Yakubu Gowon, a former military head of state, has revealed that his intervention and that of other prominent Nigerians saved former president Olusegun Obasanjo from being impeached by the National Assembly in 2007.
Gowon made the disclosure at the Major General Emmanuel Abisoye Foundation lecture, which held at the University of Abuja on Saturday.
The lecture tagged: “Nation Building or Nation Fragmentation: Reflections on 20 Years of Post-Military Rule in Nigeria”, also had in attendance Ghali Umar Na’Abbah, a former speaker of the House of Representatives.
Gowon, who is the Chairman of the foundation’s Board of Trustees, explained that he and persons such as Abdulsalami Abubakar, another former military head of state, prevailed upon Na’Abbah and Pius Ayim, the then Senate President, to dissuade their colleagues from commencing impeachment proceedings against Obasanjo.
He explained that if the lawmakers’ attempt had been successful, the country’s nascent democracy would have been destabilised and that successive presidents would not have been able to function effectively due to the perceived overzealousness of the National Assembly.
Referring to Na’Abbah, 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 and 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.”
The former head of state also paid tribute to the late Abisoye, in whose honour the lecture was organised.
He said the late military officer distinguished himself in the Nigerian Army, noting that he (Abisoye) played a vital role during the Nigerian civil war.
Gowon said: “Like me, Late Emmanuel Abisoye chose to join the Nigerian military in preference to other careers which he was eminently qualified. His achievements in the 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.”