Yakubu Gowon in Retrospect

82
2506
AKIN OSUNTOKUN: DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA

DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN

A significant gap in the account of the political history of Nigeria is the inability and disinclination of the two main actors of the Nigerian civil war, General Yakubu Gowon and Chief Emeka Ojukwu to write their memoirs-thus fostering a critical vacuum in the collective and institutional memory of the nation. It gets more imponderable in light of the consideration that both lived for many years thereafter in relative leisure and possess the intellectual wherewithal to articulate their thoughts. And it is to the extent of this omission that the history of Nigeria is impoverished. Reinforcing this conspiracy of silence is the fact that there is also not in existence an authoritative compendium (a reader) on the civil war-post civil war Nigerian governments have uniformly adopted the attitude of the less said, the better; the ostrich catechism of see no evil, hear no evil and say no evil has become the norm.

The net effect of all these is that Nigeria has emerged from the civil war with no sense of what is right or wrong other than the criminalization of secession and the dubious exhortation to Nigerian nationalism and patriotism-the latter being the last refuge of the scoundrel. The fullness of this historical muddle has resulted in the contemporary apt observation that Nigeria is divided now than ever before-answerable only to the panacea of constitutional restructuring or dictatorship.

The tendency of the debate on restructuring (call for restoration of the federalist framework of the independence constitution) to degenerate into cacophony was lately deepened by the intervention of the former military ruler, Gowon. And the intervention itself raises the pertinent question of his culpable omission-failure to adequately account for the civil war and thereby help to make better sense of post 1966 history of Nigeria. Just how pertinent his witness can be was revealed in an extended interview he recently had with the African International Television, AIT. The revelation strikes at the root of the conflicting regional positions taken on the restructuring proposal. He said the North was originally opposed to the creation of states (which amounted to a break-up of the regions) in 1967 and he had to cajole the support of the region by marketing the policy as one that will result in the appropriation of more national resources to its coffers; that more states means more money.

Subsequently he went on to dismiss the call for restructuring with this argument “Nigeria is made up of over 500 ethnic groups, languages and dialects and so many various groups called nationalities and they want restructuring…This restructuring everybody is asking for, we will have about 500 different ideas of restructuring. There is call for restructuring to reduce the number of states to only a few either back to the old region or to the zones.”. This argument is self-contradictory in the sense that way back in 1967 he had demonstrated a clear conviction in restructuring when he broke the four regions he inherited into 12 states-thus launching a trend that culminated in the prevailing 36 states mockery of federalism. Ironically, the current restructuring advocacy is no more than a call for the rectification of the error Gowon initiated in 1967.

More important is the political revisionism and the repudiation of the independence constitution that this argument entails. Were there not ‘over 500 ethnic, languages and dialects’ in Nigeria when Nigerian representatives to the pre independence London constitutional conference negotiated and adopted the independence constitution (comprising three regions) as Nigeria’s foundational articles of association? If restructuring is now so wrong and implausible then why is the alteration of the country’s constitutional structure anticipated in the constitution in the first place?
If, indeed, any political actor is authoritatively positioned to recall the intricacies of the drastic political transition that Nigeria went through from 1966 to 1975 the prize should go to Yakubu Gowon. He was as much a creation of the sanguine and turbulent first half of the political era as he was a creator. From all accounts, he was almost oblivious of the Northern Nigeria army officers’ revolt (counter coup) of July 1966 yet he was vaulted to the topmost position of the resultant military government. At the onset (of the vengeful riposte), the objective of the coup makers was limited to wreaking revenge against the dominant Igbo officer corps of the Nigerian army whom they hold collectively responsible for the January 1966 coup that decapitated the political leadership of the Northern region; and thereafter take the Northern region out of Nigeria.

In the pursuit of this objective, Gowon would subsequently play a central role that neither he nor the masterminds of the counter coup anticipated. As the mission altered from secession to seizing the political leadership of Nigeria, so did the leadership of the Northern officers initiative changed from Murtala Mohammed to Yakubu Gowon-thanks to the covert intervention and guidance of the British government. His relative detachment from the conspiracy and affable temperament afforded Gowon a balanced and accommodating view of the evolving political situation at a time such quality was in short supply.

The utility of the cross-cutting cleavages of religion and ethno-regional identity in Nigerian politics (a political identity that cuts across the North-South divide- sharing the identity overlap of Northern geopolitical origin and Christian religious affiliation with a predominantly Christian South ) was called to service and proved a critical enabling factor in his subsequent mediatory and unifier role. On account of this identity overlap and cosmopolitan disposition he became the acceptable and agreeable face of the North in the volatile power politics engagement of that historical moment. Working together to bolster his appeal to the Western region, for instance, was the potential facility role of the prior political alliance between the Action Group, AG, and the United Middle Belt Congress, UMBC. On a lighter note was the reinforcement of his politically balanced appeal with the publicly advertised strong romantic relationship between him and Edith Okongwu (of Igbo origin). But alas, what cosmopolitan Lagos brought together was torn asunder by the eventuality of the civil war that pitted them as proxies of the antagonism between the East and the North.

Within the broader context of the Hausa-Fulani dominated Northern political establishment, there has always been the subordinate sub nationalism of the Northern Christians-geopolitically characterized as the Middle Belt. Relative to their civilian politician counterparts, (personified by the UMBC), the middle belt military officers are much more coopted and integrated to the charted political agenda of the Northern region. More than any other military officer of middle belt origin, Theophillus Yakubu Danjuma has emerged the standard bearer of this pedigree. Arising from his real time command role in the execution of the blood soaked 1966 countercoup and trademark confrontational bravura (he arrested and dispatched General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi and Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi) he attained to the status of a somewhat venerated figure of Northern hegemony. This veneration has earned him the concession of a wiggle room whenever he chooses to play Middle Belt sub national irredentist politics and it is against this backdrop that explanations would be found for the godfather role he routinely assumes in middle belt politics.

