By Yusuf Salman
“Show me the man you honor and I will know what kind of man you are”– Thomas John Carlisle
As he clocks 76 years, many who know him admire him not because he ruled Nigeria but because of his love for a nation and her people. To him, there is no Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo, Efik, Gwari, but one nation, one Nigeria. He is a leader many continue to admire, honour and respect. His name is General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (retd), Nigeria’s former Military President, born in 1941 in Minna, Niger State.
Fondly referred to as IBB by many and whether you love to hate him or hate to love him, he remains one leader whose name can never be forgotten in a hurry in Nigeria’s history.
Not much of a talker though, but when hedecides to talk, it comes out weighty, reflecting the generality of the nation. This is evident in his June 2017 call for a restructured Nigeria. Though some are opposed to it but many embraced it, saying there can be no other time for it.
IBB has always opposed a divided Nigeria, saying it can only get better when the nation remains one indivisible entity.
In his June 2017 speech on restructuring for a better Nigeria, he said “In over a century of its formalized colonial architecture, Nigeria has grown and made remarkable progress in the midst of crises.
The most tragic and horrendous episode in Nigeria’s history has been the 30-month civil war of July 1967 to January 1970, in which many of our compatriots lost their lives.
“Indeed, many others also suffered terrible injuries of human and material dimensions. So, who really wants to go through the depth and dimensions of another civil war in Nigeria again? Who does not know that Civil War was preceded and started by intolerance and a series of hate pronouncements, hate speeches, hate conducts and actions that were inflicted upon one another by the citizens? “Today, with a deep sense of nostalgia, I still carry within my body the pains of injury from the civil war.
There is nothing romantic about war; in any form, war is bad, condemnable and must be avoided. I need hardly say I am very worried by the current on-going altercations and vituperations of hate across the country by individuals, well-known leaders, religious leaders, group of persons and organizations.
“ We need to remind ourselves that conflicts are not evidently the stuff of politics and governance, particularly so of democracy, hence we must apply caution in our utterances, body language and news reportage.”
In that speech, Babangida took the nation’s problems and dissected it piece by piece, proffering solutions that would bring about a better and one Nigeria.
It would be recalled that IBB captured restructuring Nigeria in his manifesto when he attempted to contest Nigeria’s presidency in 2010.
Clearly, IBB’s patriotism, love and respect for all sections, tribes, creed, regions etc have no parallel. He is a father of Nigeria, who, in practical terms is a leader that has sacrificed all in order to keep Nigeria one, united and prosperous. It is not out of place that IBB commands such high respect from Nigerians, home and abroad. His public and private life extol virtues of “Nigeria first”. His experiences in the military as a four star general and as military president are reference points of where to get what Nigeria best needs.
On state police, this great leader asserted that its benefits far outweighs the fear and anxiety that “governors will run amock”. To him it’s an idea whose time has come.
He also pointed out the need to devolve more Federal Government powers to the states.
He said the Federal Government should be left with foreign policy, defence and economy portfolios. He believes states should have more powers in controlling agriculture, education, health, housing etc. We cannot afford to cling to an outdated module and expect positive results. It does not work that way.
To justify his fatherly role, IBB urged all to “reign in the younger element” so as to secure our tomorrow. This is clear foresight.
He said no government provides all the needs of citizens at a time and called for patience, cooperation and understanding to avoid rubbishing the labours of our heroes past.
He seriously cautioned against hate speech, saying this could lead to another civil war the like of which Nigeria went through and whose bad memories and scars are taking a toll on him 50 years after.
His restructuring speech is likened to that of a leader who saw tomorrow. An African proverb says “If one would not eat pounded yam for its sake, one can still eat it for the sake of the soup that goes with it.”
If we do not want restructuring because we may not personally benefit from it, we should turn a new leaf and go for it now for the sake of our children and Nigeria.
There is a saying that “A child, who has noelder to advise him will go astray”. Nigeria is blessed with a leader like Babangida and we should be grateful he is alive today to pass on to us his knowledge and ideas on how to live in peace and as one. God has blessed this nation with wonderful leaders and IBB is one of them.
Today, because of your ingenuity and your leadership prowess, gender inequality is history in Nigeria.
You opened the doors for the creation of more states and universities in Nigeria. The country, under you, witnessed massive rural development, roads, infrastructure, business, and commerce. The list is endless.
General sir, as you clock 76 years, we pray that God will continue to bless you and grant you longer life so that Nigerians will continue to draw from your fountain of knowledge.
Your speech on restructuring came at a time the country is passing through a phase. You are indeed the man who saw tomorrow.
Happy birthday General.