A former Nigerian Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, on Thursday said his administration released the late Obafemi Awolowo from prison to end the political unrest in the South West and ensure peace across the country.
Mr. Gowon, who spoke to journalists after paying condolence visit to the Awolowos at Ikenne, also noted that he was privileged to have been used by God to ensure release of the late sage from prison.
The former head of state, who was at Ikenne on account of the death of HID Awowolo, disclosed that the late matriarch was the one who persuaded Mr. Awolowo to be part of his military government.
“’It was my fortune and I thank God that it was me that had the opportunity to release Papa from prison from Calabar to Lagos and certainly to be able to help us have peace in the West at that time and then we came,” Mr. Gowon recalled.
“Mama was very happy and very grateful for what has happened and I can assure you, that is what earned me the respect of Mama right throughout her life. But yes, what we did was alright.
“There was also a need to get papa involved and that would probably seal what we wanted to achieve, especially in the West, which was at the time pretty dicey.
“You’d remember Operation Wetie and then the coup and what not. So we had to seek mama’s support to see if we can get papa to come and join the government to help and of course, our hope was that when that happened we would be able to finish as quickly as possible so that we can return to democracy.
‘Yes, we really pleaded with mama; she was the one who encouraged papa to accept that invitation and so, for that, we ever remain grateful to her for what she did.
“You know what happened after then; we had government not totally military but with some political juggernauts as the saying goes and we were able to start in making a move towards returning to normalcy.”
Mr. Gowon also shed light on the reasons his government delayed the return to civil rule, even when it was expected to have ruled for short time.
“Let me tell you this; it was not easy. When I became Head of State, I hoped that three months, six months the most, we would be done. But when you have problems in a nation, it is not easy to do them overnight. So, you’ve always got to give time and you’ve got to be patient for leaders to be able to get things in order,” he explained.
Mr. Gowon urged Nigerians to be patient and give Mr. Buhari more time for his administration to solve the problems of the country.
“Whenever any government comes in, give them time to be able to really put things right. Nigeria is not an easy place to govern,” he said.
“I can assure you there are as many problems as there are Nigerians in the world and everybody wants to do things in a particular way, in his own way and probably for his own interest. And you think of that, how are you going to get all that put together and put things right?
“I think we’ve got to be patient and then we’ve got to cooperate with the government to do the right thing. Always never be tired in telling the government what needed to be done in order to improve things.”
Mr. Gowon also noted that in paying tributes to the late matriarch it was impossible to mention Mr. Awolowo himself, who he said was instrumental to some of the successes recorded by his military government.