Notwithstanding his long tenure as military head of state, Gowon has no such comparable political gravitas and his subsequent ouster from office in a 1975 military coup was (incidentally) substantially masterminded by Danjuma and another prominent officer of middle belt origins-Joseph Garba. In addition to the assassination of the military head of state, General Murtala Mohammed, the unique characteristic of the 1976 abortive coup was its valid perception as a middle belt military officers’ affair (including the participation of one of the highest ranking officers of the Nigerian army, General Ilya Bisalla). This perception was substantiated by the underlying mission statement of the coup as the restoration of Gowon to his prior position of head of state. Needless to say that whatever respect and political stature Gowon hitherto enjoyed was severely eroded by the tragic episode.

The coup equally enjoys the distinction of being the first time the military wing of the middle belt political class would take a political initiative autonomous of the expansive Northern regional umbrella. Gowon was consequently dismissed from the Nigerian army and declared wanted for the charges of alleged complicity to the abortive coup. After a stint of exile in Britain he was granted full state pardon by President Shehu Shagari in 1981. And in a manner of speaking, this marked the end of the second phase of his eventful life and the beginning of another.

There are a number of individuals whose personalities (as we come to know them) I find difficult to reconcile with their prior careers in the military especially their involvement in the bloody and chauvinistic interlude of 1966-70. Gowon is one of such- his sedate temperament and soft power disposition make him more suited to his latter day Christian evangelism vocation-Nigeria Prays (that he founded and led to spread the gospel of peace, love and brotherliness among Nigerians). He has cultivated the art of political evasiveness and appears uncomfortable with any political identity beyond the political correctness of opposition to the fragmentation of Nigeria.

It is ironical that these were the same qualities that served him so well in piloting Nigeria through the turbulence of the civil war and berthing the nation in one piece. Less flattering is the inability of Gowon to fulsomely reflect the productive years he spent in Britain studying political science up to the doctorate level at the Warwick University. We see little evidence of the rigor of this intellectual acquisition in his mostly simplistic understanding and assessment of Nigerian politics.

Yet we must not lose sight of the insight he inadvertently provided in the recall of the stratagem he employed to accomplish his own exercise of restructuring 50 years ago. Now, as in 1957, it seems as if it is the Northern region that needs to be persuaded to support and accept restructuring. Borrowing from his manual, the formula for success was the dangling of the carrot of more financial resources accruing to the region. Or at the very least, the region should not be poorer for it. Not a bad bargain?

  • ABEL IKE

    OJUKWU SPEAKS ON ABURI ACCORD & CONTRADICTS GOWON…..

  • KWOY

    Gowon was pleading for the implementation of the national conference Report; then upon seeing the Military vanquishing of IPOB by Buhari, he suddenly remembers nigerian 500 ethnic Groups have 500 different ideas of restructuring!

  • Grelia O

    Gowon doesn’t have the balls to write an objective memoir. An objective memoir will be self-incriminating, and will expose his hypocrisy. It will properly situate his place in the context of the structural upheavals of the present era. How will the public deal with the fact that his mismanagement of the 1966 crises opened the door for Murtala Mohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Mohammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha, and the trio of Shehu Shagari, Umaru Yar’dua, and Goodluck Jonathan.

    The military roughnecks were a disaster despite all the unearned praises and flattery heaped on them by the corrupt press. Their civilian counterparts were dealt a horrible hand despite their best intentions. The military roughnecks imposed an unworkable structure, which guaranteed retrogression. However much you try to force a round per into a square hole, it will never fit. Shagari, Yar’dua, and Jonathan were all victims of the structural landline that the military, Gowon and his successors, laid.

    This is Yakubu Gowon’s legacy. He has cleverly avoided the outing of the ugly narrative. The bad news for him is that history will not Accord him the luxury of pass that the press and political establishment have given him.

    The jury has already started returning a guilty verdict on him and his various cabinets. The near total rejection of his signature achievement, the current backward structure, by most of strongest allies must be sobering. Fate is keeping him alive and kicking to live endure the degradation of his creation, and the backlash on his native minority North. Who says that the General has escaped justice? What a turn of events!

    • Don Franco

      Dear Grelia O:

      I commend your truth-telling spirit on this forum; but on a more personal note, while studying at the University of Texas, as part of my project on the American prison industrial complex, I had the opportunity to interview Gowon”s first son, who had at the time served fourteen years for drug smuggling and money laundering criminal charges; he echoed the same sentiment as yourself in your commentarea above. He served six additional years for a total of twenty before President Obama pardoned him and he was deported back to Nigeria in 2015. We ran into each other again at Sapetro Towers on Adeola Odeku, it was a tearful meeting. ..
      My point is that Gowon”s forced One-Nigeria, that even his own son doesn’t believe in; is responsible for the criminality of our young people; northern domination is responsible for the pernicious commerce underlying the submerged corpses of 26 Nigerian females buried in Italy last Wednesday, and countless others incarcerated and being sold into brutal slavery across Libya and Djibouti. It is not for nothing that British, US and Thai prisons has a disproportionate population of Igbo and Yoruba inmates; the Hausa-Fulani is by no means less gifted in crimes of moral turpitude, it’s just that they have succeeded in completelytaking over the political economy and oil resources of Nigeria for themselves; protected by a northernized armed forces and intelligence services.
      Gowon is a punished and tortured soul; why he continues to live up to expectations, as a Banzan Bakwai is beyond me. I can imagine the rebuke he’d receive from J.S. Tarka should they ever meet in the great beyond.
      General Victor Malu, for all his bonhommie with Abacha, never forgot for a minute where he came from; and was quick to challenge Obasanjo when the Ota Ape extended the jurisdiction of his wholesale murder of unarmed civilians to the Middle Belt; but not so with Gowon, even as herdsmen has turned the Benue-Plateau into killing fields. ..not a word from Gowon. Perhaps there’s an invertrate cowardice that comes with old age and dementia.

