Guest ColumnistInside Nigeria

GOWON’S WAR MEMOIRS (4): Today, I am a sad man-By Mike Awoyinfa

Mike Awoyinfa
Mike Awoyinfa

I cannot say what it would have been if Awolowo had ruled Nigeria.  Would it be the same way he had run the West?  That is the only thing I can say.  If he ruled Nigeria, it would have depended on the various skirmishes that he would receive.  But I am sure he would try to do his best as he did in his region when he was Premier of the West.  But then, you saw what happened: the crisis that really crept in within his party and his region and that brought about schism in his region and got him in trouble with the law of the land at the time.  For him not to have the opportunity to probably one day lead the country.  So you can never tell what it would be.  All that I can say is that I am sure that he would try to give the country the same high level of leadership and development and progress as he did in the West when he was Premier.  When you think of all that he did, is it in the area of education?  His free primary education which was later adopted for the whole country in 73, 74 by the Federal Government.  And this is something that he would forever be remembered for by generations to come.  I have met so many people who are beneficiaries of his universal primary education programme.

No to Sovereign Conference

Later on, we continued the Unitary School that was started by Tafawa Balewa government.  After I had seen the way the young students were living from all parts of the country, the Ibos, the Yorubas, the Hausas, the Kanuris and so on.  And when I saw the way those young people were living, it was the sort of Nigeria that I wanted to see.  And that encouraged me to say we must build such schools whereby children would come from all parts of the country into that school to start to know each other from that place.  And then, they grow by knowing each other wherever they are in the country.  It would be for the good of Nigeria and the future of Nigeria.

And when you think of what Awo did in the area of commerce and industry, all the cocoa business he created during his time, the encouragement he gave them, even to build the Cocoa House and whatnot.  And then you think of all the industries that he created in Ikeja and in various parts of the West.  These are all to his credit.  And that was one of the reasons why when I was creating Lagos State and I had to include Ikeja, I can remember the battle I had with them.  And I wanted to create more states in the West.  I can assure you there was very strong objection.  But when you look at the development, business, industries that were created during his time, that was to his credit.  I think that is why the people still sing praises of him.  And all leadership in the West wherever, they are all trying to emulate the good work he left behind.  He is a man of immense value and stature.  He made his contribution not only to his region but the country as a whole.  And don’t forget that he made contribution towards the independence of Nigeria.  That was one of the first contributions he made to Nigeria as a whole, not only to his region.  And then of course, he came to participate in my government in order to help Nigeria move forward.  Yes, it is appreciated very, very much indeed.  Just like I believe all Nigerians appreciate him.  And let me salute all our forefathers.  He is one of our forefathers.  Zik, Sardauna and Awolowo.  The most important thing they did was that they loved Nigeria, they loved their people, they believed in Nigeria.  That was why they agreed for us to have independence and to give us our sovereignty.  So, that sovereignty had already been given to us.  Anybody who is calling for sovereignty for Nigeria again, I am afraid it is wrong.  Because our forefathers have already gotten that for us.  All that we need to do is that the good work that they have started, the good house that they have built, let us continue to build it and to make it even better.  It would be to their joy that all of us, the coming generation from them, would do that.  If we are able to do it, when we go there to meet them, they would come and tap us at the back and say “well done, you didn’t let us down, you’ve made the country better.”

Gen. Gowon with MIke Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe during the interview foto

I grieve for Nigeria

Today, I am a sad man.  Looking at what Nigeria has become today, I grieve.  I feel sad with what is happening in the country today.  Is it the Boko Haram or is it the militancy or is it kidnapping or is it ritual murders?  All this man’s inhumanity to man that seems to be the order of the day in our country.  And especially the recent one Boko Haram which is creating havoc not only now for Christians and southerners in the north, but their activity is really affecting also their brother Muslims.  I hope that would raise the conscience of the whole nation, irrespective of your religion or where you come from, that we should fight that evil.  We should fight it with all the weapons that we can.  I know that ordinary people haven’t got any weapon other than stick and machete, but I hope they would not use any stick and machete.  But they can join by helping in praying for God to touch the hearts of all those who are that way inclined to change.  And God can do that.  And God has really helped this country before.  We were praying for the return to democracy and God brought the change for us in a way that none of us expected with the death of Abacha and the change of government when Abdulasalami took over and democracy was returned within a year of his coming into office.  So that is an answer to prayer because we were praying in Ado Ekiti on that occasion, when the men of God were asking me: what am I doing about the court martial that had taken place and the possible execution of some officers and men at that time?  And I told them: Where is your trust and faith in God?  If it is the will of God that nothing will happen to these people, not a hair from their head would drop.  And that was what happened.  And the following day, the death of Abacha was announced and a new person came in, and one of the first things he did was to peacefully bury his predecessor and that was the end of the activities that were to take place, none of those officers were hurt, and that was the end of that.  And the country returning to democracy within a year after that.  So there it is.  They can do their prayer and also being truthful to Nigeria, reporting any such suspicious act that could help the security agencies to stop the action or the carnage that any such miscreant groups undertake or wish to undertake.  So, that is the way they can do it, whether you are a Christian or Muslim or whatever ethnic group you belong to.

 

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