By; BALA B. BITRUS.
There appears to be a frosty relationship between Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State and General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Nigeria’s former Military President.
If events of Wednesday are anything to go by, then Governor Bello can as well be said to have called off the bluff of the former the Military General without blushing as much.
Indications to a no love lost between the two was glaring despite a last minute ditched effort by the Governor to attend the General’s 75th birthday celebration was immaturely and tactlessly handled by the Governor to the chagrin of observers and onlookers.
While dignitaries from far and wide had converged at the Hilltop residence of the respected former Military President and even the protocol department of the Government House, Minna had informed the IBB’s of the coming of Governor Bello to be part of the well wishers to the celebrant and his households, this was not to be, at least not at the time the celebrant was willing and ready on the ground for the celebration.
As early as 8:30am, the massive gates to the palatial mansion of the former Military President were flung open to receive well wishers, friends and associates of the IBBs from different parts of the country, as has been the tradition annually when the General marks his birthdays, (17th August).
By 2:30pm, the event was already on as prayers were earlier offered for the continuous good health and well-being of the celebrant and his households and guests were already wining and dining but Governor Bello was missing.
But words had earlier gone that the Governor had left the Government House and was on his way to the Hilltop residence of the General for the birthday celebration. Hours of long wait for the Governor dragged on and many guests had even begun to disperse.
Feelers from Government House had disclosed that the Governor had soon after leaving the government house, diverted to another place while the IBB’s awaited his arrival in vain.
Observers are of the opinion that the Governor didn’t want to be part of the activities marking the celebration hence his actions.
While many guests from within and outside the state were feasting, including former Military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Alhaji Abubakar; Governor Bello’s father in-law, General Hallilu Akilu and a host of other people between 11:00 am and 2:00pm when the event drew to a close, Governor Bello did not show up even after his coming had been severally announced and no further explanation or excuse was given.
While all former Governors in the state, Military and civilians during their tenures in the state used to be part of the annual event hosted by the former Military President, the 75th birthday would have been Governor Bello’s first time as Governor to feast with IBB as he marked his birthday.
However, minutes after the celebrant had withdrawn from the crowd and retired to his closet, Governor Bello and his entourage came knocking at about 3:50pm. The party was over. The reception was therefore cold.
Only the celebrant’s eldest daughter, Hajiya Aisha was at hand to welcome the late comer albeit coldly.
Even though the 75th birthday celebration which got underway at 11:00am was low keyed, nonetheless not a few guests had thronged to the house as early as 8:30am to felicitate with the Ex President who was at hand to acknowledge goodwill and salutations and bid farewell to his guests at about 2:30 pm when the party came to a close.
When the Governor eventually turned up, the Babangidas did not hide their displeasure with the conduct of the Governor. It was an effrontery for him to have kept almost everybody waiting for his arrival.
And as media men gathered to interview him, (Governor Bello), Hajiya Aisha Babangida stepped in quickly and asked them to step outside the waiting room to interview their target.
The head of the household was sleeping and should not be disturbed. She was right. Festivities for the birthday had long been over and done with.
Governor Bello was clearly the only notable guest at the house at that hour. He too did not stay long probably because the celebrant was behind his closed doors resting.
After just some minutes from the time he arrived at the house that Wednesday late afternoon, the eldest son of the celebrant, Mohammed saw him off to his vehicle.
But one of the aides of the former Military President, Alh. Mahmood Abdullahi while reacting to the seeming cold treatment meted out to Governor Bello, said “we waited for the Governor but he did not come as at the time other guests were present”.
Mahmoud said, “His Excellency had gone in to rest when the Governor came at about 4:00pm. The event started at 11:00 am and they kept telling us that he was on his way coming but when we finished at about 2:00pm, he was still not here.
“All the guests were present, including the former Military President General Abdulsalami Abubakar, General Hallilu Akilu and others. We all waited till 2:30pm when the Governor’s aides said he would come but he didn’t show up and everybody left afterwards”.
Abdullahi said the IBB’s had not done anything wrong adding that “it was not our fault.”