Nigeria’s former military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (retd.), says he was frightened when he became the nation’s military leader on August 1, 1966, at the relatively young age of 31.
According to a statement on Friday titled “How I became Head of State at 32, by Gowon,” the former military leader spoke at a virtual reality history competition with the theme “Sustaining peace together,” organised by ANISZA Foundation and Gallery to commemorate its second anniversary on Thursday evening.
The programme was part of activities marking the nation’s 60th independence.
Gowon became Nigeria’s youngest leader ever when he became Head of State on August 1, 1966, before his 32nd birthday on October 19.
He was Head of State between 1966 and 1975.
According to the statement, Gowon, at the virtual event, which was moderated by the founder of ANISZA Foundation and Gallery, Novo Isioro, said he never plans to become Head of State.
He was reported to have said that his ambition then was just to be a good soldier.
“I felt petrified when I took over as Head of State. I never planned to be the President, it just happened,” Gowon was further quoted as saying.
The statement added, “The former Head of State spent time with hundreds of Nigerian youths who participated in the virtual event which was also the debut of the ‘Heart of the Matter with Novo Isioro,’ an online talk show where the host will raise issues of peace and unity among Nigerians and globally.
“The octogenarian who relived some of his life experiences and counselled young Nigerians on the right attitudes and values further engaged the participants at the virtual event on national issues, especially the role youths can play in national development.
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“Among the participants were also select school children who are members of the ANISZA School Club, some of whom sat around Isioro during the conversation with the former Head of State.
“General Gowon also interacted with the participants on issues ranging from their identities, views on ‘one Nigeria’ and their personal commitments to ensure the nation remains united.
“The Plateau State-hailed general also reiterated his faith in the Nigerian youth and the country’s potential for greatness, noting that ‘we can be able to live in peace and unity irrespective of religion and tribe.’
“With a lot of wits and humour, he also admonished young people, traditional and religious institutions to take up the responsibility of securing the national identity, saying everyone has major roles to play in harnessing national values that will spur growth and development across all sectors of the Nigerian life.”
Isioro was also quoted as explaining that the event and the idea of ANISZA are to educate Nigeria youths, especially secondary school pupils in Nigerian history using photographs and other visual elements.
She explained that understanding the Nigerian journey can advance the cause of peace and unity in the country.