A former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (Rtd), has said that he was scared when he became the nation’s military leader on August 1, 1966 at the relatively young age of 31.
The retired military general became the third Nigerian Head of State and the youngest ever in August 1966.
At the time, he served the longest tenure in Nigerian history as military head of state between 1966–1975.
On July 29, 1975, while Gowon was attending an Organisation of African Union summit in Kampala, Uganda, a group of military officers led by Colonel Joe Nanven Garba announced his overthrow.
The coup plotters appointed Brigadier Murtala Muhammad as new Head of State, with Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo named as his deputy.
Speaking on Friday at Nigeria’s first virtual reality history competition organised by ANISZA Foundation and Gallery to commemorate its second annual anniversary, Gowon said he never planned to become Head of State.
The programme was part of activities marking the nation’s 60th independence anniversary.
At the virtual event, which was moderated by Founder and Curator of ANISZA Foundation and Gallery, Novo Isioro, Gowon added that his ambition then was just to be be a good soldier.
“The former Head of State spent time with hundreds of Nigerian youth who participated in the virtual event which was also the debut of the ‘Heart of the Matter with Novo Isioro,’ an online talk show where the host will raise issues of peace and unity among Nigerians and globally.
“The octogenarian who relived some of his life experiences and counselled young Nigerians on the right attitudes and values further engaged the participants at the virtual event on national issues, especially the role youths can play in national development.
“Among the participants were also select school children who are members of the ANISZA School Club, some of whom sat around Isioro during the conversation with the former Head of State.
“General Gowon also interacted with the participants on issues ranging from their identities, views on ‘one Nigeria’ and their personal commitments to ensure the nation remains united.
“The Plateau State-hailed general also reiterated his faith in the Nigerian youth and the country’s potential for greatness, noting that ‘we can be able to live in peace and unity irrespective of religion and tribe.
“With a lot of wits and humour, he also admonished young people, traditional and religious institutions to take up the responsibility of securing the national identity, saying everyone has major roles to play in harnessing national values that will spur growth and development across all sectors of the Nigerian life,” a statement by Isioro read.