My regret as Head of state – Gowon

Yakubu Gowon
Yakubu Gowon

A former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, says he could have made Jos, Plateau State, the capital of Nigeria but refused to do so for fear of being seen as parochial.

Mr. Gowon, who ruled Nigeria for nine years from 1966 to 1975, however said his only regret was that he did not move the capital from Lagos even though his administration conceived the idea of the movement.

Mr. Gowon said these in Abuja at the 26th anniversary exhibition and commemoration of the movement of the seat of government from Lagos to Abuja.

The exhibition was titled ‘From Dodan Barracks to Aso Rock’.

According to a report in Vanguard newspaper on Wednesday, Mr. Gowon said he did not make Jos the capital because he was afraid of being accused of parochialism, given the fact that Jos was close to his place of birth.

“I had powers to make Jos, and not Abuja, the capital of Nigeria but refused to do so because I was not prepared to be clouded by sentiments and selfishness”, he said.

He also said he did not use his power as Head of State to appropriate land for his personal use.

He said he took these decisions because of his conviction that personal interest should not override national interest, stressing that the idea of moving the seat of Nigeria’s government from Lagos to Abuja was conceived by his government in 1974.

“Those who were passionate about the ideas, such as the late General Murtala Mohammed, continued with the project after I left government.

“One of the places I saw that attracted me was somewhere in Plateau, those of you who know the place, especially close to Jos forest, will agree that the area is beautiful and I thought that place was beautiful for the capital city. But I did not make that choice because I would have been accused of parochialism and favoritism, because it was very close to the original place where I come from.

“I must look at other places, the search for a new capital took me round the North-west, and in my state, I continued to look for other places. When I came to Abuja, I was attracted,” he said.

Mr. Gowon lamented that despite being the initiator of the idea that gave birth to the present Federal Capital Territory, successive governments marginalised him by not naming any street after him until he officially complained to former Military President, Ibrahim Babangida.

He said he suspected the reason for such treatment was because some military officers who were close to the government alleged that he had a hand in the death of Mr. Mohammed, who was assassinated in an abortive coup just over six months after he overthrew Mr. Gowon.

“I had to officially complain to General Ibrahim Babangida when he was the Military President, that I have been excluded from getting a street named after me in Abuja, while all other members of the military council who nurtured the idea had got streets name after them,’’ he said.

He said to ensure that the project of moving the capital from Lagos to Abuja was not frustrated, he instructed Shehu Shagari, who was his Minister of Finance, to set aside funds from the excess funds for the purpose of pursuing the dream.

Meanwhile, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammad Bello, who was represented at the occasion by the FCT Permanent Secretary, Christian Ohaa, said the theme of the exhibition was apt and provided the platform for strategic evaluations of the giant steps after 26 years of the relocation.

Mr. Bello said the developmental strides in Abuja did not come by chance but by painstaking sacrifices of the founding leaders.

He said the current system of funding infrastructure through statutory allocation was no longer sustainable, adding that government might consider other options in developing the city.

“It is important that we note that the current system of funding infrastructure through statutory allocation is, indeed, not sustainable,this is because the fund is no longer there. Government has done so much to drive development and brought the city to this point. The time has come for the private sector to drive the new process,’’ he concluded.

From 1914 to 1991, Lagos was the seat of power of Nigeria and served as both its political and economic capital. The plan for the movement of the capital from Lagos to Abuja was initiated by Mr. Mohammed but it was not actualised until 1991 during the regime of Mr. Babangida.


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  • FreeNigeria

    Gowon, in my opinion, the only true leader we’ve had in Nigeria.

    • Usher- Join The Revolution

      …by moving Capital from South to North? Give me a break!

      • thusspokez

        The North is part of Nigeria, isn’t?

        The British wouldn’t have chosen Lagos to be their capital if Nigeria were their own country.

        • Usher- Join The Revolution

          Give me a reason why they won’t choose Lag as the capital?

          • thusspokez

            You have a brain , use it to answer your question.

          • Usher- Join The Revolution

            Evasive as usual. Was waiting for you to give that so called reason so serious that will warrant blowing billions if not trillions of Naira on a new capital.

          • thusspokez

            Your brain needs the exercise!

          • Usher- Join The Revolution

            Who, your father?

          • thusspokez

            Language of the slum-bred. But I don’t blame you, because I am sure that if I were bred in the slum, I would have no respect for my parents, let alone other people’s parents.

          • Usher- Join The Revolution

            yup… your father.

          • Gary

            When presented with facts, they resort to name-calling. By their fruits you shall know them.

        • Gary

          From the mid19th-20th centuries, most cities and capitals were built on the coast.
          Moving the capital from Lagos to the North was and remains a politically-motivated decision by those behind the July 1966 coup.
          Gowon has just disclosed that both he and Murtala Mohammed nursed the ideal moving the capital from Lagos.
          And as usual, they successfully sold the idea to the Mumus from the South, courtesy of no less a personality as Justice Akinola Aguda. Except the prescient Obafemi Awolowo, who singularly stood against it until he died.

