Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, has joined other prominent Nigerians pushing for the restructuring of the country.
Gowon, who gave a tacit nod for the growing clamour for the country’s restructuring, said it must be done within the context of a united Nigeria.
He said: “There is nothing wrong with restructuring the country provided it is done within the ‘One Nigeria’ context.”
He spoke when the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Shehu Sani, paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja, on Wednesday.
Gowon recalled that Nigeria was restructured under his leadership as the Head of State, with the creation of states in 1967.
“We can restructure within the ‘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 break away when we had already lost a part to Cameroun.
“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,’’ he said.
In a national broadcast in 1967, Gowon had announced the creation of 12 states, which included the North-Western, North-Eastern, Kano and North-Central states.
Others were Benue-Plateau, Kwara, Western, Lagos, Mid-Western, Rivers and East-Central states.
The former head of state added that the call for true federalism by some Nigerians was also not a bad idea, as long as it was done within the context of the nation’s unity.
“What is true federalism? As long as it means respect for the oneness of our country, it is alright, but if it means to break away, it is not my way of thinking’’, he said.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Gen. Gowon said he became head of state of the country 50 years ago by an accident of history.
Gowon, who commented on calls by some Nigerians for the reduction of the age limit to 30 years to contest for presidential position in the country, declared that “what happened was the accident of history.
“When you have lost your leadership and there was a crisis and you didn’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 was 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 said.
Gowon therefore advised younger Nigerians to prepare themselves academically and morally to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.