By Chuks Okocha
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa have eulogised fomer Military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) as he marked his 86th birthday.
Atiku said that at the age of 86 years, Gowon is among the country’s leading statesmen.
According to a statement signed by his media aide, Mr. Paul Ibe, the former vice president said “a natural leader, his leadership and human management endowments came to the fore when, as a result of the political crisis that engulfed the country in the mid-1960’s, Gowon was appointed Head of State and Commander-in–Chief of the Armed Forces and had to prosecute the Civil War that broke out.
“The civil war came to an end in 1970 and like the statesman he is, General Gowon proclaimed a policy of ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’ and ensured that the country continued to function as a single entity”.
Atiku explained that as a military leader of Nigeria, “Gowon governed with even-handedness and fairness. Nigeria enjoyed economic prosperity and peace. One of General Gowon’s lasting legacies was the founding of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS.
“He founded the sub-regional organisation with the help of his friend and fellow Head of State, the late Gnassingbe Eyadema with the full cooperation of other West African leaders at that time. Among other things, he also founded the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) as a tool to cement national unity”.
He explained that though Gowon left office in 1975, he has remained relevant in Nigeria’s political, economic and social life as his views are readily sought by his successors in office.
Okowa has also congratulated Gowon, describing him as a symbol of national unity.
Okowa, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olisa Ifeajika, yesterday in Asaba, said that Gowon emerged as head of state at a very precarious period in Nigeria’s history and navigated the country to unity and stability.
He said that Gowon’s template of ‘Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction,’ after the turmoil of 1967 to 1970 had remained the cornerstone for stability in the country.
The governor lauded Gowon for his profound and genuine nation-building efforts, recalling that it was part of the process of fostering enduring unity in the country that he created the NYSC.
He also commended the elder stateman for his courageous, humble and simple life style and his recourse to spiritual uplifting of the country through his national prayer platform, “Nigeria Prays.