Maryam Babangida: A Better Hereafter For A Better Life Crusader

By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir

A FEW good men, are always referred to; when history pens down the advocates of utilitarian morality and crusaders for a better world, fostering happiness for humanity from different corners of the world.

Very rarely, women are thought of, recorded and celebrated, for their own efforts in shaping the world, and coming through as heroines of their own immediate, and sometimes larger environment.

Mrs Maryam Babangida, was one of such very iconic women, who led a life of example; simple in outlook, yet tremendously impactful in the manner in which it has changed lives, and effected the way the society of our womenfolk, has thrived and endured in a very emasculating African man’s world.

The late wife of former President, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB; Maryam Babangida, was the creator and founder of the Better Life for Rural Women Programme. It is the first indigenous programme for women that worked hard in integrating women into a national development plan, with a well designed educational training for women.

It was centred on providing income generating opportunities through agriculture and the creation of cottage industries. It also paid diligent attention in the reduction of maternal and child mortality rate, through basic infrastructure of health care facilities for women.

Late Mrs Maryam Babangida recounts that while growing up, she had the most interesting experience with her siblings that helped formulate a recipe for her. From innate capacity for organisation, she mastered some life management skills; which helped her art of keeping a home and maintaining a perfect union.

It is mundane to say that behind every successful man is a woman, but President Babangida enjoyed the most assuring and supportive home, any First Family in Nigeria has ever had, courtesy, the steadfastness of his better half. You never heard from the first family at all.

They were devoid of politics, and their social life was at its supreme modesty. They were not in business, nor interfering with the business of the corridors of power. They were not dramatic and stood completely off radar. You only heard of them, when The First Lady was involved with one rural women project, or women empowerment programme.

The detail a First Lady pays to the upbringing of her children was quite astonishing. Her lovely daughter Halima, recounts how mummy did her homework with her, and coached her on lessons she had in school. Mohammed speaks glowingly of her ever supportive presence, recalling how she was there for him in his sporting events, and other endeavors of his very boyish and youthful days.

He confesses that he misses such very motherly presence. Maryam Babangida’s sister attests to the involvement of the then First Lady in the kitchen, when the meals of President Babangida were prepared at Dodan Barracks. She says that she was a very hands-on person, full of energy and full of life.

Gen. IBB became the Chief of Army Staff in 1984. This thrust Maryam in an early leadership position of heading NAOWA, Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association. There she consolidated as a leader of women emancipation. She found interesting in the preoccupation of the wives of military officers, and worked on building their industry, making them independent, utilising their ample free time, to create wealth, and foster unity and collaboration between them.

From this launch pad, she create the Better Life for Rural Dwellers, with specific interest in the womenfolk, harnessing them to use the resources in their environments; to eke out a living for themselves. They went into pottery and poultry, some were sewing and some were farmers. Some became Livestock rearers, raking in huge incomes for their families.

Orphans, the handicapped and other less privileged members of our society were accorded special care and attention. They were provided with tricycles, and wheelchairs which aided their mobility, saving them from being disenfranchised from the gains that the Better Life Programmes had to offer.

In an interview with Vanguard, The special adviser media to Gen. IBB; Kassim Afegbua described Mrs Maryam Babangida as an enigma and an ageless beauty, who was a good conversationalist. Former Senate President David Mark, said of her, that she related with everyone equally, irrespective of tribe and religion.

She was able to make friends with personalities from different parts of the country, building a huge community of family friends for the First family. Social strata was never a barrier for her. Market Women and rural dwellers were her friends and they found comfort in her aura and charismatic persona.

She is even known for wearing and patronising locally made fabrics, sewn by local tailors, all in an effort to encourage them, patronise them and launder their works. She beautified the President’s residence with locally made calabashes, made with unique designs that showcased the culture and talent of the rural womenfolk.

Maryam passed away just two weeks after I lost my dad, The Late Dr. Ibrahim Tahir, Talban Bauchi. I remember the very close and cordial relationships my mother had with Mrs. Maryam. She’d invite her to their home, host them to dinner, and hold very long and warm conversations, full of candour and humor.

The few times we went along, we could always hear Talba from the dining table,  conversing with a roaring laughter. When we greeted her, she would always pat our heads and hold our shoulders. Kids were drawn to her and little wonder she did well in instituting a kindergarten and prep school, which later morphed into a primary and secondary school.

Gen IBB’s most priceless asset in life was his adorable wife Maryam, an irreplaceable figure in his lifetime, and that of her kids. All First ladies that have come after her have only struggled, in vain, to replicate her ingenuity, her dignity and generosity. She has stood in a league of her own, where the likes of Princess Diana of Wales have sought her friendship and collaboration, drawing global recognition to her Better Life Project.

As she is remembered fondly, my prayer is that she is fulfilled with a better hereafter, blessed with Allah’s providence and gifts. May Allah forgive her shortcomings and grant her firdausi; ameen.

Tahir is Talban Bauchi.

Previous articleJust In: Ekiti Tribunal UpHolds Oyebanji’s Election, Oni To Appeal
Next article2022: Kano Hisbah Destroys 25 Trucks Of Beer


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here