      • Grelia O

        Thank you, Don Franco.

        At the risk of repetition, I maintain that the mistake of 1914, the butcheries of January and July of 1966 would have been properly managed had Gowon not abolished local autonomy. His front and center position in the Nigerian Hall of Shame cannot be contested.

  • Jon West

    “Professor” Akin Osuntokun, you appear to be as ill-educated as the rest of the untrainable rabble you constantly preach to. Please be informed that there are indeed accounts of the Biafran genocide and its antecedents , by believe it or not, a ceratin Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who in 1969, in the last days of the genocidal conflict, penned the seminal work “Biafra: Selected Speeches and Random Thoughts” published by Harper&Row with USA Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 77-94675. I am staring at my own copy right now, and am amazed that nobody seems to be aware of the existence of this seminal work on the history of modern Nigeria. Boy O Boy, when will the Black man overcome his aversion to the written word?

    Now back to the mundane business of Yakubu Jackass Gowon, my favourite prey in the pantheon of failed Nigerian and African leaders. I met my victim firsthand in the mid-1970s, when he was at Warwick University, pretending to study political science, after practicing politics for decades. That really says a lot about this man, who Odumegwu Ojukwu once described, in a 1977 BBC TV interview, commemorating the beginning of the Biafran genocide, as “capable of making a mess ,of the simple act of eating a boiled egg”.

    I was employed at the textile firm Courtalds Limited in nearby Coventry, as an engineering student on industrial attachment, while Gowon was enrolled at the university. On a visit to attend an African Students Union meeting at the university, I sat next to Gowon, who was being fawned on by some female African students, and he was lapping up the attention as you would expect from such a man. Observing that I was uncomfortable in his presence, he asked for my country of origin and my name. My name gave me out as Igbo and urging our conversation, he gradually asked For forgiveness for his role in the war. Yes, to his credit, he did.

    I responded by assuring him that I held very little grudge against him and that I was grateful that he was the Head of State during the war, because if the role went to the murderous Murtala Mohammed, I would not be alive to have this conversation with him. However I ventured to ask him why he was always making great efforts to be seen to be nice. He smiled and changed the subject, in the manner of the man, a man of straw, a man without character. I also reminded him that his father Pa Yohanna was reputed to have baptised me at the St Andrews Church Wusasa, Zaria, after I was delivered at the adjoining CMS Hospital and he was immediately elated. Anyway, I left him and also exited the ceremony, being uncomfortable in his presence, the presence of a hypocritically penitent genocidaire.

    Fast forward to the 1980s to date. Dr General Yakubu Jackass Gowon, former Head of State tried to participate in Babangida’s perennial political transistion, and his erstwhile Arewa runners contrived to disgrace him for his uppity move to come back to power , burning his fathers grave at the St. Andrews CMS church in Wusasa , Zaria in the process.
    The gloves were off; the Fulani elite had used him to cage the Igbo lions and he had to understand that he was now surplus to requirements. Gowon got the message and proceeded to a Pauline conversion to Christianity and prayers. But once a man of straw, always a man of straw, a man without character. After apologizing to the Asaba people for their massacre by their son- in-law, a ceratin Murtala Mohammed (his mother-in-law ha Asaba roots), he later asserted that he had no regrets about the Biafran genocide and would repeat his role, if Called upon to do so. This is vintage Gowon, always playing to the gallery of Arewa irredentism as the ultimate good boy, even when rejected.

    However, Gowons greatest tragedy and the evil that will follow him into his grave, is his very Loud silence at the slaughter of his people by the Fulanis, disguised as herdsmen. In this evil, he will be followed by a retinue of Middle Belt and Southern Zaria retired and serving military officers, who have kept a very unbelievable silence as their former runners now descend on their hapless peoples in a concerted land grab . The list of these cowardly vermin is endless: Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma , Jeremiah Jerryboy Useni, both reputed to have murdered Ironsi and Fajuyi, David Mark, Domkat Bali, Ibrahim Babangida, Onoja, Zamani Lekwot and the other vermin that were used to murder millions of children, pregnant women and defenceless people in Biafra. They are now complicit by thier Loud silence, in the genocide of thier own people.

    I went into this long treatise , in order to properly situate the person and character of Yakubu Gowon , in the history of Nigeria and disabuse the minds of the very gullible young people of Nigeria abut his ignoble role in the very sad and checkered history of this Zoo of a country.
    Bottom line, the rain started beating us in Nigeria, when people like Yakubu Jackass Gowon and his band of merry genocidaires, were inflicted on Nigeria by an alliance of Arewa irredentists and Afonjites from you know where. The idea of Nigeria died there and then; we have just been managing the interment since then. To hell with Nigeria!!

    • power

      American Abroad is now the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria online while the Ever erudite Jon West is the Vice-President. Please you guys should keep up the good work. You never fail us. God bless you both.

