Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Abdulsalami At 70 - 2011 Polls Not Perfect

Former military head of state Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar has said that the 2011 polls were not perfect.

He also said that he has no regret in his 70 years of living, even as he advised that politicians should play politics without bitterness.

Abdulsalami, who celebrated his 70th birthday through a special prayer organised by his children and grand children in Minna, Niger State, yesterday, also told journalists after the prayers that, though the 2011 election was not perfect, politicians should always play politics with the notion that they cannot win all the time.

On the political situation in Nigeria, he advised politicians to learn how to give and take in order to avoid politics of bitterness and support whoever is elected in developing key areas of the Nigerian economy for the nation to move forward.

The former head of state noted that "we should really give peace a chance towards 2015. I know the last elections were not perfect but then we are always learning. I hope things will improve, we are on course".

Gen. Abdulsalami said that, for his 70 years of existence, he was thankful to God for making him the head of state, the highest position any Nigerian can aspire to, without any problem.

Asked whether he has any regret, he said, "Regret? Certainly I have no regret. I thank God who has lifted me to the highest level somebody can aspire to in this country. What regret do I have? I'm 70 years old, happily married with my children and grandchildren who really organised this birthday. Normally, I never celebrate birthday; they forced me. I'm very proud of them, I don't have any regret."

He said that his life has been spectacular and thanked Nigerians who, he said, had showed him a lot of love and respect.

"I pray and hope that this country remain one indivisible country so that we can live to be each other's keeper. Certainly, you know there is a learning process in any nation and I'm happy so far so good, though things could be better.

But, again, we thank God things are on course," Abdulsalami said, when asked whether he envisaged the challenges being faced by Nigeria's democratic process 13 years ago when he handed over.

Also speaking on the security challenges in Nigeria, the former head of state said that there are challenges all over the world which people must always overcome. "Yes, in Nigeria, we have the Boko Haram, we have the kidnappers; it is true we have all these but we should not fold our arms. We must keep trying and making sure that those misguided elements will give peace a chance".

He said that though there is poverty in Nigeria, but it could not be an excuse for people to breach security and many other things because poverty is not peculiar to Nigeria alone.

Present at the birthday prayer session were former military president Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), Alhaji Sani Ndanusa, Ambassador J. T. Kolo, wife of Niger State governor Hajiya Jummai Babangida, Senator Zainab Kure and a host of others.

Jonathan Hails Abdulsalami At 70

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has congratulated the former head of state on his birthday.

In a congratulatory letter to Gen. Abubakar, President Jonathan prayed that God would continue to grant him good health and many more years of fruitful service to Nigeria.

In a statement, Dr. Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, quoted Jonathan's letter: "On the occasion of your landmark 70th birthday anniversary, I write on behalf of my family, the government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and on my own behalf, to extend warm felicitations to you.

"There is no doubt whatsoever that, over the past 70 years, you have lived a richly productive and fulfilled life. Your uncommon diligence, gallantry, loyalty, patriotism, and enduring sense of committed service saw you rise not only to the pinnacle of your chosen military career, but also saw the onerous duty of the political leadership of our nation thrust upon your shoulders at a critical period in Nigeria's developmental history.

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