FORMER Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (retd), has said there was nothing wrong with restructuring the country, provided it was done within the context of one Nigeria.
Gowon said this, yesterday, when Shehu Sani, Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja.
He recalled that Nigeria was restructured under his leadership as the head of state with the creation of states in 1967.
He said: “We can restructure within one Nigeria context. I did it in 1967; we created states to stop eastern Nigeria from seceding. We had to do something to ensure the fear of their seceding did not exist; a serious issue of a part of the country wanting to breakaway when we already lost a part to Cameroon.
“If we had allowed the eastern region to go away, the map of Nigeria would have looked funny; it would have been tilted one way. So, we decided overnight to break the fear through the creation of states. If we had to save the country, that was the only way to do it. We also ensured that no state was too big or too small to threaten the unity of the country.”
On his time as the number one citizen in the country, Gowon said: “Accident of history made it possible for him to become head of state. What happened was the accident of history. When you have lost your leadership and there was crisis and you don’t know what to do and it happened that those within your constituency chose you, what would you do?
“I was lucky enough within the military at that time and all the officers knew me by reputation. I had no intention to become head of state but it is the opportunity, if opportunity presents itself and people ask you to do it then do it.
“What I have achieved is (because of) God. I had never thought of becoming head of state but there was a coup and all my senior colleagues were killed and I was the only one that survived.
“My plan was to rise in my profession and hopefully become a head in my profession but that did not happen. I didn’t know what happened but I had the duty and responsibility to ensure the coup in Lagos did not succeed.”
He advised younger Nigerians to prepare themselves academically and morally to take advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves.