By; BALA B. BITRUS
The man Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Nigeria’s one and only military President, is a man of many colours.
A household name for good to many and a nightmare to others for reasons of their choice and belief. Some say he is maverick, some say he is enigmatic while many others rever him as their hero, a collosus and a pillar.
In whatever way you may choose to look at him, the man has remained cerebral. A reference point name, a statesman and nationalist of no mean repute.
He is the man of the people, a General of Generals because there are none before him of equal standing and ratings.
As Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida clocked 77 years recently, a ripe age of three scores plus one but still standing and respected.
Born on August 17th, 1941 in Minna, Niger state, Nigerians and the country today celebrate the man who is a living Legend even at 77 in a country where there are Septogenerians and Octogenarian winding out gradually.
Vocal and visible. IBB is almost same as he was, almost four decades ago when he straddled onto limelights as a military Head of State who chose to introduce a new style to the nomenclature and cliche’ of office.
He gave himself a title of ”Military President”, though a junta who came to power by the barrel of a gun with it’s bayonets, his administration went on to hold the country in a watershed post independent Nigeria.
He ruled with style of a democrat, choosing to engage in debates and dialogues even if the ultimate decisions were arrived at by a fiat and precision of a military might.
The world respected his style, applauded most of his administrative wizardry on national and international issues.
Nigeria, for most of the eight years Babangida held sway as Commander in Chief, was a cynosure of many in global politics and international diplomacy.
After eight solid years, (August 17th,1985 to August 26th, 1993), he chose to quit the stage. He did it in style as he stepped aside. Some hailed him for a job well done, others hauled at him for what they called a despot.
Since he left office, three and a half decades ago, the man has remained a mercurial leader and politically relevant and often times effervescent in the polity and the political landscape of Nigeria.
His counsels are widely sought after by politicians and leaders alike. Those in the corridors of power frequent his Hilltop residence in Minna to draw from the man’s pool of immense wealth of experience, wisdom and knowledge and vital contacts.
Those outside government circle, rever him with a near hero worship fervor. Those seeking for political power, support and solutions, find answers to their issues and fears as he remains a defector and a default power broker.
A homer anytime, his residence is more of a meca to the big and mighty. He is a benefactor whose benevolence has made him a builder of men, an iconic ombudsman and a mediator.
At 77, the man has been aging gracefully even as he is getting wiser by the day, everyday. The power of his mind remains so strong at an age where his contemporaries are being slowed down by senility and loss of mental focus considering the human traffic that comes to him for one thing or the other.
It is undisputed. No Nigerian leader, living or dead, has had the type of attractions in public circles or wields such enormous political relevance like IBB.
With such a commanding heights, the man however remains accessible and simple but with a taste. He is a man with strong retentive memories, strong passion for Nigeria and Nigerians and a strong believer in the Nigerian project.
He is one who does not embellish the truth though he may not say no uprightly to anyone seeking for his advice, he nonetheless say his mind when it matters most. That is IBB for you!
To all aspirants for various political offices who consults him ahead of any forays into the murky waters of politics, IBB is not economical with his blessings but is quick to tell Nigerians to vote with their eyes open and wisely too.
As encomiums, bouquet of flowers and tributes pour in to the Hilltop residence of Babangida, here’s wishing the man, popularly dabbed as “Maradona” more good health, long life and peace in his heart.