A former Head of State, retired General Yakubu Gowon, has backed calls for restructuring of the country, provided it is done within the context of one Nigeria.
Mr. Gowon said this when Shehu Sani, the Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja on Wednesday.
Reacting to calls by some Nigerians, the latest of which was by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to restructure the country, Mr. Gowon said there was nothing wrong with restructuring.
The former vice president had while delivering a keynote address at the late General Usman Katsina Memorial Conference at the Murtala Square, Kaduna, at the weekend, restated his call for restructuring, saying whether Nigeria likes it or not, restructuring had become inevitable.
Mr. Abubakar, who was of the opinion that restructuring would strengthen Nigeria’s unity and stabilize its democracy, warned that if it is not done now in a direction influenced by relevant stakeholders, it may happen in a more “unpredictable arena and in a manner over which we have little influence”.
Backing the call, the former head of state recalled that under his leadership, Nigeria was restructured with the creation of states in 1967.
“We can restructure within one Nigeria context. I did it in 1967; we created states to stop eastern Nigeria from seceding.
“We had to do something to ensure the fear of their seceding did not exist; a serious issue of a part of the country wanting to breakaway when we already lost a part to Cameroon.
“If we had allowed the eastern region to go away, the map of Nigeria would have looked funny; it would have been tilted one way.
“So, we decided overnight to break the fear through the creation of states. If we had to save the country that was the only way to do it.
“We also ensured that no state was too big or too small to threaten the unity of the country”, he said.
Mr. Gowon, in 1967, announced the creation of 12 states, namely, North-Western, North-Eastern, Kano and North-Central states.
Others are, Benue-Plateau, Kwara, Western, Lagos, Mid-Western, Rivers (a South-Eastern state), East-Central and East-Central states.
He added that the call for true federalism by some Nigerians was also not misplaced as long as it was done within the context of the nation’s unity.
“What is true federalism? As long as it means respect for oneness of our country, it is alright, but if it means to breakaway, it is not my way of thinking”, the elder statesman said.