Nearly 54 years after, a former Head of State, retired Gen. Yakubu Gowon, on Friday reminisced on his fortuitous emergence as Nigeria’s Head of State in the prime of his life at the age of 31.
Gowon became the third Nigeria leader and the youngest in the annals of our nation on August 1, 1966, about 79 days to his 32nd birthday on October 19 and remained the longest-serving leader at a stretch from 1966 to 1975 when he was overthrown.
He spoke at Nigeria’s first virtual reality history competition organized by ANISZA Foundation and Gallery to commemorate its second annual anniversary with the theme, “Sustaining Peace Together’’.
Persecondnews reports that the event which was moderated by the Founder and Curator of ANISZA Foundation and Gallery, Novo Isioro, also featured 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.
Isioro, ANISZA’s visionary, is an alumna of Pan-Atlantic University, Lekki-Ajah, Lagos, and a visual communication strategist and photographer who served as Nigeria’s Presidential Documentary photographer in the Office of the Vice-President up until 2019 when she proceeded to the United States for further education at the New York Film School.
On his experiences when destiny thrust on him the leadership of the young country which became independent on Oct. 1, 1960, Gowon said, “I felt petrified when I took over as Head of State”.
According to Gowon, who hails from the Plateau, his ambition was just to be a `good soldier’.
“I never planned to be the President, it just happened,” the octogenarian said while reliving some of his life experiences.
He counseled young Nigerians on the right attitudes and values as he engaged the participants at the virtual event on national issues especially the role youths can play in national development.
Among the participants were also selected school children, who are members of the ANISZA School Club, some of who sat around Isioro during the conversation with the former Head of State.
Gowon, now a cleric on a national project, “Nigeria Prays’’, uniting the nation through the gospel, 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.
He 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.”
Amid lot of wits and humour, Gowon 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 Nigerian life.
The host of the talk show and ANISZA founder, Isioro, explained that the event and the whole idea of ANISZA is to educate Nigeria youths especially secondary school students in Nigerian history using photographs and other visual elements, and by understanding of the Nigerian journey, it can advance the cause of peace and unity in the country.
She said the national virtual history competition which also took place yesterday was part of the efforts of ANISZA to engage young Nigerians on our history while using it to emphasize national unity.
Representatives of SHELL Nigeria, one of the leading sponsors of the ANISZA, were also attended the event as well as other sponsors including Alpha, Dawn & Forth, Creators Lab, Bamboo entertainment, Naija Cham, Infohob, Koroba entertainment.
One of the participants, Mr. Godswill Chibuzor also expressed his delight at seeing and hearing the former Head of State speak, and also commended his fitness despite his advanced age.
Many of the virtual participants also noted that Gowon’s interaction with participants yesterday has now given them more confidence in Nigeria and that the country would surely become great, contrary to their belief.