SOON after the Nigerian civil war in 1970, General Yakubu Gowon, as Nigerian Head of State, commenced a nation-wide visit of the then 12 states of the Nigerian federation. As a 10-year- old, primary five kid in Ilorin, I was very active in the scouting movement.
So it was that I was chosen along with several other children of my generation, to help arrange the Banquet Hall at the Ilorin Government House, during his visit to Kwara State.
Gowon had a very direct impact on our lives as children growing into consciousness in the context of the crisis of the 1960s: The coup and counter-coup and the events which led to the commencement of the hostilities of the tragic Nigerian civil war. The slogans of those times have remained etched on my memory: “GO ON WITH ONE NIGERIA” (coined from the name GOWON); “TO KEEP NIGERIA ONE IS A TASK THAT MUST BE DONE”!
The handsome and apparently humane officer looked very much the part as Nigerian leader in my very young but ever-searching mind. And there was a sense in which those years defined the professional choice I made later in life as a broadcaster and journalist.
I was farmed out to live with my great uncle at eight and every night, he listened to the Hausa Service of the BBC, which gave what he always described as the most accurate reports from the Nigerian warfront.