Deji Elumoye, Omololu Ogunmade, Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
President Muhammadu Buhari; President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan; former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan; former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; one of Lawan’s predecessors, Senator David Mark, and Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, yesterday celebrated former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), who marks his 79th birthday today.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said in a statement that the president joined family, friends and associates of Babangida to celebrate with him on his final journey to the octogenarian club.
The statement said as the former military leader attained a new age today, the president believes that his services to the country would always be remembered.
“President Buhari prays that the Almighty God will continually strengthen Gen. Babangida, grant him good health and longer life,” the statement added.
Jonathan, in his goodwill message, described Babangida as a statesman who has made a considerable contribution to Nigeria’s growth.
“I celebrate with you, your family, and all associates as you mark your 79th birthday,” he said, adding: “You are a statesman who has made invaluable contributions to the growth and development of our country, Nigeria.
“I salute your steadfast love for our nation and your continued zeal towards a united and prosperous Nigeria.”
Atiku also paid tribute to Babangida for what he described as his respect and commitment to the nation’s diversity.
Atiku said, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Paul Ibe, that Babangida’s attributes of intelligence, wisdom, charisma and understanding and respect for Nigeria’s diversity had stood the test of time.
“General Babangida is amazingly gifted, he is a strategic thinker and a true believer in national unity and national integration, qualities for which history and posterity will deliver a favourable verdict on him.
“One of the reasons Babangida charms and arouses the interest of the world is his unique capacity to learn, and listen to others, even if he disagrees with them,” he stated.
Lawan described Babangida as a passionate Nigerian.
In a congratulatory message, Lawan noted that Babangida has remained passionate about Nigeria more than two decades after his exit from active public service.
According to him, the former Nigerian leader could be proud of his contributions to the defence of the territorial integrity, unity, and political and sociology-economic development of Nigeria.
Lawan, therefore, urged the elder statesman to continue to avail those in leadership positions the benefits of his experience and wise counsel for the unity, stability and progress of the nation.
Okowa also congratulated the former military president, saying his commitment to the unity and growth of the country deserves commendation.
In a statement yesterday by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olisa Ifeajika, in Asaba, the governor thanked the former president for his visible contributions to nation-building, noting that it was during his administration that a number of states, including Delta, were created.
Okowa said: “At 79, your contributions to nation-building reverberate across the nooks and crannies of our great nation; and, as Deltans in particular, we can’t thank you enough for creating our state in 1991.
“As we mark the 29th anniversary of the creation of Delta, we recall with gratitude your exemplary and legendary contributions in making it a reality.
“The benefits of state creation, no doubt, have manifested tremendously in the lives of over five million Deltans who live and do business in our state, which has impacted positively in the economic, infrastructural and human capital development of our people.”
A former Senate president, Senator David Mark, described Babangida as an inspirational leader.
In a goodwill message, Mark said his inspirational leadership stimulated so many Nigerians and others to the zenith of their careers with a perfect class of character and quality.
He said: “His wealth of experience and leadership dexterity will remain priceless and indeed evergreen to generation of leaders to tap from.”
Mark eulogised the elder statesman for availing the younger generation of leaders his reservoir of knowledge in leadership and experience to learn from.
Recalling his days as Nigerian president for a record eight years, Mark, who served as communications minister under Babangida, stated that the General demonstrated patriotism and statesmanship.
“Babangida believes and works for the sanctity of our unity as a nation. For him, the territorial integrity of Nigeria, the welfare and the wellbeing of Nigerians must not be compromised,” he added.
Mark said it was in his commitment to give all Nigerians a sense of belonging, guarantee peace needed for development and promote national cohesion, that the Babangida government created Akwa Ibom, Katsina, Abia, Enugu, Delta, Jigawa, Kebbi, Osun, Kogi, Taraba and Yobe states, among others.
He stated that Babangida restructured the national security apparatus of the country then by creating the State Security Service (SSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), among others to achieve a holistic approach to tackle security issues.