          So after Yakubu Gowon spent Niger Delta oil boom money building in Lagos the National Stadium, National Theatre, FESTAC and Satellite Towns, Trade Fair Complex, Tafawa Balewa Square, NITEL And Independence Buildings, Federal Secretariat, Dodan Barracks and the bridges and flyovers (now mostly dilapidated or rotting away); they had in mind to do the same for a spanking new capital in the North. Not so?
          In drips and drabs, those behind Nigeria’s cyclical underdevelopment are now telling us how they did it.
          Hopefully, Mr. Gowon & Co will get more off their chests in the twilight of the Earthly journey.

          • thusspokez

            From the mid19th-20th centuries, most cities and capitals were built on the coast.

            Provide such list and let’s see how many you can list.

          • Gary

            I will not do your research for you. There’s this thing called Google. There’s fact and there’s opinion. Stop trying to pass off your opinion as fact.

            Cities have historically developed on the Coast or waterways. That is an incontrovertible fact.
            The British seized Lagos in 1861 ostensibly to stop the thriving slave trade and declared it a protectorate. They also had Calabar for same purpose: the evacuation of agricultural commodities and minerals through port cities.
            It’s no accident that the capital cities Nigeria and colonial West Africa were all located on the coast. Recreating what obtained in coastal Europe.

            Spin all you want but the truth remains that one of the goals of the leaders of the Northern coup of July 1966 was to move the capital from Lagos to the North; following the slaughter of their political and military leaders in the January 1966 coup led by Chukwuma Nzeogwu.
            You cannot whitewash history. Not when those involved are now admitting that their policies were preconceived.

          • thusspokez

            The British seized Lagos in 1861 ostensibly to stop the thriving slave trade

            Wow! Who had been responsible for the slave trade to the Americas and West Indies? The British revisionists would be very proud of you!

            Gosh! You are so ignorant. This is where illiteracy shows that it can be a dangerous thing!

            It’s no accident that the capital cities Nigeria and colonial West Africa were all located on the coast.

            It is no coincident that they had arrived by ship. Maybe, if the aeroplane had been invented then, they would have landed in the desert.

            …Recreating what obtained in coastal Europe.

            Most of the capitals by sea are in Africa, whereas most of the European capitals are inland.

            The colonialists were only interested in coastal locations for the exportation of the host mineral resources that had been pillaged and plundered. These coastal-city-cum-seaports would often be connected to the hinterland by railway lines or the only roads.

          • Otile

            What are getting upset for? What does moving the capital away from Lagos into the heart of Northern Nigeria add to the treasury of one corru Nigeria?

          • Otile

            Why are you tearing your coat in anger? What does the Northerners moving the capital away from Lagos to the heartland of Northern Nigeria add to the treasury of one corrupt Nigeria?

      • NoSpinEd

        Check the map. Abuja is located at the geographical center of Nigeria. The choice was intentional. It was the brain child of Yakubu Gowon. Jos would have by far been more desirable because of its temperate climate. He has told us why he did not chose his home town. That alone is glowing evidence of his statesmanship.

        • Usher- Join The Revolution

          …Then when a land was not giving to him, he ran to Abuja to ask for one pretending it was street name he is asking for. Forget all this men, well you can choose to worship them. Your choice!

          • NoSpinEd

            Remember his attitude at the end of the devastating Biafran war. In the face of overwhelming victory, he declared: “No victor, no vanguished”. Only statesmen think that way.

        • thusspokez

          Check the map. Abuja is located at the geographical center of Nigeria

          Do these people care about the truth?

        • So oju abe niko

          Please check the maps of world countries and you will find that placing a capital in the geographical centre a country is not quite popular. There are far more important considerations in siting a country capital. I agree with the movement of the capital from Lagos, and I am from Lagos Island. Lokoja, about 150 south of Abuja, would have been a better location, for historical and geographical reasons, as well as being the most proximate to the majority of Nigerian ethnics. All they did in this case is move the capital as close to the Northern capital (Kaduna) as much as possible under the guise of a meaningless geographical centre. The reason Saudana chose to be premier of the North instead of the Prime Minister of Nigeria is because Lagos, which he hated and wrote about it in his autobiography – and the desire to move to the North has been a northern Nigerian project from the late 50s (before the independence).

          In about 100 years, Abuja will be back to being a ghost town. It has no historical importance or a reason why anybody will live there after the end of Nigeria. And Nigeria will surely end, though possibly not in my lifetime. So those of you struggling to invest in Abuja should think twice. If you must build property anywhere outside your village, think Lagos, Kano, Onitsha, Ibadan, Calabar, etc. These are places that would probably be in existence in the next 1000 years.

