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Former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB, has said that his initial plan in life was to become a civil engineer. He noted that the decision by the then government of Northern Nigeria that youths of his time should be enlisted into the Nigerian army changed the course of his destiny.

Babangida spoke in a live radio programme anchored by the Federal University of Technology, FUT, Minna campus radio, ‘Search FM’, on Saturday morning.

Babangida said on completion of primary education, he went to Bida Provincial Secondary School and, after six years, joined the Military Training College, Kaduna, almost immediately.
Responding to how joining the military shaped the rest of his life and what informed his decision to enlist as cadet officer, IBB said: “Well, maybe to understand the background, at about that period there was a deliberate government policy.

“At that time there were not a lot of people from the North who were in the military. So it took a deliberate policy to go around and invite the younger generation from secondary schools, (government colleges) to come and join the military. And that’s what started our career in the military.”

The Civil War

On the experience and lessons of the Nigerian civil war, the former President said: “It’s not a very nice experience, I must say.

“First of all, you had people you went to school with, people you trained with, people who were your friends, suddenly, as a result of the war, you find yourselves facing each other on opposite sides.

“So that’s the uniquely sad aspect of a civil war and I pray it never happens again.”

“I wanted to be a civil engineer”, Babangida replied when asked what he would have become if the deliberate policy by the northern government did not alter his plans.

On his leadership style that has attracted, and still attracting both good and bad compliments IBB said: “Just like any other style, you are placed in a leadership position your job is to lead people.

“You develop a situation where people look up to you to provide certain solutions to their problems or to their fear; whatever it is.

“And you stand out as the person who will be able to do that. So you have to study human beings, you have to read about them and you have to be very compassionate.

“It is not very comfortable but then we had to do it. The purpose was to unite the country to keep it as one not to break it.

“Sometimes ruthlessness gets things done but there are a lot of ways you have to develop so that you’ll be able to achieve certain things. Others you plead with, some you coerce and so on and so forth”.,

He added that leaders and leadership is all about taking responsibilities for perceived rights and wrongs in the administration.

“What I want to be remembered for”
Babangida said part of what he would wish to be remembered for “is that I served the country the best I could.

“It may not be to your satisfaction but to the best that I could. I leave that to history to judge and I related fairly well with the people of the country. I had no problems with them and I got to know the country more as I was well travelled. I made friends all over the country and I thought that was one of the greatest achievements”.

Recall that IBB led the country as a Military President from 1985 to 1993. He, thereafter, “stepped aside” after the debacle of the 1993 presidential election.

The former leader advised younger generations on the need to try as much as possible to know and understand the country, Nigeria because they are going to lead the country in the future.

“You have an opportunity now as young people, get to know the country, study the country, the people and if you are able to do that or to understand that, basically I think that will go a long way to prepare you for the eventual leadership of the country”.

Speaking on whether or not the biopic, ‘Portrait of a General’ by Nollywood is an accurate representation of events of his time, IBB said, “Well, as a military man a man who practised both in war and peace time I would have corrected one or two places.

“But I think what they (Nollywood) are trying to project is a food for thought that could give us the room for improvement.”/

About Dons Eze

DONS EZE, PhD, Political Philosopher and Journalist of over four decades standing, worked in several newspaper houses across the country, and rose to the positions of Editor and General Manager. A UNESCO Fellow in Journalism, Dr. Dons Eze, a prolific writer and author of many books, attended several courses on Journalism and Communication in both Nigeria and overseas, including a Postgraduate Course on Journalism at Warsaw, Poland; Strategic Communication and Practical Communication Approach at RIPA International, London, the United Kingdom, among others.

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