At Babangida’s 80th Birthday Lecture, Panelists Address His Challenges
*Iwuanyawu: June 12 annulment not his sole decision, he didn’t kill Dele Giwa
*Akilu: Vasta was killed because he wasn’t innocent of foiled ’86 coup
*Abubakar: He’s needlessly misunderstood
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
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.
Those who took the pain to explain away some of the issues that have stigmatised Babangida included a former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar; a member of the defunct Armed Forces Ruling Council, Gen. Haliru Akilu, and a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu.
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 concern 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.
Reflecting on his relationship with Babangida, Iwuanyanwu, who echoed the need for inclusive government, however, defended IBB over June 12 annulment and described the news that he killed Dele Giwa as fake.
Iwuanyanwu stated, “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. not properly responded to.
“On the cancellation of the 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 said IBB impressed him as a friend and leader in many dimensions, hailed his inclusive leadership abilities in a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria.
While appreciating his leadership qualities, Iwuanyanwu said, “When you assume leadership of a multi-ethnic country, you must carry everybody along.”
He urged secessionist groups to desist from stoking the embers of war, noting that having experienced war just like Babangida, it was not a tea party.
Iwuanyanwu said, “We are warning the younger ones causing trouble, it is not a tea party. I fought in the war and he (Babangida) fought and we suffered injuries.” He added that when Babangida came to power, he assured those who fought the war on the side of Biafra of inclusion and “he made it real.”
Iwuanyanwu explained, “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. To have confidence in a people called rebels is why Igbos have confidence in IBB. He married our daughter. He gave us respect.”
The PDP BoT member recalled that Babangida founded the Raw Materials Development Council in order to address the way foreigners were exporting raw materials from the country.
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.”
Akilu, on his part, defended IBB over the killing of Vasta.
He said, “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 were 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.”
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.
“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,” he said.
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.”
He 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.
“I thought that successive administrations would build more barracks but no additional barracks have been built for the military.”
Akilu 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.”
In his contribution on “how he built his tribe”, Abubakar, extolled the virtues of the former military president and underscored the need for leaders in the country to carry everybody along in a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria.
Abubakar, while underscoring the leadership qualities that endeared Babangida to many Nigerians, said, “Once you are a leader, everybody is yours. You are supposed to look after the welfare of all of them.”
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.
Regretting that the Babangida was one of the most misunderstood Nigerians, Abubakar noted that Babangida has the love of Nigeria at heart.
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.
The former head of state said, “IBB has the love of the country in his heart. He is one of the most misunderstood Nigerians but by and large, you can see that what he has established over the years; we are seeing the benefits. Abuja is one of the greatest and fastest growing capitals in the world. He is quite accommodating and generous to a fault. He can deprive himself to make sure someone is okay.”
Other dignitaries at the event included former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu; former Senate President David Mark; former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana; former Minister of Education, Prof Tunde Adeniran; media mogul and Chairman of Daar Communication Group, Raymond Dopkesi; and Gen Olagunsoye Oyinlola.