By Emeka Nze
Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), yesterday relieved the turbulent days of the civil war in the country in which he was a principal actor and stated that he would not have achieved the victory of keeping the country together between 1966 and 1975 without the support of Nigerians, including those on the opposing side.
Gowon was speaking at the Leadership newspapers’ annual conference and awards to mark its 10th anniversary, where he was recognised as the Leadership Man of the Year.
He said he was further spurred to defend the unity of the country through newspaper interpretation of the full meaning of his name, Gowon, written as “Go On With One Nigeria.”
The former head of state noted that the interpretation of his name by the media had a serious impact on him, saying that it was then he realised what Nigerians wanted him to do and was determined to fight for the unity of the country with their support.
He said: “So, I said if this was what Nigerians wanted me to do (keeping the country one), I would do my best. But I will not do it alone, I need the support and I need the cooperation of every Nigerian and when I say every Nigerian at the time, it meant even those who were opposing the federal side. And in the end we received that support.”
Gowon, further relieving his experience in the war days, stated that Nigerians gave him the needed support, saying that it was the overwhelming support he received that moved him to declare “no victor no vanquished” at the end of the war.
The former leader said the essence was to give hope to the teeming Nigerian children who had lined up on the streets waving the Nigerian flag, stating that his determination not to punish the young people but to give them his best was burning in his mind.
Gowon expressed gratitude to all Nigerians past and present who gave him the support to keep Nigeria one, adding that it was part of his contribution for his 80th birthday coming up this Friday.
He also called on politicians to desist from name-calling during the campaigns but deal on policy that would portray love for the country while urging them to show love for the country.
The management of Leadership newspapers said it gave Gowon the award for keeping the country together as a head of state and for keeping a peaceful disposition in the country.