IF succeeding regimes had checked corruption as his government did, Nigeria would not be swimming in graft with the attendant socio-economic and developmental problems, former Military Head State, General Yakubu Gowon, retd, has said.
This came as President Muhammadu Buhari said the $320 million Abacha loot from Switzerland would go to poor Nigerians.
Gowon, who said the condition he found himself after his ouster from office in 1975 might have changed the attitude of Nigerian leaders to corruption by deciding to “prepare for the future”, added that he and his officers did not indulge in corruption.
There were, however, mixed reactions from some elder statesmen to Gowon’s claims. While former Anambra State governor, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, agreed with the former Head of State, Chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay; founder of Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, Dr. Frederick Fasehun; former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, and Senator Femi Okurounmu, among others, disagreed.
Speaking at the Eight Annual General Meeting and Conference for Heads of Anti-corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa, in Abuja, Gowon joked that he “did not prepare for the future,” because “it was some of my staff who attended the OAU meeting with me (when he was overthrown) that contributed their estacode to let me have something to live on.”
Gowon’s claims elicited a deluge of comments from Nigerian elder statesmen, yesterday, most of who disagreed with him, countering that corruption started under his stewardship.
We didn’t know anything called corruption — Gowon
General Gowon was removed from office on July 29, 1975, while attending a meeting of defunct Organisation of African Unity, OAU, now African Union, AU.
Recalling the events of that Monday morning of July 29, 1975, Gowon said he had nothing apart from his salaries as of the time he left office.
His said: “Everything we had in the country belonged to the nation, belonged to the people and we must not touch anything. We made sure nothing like that (graft) happened, especially in the civil service.” He decried the actions of some past leaders which have given all former Nigerian leaders “a very bad name and image.”
While condemning the generalisation of corruption accusations on past leaders, he said he feels sad anytime media reports lump up all Nigerian leaders on the issue of corruption.
Gowon said: “It is sad to read reports that all former Heads of State are thieves.
“During our time, we did not know anything like corruption. Some of my ministers were accused of corruption but we did not allow it go into the public service. After I left office, apart from my salary, it was the staff that worked with me that contributed their estacode so that I have something to live on. During our time, we did not know that thing (corruption). We were afraid of being exposed.”
While advising heads of anti-corruption agencies to find a way of making those in leadership not to be tempted, Gowon hoped that recovered assets will be used for the good of Nigerians.