      • Jon West

        Jon West, a Nigerian and subservient to anyone, especially AA? Infra Dig !! For your information, it is general knowledge, that Jon West is a Biafran prisoner-of -war forced to carry a Nigerian passport. He is waiting for the war that is the Nigerian reality to end,so that he can go home to his homeland, to hell with Nigeria!!

        • power

          Hahaha, you do not understand the humor? I am encouraging you guys to write more. I am being hyperbolic. Common man put on your thinking CAP Negro. I was not born in Nigeria, and do not live in Nigeria.

        • Iskacountryman

          would you fly through lagos before getting home?

    • Iskacountryman

      the war is over son…we won…and we own the land, by virtue of conquest which is accepted proof of ownership under international law…osuntokun did not hurt you…so the ad hominem attack against him is unwarranted…as for ojukwu and the egg analogy…remember you cannot keep nigeria one without cracking nyamiri heads…

      • lord of jaspers

        you ability to xpose ur foolishness ova nd ova again wil continue to surprise me! but wat surprises me more is d fact dat i am actually surprised!

        • Iskacountryman

          mister jasper…i do not mind abbreviations…but try and spell well…

          • lord of jaspers

            fool!

          • Iskacountryman

            thanks for the compliment…you learn fast…

    • Lawrenece Ifo

      I have nothing more to give but just to say thank you very much.

  • Darcy

    Really, only the Northern Region needs convincing?

    Might I ask who died and appointed you King and arbiter of the thoughts of the Southern region?

    Therein lies the problem with the Nigerian intellectual: their inherently authoritarian, anti-democratic leanings. If ordinary Nigerians aren’t having their cultural moorings maligned by the need of your class to ape the West in the name of “progress”, we’re dragged through your ceaseless political experiments.

    We’ve gone from Pan-Africanism to ethnic “restructuring” with nary an admission of wrong by the intelligentsia that cheered every failed experiment. We’ve gone from the much hyped “Mixed-Economy” model to the increasingly prevailing Laissez Faire consensus and yet, no results. Yet the Nigerian intellectual refuses to admit to anything less than omniscience.

    How’s this for an idea? Leave your bubble of think-thanks and conferences of “like-minded ‘progressives’ cum activists”, form a political party, articulate your ideas, campaign in the dirt and let the people decide.

    Until then, you’re no different from the intellectual Mugabe, a despot pretending to scholarship!

    • Don Franco

      Revealing!

    • Jon West

      To be fair to Akin, he is quite right really. There is a saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The weakest link in Nigeria’s search for a route to progress and participation in the global development community, is the Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri and the Middle Belt appendages. We have to do a deal with them or suffer the consequences of permanent economic, technological and social retardation . Go to the blighted and devastated North of Nigeria and the imperative will stare you in the face. They are in a different world and have no idea of progress in the true sense of the word. You need to cajole them into reality. That is a sad fact. If a bribe is necessary, then lets give it to them in order to effect the necessities for national development. If not, then, to hell with Nigeria.

      • obinnna77

        But how? How do you bribe the bribe-giver? Akin assumes purely pecuniary motives. In respect to folk who have been exercising a will to power since 1804, of empire wide proportions. It is that will to power that is the crux of our problems.
        Incidentally, I just got that same book on Ojukwu’s speeches from my institution’s library, in sedate Albion. How’s that for coincidence? Shameful how the occident keeps better records of us, than we do. Happy downtime reading.

        • Jon West

          The bribe could come as a little bit of coercion. Just shut off the oil supply for six months say, and then anything can be negotiated . These folks in the North are really vulnerable and cannot believe their Goodluck that the southerners do not know about this vulnerability. As for the modalities for a shut-down,its really quite easy. Technology can do the job, not much violence is required. If only the Niger delta people had any sense, if only a Jon West was their leader, then the sahelian rag heads will come begging for even morsels. However, if wishes were horses …………

          • Grelia O

            Exactly. Throw in proximity and access to the coast. Or even the free labour provided annually by young graduates. Despite the abysmal quality of our education, the North still benefits disproportionately from the NYSC program. The South has a lot of aces it play, but Southern leaders are the worst enemies of the South, and , in a sense, of the entity called Nigeria.

        • Don Franco

          Dear Obinnna77,

          I hardly think that my weekend will be one of happy reading, what with the hogwash that Dele and Simon will assault my sensibilities with tomorrow and Sunday….

      • Mystic mallam

        Thanks Mr West, ”if a bribe is necessary, then let’s give it to them….” that’s the one incontrovertible piece of realism I’ve heard from you lately. It’s only if and when that fails that the likes of me will join your ”to-hell-with-Nigeria-train”.

        • Don Franco

          Dear Mystic Mallam:

          I am hardly optimistic that a “Bribe” will suffice, given how irredeemable the northern parts are. On a good day, take a trip in the suburbs of Kano, Katsina, Kaduna and Kebbi to get an idea of how retrogressed the people and the mindset are. It is only the fire next time that will save us from ourselves.
          Imagine Maikanti Baru’s speech yesterday that the NNPC

          • Mystic mallam

            Dear friend Franco, I share your pain. I have first hand experience of the near medieval state of mind and affairs in the northern neck of Nigeria. But that’s not reason enough to abandon ship. I’d rather think it is reason enough to reset the country – allowing each section or region to focus its efforts on those matters of life [like dependency on crude oil, annual pilgrimages, migratory cattle-rearing, qualitative education, healthcare services, infrastructure development etc.] which that region has reason to believe would advance the interests and aspirations of its people. We need not abandon ship, at the same time, we should not allow any section to continue to hold other sections down or hold them back.

