Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) has attributed Nigeria’s underdevelopment to the discarding of the Third National Development Plan scheduled from 1975 to 1980 by successive governments after his overthrow from office through a coup.
Speaking during an award ceremony for beneficiaries of President Goodluck Jonathan’s foreign postgraduate scholarship scheme for exceptional National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, participants in 2011 at the Nigeria High Commission in London at the weekend, Gen. Gowon stated that the third development plan was meant to transform Nigeria and “would have achieved what Nigeria is now aspiring to achieve”.
According to him, “Abandoning that development plan was to the detriment of Nigeria,” just as he lamented that “Nigeria’s growth rate at that time was between 12 and 15 percent which was matched only by the Asian Tigers.”
Notwithstanding, Mr. Gowon said Nigeria still has potentials to be a great country and achieve tremendous development with the right leadership and tasked Nigerians on the need to hold their leaders to account “by demanding that those in charge should do things better.”
He, however, warned against the “Pull Down Syndrome” under the cloak of criticism or opposition adding, “We must avoid throwing away the baby with the bath water.”
The former military ruler, whose regime initiated the NYSC scheme as part of initiatives to heal the wounds of the civil war, attributed the successes of his administration to collective action by members of the Supreme Military Council, equivalent of the Federal Executive Council.
He recalled that the meetings were “like debating society” where everyone was free to express their views and bring ideas to the table on how to make the country better.
Gen. Gowon said the NYSC scheme contributed immensely in cementing the unity, cohesion and understanding of the country by its participants.
In his remarks, the host, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the UK, Dr Dalhatu Tafida, described Gen. Gowon as an “exemplary leader”, who ruled when Nigeria was buoyant but “ended up penniless, without a house in Nigeria or abroad”.
Likewise, Chairman, Planning Committee of the NYSC Honours Awards, Mr Justin Adah Udie said the scheme was a “fulcrum of national unity in Nigeria and a vehicle for youth inclusion in nation building” and lauded government for recognizing the talents and achievements of its youth.