          • thusspokez

            Piles of horse manure analysis and predictions!

          • FreeNigeria

            true, Abuja was a waste of resources, Nigeria just finished the civil war, lots of ruins everywhere that needed the funds. There’s absolutely no point to embark on building a city from the scratch. Nigeria has been free falling since Gowon was overthrown. Building a new city in a country that didn’t/don’t have a functional hospital is a big shame and misplaced priority

      • FreeNigeria

        No, by building Nigeria. We’ve not had a functional government since Gowon was overthrown

    • thusspokez

      I agree, he is the only true leader Nigeria has ever had.

      • Otile

        Bigot,
        Of course you will agree because he is the ruler who initiated horrible genocide on your enemies. Nonsense

      • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

        Gowon is only fit for a cell in the Hague. He initiated the mass starvation which killed 3 million Biafrans. It is against the Geneva convention on armed conflicts to obstruct the movement of food and medicine to civilian populations. The blockade and the shooting down of red cross planes transporting aid was and still is a war crime.

    • KELLOGGS

      yak’s brain

  • wazobia decomposition !!!!!!

    another dunce after the order of ebele ……..

    • Bassey Frank

      Like the certificate forger leader BAT rallying unfounded popularity as tribal icon

  • thusspokez

    I can explain why Lagos is a bad choice for a country’s capital, but to this day, no Nigerian official has explained to the Nigeria people the rationale for moving the capital from Lagos to…

    • Usher- Join The Revolution

      to……? 🙂

    • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

      It was politically motivated. If Lagos was not suited then most areas surrounding lagos were vastly empty forests. The reason of vulnerability to military attack is a no brainer . The northern military thugs in power wsnted the capital up north to assert their ownership of the zoo space.

  • Otile

    Much ado about nothing, most successful countries do not necessarily have their capitals at the center of their good countries. Washington DC is not the geographical center of Amurka, London is not central in Ingila, Rome is not to Italo, neither is Tokyo to Nippon. Nobody knows exactly what Jack Gowon ati his worshippers are struggling to prove here. Nonsense

    • KELLOGGS

      Gowon, it ends up, has a Yak brain.
      Instead of regretting fighting for his Fulani masters for nothing, he’s here talking nonsense.

  • obiora

    Gowon you said Original place where you come from. But you are a Mission Child do you have original Place?.

    • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

      It was a politically motivated reason which led the move to Abuja. The northern Army thugs in power just wanted the capital moved up north.

  • Mentus

    This is a reminder that Lagos and Abuja were built with Nigerian money, and yet people from these areas want to claim they are indigenes and have rights over other Residents and even go as far as asking others to leave the cities. All tax paying residents in these cities have equal rights and can contest any political position they want.
    British parliament is full people from ethnic groups simply because they were born in the country or are legal tax paying citizens.
    Why should private sector waste their resources developing Abuja only for nonentities to wake up one day and decide Abuja belongs to them ad everybody else must leave.

    • thusspokez

      That Lagos state governor even have the arrogance to make compulsory, the teaching of his tribal language in cosmopolitan Lagos.

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  • Kez Ebed

    I was thinking that Bro. Jack would be regretting his partnership with T. Y. Danjuma to put the Tiv & Idomas, or say, the entire middlebelt into perpetual serfdom or servantship to the Herdsmen in the name of ridding the North of the Igbos (alias keeping Nigeria one); or be regretting the millions of innocent souls he starved to death and bombed to oblivion. Well, its funny that most ignorant then is celebrating 80th year and is as wealthy as King Solomon, but the wise and matured then is actually almost invisible now and had to beg for his name to be given to a street. Irony of life and power! Jack was a good man (infact saintly) loved and so much liked by kids of 8-10yr olds in the barracks then, but who disappointingly came to see that he lacked the courage or will to say anything, or take any action, or make a decision that would be critical to the Hausa/Fulani’s point of view. Bro Jack, you would have had Jos as the Capital but you couldn’t.

  • Kez Ebed

    I was thinking that Bro. Jack would be regretting his partnership with T. Y. Danjuma to put the Tiv & Idomas, or say, the entire middlebelt into perpetual serfdom or servantship to the Herdsmen in the name of ridding the North of the Igbos (alias keeping Nigeria one); or be regretting the millions of innocent souls he starved to death and bombed to oblivion. Well, its funny that most ignorant then is celebrating 80th year and is as wealthy as King Solomon, but the wise and matured then is actually almost invisible now and had to beg for his name to be given to a street. Irony of life and power! Jack was a good man (infact saintly) loved and so much liked by kids of 8-10yr olds in the barracks then, but who disappointingly came to see that he lacked the courage or will to say anything, or take any action, or make a decision that would be critical to the Hausa/Fulani’s point of view. Bro Jack, you would have had Jos as the Capital but you couldn’t.