Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, a former Minister of Finance; Prof. Jerry Gana, former Minister of Information and General Ike Nwachukwu; Gen. Haliru Akilu, a former Director of National Intelligence and Chief Raymond Dokpesi who was the chairman of the occasion.
Others are Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former governor of Osun state; Prof. Tunde Adeniran, a former Minister of Education; Prof. George Obiozor, President General of Ohanaeze Worldwide; Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Prof. Adele Jonathan and Osita Chidoka, former Minister of Aviation.
All the speakers said Babangida did the best for his country within his ability and power, adding that no government, either past or present, has surpassed the good things he did in his eight-year reign.
Dokpesi who was the Chairman of the event dismissed the negative attributes by some Nigerians to Babangida’s reputation over the years.
He specifically absolved Babangida of the blame of the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election and the alleged missing $12 billion Gulf oil windfall while he held sway as military head of state.
“IBB brought into government a galaxy of intellectuals, specialists and professionals unarguably more than any other leaders before and after him”.
“Most notable amongst these were Prof. Olikoye Ransome Kuti, who turned around the healthcare system in this country, Chief Kalu Idika Kalu, Prof. Tam David West, Prof. Jerry Gana, Prof. Sam Oyovbaire and too many others too numerous to mention who contributed immensely to the development of our nation”.
Also speaking on the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late M.K.O Abiola, Dokpesi said the action was taken as a Doctrine of Necessity just like what happened during the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua era.
“President Babangida has explained times without number that it was related to Doctrine of Necessity. I am happy that former Senate President, David Mark who was champion of the doctrine at that time is also present here today.
“It was expedient for the administration of that time to annul the election but times have passed. We need to rebuild the country at this point in time because this country is more divided than ever before,” he said.
Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, who was one of the panelists said IBB’s rise started from a humble background and became the best leader Nigeria had in spite of all obstacles.
“Babangida is patient, dedicated and loyal to Nigeria and his friends. He is the most affectionate to family, friends, colleagues as well as subordinates.
“This event to mark his 80th birthday by his children is a show that a legacy had been laid from the home. We as parents are happy that our children have reached the stage to carry on with a legacy of excellence and dedication,” he said.
Speaking on the agitations for separation, Abdulsalami said Nigerians should embrace their diversity and work towards maintaining unity.
“Even if you break Nigeria now, how are you going to do it? When everybody, every Nigerian, anywhere you go in the village, you will find a Hausa man, a Yoruba man, an Igbo man, Itsekiri and so on and so forth. So, when you say you divide, where do you draw the line with the inter-marriages and so on and so forth? It is going to be difficult.”
On his part, Oyinlola said Babangida brought consultative process even in the military while in government and came up with laudable policies and programmes to enhance the lives of Nigerians.
Going down memory lane, he said it was a privilege for him to have mediated between a former president, Olusegun Obasanjo and Babangida, saying that “I thank God that they both allowed me to mediate in that issue.
“The greatest trying period for me in my life in my relationship with them, was when there was a conflict between them and it went to the pages of the newspapers”.
“And one calling the other a fool at 70, is a fool forever. Honestly I was close to tears. I want to thank God that the two of them allowed me to mediate and settle them,’’ Oyinlola said.