By DAPO AKINREFON
FORMER Military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon has frowned at the post-election violence which resulted in the death of some members of the National Youth Service Corps and wanton destruction of properties in parts of the North.
He, however, called on Nigerians irrespective of religion and ethnic background to embrace one another just as he called on political and religious leaders to preach peace among their respective followers.
In an exclusive interview with Saturday Vanguard, Gowon said he regretted incidences of violence by man against humanity saying “Nigerians should forget acts of violence against one another.”
He lamented that despite the end of the civil war 41 years after, Nigerians still abhor hatred towards one another.
His words: “Quite frankly, one regrets the incidences of violence by man against humanity. I thought frankly since we went in and had been able to come out of the Civil War, that Nigerians should forget acts of violence against one another and settle down properly to live in peace with one another.
It is my sincere thought that after the Civil War, again, that we would begin to love one another and love our country by putting hatred aside. If you do that, you would always be thinking of the interest of the country and good of the people. That all this show of hatred still happens years after the Civil War is highly regrettable.”
While proffering solution to the recurring violence, he urged Nigerians to be committed to the Nigerian project.
Said he: “The solution to it is that, Nigerians have to be patriotic and be faithful to their country. Instead of using tribe, politics or religion as tool for violence, they should see it the other way by using it to buttress their loyalty and patriotism to their country, Nigeria.
We’ve got to learn, especially through the two religions that we have, how to be able to live together and do things together in peace loving each other. That I think has worked out really in the West where they have a lot of religious differences and yet, they don’t seem to be a serious issue. They don’t go on fighting each other but they live side by side respecting each other, marrying each other, etcetera.
Unfortunately in the North that is not the case.”
Besides, he called on Northern leaders to imbibe in their youths, the need to refrain from resorting to violence.
Accordingly, he said “I think the leadership in the North, especially the leadership at the lower level should really rein in their young militants to ensure that they do not have the hearts of violence against their brothers whether of the same religion or of other religion.You know, that leadership, unfortunately, they are the ones that talk to those people and encourage them to do what they are doing.”
“Certainly at very high level, the feeling is against that sort of things. But I’m afraid down the level especially the political, the religious, they seem to encourage that sort of thing. And I appeal to them to really look seriously after the issues and try to calm these excesses and rein in their followers on how they should think of the good of themselves and the good of people of other tribes, religion and whatsoever,” Gowon said.
On what informed his decision to establish the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, the former military ruler said “I wanted to develop Nigeria and of course I wanted to keep Nigeria together as one and by so doing we were able to get young Nigerians to serve together in areas other than their places of birth so that they could know one another, get used to what ordinarily could have been differences among them and live together with that understanding in peace and tranquility.”
In addition to this, he said “that was what I did with my establishment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). It is only sad that recently some youth corps members had to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the country in trying to ensure that the nation moved forward through credible, free and fair electoral process. I must say that the loss of lives of those young people in parts of our country in the service of their nation hasn’t portrayed those responsible for the sad development as loyal and patriotic people.
It is barbaric and I believe, by the pains that followed, we have learnt our lessons, the more reason we should not rage at arms or rage for whatever reason against each other. To me, I think the government should do something about it because, seriously speaking, it is sad. Mine is to see a peaceful Nigeria, a developed Nigeria, a Nigeria that can really and notably be counted in the group of developed countries of the world.”