Former head of state, Yakubu Gowon, says his government conceived the idea of moving the federal capital territory from Lagos to Abuja in 1974, adding that he would have made Jos the capital but for the fear of being accused of “parochialism and favouritism”.
The Plateau-born retired General, who was the head of state from 1966 to 1975, stated this on Tuesday at the 26th anniversary exhibition and commemoration of the movement of the seat of government from Lagos to Abuja.
He explained that in the course of his search for a new capital city, he was attracted to somewhere in Plateau state
His words: “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 favoritism, because it was very close to my original place where I come from. So I said no, I must look at other places.
“The search for a new capital took me around the north-west, and in my state, I continued to look for other places. When I came to Abuja, I was attracted.”
Gowon lamented although he was the brain behind the present federal capital territory, successive governments failed to name a street in the city after him.
“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 name after them,” he said.
The ex-military ruler lauded the continuity of the idea leading to Abuja being made Nigeria’s capital on December 12, 1991, adding that Lagos State would remain the economy strength of the country.
Also speaking at the event, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Muhammad Bello, said the commemoration was an opportunity to reflect on the 26 years of the country’s final relocation.
He urged the citizenry to work together to safeguard their collective heritage by joining hands to protect all public utilities and infrastructure procured at great cost.
Bello said that the present administration was working hard to complete ongoing projects which would enhance the livability of the city.
“We have achieved substantial milestones in this regard and presently, our focus is shifting to area councils and satellite towns,” he said, adding that, “we are poised to ensure the navigability of the city, economic vibrancy as well as improved service delivery across the board”.