A former military president, General Yakubu Dan Yummy Gowon, disclosed on Saturday he and another ex-Head of State, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, were among influential elder-statesmen who shielded ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo against impeachment by the National Assembly in 2007.
He explained they prevailed on the leadership of the National Assembly under the supervision of Speaker, House of Representatives, Ghali Na’Abba, and then- Senate President , Pius Anyim, to allow Obasanjo finish his second term in office in order to avert socio-political upheaval in the country.
Gowon said these at the Maj Gen Emmanuel Abisoye Foundation lecture at the University of Abuja tagged, “Nation Building or Nation Fragmentation: Reflections on 20 Years of Post -Military Rule in Nigeria’.
Gowon said he swung into swift action to safe succeeding presidents from politically motivated embarrassments and impeachment by the National Assembly.
He said if the legislature had succeeded in dislodging Obasanjo, other presidents would not have been an exception.
Commenting on Na’Abba, who was also present at the event, Gowon said, “ I can assure you that we had some very important discussions and I know that we had to appeal to him and the President of the Senate not to impeach Obasanjo.
Of course , because of the respect they had for us , they listened to us.
“This is because if we had allowed them to impeach the President at that time of our democracy, no President in Nigeria would escape being harassed. So, I thank you very much for listening to us.
“Like me , the late Emmanuel Abisoye chose to join the Nigerian military in preference to other careers which he was eminently qualified. His achievements in his military career showed that he took the right decision to serve his country.
“As young as we were then , our ideals were not self – seeking. Rather they were focused on the growth and development of a strong , stable , viable and indivisible nation.
“As his Commander -In – Chief during the Nigerian crisis of 1967 to 1970 , I found his scorecard commendable; he fought gallantly , courageously.”
In his address, the guest lecturer and a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, raised concern that 20 years of democracy in Nigeria is nothing to write home about as sectional agitation is still existent.
“The issue of the various agitations in Nigeria points to the fact that all is not well.
“According to the great novelist, Chinua Achebe , a toad does not run in daytime for nothing . On the other hand, there are millions of Nigerians who want and work for the unity of our country. They recognise that Nigeria is part and parcel of the destiny of Africa. They believe that we would be better off together than being apart , and that we are the leaders of the continent . Thus we must lead by example and not just ascription.” He said.