      • Darcy

        Perhaps it’s because I’m one of those village boys who’s parents had to flog education into, perhaps that it is what makes me sympathetic towards the North.

        That their politicians have abandoned them does not mean we ought to do same. Afterall if oyibo people could leave the comfort of their homes to come build schools here, surely we can cross the Niger?

        Dragging our Northern neighbours towards modernity will require a combination of carrots to the populace and sticks to their leaders. The exact combination, I’m not sure of. Abandoning them though, my conscience cannot take.

        • Don Franco

          Dear Darcy,

          What was it that Harriet Taubman said about how she freed a hundred slaves, but could have freed thousands if only they knew that they were slaves? It’s not possible to carrot and stick a solution out of a mindset that views Greco-Roman and westernized values as inferior to Arab values. This in the face of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman having just budgetted $360 billion and zoned a new city in Saudi Arabia for nudist male and female bathers. MBS understands, having been to the Roberto Cavali nightclub at the Fairmont Hotel, Dubai.
          Maybe you could go tell the Hisbah sharia police in Kano and Sokoto that you want to make education of their children mandatory, and see if you won’t get arrested for un-Islamic behavior. ..

          Why do you think the ranks of Boko Haram has swelled in the past 9 years, despite the decimation of their numbers by Ihejirika and Buratai? Why do you think their members who were released from Ebonyi prisons in exchange for the Chibok Girls promptly returned to Sambisa forest and posted videos on Sahara Reporters? The Madrasas are full to breaking point, but all the Almajirai and Nomadic schools are empty.

          Darcy, do you recall that the main reason why the Sultan rejected Independence before 1960 was also because the North wants to continue its Jihad past Kwara into the Niger?
          This is the mindset that you continue to overlook to your own deathly peril.

          • Darcy

            “Looking at a King’s mouth, one would think he never sucked at his mother’s breast.”

            Surely an Igbo of all people should know better than to accept determinism. Things look unchangeable, until they change.

          • Don Franco

            No doubt, no diggity! An outsider has no right to weep louder than the bereaved… real change never came by a lethargic mindset.
            These guys have a complacent attitude to life; as far as they’re concerned it’s the infidels down south that need to be converted to their arabized way of life. ..
            In any event, Good luck with it, brother, man.

    • obinnna77

      How inane. Why on earth would Akin ‘form a political party and campaign in the dirt’? As far as we can discern, he is not some kind of masochist. He knows that he is not Abiola, with cross over appeal, built up over decades of regulatory capture and philanthropy.
      Recognise that there is only one party, the party of the Almajirai, and no Yoruba man is their champion. But what else to expect, from someone wrongheaded enough to suggest that N.Kanu should go persuade said Almajirai to side in his struggle for ‘justice’. Try to understand the internal dynamics of your ‘country’, then attempt to graft on those textbook postulates.Not the other way round.

      • Darcy

        Then I leave you and Akin with President Roosevelt’s famous words: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

        At a point, we will need to fight for our country or watch it go to the dogs.

  • American Abroad

    The mystery of Mr Gowon can only be rationally explained as penance for his previous misdeeds.

    Mr Gowon, from all appearances, is a very nice fellow. I can personally attest to that. I have seen him but twice: first, as a pre-teen schoolboy during his time as Head of State, when it was standard operating practice for schools to close, thereby facilitating the ritual of pupils waving Green-White-Green tricolor flags along state highways in welcome of visiting dignitaries; next, it was about a decade later, at a reception for Her Majesty’s scholars to which he was invited as a previous Commonwealth Head of State, and between canapés and drinks, I relayed that story to him. Without missing a beat, he leaned towards me, and announced that he recognized me and was actually waving frantically at little ol’ me on that highway from his motorcade! Ever since that fortuitous encounter, I must confess to having a soft spot for Mr Gowon.

    But he has often been less than truthful, not by actually lying as is the more common practice in Nigeria’s Pinocchio-style politics, but by deploying half-truths to obfuscatory effect. As Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father, reminds us, half the truth is often a great lie. No war story from the stable of Mr Gowon has ever added up, and the Christian gentleman has strayed so far from the truth that he will likely need a hitch-hike to ever get home. It is that same aversion to truth that advises his reluctance at being caught On The Record, in bold print, as a memoir would suggest; that tiresome but preposterous insistence on a sepulchral veneer has prevented him- as well as Mr Ojukwu, for a different set of reasons- from penning his memoirs for his country’s gratification and understanding. Of course, in the case of Mr Ojukwu, a smitten, love-struck aria to the fair Bianca would not necessarily count as serious biography.

    But back to Gowon.

    The malarkey that Mr Gowon knew nothing about the July, 1966 coup is dubious at best, and almost certainly false. Indeed, everybody in the Nigerian officer corps (with the possible exception of the apolitical Brigadier Ogundipe) knew of the looming “revenge” coup, the only uncertainty being its exact timing. Indeed, several sympathetic Igbo officers had alerted Mr Ironsi, who appeared contemptuous of the very idea of a coup mediated by his “trusted officers and men”. Just like Mugabe.

    Furthermore, contemporaneous accounts place Gowon at the site of the uprising, actually communicating with the senior coupists on D-day, who had “reassured” him there would be “very little” bloodshed; that assurance may have helped salve the conscience of the pious Mr Gowon, but it was of no practical import. Men were massacred right in their barracks by their fellow soldiers for the capital offense of not speaking Hausa. It is not often appreciated that the bulk of the Army officer corps in 1966 were Igbo, Middle Belt (ethnic minorities) and Kanuri. Even though it is often portrayed as an Hausa-Igbo tango, indeed, the Middle Belters were possibly the most aggrieved party following the events of January, especially with the regrettable murder of Lt Col Pam, who was not only widely admired by all, but was admittedly professional and studiously apolitical. It was that egregious act that brought in the Danjumas, the Wyas, the Usenis into the fray. Apparently, Lt Col Pam’s only crime was being friendly with Brigadier Maimalari.

