By  Chioma Gabriel, Deputy  Editor
The demise of former first  lady and wife of former military dictator,General Ibrahim Babanida is still causing ripples
amongst  the women. Mrs Babangida means different things to different people. But Mrs Babangida cannot be forgotten for her good deeds.

In 1990, a member of Collective Artistes, Actress Becky Musa was diagnosed with  a  life threatening  ailment that required urgent medical treatment Overseas.The cost of the treatment then was 30,000dollars. General Ibrahim Babangida was the President then and Maryam, the most famous and glamorous first lady.

When the Collective Artistes gathered and raised an alarm over the ailment of their member whom the doctors had given  a few days to live, Maryam Babangida came to her rescue and  convinced her husband to help and they did. Becky Musa was flown abroad for treatment and she was brought back, hale and healthy. Mrs Babangida saved her life.

This is just one the good deeds of the wife of the former head of state who reigned supreme at her time and gave a better  life to Nigerian women.

In this edition, Saturday Vanguard  spoke with the women who had encounters with Maryam and they  shared their experiences. These women include Honourable Abike Dabiri of the House of Representatives, TV icon Julie Coker, Senator Joy Emodi, frontline female politician Mrs Sarah Jubril, Gubernatorial candidate of PPA in Lagos state, Chief Mrs Adiukwu Bakare and gubernatorial candidate of PPA in Anambra  state Hon Uche Ekwunife.

Abike Dabiri

There is nobody who does not know Maryam Babangida’s legacy of Better Life for Rural dwellers. . Her legacy is what parents should tell their children because she was a woman in a million. At the time I knew her, her husband had not risen in the army. He was not even Chief of Staff yet. I was with NTA and I used to go to their house and take her children to birthday parties. I was also taking them to the studio for recording of children’s programmes.

Maryam Babangida  was a resourceful woman. When I met her in her home at Minna and talked with her, I knew the woman of substance she was. She was into charity and into empowering a lot of women. The last time I saw her was at the wedding of President Yar’Adua’s daughter where I was a co_compere with Ikenna Nduagaba. She was there and I paid tribute to her, not knowing it was the last time. The troupe a performed at the wedding paid tribute to her for establishing the Nigeria Child Foundation in 1981.The troupe said she brought them to limelight.

She was the originator of Better_Life which would have made Nigeria a better country. She brought up her kids very well. They are very respectful. On the occasions I went to their house, I knew they were well brought us.

It was through her Better Life Programme that I saw twelve people frying garri at the same time using  industrial gas and fryer. If people are honest, they should appreciate her.

She was a different kind of first lady and other first ladies in other states had their brand of Better life. When I wrote my book, 50 Years of Television,  I was invited by her and she supported me. She was a role model to a lot of women and she made so many idle house_wives breadwinners.

Mrs Maryam Babangida was a trailblazer and a mobilser  per excellence. She remains unforgettable . As a journalist, I worked  with her for four years. She was the first lady and I worked with her.  There was  a particular incident. I  attended  a function with her.

I  sat there jotting my points and suddenly ,my pen  stopped flowing. I was shaking it  but it would not work. I did not know madam was watching me. She got up and gave me her pen. It was an expensive mont blanc pen and I thanked her.

After the event, I went to her when she was going to return the pen but she told me to keep it. That was madam for you. She was very observant, very caring,  very firm but very fair. She was a true mother.

When the  final movement  of the seat of power from Dodan  Barracks to Aso Rock became a reality, many of us left with apprehension but madam made sure all her staff  were well taken care of.

Her Better Life Programme ,BLP, without any iota of doubt remained one of the most successful and  impactful programme embarked  upon by anyone. I still interacted with a group of women three months ago who said they got economically empowered by  Mrs Babangida through her charity  network. She opened a new vista for Nigerian women.

I learnt so much from her in those four years I worked with her. The virtues of discipline, integrity, giving back, touching lives, family values were her hallmarks. She monitored my progress all through and would always chip in one or two words of advice. She was a true mother; firm, focused, fair, virtuous, principled and a woman full of wisdom and initiatives; a great woman of  all times.

At the seat of government ,you would see Aisha, Mohammed and Aminu, ( Halima  was a baby  then) mingle freely with all. They had no airs around them. They were humble, dignified and respectful. She liked to gist and I will miss her gist and wise counseling.

I spoke with her barely twelve days ago. I will miss her and all Nigerians women must ensure her legacies live forever.

Mrs. Sarah Jubril

Besides being a one-time first lady, we’re all together as soldiers wives in the army officers wives association which metamorphosed into Better Life for Rural Dwellers.

I remember that I discussed  that personally with her in her sitting room. She imparted on us mentors and she economically empowered women especially though better life. She touched the life of women and made sure she touched the lives of rural women and children. She was a colleague, a compatriot and a mother in a million.

On a personal level, she was a family person and trained her children very well. She touched Nigeria as a whole and her impact was felt throughout the federation. She made idle house wives working mothers and bread –winners and Nigerian women will remember her for a long time. As a first lady, she was the best and we will miss her.


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