*’IBB is ran inclusive administration’
*’Nigeria needs leader like IBB without ethnic, religious biases’
By Henry Umoru, ABUJA
FORMER Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd); former Senate President, David Mark; Senator Rochas Okorocha and elder statesman, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, have said every Nigeria leader must strive to be a leader of the entire country and rule the country without ethnic or religious biases, just like former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida(rtd), IBB, did.
According to them, there was an urgent need for Nigeria to have a leader that embraces all just like IBB, who was a detribalised leader and appointed his ministers and lieutenants from across the country irrespective of the tribe and ethnicity.’
They added that when one assumes the position of leadership, especially in a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria, the leader must carry everyone along.
These notable Nigerians spoke when they converged on Abuja to honour Babangida, as part of activities to mark his 80th birthday anniversary.
They also absolved him of blame in some incidents that his administration was notorious for, such as the assassination of Dele Giwa, the execution of Mamman Vasta, the mysterious ‘disappearance’ of $12 billion oil windfall and annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
Other dignitaries at the event were former Governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola; former Minister of Information and National Orientation, Prof. Jerry Gana; former National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Musa Babayo; AVM Larry Koinyan(retd); Chairman, Daar Communications Plc, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi; former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu; Tunji Olagunju and Hassan Jallo.
The President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Professor George Obiozor; former Governor of Niger State, Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu; former Education Minister, Professor Tunde Adeniran, among others, were also there.
The event, titled IBB Legacy Dialogue, Let’ Celebrate the Legend, For the Ibrahim and Mariam Babangida Presidential Library and Museum,” has as its theme IBB, the Man, His Vision, His Legacy.
On June 12
The leaders also exonerated the former President of any blame in the cancellation of the June 12 election, noting that he did not take the decision alone.
The leaders also lamented the drift in Nigeria along lines of ethnicity just as they decried the anti-intellectual posture in the polity and stressed the need for leaders to have a broad network of friends across the country in order to ascertain the true situation of things in the country.
In his speech, the former Head of State, General Abubakar who spoke on the sub-theme: “How he built his tribe”, extolled the virtues of the former military president, underscored the need for leaders in the country to carry everybody along in a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria.
Abubakar, who spoke as a panelist while underscoring the leadership qualities that have endeared Babangida to a lot of Nigerians, said: “Once you are a leader everybody is yours. You are supposed to look after the welfare of all of them.”
The former Head of State who recalled his early childhood years with Babangida, said the former military president displayed leadership qualities from a young age.
He said IBB served as a class monitor in primary school and later as Head Boy in secondary school.
IBB misunderstood — Abubakar
However, he regretted that the former military president is one of the most misunderstood, noted that Babangida has the love of Nigeria at heart, just as he reflected on the institutions established under the Babangida administration, adding that Nigerians are now reaping the fruits of the numerous agencies created under his watch.
On Babangida being misunderstood, Abubakar said: “A lot of things are put in his mouth and whatever he says is twisted to suit whosoever is passing on the message.”
On the state of the nation, he said: “All I will say is that we have insecurity and all hands should be put on deck to address it.
“All these culprits, the Boko Haram, bandits, kidnappers and whatever name they are called, are living among us and definitely, they are known.
“So let us report them to the authorities and let us put our hands to tackle the security challenges.”
Speaking on secession, the former Head of State said: “All that I will say is that we should strengthen diversity. Let us try to see how we can sink our differences and continue to live together in peace.
“Even if you want to break Nigeria, how are you going to do it? Everybody, every Nigerian is connected one way or the other. Everywhere you go in the village you’ll find a Hausa man, a Yoruba man, an Igbo man, Itsekiri man, and so on and so forth.
“So when you say you want to divide, where do you draw the line with the intermarriages and so on and so forth? It’s going to be a difficult task.”
