A former governor of Lagos State and leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, has congratulated former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, as he turns 85 on Saturday.
Mr Tinubu, in a statement on Friday night, made available by his Media Office in Lagos, described Mr Gowon as a statesman who contributed immensely to nation-building.
Mr Gowon served as military Head of State of Nigeria from 1966-1975.
Mr Tinubu described the retired general as a statesman and national icon who contributed enormously to Nigeria’s unity and development.
“Nigeria owes General Gowon a debt of gratitude for his efforts at resolving ethnic tensions that threatened to fatally divide the country and for his continued and untiring efforts at building one Nigeria.
“It’s on record that after the civil war, General Gowon propounded the ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’ policy aimed at bringing about national reconciliation, which thrives on his personal influence. ”
Mr Tinubu said the former head of state had not looked back since then, and not relented in his efforts geared towards forging national integration, even at an advanced age.
“General Gowon has continued with the task of engendering peace and unity in the land with the ‘Nigeria Prays’ project.
“The General also laid the foundation for the decentralisation of the country with the creation of additional states and the division of Nigeria into 12 states.
“General Gowon was also one of the leaders who worked assiduously towards the formation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to drive integration in the sub-region.
“I pray that God grant him many more years, good health and vitality to continue to contribute to nation-building and development, and be a shining example to the younger generation that he has always been,” he said.
‘A living legend’
Also, a former National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Bamanga Tukur, commended Mr Gowon for his selfless and meritorious service to the country.
Mr Tukur made the commendation at a dinner to mark the 85th birthday of Gowon, organised by the Institute for Governance and Leadership Studies in Africa, on Friday in Abuja.
He described Mr Gowon as a living legend, an epitome of unity and oneness of Nigeria, adding that it would require a complete book to summarize Mr Gowon’s contributions to the development of the country.
According to him, he piloted the affairs of the nation during her most difficult moment of the Civil War, which he ended with humility by declaring a ‘No Victor, No Vanquish.
“He followed it up with massive infrastructural development such as roads, railways, airports, hospitals, schools and the expansion of the Ports facilities to clear the Cement Armada required for the massive infrastructural investment of the time via his Triple ‘R’ (Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation).”
He recalled that Mr Gowon introduced the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to foster national unity and cohesion and promulgated the Indigenisation and Nationalisation Decree to empower Nigerians to benefit from the newly found black gold (crude oil).
Mr Tukur, who said that everything about Mr Gowon was about unity, described him as a “true Nigerian whose name is an acronym for unity, ‘Go-On-With-One-Nigeria’, GOWON.”
He applauded the effort of the current administration to bring to total closure on the Nigerian Civil War, just as the United State of America did, by paying the pensions and gratuities of the defunct Biafran soldiers.
“With this national healing, the painful episode of our history as a nation will be totally closed, for us to open a new page that will usher in a new way of life for a stronger, united and economically vibrant Nigeria for this generation and the next generation premised on a solid foundation built by the likes of Gowon.
“General Gowon’s monumental services will remain a reference point in our political, military and governmental history,” Tukur said.
The Guest Speaker, Gov. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state, said Mr Gowon was one of the few public figures he cherished and admired, adding that Gowon had mentored many people across faith.
Speaking on the theme, “Leadership in Troubled Times,” Mr Fayemi described Gowon as a very honest and humble person who dedicated himself to the service of the country at the early stage of his life.
“Gen. Gowon is very special to Ekiti State. Where there are good elders children will not go astray and I recommend him to young Nigerians as a mentor and role model for the younger generation within the political space.
“Gowon has become to Nigeria what Abraham Lincoln is to the US. He doesn’t criticised current president rather advise him in secret. He commands the respect of Nigerians across faiths.
Similarly, Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau State described the former head of state as a rare gift to the state, Nigeria, and the world.
In a birthday message by his Director of Press and Public Affairs, Makut Macham, on Saturday, Mr Lalong said Mr Gowon’s lifestyle and enormous sacrifices toward nation-building and global peace were exemplary.
“Gen. Gowon is a distinguished statesman, gentleman, prayer warrior and bridge builder.
“Continue to provide inspiration and hope for the nation as it wades through its challenges.
“While wishing you good health, God’s grace and divine strength, I urge you not to relent in deploying your wealth of experience and knowledge in the pursuit of unity and national integration,” he said.
The governor also said that Mr Gowon’s sense of duty and responsibility throughout his military career and other national and international assignments remained a shining example for generations to come.