Some elder statesmen and eminent Nigerians, many of whom played key roles in the administration of former Military President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, have come out to address some of the age-long thoughts about his leadership, with a view to owning their own narrative, as reported in ThisDay newspaper.
They addressed issues as the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the mindless killing of a renowned journalist, Dele Giwa, and the killing of Mamman Vasta in the wake of the foiled 1996 coup.
They all spoke at the maiden edition of IBB Legacy Dialogue, which is one of the products of the IBB and Maryam Babangida Presidential Library. The colloquium was designed as part of events to mark Babangida’s 80th birthday coming up next Tuesday, August 17.
Generally, the speakers called on leaders across the country to emulate the inclusive leadership qualities of the former military president in managing Nigeria’s multi-ethnic polity and raised concern over the retrogression of intellectualism in governance.
They also expressed concerns about poor handling of Nigeria’s multi-ethnic nature, and set the agenda for the future. They said future leaders of the country should have a broad network of friends across the country in order to ascertain the true situation of things across Nigeria.
General Halilu Akilu said 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 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.
Akilu 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.”
Former head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who recalled his early childhood years with Babangida, said the former military president displayed leadership qualities from a young age, serving as class monitor in primary school and later as head boy in secondary school.
Listening to the horde of IBB’s eminent admirers, one would wonder whether Nigeria has played the best of its cards. Put differently, do future Nigerian leaders have to draw deeply from the past to put their best feet forward?