By Daud Olatunji
ABEOKUTA—Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (retd), yesterday, disclosed how he lobbied the matriarch of Awolowo family, late Mrs. HID Awolowo to convince her husband to serve as federal commissioner for finance and vice president of the Federal Executive Council under his administration during the civil war.
Gowon, who ruled Nigeria between 1966 and 1975 ,however, urged Nigerians to be patient with their leaders, describing the country ”as most difficult to govern.”
The former Head of State, who is the Chairman of Obafemi Awolowo foundation led his team which comprises former World Court Judge, Bola Ajibola, Professor Emeritus, Oladipo Akinkugbe and Afenifere chieftains Ayo Adebanjo’and Sir Olanihun Ajayi, among others to Awolowo family’s house in Ikenne, Ogun State over the death of HID Awolowo.
Gowon, who spoke on behalf of other members eulogised the late Mama HID Awolowo for her role in his government, saying, he had to lobby her to convince her husband to serve under him.
According to him; ‘’In paying condolence to Mama, you cannot do it without really mentioning Papa Awolowo. And of course, you know that Papa was very instrumental to some of our successes in government in those days.
“It was my fortune and I thank God that it was me that had the opportunity to release Papa from prison in Calabar to Lagos and to be able to help us have peace in the West at that time. Mama was very grateful for what has happened and I can assure that was what earned me the respect of Mama throughout her life.
“But, despite the fact that what we did was alright, there was also a need to get papa involved and that would probably seal what we wanted to achieve, especially in the West, which was at the time pretty dicey.
‘’You’d remember Operation Wetie and then the coup and what not. So we had to seek Mama’s support to see if we could get Papa to come and join the government to help and of course, our hope was that when that happened we would be able to finish the war as quickly as possible so that we could return to democracy.
‘’Yes, we really pleaded with Mama; She was the one who encouraged Papa to accept that invitation and for that, we will ever remain grateful to her for what she did”, he said.
While urging Nigerians to be patient with their leaders, Gowon said; “You know what happened after then; we had a government that was not totally military but with some political juggernauts as the saying goes and we were able to start to make a move towards returning to normalcy.
‘’Let me tell you this; it was not easy. When I became Head of State, I hoped that three, six months the most, we would be done. But when you have problems in a nation, it is not easy to solve them overnight. So, you’ve always got to give time and you’ve got to be patient with leaders to be able to put things in order”.
Speaking on Nigeria’s present government, Gowon said “Whenever any government comes in, give them time to be able to really put things right. Nigeria is not an easy place to govern.
“I can assure there are as many problems as there are Nigerians in the world and everybody wants to do things in his own way and probably for his own interest.
‘’And you think of that, how are you going to get all that put together and put things right? I think we’ve got to be patient and then we got to cooperate with the government to do the right thing. Always never be tired of telling the government what needed to be done in order to improve things”.
Speaking on behalf of Awolowo family, the eldest child , Omotola Oyediran, lauded the members of the foundation for their efforts.
Oyediran, who appealed to Nigerians to pray for the family to continue enjoying unity amongst themselves, assuring Nigerians that, though , the family is large, the unity of the family will be taken seriously.