It’s impossible to meet General Abdulsalami Abubakar without being inspired by his warmth and humility. He is one of the greatest Nigerian leaders that I have ever known. His patriotism, depth of knowledge and wisdom are some of his endearing virtues. You can’t spend a moment with Abdulsalami Abubakar without learning something new. He is such a reservoir of knowledge that you would gain tremendous inspiration from every interaction you have had with him.
Great men are celebrated because of the impact they have made on history. It’s not how long a man rules, but how well he governs. History throws up men who produce impacts that change the course of events. General Abdulsalami is one of the greatest Nigerian leaders of all time. He is a decent gentleman who puts the love of his country above personal ambition.
Nigeria has gone through a chequered history of trial and travails and produced leaders that helped to guide us out of those tough challenges. General Abdulsalami is no doubt one of those great leaders who had played significant roles in helping Nigeria get out of the quagmire.
The June 12 crisis of 1993 had almost resulted into a civil war and the role General Abdulsalami played in dousing tension and giving democracy a fresh life cannot be forgotten in a hurry. It is to his credit that the soldier for democracy, peace and unity released political prisoners and set in motion a 9-month transition programme that he faithfully implemented and handed over to an elected government in May 1999. I’m one of the political actors involved in that transition to democracy. I was elected as Vice president to former President Obasanjo.
Many Nigerians had thought that it was impossible to run a 9-month transition programme, but with sincerity nothing is impossible to accomplish. General Abdulsalami was sincere from the start and he was mainly motivated by the larger interest of Nigeria. He put his passion for democracy above his personal ambition; he kept his promise to hand over to an elected government. What he did was extraordinary; relinquishing power within nine months was unusual in African history. But General Abdulsalami did just that.
The international community celebrated General Abdulsalami for returning Nigeria to democracy according to plan. His passion for democracy had boosted his international image and earned him respect from world leaders. Many Nigerians perceived General Abdulsalami as a God-sent leader who came to rescue the country from the brink of uncertainty.
After handing over to an elected government, General Abdulsalami retired to his native home. But he still did not detach himself from the affairs of Nigeria. Since his retirement, he has involved himself in peace-building efforts in the country. In 2015, he joined other leaders to help achieve a smooth political handover of power by having the presidential candidates sign a commitment to accept the results of the election whichever way it went. As a result of such a peace initiative, Nigeria had a smooth handover.
History and posterity will continue to recognise these significant contributions by General Abdulsalami. He made a great impact within a short space of time. I’m proud to know and associate with this great Nigerian leader. I have been tremendously inspired by such interaction with the General. As he celebrates his 80th birthday anniversary, I wish him many more years of service to our country and humanity in good health and long life.
Abubakar, former Vice President of Nigeria, (1999-2007), is the Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP