Some days or months are very special in the life of certain individuals. While some of the events that made such days to be memorable are divine, others are man-made and deliberate occurrences.
In the life of His Excellency, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, the month of June plays a significant role and has remained an indelible historical signpost. It is a month laced with mixed feelings considering the trajectory of his life and public service career. Kingibe was born on June 26, 1945; an election in which he was the vice presidential candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) conducted on June 12, 1993 was annulled and on June 12, 2018, he was honoured and conferred with the national award of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), by President Muhammadu Buhari.
It is heartwarming that on June 26, 2018, Ambassador Kingibe will clock an event-filled age of 73. A man, who is not a stranger to any Nigerian and whose popularity has permeated every sector of human endevour within and outside the shores of our beloved country, Kingibe has lived his life working for the betterment of our society. He deserve to be celebrated and given due recognition for his enviable contributions to the development of the nation. A perfect gentleman, a leader of no mean repute, a man of impeccable integrity, a detribalised Nigerian, a diplomat per excellence, Kingibe is an invaluable asset to Nigeria.
A successful human being by every standard, Kingibe is a patriot and a nationalist, who has always put the nation before self-interest. In spite of the injustice meted out to him by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida led military junta through the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election, which has been adjudged to be the most freest and transparent election in the history of Nigeria, Kingibe never turned his back on the nation.
Due to his strong belief in the Nigerian project, Kingibe is believed to be one of the intellectual pillars behind the success of the administration of President. No wonder, he had at different fora canvassed for patience from Nigerians for the Buhari’sgovernment explaining that the Daura General turned politician needs time to put things right. Unfortunately, some detractors were at work a few months ago, as they started printing and pasting Kingibe’s posters particularly in Lagos and Abuja fuelling speculations that he would contest the 2019 presidential election against President Buhari. Being a forthright and sincere person,Kingibe, reacted almost immediately saying he knew “nothing” about the 2019 presidential campaign posters being circulated with his image. “I am experienced enough in politics to know that you do not start a political campaign with posters without talking to anyone about your ambition,” he had clearly stated.
According to the retired diplomat, “In any case, I want to state very clearly that I DO NOT have the intention or the desire to contest for any elective post in 2019 or thereafter. I am fully in support of President Muhammadu Buhari and his policies, which I believe will rescue Nigeria from accumulated decay, loss of moral compass and leadership failure. I fervently believe that Nigeria is safe in President Buhari’s hands and he needs to complete and build upon the solid foundations that he is laying.”
There is no doubt that Kingibe, being a strategic and dynamic politician knows when to make a move and when to maintain status quo. He is indeed a master of his political environment and makes his decisions wisely and in national interest. An incorruptible leader, Kingibe has proven to the whole world that men of integrity and unalloyed patriotism still abound in this era in Nigeria. He has demonstrated that one could serve in the public service and not be consumed by the temptation of dipping hands into the nations till.
At 73, Kingibe has achieved everything a human being could aspire to attain through sheer dint of hardwork. Perhaps, Kingibe is a good student of the renowned South African author and anti-apartheid activist, Alan Paton who had written that “Going far beyond the call of duty/Doing more than others expect/This is what excellence is all about/ And it comes by striving, maintaining the highest standards, looking after the smallest details/And going that extra mile/Excellence means doing your best in everything, in every way”.
Born on 26 June 1945 of Kanuri parents, Kingibe grew up in the metropolitancity of Maiduguri in Borno State in the present northeastern geopolitical zone of Nigeria. In 1958, he was admitted into the Borno Provincial Secondary School, and would later travel to London in 1960 to complete his O’Level and A-level at Bishop’s Stortford College under a Borno Native Authority sponsored scholarship scheme. He thereafter graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations at the University of Sussex where he was mates with Thabo Mbeki; he started pursuing a doctorate programme in Switzerland but he left the program before completing his degree.
Kingibe came back to Nigeria and began work as a Research and Planning Officer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and soon left the college to become the head of Features and Current Affairs at the Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria. In 1972, he joined the Nigerian Foreign Service where he started work as a senior counselor and later became the head of the political desk at the Nigerian High Commission in London. During the Obasanjo administration in the late 1970s, Kingibe worked in the political department as principal secretary and was involved in the government’s return to civil rule programme, states creation and boundary adjustment, local government reforms and the constitutional drafting committee. In 1981,at age 36, he was appointed the Nigerian ambassador to Greece and later the country’s representative in Pakistan.
Kingibe sauntered unto the nation’s political arena at the commencement of political activities during the Babangida transition. In 1988, he was made director of organisation of the People’s Front of Nigeria (PFN), which was then led by Late Major Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (rtd). The PFN later joined Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1989. During the conduct of elections for national executive positions in the party, Kingibe was sponsored by the People’s Front faction of SDP as the party’s chairman, a position he went on to clinch. As chairman, Kingibe was involved in the organisation of party’s gubernatorial and presidential primaries in 1991 and 1992 respectively. However, after the cancellations of presidential elections in 1992 in which ShehuYaradua was a candidate, Kingibe put himself forward as a presidential candidate. He made a split from his initial camp, the PFN group and used his relationships with SDP state party chairman to build his campaign. He lost the keenly contested primary conducted in Jos but after much prodding from SDP governors; he was selected by the primary winner, MKO Abiola as Vice-presidential running mate, creating a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
The pair went ahead to win the presidential election, which was annulled by then Military President Ibrahim Babangida. A good sportsman, Kingibe joined General Sani Abacha’s regime as the Foreign Minister, internal affairs and power and steel respectively between 1993 and 1995. Baba also served as Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of Power and Steel, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Greece and Pakistan.
In June 2007, he was appointed Secretary to Government of the Federal by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua but lost out in the power play within the Presidency. Since then, he has undertaken different national and international assignments for the country. as he clocks 73 years, Kingibe is qualified by every standard to be celebrated because of what he has done for this nation. Nigeria certainly needs experienced and patriotic citizens such as Kingibe especially at this period that the nation is going through myriad of challenges. Congratulations and many more healthy years ahead.
*Hon. Ugwu is the Executive Director, Centre for Reform Education Initiative (CREI)