President Muhammadu Buhari felicitated with former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, as he marked his 87th birthday on October 19, calling him a “visionary leader,” in a statement yesterday.
The president, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, rejoiced with Gowon and his family on the grace for good health and strength to keep serving.
Buhari congratulated the former Head of State on the formidable role he had continued to play in the development of the country. He said Gowon’s relentless advocacy for peace and unity, and his consistent voice of reason and wisdom in good governance and democracy were legendary.
The president noted, with commendation and gratitude, the statesmanship of the Convener and National Chairman of “Nigeria Prays,” saying his vision for a greater country resonates in the programmes he instituted in the 1970s, like the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), creation of states, and the Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation project, which had become a reference for harmony.
Buhari believed grace and fortune had continued to guide Gowon, as he started out as a career soldier, youngest military Chief of Staff, and youngest Head of State, before turning a Professor of Political Science and founder of the Yakubu Gowon Centre, an organisation dedicated to good governance, infectious disease control, HIV/AIDS, and malaria.
The president joined family, friends and Nigerians in praying for longer life for the former Head of State.
Gowon is the oldest surviving former Nigerian leader. He rose to power following the July 1966 counter-coup that led to the overthrow and assassination of then the Head of State, General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi.
Gowon ruled for almost nine years until his overthrow in the coup d’état of 1975 by Brigadier Murtala Mohammed.