President M Abdul Hamid said after the brutal assassination of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the then military ruler Ziaur Rahman proposed him to be a minister.
"Zia proposed me to be a minister through Colonel Mahfuzur Rahman… At the same time, he also threatened to throw me in jail for 25 years if I did not comply," the president reminisced about Bangabandhu and the aftermath of his killing in a recorded interview given to the state-run Bangladesh Television (BTV) on National Mourning Day.
Referring to the proposal of Ziaur Rahman, the head of the state said he officially protested the barbaric assassination of Bangabandhu at a discussion on February 21, 1976 in Kishoreganj.
"In my speech, I said 'no dictatorship -- from Hitler-Mussolini to others -- could survive and none (autocracy) will survive in our country also'," the president added.
"A few days after my remark, I was arrested," the head of the state recounted.
Recalling his memories with the Father of the Nation, Abdul Hamid said, "I was in the MP Hostel on that fateful night of August, and I heard multiple noises before going to bed at about 3-4 am on the night. I thought that Dhaka University was rejoicing and firecrackers were exploding."
The president went on saying: "It was about 7am…Khandaker Nurul Islam, an MP of Rajbari who was staying next to my room, knocked on my door and conveyed the bad news. After a while he came to me with a radio which was airing killer Major Dalim's announcement of assassinating Bangabandhu."
Abdul Hamid was elected as the youngest member of the Pakistan National Assembly from Mymensingh-17 constituency in the 1970 election.
He was elected from Kishoreganj-5 constituency in the first general election of the country on March 7 in 1973. He was also elected MP in third parliamentary election in 1986, fifth parliamentary election in 1991, seventh parliamentary polls in 1996, eighth parliamentary election in 2001 and the national polls of 2008.
Referring to pre-August 15 overall situation, the veteran politician and close associate of Bangabandhu, said, "It seemed that something bad would happen. And I met Bangabandhu on August 11, 1975."
He continued: "Bangabandhu asked me to wait… Later in the evening he went for a walk in the Gono Bhaban garden. I was with him. I talked to him privately and informed him what I came to know from an intelligence agency. But Bangabandhu replied smilingly, 'There was a little trouble… Everything is now fine. Don't worry'."
Being reassured, Abdul Hamid said, he came back and it was his last meeting with Bangabandhu. "And now I understand that nothing was right then," he said.
After hearing the news on the radio, "I left MP hostel and went to Farmgate on foot, and from there to a relative's house in Mohakhali. After some days, I went to Kishoreganj," the president mentioned.
He said he turned down Zia's offer as he did not want to betray Bangabandhu.
"In my whole life, I tried to uphold Bangabandhu's ideals as one of his soliders," he said.
Urging all to come forward to materialise the vision of the Father of the Nation, the president said, "I want the ideals of Bangabandhu to remain alive from generation to generation as Bangabandhu had immense contributions to our national history. He led the nation during each and every movement and struggled to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of people."
He advised youths to learn about Bangabandhu and the actual history of Liberation War to become worthy citizens.
"Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is not only a name... He is an institution, a timeless history and an entity. Bangabandhu is not with us but he has left a political philosophy, policy and ideology which will show a path of light from generation to generation on the way to progress and development, "the president observed.
Terming Bangladesh now a 'role model' of development and progress in the world, Abdul Hamid said the country, under the efficient and charismatic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the worthy daughter of Bangabandhu, is moving towards development and progress in all sectors.
On the birth centenary of Bangabandhu, the country is on the verge of becoming "Sonar Bangla" of his dream, he said, adding Bangabandhu has given freedom and her daughter is leading us to establish a hunger and poverty free country.
About the pandemic, the president said the whole world is currently facing a serious crisis and it is very urgent to ensure mutual cooperation and adherence to hygiene rules all time.
He asked all to take lesson from the then Muslim Seba Samity formed by Bangabandhu in his student life to provide humanitarian aid to the affected people during disasters, including the riots in 1947.
The president prayed for eternal peace of the departed souls of Bangabandhu and all other martyrs of August 15.