By Soni Daniel
Fifty years after his administration ended a brutal civil war with the Igbo, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (retd), confessed, yesterday, that the Igbo nation had been marginalised in Nigeria’s polity.
Gowon, who spoke at a public event organised by Igbo Leadership Development Foundation, called for the adoption of appropriate measures to ameliorate the pains of the Igbo.
Gowon, who was represented by a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, spoke at the debate for National Unity with the theme: “Federal Character, Restructuring and Rotation of Presidential Power in Nigeria.”
The former head of state, who ended the Nigerian civil war with the slogan ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’, said Nigeria had what it takes to cater adequately for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or creed.
The former leader, however, suggested the convocation of a constitutional debate on restructuring to undertake a holistic correction of the observable imbalances that had kept Nigeria down over the years with a view to making progress and promoting national unity and cohesion.
He said: “I believe that a lot of injustice has been done to the Igbo and a constitutional debate on restructuring must address all imbalances and restore hope and confidence.
“Nigeria is big enough for all of us and I believe that the Igbo, Middle Belt and the Yoruba are the true Nigerians because if you look round our borders, people came from abroad and are still coming but Ndigbo have always been there, Middle Belt people have always been there, even Yoruba have always been there.
“People who came in yesterday who have a duty of respect are now the ones talking. Going forward, we must create a federal democracy that will respond positively to all the aspirations of our people, not about East-West but all about working together in equality, bringing in the youths and the women to build a new Nigeria.”
The former head of state pointed out that Nigeria remains incomplete without Ndigbo, adding that the nation needed to properly harness the intelligence, creativity and hard work of Ndigbo for national growth and development.
According to Gowon, God did not make mistake by making Ndigbo part and parcel of Nigeria. He, therefore, called for justice, equity and fair play in Nigeria.
Gowon maintained that while restructuring was critical to national advancement, it must be carried out in an atmosphere of tolerance and love for one other.
”I am not a friend of hate speech and bitterness but a friend of patriotism because Nigeria is dear to my heart and I believe in bright future of Nigeria and Ndigbo and that together, we can make our country great,” he said.