Abuja — President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday felicitated with former military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd.) who turns 86, describing him as a gallant patriot whose commitment to national unity is beyond comparison in the annals of Nigeria's chequered history.
Gowon also received praise from former President Goodluck Jonathanwho described him as a statesman that has contributed so much to Nigeria's progress and unity.
In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, issued in Abuja yesterday to mark Gowon's birthday, Buhari described Gowon as one of the fairest leaders he has ever known who has inspired so many future leaders.
Buhari said: "The role General Yakubu Gowon played in our political history and infrastructure development is etched in stone and cannot be rewritten.
"As young military officers, many of us regarded General Gowon as our role model because of his patriotism, commitment to unity and his humility.
"The Nigerian civil war brought out the most brilliant qualities of GeneralGowon as a visionary leader who put the interest of Nigeria before his own personal interest."
The president said the former head of state led a national reconciliation effort at the end of the civil war in order to heal the emotional and psychological wounds of the fratricidal conflict.
He added that even in Africa, many leaders in the continent draw inspiration from Gowon's handling of the outcome of the civil war through his policy of 'no victor, no vanquished.'
"As he marks 86 years of age, Nigerians cannot forget General Gowon's immeasurable contributions to the unity and development of Nigeria. May God continue to bless him with more good health and the needed strength in understanding his ongoing spiritual engagements and service to humanity," the president added.
In his goodwill message, Jonathan prayed to God to continue to grant the former head of state peace, strength and sound health.
In the goodwill message he personally signed, the former president said: "It is with great joy that I join your family, friends and well-wishers to celebrate with you on the occasion of your 86th birthday.
"You are a statesman and a Nigerian hero who has continued to contribute to our nation's progress and unity, even after many years of retirement from service.
"Your relentless crusade for a more peaceful and prosperous Nigeria has continued to inspire hope and patriotism in our people. Many Nigerians see you as a role model to present and future generations of leaders, because of your modesty and principled stand on issues of morality, equity, and accountability.
"My family and I pray God continues to uphold you in peace, strength and sound health. Congratulations, Your Excellency."