Yakubu Gowon, former Military Head of State, says he almost relocated Nigeria’s capital from Lagos to Jos, Plateau State, after his administration first mulled the idea in 1974.
Speaking at an exhibition organised to mark the 26th anniversary of the relocation of the capital to Abuja, Gowon regretted that he was not the one who eventually completed the movement.
He said the choice of Jos as a capital city appealed to him because of the beauty of the city, but he thought that Nigerians would have seen the decision as sentimental.
Gowon became Head of State in 1966 after the murder of Aguiyi Ironsi in a bloody coup d’etat. He was, however, overthrown in 1975 in a bloodless coup that ushered in Murtala Mohammed.
“I had powers to make Jos, and not Abuja, the capital of Nigeria but refused to do so because I was not prepared to be clouded by sentiments and selfishness,” Gowon said at the event, titled ‘From Dodan Barracks to Aso Rock’.
“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 the original place where I come from.
“I must look at other places, the search for a new capital took me round the North-west, and in my state, I continued to look for other places. When I came to Abuja, I was attracted.”
However, it was not until December 12, 1991, under the regime of Ibrahim Babangida, that the relocation of the Nigerian capital from Lagos to Abuja was completed.