Former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd) celebrated a low-key 77th birthday yesterday at his country home, Minna, Niger State.
Rather than throw a lavish birthday party, the retired general, his immediate family members and close associate held an early morning prayers at IBB Mosque, praying for his long life and good health as well as for the peace and progress of Nigeria.
The prayer was led by the Chief Imam of the IBB’s Uphill Mosque, Sheikh Musa.
Most of the dignitaries that joined the former military president in celebrating did so after the Friday Jumat mosque held at the Minna central mosque.
Some of the dignitaries were politicians and the former military president’s childhood friends while a host of others were said to have come from Delta and Rivers States.
The delegations from Delta State, according to insiders, were relations of his late wife Maryam.
Among those in attendance, were a former military governor of Niger State, Colonel Habibu Shuaibu (rtd); Alhaji Ibrahim Ahmed, a former Commissioner for Information in Niger State, Alhaji Danladi Abdulhamid and a governorship aspirant, Alhaji Muazu Hannafi Sudan.
General Babangida, flanked by his children, later cut his 77th birthday cake to the admiration of his guests and the popular song “Happy birthday to you” sang after the master of ceremony counted from 74-77.
The Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bello was not in attendance. The governor was said to be away in Abuja on “a special assignment.”
The deputy governor, Alhaji Muhammed Ahmed Ketso, who was to stand in for him was reportedly trapped at the site of a collapsed bridge between Lapai and Gulu and was unable to attend the birthday ceremony.
“The deputy governor may be in the house tomorrow to felicitate with General Babangida” an aide to the deputy governor said.
According to one of those in attendance, Babangida was happy about the relative peace in the country and prayed for its sustenance.
“We should accept one another and be our brothers keepers”, IBB was quoted as saying after cutting his birthday cake.
“He also specifically asked that prayers be offered for our leaders because they need our prayers to succeed,” said another source.
Meanwhile, the Niger State Government as well as the Peoples Democratic Party in the state have joined many Nigerians to felicitate with Nigeria’s former military president on the occasion of his 77th birthday.
The state government and the PDP in Minna described the former Nigerian leader as “an enigma, political colossus, and a patriotic Nigerian”.
The Niger State Government’s statement was signed on behalf of Governor Bello by his Chief Press Secretary, Jibrin Baba Ndace, while that of the PDP was signed by the state chairman of the party, Alhaji Tanko Beji.
Governor Bello in the statement said: “General Babangida’s life has remained a testimony to the power of good leadership and purposeful living.
“The former Military leader has continued to demonstrate great statesmanship and patriotism and has remained resolute on the path of promoting national unity, integration and development.
“We salute your resilience and commitment to the service of our nation in particular and humanity in general. We will continue to tap from your wealth of experience.”
On his part, Beji said General Babangida had remained the bridge linking all parts of the country”, adding that his wisdom and experience which he shared with the younger generations of Nigeria had kept the nation together.
While wishing the former Nigerian leader more active years in the land of the living, the Niger State PDP Chairman urged the former military president to continue to sacrifice his time and offer suggestions to the political class so that the ship of state would not hit the rock.
It was the second year running that the former Nigerian leader would be having a quiet birthday and also did not address the press on the state of the nation and other matters.