In July 2004, General Yakubu Gowon who is 85 today, 19 October, seized the occasion of the banquet organised by the Ogun State government at the auditorium of the Government House, Valley View, Abeokuta, to mark the end of activities for Soyinka’s 70th birthday celebrations to explain and defend his regime.
Gowon told the guests “When I was Head of State, he (Soyinka) did not want anything in uniform and reports reaching me were that he was doing everything to effect a change of the system.”
“I was told by some people that I should make sure that he (Soyinka) did not circulate much. Gowon waxed humorous: “At that time, he was very, very young; he had no grey hairs, perhaps what happened to him (his imprisonment) might have caused this his numerous grey hair. Both of us were very young and idealistic at that time and I happened to be the man in charge of Nigeria at that time.”
“The tiny young man was trying everything he could to disrupt the normal process. We sat down and decided he must not circulate anymore because we thought he was then becoming very dangerous to the system, so we proffered what could be done to him. So he was my guest for two years and four months.”
Gowon said these in the presence of guests which included Governor of Edo State, Lucky Igbinedion; Presidential Adviser, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Minister of State for Agriculture, Chief Olawale Dada; Ambassador Segun Olusola and Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON) Alhaji Taiwo Alimi. Others were Chief Bola Kuforiji-Olubi, Dr. Onaolapo Soleye, Chief Bode George, Alhaji Jubril Martins-Kuye, Chief Ayo Opadokun and Oba Funso Adeolu, Alaye of Ode-Remo. Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Prince Bola Ajibola; Chief Judge of Ogun State, Charles Oluremi Jacobs; the Primate of the Church of Aladura, Ayo Ositelu; Maj.-Gen. Abdulkareem Adisa (rtd), representing Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), traditional rulers and other top government officials were also there.