Former Nigerian Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, says the condition he found himself after his ouster from office in 1975 might have changed the attitude of Nigerian leaders to corruption.
Mr Gowon, a retired general who led Nigeria through three years of civil war during his nine year reign, was removed from office on July 29, 1975 by his junior colleagues while attending a meeting of defunct Organisation of African Union (OAU), precursor of the African Union (AU).
Recalling the events of that 1975 Monday morning, Mr Gowon said he had nothing apart from his salaries as at the time he left office.
The former leader who spoke at the Eighth Annual General Meeting and Conference for Heads of Anti-corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa, joked that he “did not prepare for the future”.
According to him, “it was some of my staff who attended the OAU meeting with me that contributed their estacode to let me have something to live on”.
He said the condition he found himself was perhaps the reason why some leaders who came later decided to “prepare” for such times.
Mr Gowon said he and officials of his government did not indulge in corruption, and complaint of corruption against some of his ministers were appropriately treated.
“Everything we had in the country belong to the nation, belong to the people and we must not touch anything,” he said.
“We made sure nothing like that happened, especially in the civil service,” the former leader emphasised.
Mr Gowon regretted the action of some past leaders which gives all former Nigerian leaders “a very bad name and image”.
He however condemned generalisation regarding corruption accusations on the past leaders, revealing that he feels sad anytime media reports lump up all Nigerian leaders on the issue of corruption.
Although the succeeding regime of Murtala Muhammad did not find Mr Gowon personally culpable of corruption, it seized asset from 10 of his 12 military state governors deemed to have been corruptly acquired and dismissed them from the military.