Former military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangid (rtd), thursday marked his 76th birthday in Germany.
THISDAY gathered that Babangida was said to have travelled out of the country about a week ago “for a well-deserved rest.”
However, some of his domestic staff were said to have been caught unaware by the decision of the military president to travel outside the country “this time around” because some of them, especially the women, were said to have bought and sewn special attires to celebrate the birthday of their boss.
The hilltop residence of the former military president was also devoid of the massive traffic of people usually associated with such celebration in previous years.
But despite his absence from the country, a cross-section of dignitaries thursday congratulated him for a life well led.
For instance, former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, described the former military leader as a great leader and committed patriot.
In a message of goodwill to ex-military president, Jonathan prayed for God to continue to bless him “because our dear nation still has more to reap from your wealth of experience and deep wisdom in its journey to greatness.”
The message further said: “I am pleased to join your family and other well wishers in thanking God for blessing you with the strength and wisdom to live a fulfilling life.
“As a former President, your impact as a committed patriot and statesman has been of immense benefit in chatting the course of leadership, governance and development in our dear nation.
“At 76, your contributions to national growth has remained undiminished as you continue to fearlessly lend your strong voice and strategic support to the genuine efforts towards making our nation great.
“May the Almighty Allah bless you with more rewarding years because our dear nation still has more to reap from your wealth of experience and deep wisdom in its journey to greatness. Happy birthday Your Excellency.”
Also, Saraki described Babangida as a major part of Nigeria’s political history.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, to congratulate the former Head of State on the occasion of his 76th birthday, the Senate President described IBB as one of Nigeria’s most prolific Statesmen.
Saraki commended IBB for the role he has continued to play to bring about the development and progress of the country.
“The former military president has played a key role in the history and development of our nation,” Saraki said, “IBB’s leadership, commentaries and advice on the state of our polity and how to move our nation forward have been pivotal since he left office.
“I wish him good health and many more years as he celebrates his 76th birthday ,” the President of the Senate said, “I pray that the Almighty Allah will continue to bless, guide and protect our former Head of State.”
Similarly, Dogara in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, said the former Nigerian leader has over the years displayed qualities of a true leader and elder statesman.
“Over the years, you have displayed qualities of a true leader, most of all in the personal sacrifices you have made for the betterment of Nigeria’s political environment and for the overall Unity, development and wellbeing of the country.
“As an elder statesman, you have made yourself accessible to us, the younger generation of leaders, in times when we needed advice from more experienced elders for purposes of taking important decisions”.
He prayed almighty God to bless, protect, preserve and grant the former leader many more fruitful years of selfless and meritorious service to fatherland.
Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, in his felicitation message, described Babangida as “a precious gift to mankind and to the country,” relating him to “a true champion of peace, unity and togetherness in Nigeria.”
Bello expressed gratitude to the former military president for his “relentless contributions to the growth and development of the state and country.”
In the statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Jibrin Ndace, the governor said: “For over seven and half decades, he (Babangida) has lived an impactful life which has endeared him to many people across the country.
“We are proudly celebrating a strategic and unrepentantly nationalistic leader and human manager with an uncommon passion in the service of our fatherland and humanity in general.
“Indeed, he holds his country very dear to his heart.”
According to the governor, Babangida had over the years become “a household political lexicon as a result of his impactful contributions to the socio-political and economic development of the country. His contributions have made him politically relevant decades after he left office.
“Years after he left office, his socio-political wizardry and intelligence as well as the numerous, visibly useful people-oriented developmental projects remain monumental. Some of the political reforms he introduced included the two party system, Options A4 and open ballots system as well as the establishment of Political Bureau, MAMSER, Code of Conduct Bureau, National Electoral Commission and the promulgation of the then (1989) Constitution among others.”
The state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Tanko Beji, while congratulating the former military leader, prayed for long life and good health for him to continue to serve his fatherland.
Beji said Babangida’s contribution to the political development of Nigeria was immeasurable, adding that “Babangida has been a true believer of one Nigeria.”
On his part, former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, congratulated Babangida as he turns 76 and urged him to continue to work for the unity of Nigeria.
In a statement signed by the Special Assistant to Kalu, Peter Eze, the former Governor said: “It gives me great pleasure to share the joy of your birthday with you. As you mark your 76th birthday, I pray that God will still keep you longer to play greater role in the stabilisation of our country.”
Kalu said Babangida’s life has “been one of great sacrifice for the unity and progress of our country. From your days as a soldier, you visioned a great nation where everyone will be well accommodated and freely pursue their aspirations.”
The former governor said Babangida had worked and is still working to keep Nigeria united and Nigerians happier and proud of their nation.
“At 76, Nigerians need you now more than they ever needed you. This is because you have proven yourself to be a conscientious and compassionate leader whose wise counsel have remained invaluable. As a gift to Nigeria, you have built men and women and grown a generation of leaders for our dear country. You have been a raying point for national discourse and a uniting factor in our polity. My family and I felicitate with you on this glorious occasion when you remember the day the Almighty God gave you to us.
“As we cut your 76th cake with you, and click wine glasses, I pray that Almighty God will bless you with good health and preserve you for our country. May your days be full of happiness and the joy that comes from knowing that those you pulled up as you climbed the ladder of success, are ever grateful to you,” Kalu said.