Former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, has described ex-Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida as a detribalised leader and elderstatesman whose name commands respect within Nigeria’s political class.
Gbagi stated this in a statement released to the media on Monday to felicitate with the former President on his 79th birthday.
Gbagi said the former President’s approach to leadership explains his overwhelming influence, which continues to serve the interest of all sections of the country.
The former minister recalled that Babangida, in his bid to ensure fairness to the diverse ethnic groups in the country, created a total of 11 states under his leadership in 1987 and 1991 respectively.
The statement reads: “I heartily felicitate with one of Nigeria’s finest leaders and elder-statesman, former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida as he celebrates his 79th birthday today.
“Without mincing words, his approach to leadership has always served the interest of all sections of the country.
“Like we witnessed on 23rd September, 1987, Babangida created two states: Akwa Ibom State and Katsina State. Later, on 27 August 1991, he created nine more states: Abia, Enugu, Delta, Jigawa, Kebbi, Osun, Kogi, Taraba and Yobe, bringing the total number of states in Nigeria to thirty in 1991.
“If anyone must know, this was done at the time to address problems of inequality among the diverse ethnic groups in the country, most of which were in the minority.
“The creation of the additional states became reprieve for the diverse ethnic groups in the country that lacked representation at the federal level, and quelled brewing ethnic dissent at the time.
“On another vein, I recall his counsel when I paid a visit to him in 2007 at his Minna residence in the company of a former House of Representative member, late Hon. Austin Ogbaburon.
“During our discussions, he told the former lawmaker to go to Delta State, which happens to be one of the nine states he created in 1991, to inform stakeholders that the State stands to experience a turnaround if I am made Governor.
“I also recall how he honoured my invitation to Delta State on May 15, 2004, for the burial ceremony of my traditional father, the third Orodje of Okpe kingdom, HRM Orhoro I.
“Indeed, former President Babangida is a rare elder-statesman whose name commands respect and attention in the circle of Nigeria’s political elite. I wish him more years in good health as he continues to serve the country.”