    Following Mr Gowon’s reneging on Aburi, and lacking the cojones to call for a “re-do” or at least, try to best Ojukwu in the marketplace of ideas, he retreated behind a curtain of artillery inside Dodan Barracks until war erupted at Gakem in 1967. The only earthly purpose of a decreed 12-state structure was to undercut Ojukwu’s support amongst Eastern minorities, and hopefully coerce his adversary back to the negotiating table. To be sure, as I have pointed out in previous Commentaries, in Gowon’s shoes I would have done exactly the same thing, but hopefully, would have been intelligent enough to purposefully avoid a needless and utterly wasteful war, from which we are yet to recover as a country. Indeed, I would have thrown the proverbial fox into the chicken house by calling a meeting of the Supreme Military Council, where I would have then announced, first, Lt Col Hilary Njoku as the “Acting” Governor of the East, followed later by Alex Madiebo, then Phillip Effiong, then Okwechime, then Tim Onwuatuegwu, then Kaduna Nzeogwu (though, strictly speaking, he was from Delta, he had a veritable cult-following within Biafra), in an endless list of expendable dauphins to potentially challenge Ojukwu and distract Igbo efforts at secession. That gambit might not have necessarily worked, but it would have, at the very least, serially depleted Igbo fighting talent, as Ojukwu, not one to leave loose ends, would have had to lock them all up.

    I believe the truth will out, but for general acceptance, it needs to be told by a credible eye-witness, someone with all the relevant facts at the epicenter of that conflict;lagration. To maintain fidelity with the truth, it is unlikely to be anyone personally involved in the shameful acts that preceded and followed the civil war.

    Would Mohammed Gusau or Alani Akinrinade please stand up?

    • Darcy

      Wasteful, yes. Needless, no.

      Prior to the British, the question of governance and rule was either settled, as in the Caliphate, where the rule of divine Kings was replaced by rule by a divine book or in flux, as in the South-West and its series of internecine wars.

      Regardless of status, the British came and imposed by fiat a system where they ruled but governed through a coalition of reactionary Chiefs (including creating where none were) and government bureaucrats. Challenging this situation were the emergent “middle-class”–I use this, not out of accuracy per se, but familiarity. Inspired by ideologies emerging from the so-called “darker nations” which sought to challenge the hegemony of the dominant West, they, both peacefully and non-peacefully turned to the power of the people to answer that eternal question.

      The people won their independence but left unresolved the question of who would rule on their behalf. It was the struggle to find an answer that precipitated the fission of the coalition that delivered independence and prompted the strengthening of the ethnic identities that coalesced in the 19th century. ***I’m sure hordes of commenters will now rush to claim, “we existed since the days of Moses, Oduduwa and Bayajidda”. A claim as absurd as believing that because Europe was once Christendom looking to the authority of Christ’s Vicar, that the British and French are one. Any honest evaluation of the evidence inevitably will conclude that the identities held by most Nigerians as shibboleths were 19th century imaginings.

      Digression aside, the question of who ruled in the people’s stead made the war necessary. Of course as with these things, there was also paths to peace. Much like the so-called “inter-tribal” marriages helped seal the incipient ethnic identities, the visible elites could have led the way by exchanging sons and daughters. After all, was it not marriage that brought the enemy Scots and Angles together? And what fruits it bore.

      However, our much vaunted “Founding Fathers”, year after year, sealed off all avenues but one. Hence the war…now I say it wasn’t needless, it only looks so from the perspective of the conquered.

      The Hausa/Yoruba axis dominate contemporary Nigerian society, the Igbo and everyone else being the losers. Now before I hear the usual moans from both sides, a question:

      Think of the truly powerful sectors, Politics, Oil/Gas, Finance, Banking, Communications, Law e.t.c, Who dominate those, if not the victors of the war?

      Needless, I think not. Even now, the calls for “restructuring” are nothing but the Yoruba seeking to play the rest of us, as fools. The North sees through it, my fellow Igbo prefer to ignore all known Social-Science for the pseudo-science of ethnic exceptionalism. The facts though: after having enjoyed 13% derivation and the collective wealth of Nigeria having built Lagos, in the coming knowledge economy where Lagos uses those advantages to funnel up talent from across the region, my Yoruba friends would rather keep all the proceeds to themselves. Haba?!

      Saying restructuring will solve that is akin to believing that “true Federalism” will turn the American Rust Belt into budding Silicon valleys. Once again, Nigerian elites are shutting off all avenues, but one. The truth is the innate advantages bequeathed to Lagos has, to borrow from Rostow, passed maturity, at this point, it’s self-perpetuating.

      We have but two choices, agree not to kill the golden goose–as we did the first 3– or await another war to resolve our contradictions. Who knows, perhaps it too will not prove needless for the victors.

      • Don Franco

        Dear Darcy,

        I align with your position, and adopt them as my own. .. an intellectual tour de force.

      • obinnna77

        Thought provoking, this point about the coming regional knowledge-hegemony of Lagos. It would appear though, that Asiwaju and co. are no where near as ready to detach from the Niger-Delta teat. It is realpolitikers like Akin Osuntokun-weird parallel you make , between him and Mugabe-and Yinka Odumakin, that try to make their kin more forward looking. As is, Lagos remains a vehicle for the disbursement of the petro-dollar. Like the larger Niger-arean macrocosm.

