Former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon had once described Vice-president of the Federal Executive Council and federal commissioner for Finance under his regime, Chief Obafemi Awolowo as having laid the needed sound foundation in the management of the nation’s finances, it has been revealed.
Gowon made the complimenting remark about the late sage in a letter he (Gowon) wrote in response to Awo’s resignation letter written to him as the then head of the military government.
Awololo who stated his reason for resigning from Gowon’s government was the fact that “peace and unity of our great country” was fully restored, however, offered himself up for service in the field of expertise of the country, free of charge, should he be needed and his other engagements permits.
Stating the reasons that made him stay on in office after the end of the civil war, Awolowo said his interest in seeing through the 1970/71 fiscal year was the principal factor that delayed his decision to relinquish his office at the time.
Awolowo wrote: “I should have, in accordance with this declaration, relinquished my present offices soon after the end of the civil war in January last year. But one main matter decided me against such an immediate course of action. As you know, before January 1970, the four-year development and reconstruction plan had been under active preparation, and it had been hoped that it would be launched early in the 1970/71 fiscal year. It was my strong desire to participate in the consideration of this plan. As it turned out, however, the plan was not actually considered until August 1970.
“I have decided to go back to legal practice. I also want to seize the opportunity, which the military government’s six-year political programme provides, to write, if my professional engagement permit, three books which have always been very much on my mind”.
Responding to the letter, Gen. Gowon who acknowledged Awo’s exceptional service to his fatherland said he was accepting the resignation based on the fact that he (Awolowo) must have thought hard before arriving at the decision, adding, however, that the gap to be created will be difficult to fill.
Gowon wrote: “Your outstanding performance as this government’s Commissioner for Finance during one of the most critical and turbulent periods of our history will always be remembered. You demonstrated, consistently, great courage, forthrightness, leadership, and a spirit of understanding, which helped us to get out of our financial disaster.
“That we did not succumb to the temptation to devalue our currency during the crisis and were able to win the war entirely out of our own resources and face resolutely the immediate post-war problems of rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation was due, in no small measures, to your skill in the management of our finances”.