The former military president of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Badamasi
Babangida celebrated his 75th birthday anniversary on August 17, 2016.Though, not in showy way, his numerous fans across the nation have continued to felicitate with the ex-General for his valuable contributions towards the peace, unity and growth of the nation, writes Peter Uzoho
Call him any name you like. Describe him in anyway suitable for you, but truth be told, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida popularly known as IBB, remains a behemoth that can never be missing in the history book of the Nigerian state.
Every year, IBB is celebrated by his numerous fans and associates as he marks his annual birthday celebrations. On 17 August, 2016, he marked his 75th birthday, though, in no showy way. To celebrate the invaluable elder statesman, eminent personalities poured in their congratulatory messages as they wished him well. President Muhammadu Buhari who visited him in Minna, a day before his birthday, to felicitate with him, said “There is hardly any major episode in Nigeria’s short history where your name and contribution does not feature.”
The former military head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar described Babangida as ‘Nigeria’s one and only Military President.’ “You re-engineered the country’s political economy like no other Nigerian leader”. At 75, you have achieved all there is to achieve. Let’s give thanks to Allah for this great abundance of life and grace,” Abdulsalami noted.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has this to say, “I have personally followed your career in the military spanning three decades and I particularly felicitate with you and your family on this auspicious occasion of your 75th birthday anniversary. “My prayer is that the remaining years of your life be spent in relative comfort and satisfaction,” Obasanjo added.
For Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello, he said ”At 75, you continue to symbolise statesmanship, patriotism, professionalism and courage which are some of the excellent leadership virtues that have guided you throughout your active public service life.”
“As you celebrate your 75th birthday, may Allah grant you excellent health, courage and many more years of selfless service to our fatherland and humanity,” Bello noted.
Interestingly, the birthday celebrant, Babangida used the occasion to refute the negative label people give to him, saying “I’m not the evil genius that a lot of people think I am. I have an excellent background and by my training, I am trained to love people. I was bound to be misconstrued and people will take it like that, but I consider it as opinions as long as I am not what you think I am, I feel satisfied.” Babangida was the Chief of Army Staff and a member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) under the administration of Major General Muhammadu Buhari and would later overthrow Buhari’s regime on 27 August 1985, in a bloodless military coup that relied on mid-level officers that Babangida strategically positioned over the years.
He has a number of points which stand in his favour as credits for piloting the affairs of the most populous black nation in the world, for eight uninterrupted years. Even as a military ruler, he was able to give people from all parts of the country, a sense of belonging in the affairs of the nation. Although, he is from the North, he has his friends, allies and supporters from the East, South and Western parts of the country. Being a Muslim military head of state, he welcomed and tolerated Christians and had his fans among them. No wonder today, IBB still has Nigerians who strongly believe in him and would rather remain loyal to him having been convinced of the real worth of their man.
Instead of holding on to power after the annulment of June 12,1993 presidential election, Babangida displayed a rare sense of understanding and acceptance of the will of the people, and resigned. Even when he had all the military apparatuses at his disposal, which could make him defy the wish of the people, he never allowed all that to get into his head to ruin him and the nation. To him, the peace and unity of the nation was far more than his position as the military head.
Born on 17 August, 1941, in Minna, Niger State, to his parents, Muhammad and Aisha Babangida, from Gwari ethnic group, Babangida attended the Provincial Secondary School, Bida from 1957 to 1962. He later joined the Nigerian Army, on 10 December 1962, when he attended the Nigerian Military Training College (NMTC) in Kaduna. Babangida received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant as a regular combatant officer in the Royal Nigerian Army, a month before it became the Nigerian Army, with the personal army number N/438 from the Indian Military Academy, on 26 September 1963. He was among the first batch of Nigerian graduates from the NMTC who attended the Indian Military Academy from April to September 1963. Babangida furthered his armory training from January 1966 until April 1966 by enrolling in Course 38 of the Young Officers’ Course in the United Kingdom where he received a four-month course in Saladin and gunnery.
From August 1972 to June 1973, he took the Advanced Armored Officers’ course at Armored School. He attended the Senior Officers’ Course, Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jali, from January 1977 until July 1977, and the Senior International Defense Management Course, Naval Postgraduate School, U.S., in 1980.
He was heavily involved in quelling the Nigerian coup of 1976, when he was to ‘liberate’ a radio station from one of the coup plotters, Col Buka Suka Dimka, his close friend, to prevent him making further announcements over the air waves. Although he did prevent further broadcasts, Col Dimka managed to escape.
Before his retirement from the military, Babangida attained the following ranks: Second Lieutenant 1963, Lieutenant 1966, Captain 1968, Major 1970, Lieutenant Colonel 1970, Colonel 1973, Brigadier 1979, Major-General 1983, and General 1987.Babangida also served as a member of the Supreme Military Council from 1 August 1975 to October 1979.
Owing to his bravery, gallantry and excellence in military service, he was honoured with the following awards: Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (GCFR);Defence Service Medal (DSM);The National Service Medal (NSM);The Royal Service Medal (RSM);The Forces Services Star (FSS);General Service Medal (GSM);and the Knight Grand Cross of the Bath (GCB),which was conferred on him in May,1989,by Queen Elizabeth 11 of Britain.
Even as he is ageing, Babangida’s influence and weight in the affairs of the nation has not diminished by any means. During elections, the road to his abode witnesses human traffic occasioned by politicians intending to contest for the position of the President. In such occasions, he plays the role of a typical father, who accommodates all his children and assures all of his unflinching support, not minding who is from the North, East, West or South.