Despite the encomiums that poured in from different quarters of the country, wishing General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (Retd.) a happy birthday, men of Journalists Hangout, a popular program on TVC News, did not fail to quiz the Retired General, over some germane issues bothering on his achievements as a former President and the current situation of things in the country. IBB, has the retired General is fondly called, did not failed to give answers to the questions not minding the technical hitches in connection, witnessed during the talk show.
Retired General Babangida who celebrated his 80th birthday on Tuesday, August 17, 2021, did not failed to praise Nigerians for their resilience, while speaking from his Minna based home in Nigeria.
The Octogenarian said,
“… I have absolute faith and confident in the Nigerian people. I have confidence in their resilience; I am confident in their industry; and I pray that they will continue to maintain the tempo has a people; a people united as Nigeria.
IBB, who survived the civil war, and two major coups witnessed in Nigeria that led to the death of some of his colleagues, and some other Nigerians, young and old, was obviously happy for clocking 80. Analysts said, because of these experiences, General Babangida, who like any other mortals, had made his own mistakes, still believes in the oneness of Nigeria as a nation, disproving any call for unrests, especially in the forth-coming 2023 elections as some Nigerians have been are clamouring for.
The former military President said,
“Well, that is the unfortunate thing that people in this country today will be talking about the vulcanization of the country. In the past, about 1million people died, in trying to keep this country together. I think it will not be fair, to those of them who died, those who were wounded, those who were maimed, those families who have lost their child, it wouldn’t be fair to them, if we call for the vulcanization of this country.
“Those people who died, died for the purpose of keeping this country one.
Babajide Kolade Otitoju, BKO, added this to the thoughts of the Octogenarian,
“If you put your life in line for Nigeria, and you’ve lost your colleagues in the course of the war, and you’re lucky not to be killed, you took a bullet for Nigeria, you’re not going to listen to anyone who wants Nigeria a break up and that’s the way IBB is.
“Nigeria is first for him now. He remains committed to the unity of our nation. When it seemed that Nigeria was going to break into pieces, over the June 12 problem, he was also one of the people who found the solution… We just pray that many sacrifices Nigeria have made, those sacrifices should not be in vain.
Concerning the challenges of security in the country, and what to do to surmount them, IBB said,
“Well a lot of discussions on how to combat…, these are challenges that all developing countries face, I must admit. But, I think all we need to do is mobilize the entire nation of people for the purpose of fighting this insurgency. People will have to be mobilized, the military have to be trained, and be provided with very good equipment.
General Babangida, who affirmed his commitment to the Nigerian state, said, he is willing to give his expertise advise only if/when Nigerian leaders request for such.
“I am a retired general now, and I am also readily available to offer advice …
Speaking on his remarkable achievement during his 8 (eight) years regime as a military President, Babangida gave these 2 (two) outstanding achievements of his; which are: the construction of 3rd Mainland Bridge, and the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Dual Expressway.
When he was queried about the high cost of money used for the two projects, even though they were laudable, the retired military officer, who tried avoiding the question, eventually said,
“Less than N500 million was spent to construct Abuja to Kano, which by present standard, I think I need some N500 billion to do that. Our thought then, was it has to be the best. Abuja roads are 40 years old and I still believe you know that no potholes in Abuja today.
On a lighter note, the Octogenarian IBB said, he was afraid of being cut; that was why he did not allow for an option of surgery to remove the bullet in his body; the bullet that has been in him since 1969. But the General said he is doing just fine with the bullet on him.
“I think that, one of the best doctors in the country, a gentleman, called Professor Elebute, that advised that the bullet should rest peacefully on my body. I made the decision myself, because I got that assurances of the Professor. I didn’t have to get myself cut. I was scared! I didn’t get operated that time.
When asked if he feels some pains, with a bullet lodged in his body, the Nigerian military veteran said,
“No. As the Professor has rightly observed, I don’t feel pains; and I accept that, the bullet is resting comfortably.
The ex-military commander, did not also mince words, in giving answer to the question, on why he took the Nigeria’s seat of power from Lagos to Abuja, where today is one of the best cities in the world; without paying Lagos state, the former seat of power, any compensation. The argument being that, in other parts of the world, a certain amount of money would have been paid, as compensation to the Lagos state government. IBB responded,
“There was a talk about that before we left office; and I am very happy … I remember not long ago, that people from Lagos House of Assembly came to me, and we had a very good discussion about that. I hope they will take it up from there.” Posing it as a challenge to the Lagos State House of Assembly to see to the conclusion.
However, despite the successes recorded during IBB’s regime, the mystery of why he annulled the June 12 election, that brought MKO Abiola to power in a free and fair exercise, one of its kind in the history of Nigeria, remained a puzzle, because neither the General, nor the other 2 (two) guests at the talk show, one of which is the former Director General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, NBC, Alhaji Danladi Bako, could give a convincing answer to the question asked on June 12.
Danladi Bako, nevertheless, confirmed to Nigerians that, although, IBB and MKO Abiola were close allies, but he didn’t just know, why General Ibrahim Babangida took the decision to upturn the 1993 election and how their friendship went sour.
“One of the main crucial difficult moments for me, was when the clash between the two gentlemen came to fore.
While some political analysts claimed it was pressure beyond General Babangida, that made him cancel the June 12, 1993 election, others blamed IBB himself for the act, and the former President laid claim on a looming coup, if he had not wisely upturned the election, just for the peace of the country.
In glowing remarks, Alhaji Bako affirmed the place of IBB in Nigeria, as one of the most influential statesmen in the country today; while some others believed that General Ibrahim Babangida has written his name in gold in the annals of the history of this country; stressing his remarkable achievements in infrastructural development, agriculture, health sector, among others.
General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida in his final message to Nigerians said,
“… they should continue to be very hopeful… and that we should love to make the country greater… We should also provide good leadership at all levels, and work towards mobilizing people to achieve these objectives.”