By Sam Eyoboka & Benjamin Njoku
FORMER Nigeria’s Head of State, Geneneral Yakubu Gowon (retd) Sunday reiterated his call on different ethnic groups agitating for self determination to have a rethink, admonishing all Nigerians to work hard to convince all aggrieved people to imbibe the ideals one young Nigerian enunciated in an article during the Nigerian Civil War, urging fellow citizens to Go On With One Nigeria.
Speaking after receiving the 2017 Leadership Award at this year’s Trinity House Honour Nigeria Awards in Lagos for his sterling leadership role in Nigerian and African politics, the founder of Yakubu Gowon Centre revealed reasons why he declared “No Victor No Vanquished”, and what made him more determined to ensure that Nigeria remains one.
Gowon who thanked the church and its leadership for the honour, dedicating the award to the Nigerian who gave him the support throughout his regime and right uptil now in an interview with journalists said: ” I am really humbled and grateful for this honour done to us today. I’m grateful also to know that so many people have been honoured before now, all deserving of the honour that they got. Mine is for leadership. I can assure you that leadership wouldn’t have been possible without that patriotic Nigerian who asked me whether I know the meaning of ‘Gowon.’ I replied him, “it’s my name” and in my local language it means the owner of the masquerade in a gong.
“That young man wrote an article in one of the dailies, and when I read the article that early morning, he gave the meaning of Gowon as ‘Go On With One Nigeria.’ He created an acronym that Goes on with one Nigeria. I can assure you, I was very impressive as I said, so this is what Nigerians want me to do and this is what I was trying to get Nigerians to support me do it.
” But that message made me to be more determined to ensure that Nigeria remains as one for all of us and for the future generations. The honour today, I accept it on behalf of all Nigerians, past, present and also future. This church is about the love of God and the unity of the country.
We can make Nigeria great. Forget all the differences happening and the harassment here and there. Nigeria is a great country,” he said.
The former military Head of State commended the Trinity House, saying “God is saying to Nigerians, we are His people and Nigerians are highly religious. Even the traditional religion worshippers, they always worship that unknown God. That unknown God is the God Almighty that we all believe in.
Honestly, I was touched to know that we all have to work to achieve the greatness of Nigeria. Every Nigeria must contribute his or her quota to keep the country as one.”
Asked what he thinks of current agitations for self determination several years after the Nigerian Civil War, Gowon said: “I think I have answered it. You work hard to make sure you convince those who are calling for the break up of Nigeria. Tell them that Nigeria is one. This is what Nigerians told me to do, and this is what I tried to do. And I can achieve that through your help. We should work hard to convince those who want the country to break up. I can assure you there are more people who love Nigeria and would want Nigeria to continue to exist as one nation than those who are trying to create problem for the country.”
Continuing, the convener of Nigeria Prays urged every Nigerian to be honest to God, saying “if you are honest to God and you love Him the way you should, and also, your neighbour…honestly, if we can practice that, things will begin to work well for us all. I love Nigeria, I believe in Nigeria like many other Nigerians.
“Like that young man that wrote the article, telling me that the meaning of Gowon is Go On with One Nigeria. He sent a message to me and he gave me the courage that I can do it correctly and with the fear of God. That’s the reason why that civi war, we fought with a code of conduct…to be truthful. We ensured that we did not call them anything. We tried not to call the other side enemy and we never called them enemies.
“The worst name I gave them was rebels. But they are our brothers and sisters and we did everything to protect them so that at the end we would be able to live together in peace and that was why I made a statement at the end of the war: No Victor, No Vanquished. That was why we made the reconciliation that we needed in order to build that country again. We Nigerians create the problems for ourselves, and we got to solve the problems by ourselves,” he added.
In a short sermon titled “Nigeria Maximizing Potentials,” Pastor Ighodalo outlined five nuggets designed to make Nigeria great again, emphasising that Nigeria was not a mistake though the colonial masters who brought the country together may have had their own agenda.
According to him, the state of Nigeria today is only a reflection of the state of its people, noting that the nation is in dire need of great people with compassion to make the country great again.
The chartered accountant also identified that the Church in the nation has not helped matters as very many of the religious leaders have not fulfilled their dreams and have abandoned their calling for filthy lucre from politicians, stressing “the problem of Nigeria is the people; who are not patriotic who have refused to pray.
“The problem of Nigeria is the people who have have refused to be cautious, patriotic, pray without ceasing. The nation needs great leaders who are compassionate and will not oppress the under privileged persons in the society as well as great internal and external partners who will assist the nation to establish industries to absorb the army of unemployed youths in the country,” he recommended.
Besides Gen. Gowon five other distinguished Nigerians including accomplished accountant, administrator, erudite politician and renowned patriarch of the Family with the highest number of Chartered Accountants in a nuclear family, Senator David Omueya Dafinone in the Professionalism division, Chief (Dr.) Mrs. Stella Chinyelu Okoli in the Industrialist division and Mrs. Ibukun Awosika who emerged the winner of the Female Role a Model Awardee for this year.
Others were Mr. Peter Nwosu in the Philanthropist category and radio talk show host and founder of Aunt Landa’s Bethel Foundation where over 25,000 sexually abused teenagers have been counselled, rehabilitated and most of them empowered vocationally, Dr. Yolanda George-Davod in the Contibution to Society category.
The Honour Nigeria Awards ceremony was inaugurated in 2011 as part of activities commemorating Nigeria’s independence anniversary celebrations in Trinity House where outstanding Nigerians of high integrity who have have exemplified themselves in different areas of life.
According to the founder/senior pastor of the church, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, the objective of the awards ceremony, which is the church’s own way of contributing to the development of the Nigerian nation, is to recognise those who have contributed to Nigeria’s national development and acknowledge them as role models for present and future generations.
“Nigeria has as her citizens, some of the most outstanding people that the world has ever seen and we must begin to celebrate these people and also celebrate the good about Nigeria, we must raise up bright and new role models,” he maintained, adding “as we honour Nigeria and outstanding Nigerians, thanking God inspite of all that has happened, Nigeria will begin to be truly outstanding,” Pastor Ighodalo stated.