      • Iskacountryman

        another war…another war….darcy…there would not be another war as long as the oil is flowing…go back to sleep…

        • Darcy

          Are you joking or perhaps blind?

          By all reasonable metrics, the country is at present fighting two: a simmering conflict in the Delta and an unresolved insurgency in the North. Three depending on when the State chooses to acknowledge the Fulani herdsmen menace.

          Step outside the cities Iskacountryman, step outside the cities.

          • Iskacountryman

            darcy…i am not blind, only cynically realistic…no one fights when there is space at the trough…ask ajukwu’s son why he declared for apc…

          • Darcy

            Again, by all metrics, the country is already fighting 3 wars. But sure, everything is fine.

          • Iskacountryman

            darcy…the country is fighting 4 wars…and they are all under control…you cannot compare the 4 wars to the biafran irredentism…look i am married to 31/2 wives…and i know what i am talking about…everything is under control…these 4 wars are good for business…

          • obinnna77

            What is half a wife?…One has to give it to you though, your sense of humour is of a different order…

          • Iskacountryman

            o77…such questions are better asked and answered while squatting on you haunches…

    • Omooba

      WHO ARE YOU TO BE SO RECOGNISED FROM THE CROWD IN A MORORCADE?

    • Jon West

      Yakubu Jackass Gowon recognized you in the crowd? Lucky you, you must have dressed like a Martian. On the serious side, I hated Emperor Haile Sellasie of Ethiopia, because I was compelled to stand in the sun for hours, waving a flag that I detested in addition to the Ethiopian flag, whenever the old tyrant came on his frequent visits to the Shaw Shaw upstart at the Dodan Barracks. I was quite glad later when my man, Mengitsu Haile Mariam , dispatched him to the great beyond.

      • American Abroad

        C’mon, Mr West, not you. Surely, you didn’t attend any of those El-Rufai schools in Kaduna, did you?
        The point of that story was that there is NO way in this world that even my own father would have recognized me, a nondescript, pre-pubescent child in school uniform, 4 feet or so in height, standing within a crowd of at least 100,000 similarly accoutered kids (and passersby), even if he were not in a motorcade that zoomed past at 100 miles per hour! That, in my opinion, was the genius of Gowon.
        Sigh.

      • obinnna77

        Colonel Mengistu? Et tu Jon West? That murderous thug? That ended the oldest dynast in Africa, only to preside over his people’s starvation? That ersatz communist? Well, prepare to give him asylum, it may appear his time in Zimbabwe is drawing to a close.

        • Jon West

          Sorry Brother, but I was a communist sympathiser and supported the Red Terror campaign to the hilt. The monarchy had to go and the price was terror.

          • obinnna77

            Interesting. You know that our Igbo ethos is essentially anti-communist? How do you reconcile people that call their daughters ‘Ogbenyealu’ with an ideology of property-lessness?

          • Iskacountryman

            did you hear about what the tigrean thugs did to the communists?

        • Tony Oshea

          Jon West was NOT eulogizing mengistu by any standard. My understanding is he detested the circumstance and main actors that commandeered him and hapless students to sunbake,fawning and waving a flag that conveys a retrospective feeling of nostalgia for the annihilation and genocide perpetrated against his people.

      • Iskacountryman

        mengistu, the murderous thug…did you ask about his whereabouts now that mugabe has been retired?

    • obinnna77

      We thank Chukwu Okike for little mercies. It may well have been the bloodthirsty M. Mohammed that got enthroned in 1966, like Jon West mentioned. However, as you rightly observe, it is improbable that Gowon the ‘humane’ knew nothing of the impending coup. It beggars belief that as Ironsi’s chief of staff, privy to all those intelligence reports about M.Mohammed’s antics, especially that very public spat with G. Okonweze, wouldn’t have known what was in the offing.
      And, to my thinking, it was was the fact that the bulk of the rank and file were then of ‘middle belt’ origin that swayed it in favour of Gowon; I believe J.Garba mentioned something to the effect that they, middle belt troops, had put Gowon ‘there’ and only they could remove him, as they did in 1975.
      Gowon’s enthronement was always a holding action, the Fula being clever enough to obfuscate their influence, till when they were ready to act otherwise. The real fascination for me, is how Shehu Yar’adua managed to co-opt Joseph Garba and Theophilus Danjuma, in 1975.

      • Iskacountryman

        yaradua was a schemer…

        • obinnna77

          Aren’t all Fula?

        • obinnna77

          The most gifted politician produced on the area of the Niger.

    • power

      Having satisfied the required number of vote casts in the presidential elections. I, at this moment declare American Abroad as the PRESIDENT AND COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIAN ONLINE. While JON WEST is the VICE-PRESIDENT.

      American Abroad, now that You have been voted into power. I kindly beseech you through your insightful comments and legendary analysis to clear the rot in our system. From Education, Foreign policy, Health, Economy, Corruption, Judiciary, Security, and other bedeviling issues plaguing our country.

      American Abroad, please you have four years to revamp the system. You do not have any excuse. Nigerians online want the best in her country. You and Jon West must not disappoint us. I also urge you to name your cabinet as quickly as possible. Do not wait until six months before you do so. Nigeria is in a State of disrepair and must be fixed.

      God bless Nigeria, God Bless American Abroad, and Jon West.

      • Don Franco

        Dear Power,

        American Abroad is overqualified for the job, and Jon West is a Biafran; and isn’t the least interested in the Presidency of our Zoo. I substitute yourself or Fidel Arumalu as Vice President to implement these lofty goals that you have proposed. I’m sure you can be the change you want to see from AA and JW.

