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Gowon: How Abuja became capital of Nigeria

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Gowon: How Abuja became capital of Nigeria

Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), has disclosed that Abuja was made capital of Nigeria, because he refused to chose Jos, which was the first place he got attracted to when he commenced a search for the new capital during his days in office as the Military Head of State.

He said he would have made Jos, Plateau State, the Capital of Nigeria, when he was in power but refrained from doing so because he was afraid of been accused of “parochialism and favouritism”, given the fact that Jos was close to his place of birth. The elder statesman, disclosed this at the 26th anniversary of the movement of the seat of government from Lagos to Abuja, organized by the Federal Capital Territory Archives and History Bureau.

Gowon said he initiated the idea of relocating Nigeria’s seat of power from Lagos to a more centralised location in Nigeria for security reasons.

According to him, the first place he found that looked strategic, beautiful and suitable was Jos in Plateau State, North Central Nigeria. Gowon, recalled that the idea of developing a new capital was conceived by his government in 1974, and those who were passionate about the idea like the late General Murtala Muhammed continued with the project after he left government in 1975. ”

One of the places I saw that attracted me was somewhere in Plateau. Those of you who know the place, especially close to Jos forest, will agree that the area is beautiful and I thought that place was beautiful for the capital city. ”

But I did not make that choice because I would have been accused of parochialism, and favouritism, because it was very close to my original place where I come from. So, I said no, I must look at other places and the search for a new capital took me round the northwest, and in my state visits, I continued to look for other places.

When I came to Abuja, I was attracted to the place.” Gowon however, lamented that despite been the initiator of the idea that gave birth to the present Federal Capital Territory, successive governments marginalized him by not naming any street after him, until he officially complained to General Ibrahim Babangida(rtd)

He said that he suspected the reason for such treatment could be because some military brass, who were opportune to be close to government alleged that he had a hand in the death of Murtala Mohammed.

“I had to officially complain to General Ibrahim Babangida, when he was the Military President, that I have been excluded from getting a street named after me in Abuja, while all other members of the Military Council who nurtured the idea, had got streets named after them”, he said.

He stated that to make sure that the project of moving the Capital from Lagos to Abuja was not frustrated, he instructed Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who was his Minister of Finance to set aside funds from the excess funds for the purpose of pursuing the dream. He also said that the only regret he had was that he did not use his power as the head of state to appropriate land for his personal use.

Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Mohammad Bello, who was represented at the occasion by the FCT Permanent Secretary, Christian Ohaa, said that the theme of the celebration:”From Dodan Barracks to Aso Rock” was apt and provides the platform for strategic evaluations of the giant steps taken to actualise the dream after 26 years of the relocation.

Bello noted that the developmental strides in Abuja did not come by chance, but by painstaking sacrifices of the successive administrations. According to him, the current system of funding infrastructure through statutory allocation was no longer sustainable and the Federal Government may have to consider other options in developing the city. “It is important that we note that the current system of funding infrastructure through statutory allocation is indeed not sustainable.

This is because the fund is no longer there. Government has done so much to drive development and brought the city to this point. The time has come for the private sector to drive the new process”, he said.

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