Other panelists on the sub-theme “How He Built His Tribe” were Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; Alhaji Bello Maitama; Brig. General Haliru Akilu( Rtd) and Col. Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
Speaking as a panelist on the topic “Vision foresight and rebuilding a modern Nigeria”, former President of the Senate David Mark, said Babangida’s personal touch of governance has made him a popular figure in Nigeria.
Recounting his experience while serving as military administration in Niger State and later as a minister under the Babangida regime, Mark said the former military president stood by him and didn’t unduly interfere in decision making.
Mark, who noted that he served in three capacities under Babangida, said: “Niger State had the highest number of generals in the Army. But Gen Babangida stood by me when Generals pulled me in different directions over an issue.
According to him, as minister of communication, he recalled how the military president gave him a free hand to revitalise NITEL leading to the establishment of two earth stations.
He added that he was able to convince the military president to allow him to cut phone lines of government offices as a means of making them pay the backlog of their bills.
Mark said that Babangida was not swayed by those who claimed that the process of disconnecting phone lines of government offices, including Dodan Barracks, as a means to ensure government offices paid their bills, was part of a coup plot.
The former President of the Senate recalled that the military president replied “This boy would not do a coup without telling me.”
Mark, who hailed Babangida for establishing many institutions and getting the best hands to work with him, said: “He had intellectuals, strategists and tacticians and he was able to bring them together.
“He allowed those with extreme and moderate views during meetings to express themselves. But what marveled me was how he was able to get the best from them.”
He added that Babangida insisted on a two-democratic party system despite a lot of pressure on him to do more than two parties.
No more war, secession— Iwuanyanwu
In his remarks, elder statesman and member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu who particularly warned against agitation for secession, said that war must be avoided because it is not a tea party.
Reflecting on his long relationship with Babangida, Iwuanyanwu who stressed the need for inclusive government, said that Babangida impressed him as a friend and leader in many dimensions, hailed his inclusive leadership abilities in a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria.
Iwuanyanwu said, “When you assume leadership of a multi-ethnic country, you must carry everybody along.”
Iwuanyanwu who urged those secessionist groups to desist from stoke the embers of war, noted that having experienced war just like Babangida, it was not a tea party.
He said: “We are warning younger ones causing trouble; it is not a tea party. I fought in the war and he (Babangida) fought and we suffered injuries.”
According to him, when Babangida came to power he assured those who fought in the war on the side of Biafra of inclusion and “he made it real.”
“He (Babangida) had people of all parts working for him. It is an example other leaders must learn. He didn’t neglect any ethnic group; he carried them all along.
“IBB had confidence in a people called rebels that is why Igbo have confidence in IBB. He married our daughter. He gave us respect.”
The PDP chieftain recalled that Babangida founded the raw materials development Council in order to address the way foreigners were exporting raw materials from the country.
He also said the former military was not to blame for the cancellation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
He said: “I am not worried about the stories about IBB. A leader must be swift to respond to false comments about him. That story on Dele Giwa is fake news. But because it was not properly responded to.
“On the cancellation of June 12 election, none of the council members protested or resigned because of the cancellation of the result. Maybe after this the narrative will improve.”
Iwuanyanwu who thanked God that the former military president is alive, added that he is not sure that IBB has recovered from the death of his wife, Hajiya Maryam Babangida.
Recalling how the former president spent the whole day at his hometown in Imo State when he buried his father, Iwuanyanwu said: “He is an excellent leader.
“He is being misrepresented. All leaders are misrepresented. But it is for the leader to tell his story if he does not tell it others will tell it for him. He should say with joy that I came, saw and conquered.”
The second sub-theme “Vision and Foresight: Re-Building a New Nigeria” with Prof. Sam Oyovbaire; Alhaji Ahmadu Abubakar; Brig. Tunji Olurin( Rtd); Senator David Mark and Alhaji Sinatu Ojikutu as panelists.
The third sub-theme: “Economy, Rural Development and Infrastructure” had Dr. Musa Babayo; AVM Larry Koinyan( Rtd); Engr. ( Mrs) Olu Maduka; Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu and Prof. Jerry Gana as panelists.
