Yakubu Gowon

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja celebrated former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, on the occasion of his 85th birthday scheduled for today, describing him as a living legend and a symbol of national unity. Buhari, according to a statement by his media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Gowon, despite being the youngest ruler of Nigeria so far, kept the country as one with his sense of vision, wisdom and discipline.

He said Gowon laid the foundation for Nigeria to thrive by creating federating units and national unity platforms such as the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

President Buhari also extolled Gowon’s virtues as a courageous and humble leader whose life of simplicity and sacrifice has reflected in his activities including his counsel to successive leaders as well as the creation of a national prayer platform, “Nigeria Prays.”

Buhari felicitated with Gowon’s family members, friends and associates, and prayed God to grant the retired army General a longer life and strength to keep serving Nigeria.

The statement read: “On behalf of the Federal Executive Council and all Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari warmly felicitates with former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, on his 85th birthday, October 19, 2019.

“As Nigeria’s youngest leader since Independence, President Buhari affirms that Gen. Gowon’s visionary leadership style, wisdom and disciplined outlook kept the country as one, extolling the former Head of State for faith and steadfastness in God in times of adversity, and courageously pursuing the interest of majority Nigerians for a unified and stronger country.

“The President believes the elder statesman laid a solid foundation for the country to thrive, with the creation of federating units, and implementation of futuristic policies like the National Youths Service Corps, that has consistently served the purpose of fostering unity, harmony and expanding the horizons of young Nigerians for life-time opportunities.

“President Buhari commends Gen. Gowon’s simplicity and humility, leaving the highest position in the country to return to school for further studies, and returning to provide wise counsels to leaders, encouraging good governance and setting up an organisation, ‘Nigeria Prays’, that consistently upholds the nation in prayers.

“The President notes that the former Head of State has stayed relevant in Nigeria and beyond, and enjoys wide respect from far and near.

“President Buhari congratulates all family members, friends and close associates of the exemplary leader on the auspicious occasion of his 85th birthday, praying that the Almighty God will always remember his sacrifices for the nation, and grant him longer life, good health and strength to keep working for the good of country and humanity.”

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to Gowon

In his own message, a former governor of Lagos State and the All Progressives Congress National Stalwart, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, described Gowon as a statesman who contributed immensely to nation-building.

He said: “I congratulate former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, as he clocks 85 on October 19, 2019. He is 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. He has not looked back since then. He has not relented in his efforts geared towards forging national integration even at this advanced age. General Gowon has continued with the task of engendering peace and unity in the land with the ‘Nigeria Prays’ project.”

Tinubu recalled that Gowon laid the foundation for the decentralisation of the country with the division of Nigeria into 12 states.

General Gowon, he further noted, was also one of the leaders who worked assiduously towards the formation of 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.”

Gowon became the head of state in 1966, following the bloody counter coup of July that led to the death of the country’s first Head of State, General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi.

He ruled for nine years (1966-1975) until he was overthrown in a bloodless coup by the Late Gen Murtala Mohammed in 1975. He led the country during the Civil War, to prevent its break up by Biafra from 1967-1970.