    • Iskacountryman

      child…you do not start blood letting and turn around and dictate to the victims the quantity of blood revenge to exact, the eboes needed to be taught a lesson…a war was inevitable immediately eboes drew the first blood….it was a gamble…eboes lost…next story…

      • American Abroad

        Sir: My interest in Nigeria’s war-time history is forensic, not exculpatory. What was done was done, but there are important lessons we would be amiss not to learn from. I have no interest in apportioning blames, but in outing the truth, warts and all. Further, I am no ethnic fanatic or tribal champion; recall, if you may, the classic definition of a fanatic as he (as they are usually of a male gender) who navigates life with a closed mind and an open mouth. Alas, that story is too important to simply go away, even for our typically sclerotic minds. Mr Gowon’s negligence in putting down his own perspective in print risks leaving the writing (and judgement) of history in the hands of those less sympathetic to his Faustian bargain.

        • Iskacountryman

          they are things best left unsaid…how old were these actors when they were called upon to handle dynamic events that led o the loss of over a million lives…

          • American Abroad

            Sir: Kindly avoid rewriting fairly recent history. As a matter of historical record, nobody “called” them, they invited themselves to a dance of which rites they did not know. They were young and mostly illiterate; how in the world did they imagine they could have salvaged a very complex nation-state, were it not simply for the basest (and most egregious) manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger effect? We are here, with all its attendant misery, because of them.

          • Iskacountryman

            are you trying to hold me responsible for their folly?

          • American Abroad

            No, holding you personally responsible would be a rhetorical overstretch. But we should have seen through those military Pretenders early enough, seen right through their faux patriotism leavened with a lot of ignorance, illiteracy, shallowness and foolhardiness. How did we ever imagine that those who were least able to do well in school (or, quite frankly, anything else), the bottom Eleven so to speak- some were shanghaied to Military School as a last resort by desperate parents/teachers who knew not what do do with their oft-delinquent wards- would prove to be our source of salvation? Even today, I still squirm whilst listening to old videotapes of Nzeogwu: the absolute stone-headed ignorance masquerading as piety or sacrifice, the bland sophomoric insistence on his sense of rightness, the smiling swagger to Golgotha… No, Sir, I do not hold you responsible, but one way or another, we are all complicit. Including me.

          • Don Franco

            Dear American Abroad,

            It is within your right to squirm all you want whilst listening to videotapes of the great Nzeogwu; it is however important that you’re also cognizant and mindful that Chukwuma Nzeogwu is a hero to every decent Igbo person, and that we shall forever honor his memory. We’re very proud of him because he died fighting for Biafra; (Can you as a naturalized American die for the stoneheaded One-Nigeria cause that you advocate on this forum? ) I always compare Chukwuma Nzeogwu”s videotapes and commentary with those of Ahmadu Bello, about the Igbos and Southern minorities; and draw my conclusion from there.

          • Iskacountryman

            in 1966, how many university graduates did nigeria have?

          • Don Franco

            So you agree that it was foolish what “they”, ( Gowon, Danjuma, and Useni) did to Ironsi and Fajuyi? ….. there’s no end to wonders on this forum.

          • Iskacountryman

            nope…it was folly what nzeokwu, ifeajuna and co did to sardauna, mailari balewa and co…he who sows the wind….

      • obinnna77

        Pyrrhic victory, one that undid us all. Igbo, back to primeval mud, y’all, back to blinkered feudalism.

        • Iskacountryman

          who cares…

          • obinnna77

            Who knows enough to care, you mean? Certainly not your benighted serfs North of the Niger, whose ranks we do not wish to join.

          • Iskacountryman

            did anyone invite you to join us?…the last i heard you were asked to leave the north…

          • Don Franco

            But thereafter followed your Army’s atavistic descent into savagery of unarmed IPOB youth and breastfeeding market women with their infant children. .. Vagabonds! So much for not wanting Eboes in the north or as part of your Zoo. You’re an insufferable insignificant pimple on the body politik of this forum, Iskacountryman.

          • Iskacountryman

            don franco…no one hates the eboes…i love eboe women myself…look, you live on conquered land…do you understand conquest as proof of ownership under international law?…what do you do when tenants start disputing ownership and set up a military force to dispute rights?

          • Don Franco

            Iskacountryman,

            You know nothing about Igbo women; no matter how much you fraternize with the dregs and laughing stock of our enemies, our peculiarity will never rub off on you.
            I must have been absent from class on the day that Conveyancing was taught in law school if you believe Igbos are the tenants of backward wahabi landlords who can’t read a map to save their own lIves. .. the reverse is the truth, if you care to know.

          • Iskacountryman

            i didnt say that i particularly cling to eboe women…

          • Don Franco

            How would you particularly be allowed to cling to those dregs of our society; who out of pity for your provenance honor you with their favours? .. Looking a dreg of a gift horse in the mouth, I’m sure…

          • Iskacountryman

            one mans dreg is another mans paramour…i am not complaining…

          • obinnna77

            Your ‘katon banza’ was in our locale, doing just that, in Isi agu to boot, two days ago. Do you live under a rock?

          • Iskacountryman

            077…he went there to promise the eboes the 3rd niger bridge…and why fight over conquered land when a promise would do…he got damsels, (virgins-yet to be authenticated), yams, horse and what not in return…so who lost?

          • obinnna77

            Ha ha; as well as being made honorary ‘dodon doya’ of Abakaliki….

          • Iskacountryman

            whatever…a chieftaincy is a chieftaincy…even if it is eboe made…