The fourth sub-theme: “The Nigerian Foreign Policy Agenda and Pan- Africanism” had Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi; Amb. George Obiozor; Prof. Tunde Adeniran and Gen. Ike Nwachukwu as Panelists.
Earlier in his opening remarks, Chairman of the occasion, Chief Raymond Dokpesi who dismissed negative attributes by some Nigerians to Babangida’s reputation over the years, specifically absolved Babangida of the blame of the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election and the alleged missing $12 billion oil windfall while he held away as military head of state.
According to Dokpesi, Babaginda assembled some of the best minds in Nigeria to turn the country around and they contributed positively to reshape our country, adding that his worst critics will regard him for the work he had done for the country.
He recalled how the former military president oversaw the relocation of the federal capital territory from Lagos to Abuja, the construction of the Kano- Abuja expressway, many agencies which are still very relevant today including NIMASA, NAFDAC, FRSC, NBC.
Also speaking, a member of defunct, Armed Forces Ruling Council, Gen Haliru Akilu, disclosed that he was attracted to Babangida during the civil war when Babangida, as a young military officer, defended a junior officer from a bully military officer.
He said, “There was an incident that attracted me to him. He stood up for a junior officer who was being bullied. He cared for the junior officers working under him.”
Akilu described Babangida as a gifted person, who is kind to a fault.
Akilu recalled how the former military president gave out his only car to a friend who needed it.
He said, “His loyalty to his friends is legendary. He will never betray you no matter what. He will never forsake his friends. If you are his friend he will never abandon you.
“As for those bringing the case of Vasta, they should go and dig deeper and find out what happened. We were there and we had a tribunal that looked into the case.
“If Gen Vasta was innocent nobody would have convicted him. Unfortunately, he was the most senior officer behind the attempted coup in 1986. So people should not jump to conclusions.”
He, however, lamented the failure of successive administrations to follow in the steps of Babangida in building more barracks for the military so that the military will have comfort.
He added: “I thought that successive administrations would build more barracks but no additional barracks have been built for the military.”
He also decried the lack of maintenance of the federal secretariat which was built by the Babangida regime.
On the relocation of the federal capital territory from Lagos to Abuja Akilu said “He was courageous to take the right decision at the right place and time even when many of us were saying it was not the right time.”
Also in his remarks, Prof Sam Oyovbaire who underscored the need for the next leader to have a firm understanding of the country, said, “To govern the country, you must know the country. You must know in virtually every part of the country.”
The former Minister who noted that former military president’s role in starting the democratising of the Nigerian society and liberalisation of the economy, said, “He had a rare gift of knowing people by their first names,” Oyovbaire said.
Also former deputy governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu who described IBB as a hero to the womenfolk, however, said that he should not be blamed alone for the cancellation of the June 12, 1999 election.
“He didn’t singlehandedly annul the June 12 election. People were behind it but unfortunately, the buck stopped somewhere,” she said.
“Babangida’s administration was a success. I hope the incumbent administration will look into some of the things”
On his part, the former military administrator of Lagos State, Col Olagunsoye Oyinlola, stated that Babangida is large-hearted, an unusual leader.
He has a subtle way of scolding you when you do not carry out your assignment well, adding that the only abuse I have heard from his mouth is “bloody idiot”.
Oyinlola who described the fight between Obasanjo and Babaginda as the most trying time of his life, said that it degenerated to the point where one would say “you are a fool” and the other replied.
He said: “I was close to tears. I went to Baba at Ota and I said sir, in my place there is a saying that old dogs do not tear the mat. It is the small dogs that try to bite the mat.
“Baba said go and meet your Oga he started it. I took a flight to Minna. I want to thank God that the two of them allowed me to mediate in the matter.”
On his part, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, General Ike Nwachukwu, described Babangida as a detrabilised Nigerian and a man of tremendous ideas.
He said IBB is a man who understands world affairs, adding that his role in Liberia and Sierra Leone through ECOMOG helped to bring peace and unity to the West African sub-region.