• Friday, July 12, 2024
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Gowon’s defence of the indefensible civil war


 According to The Guardian newspaper of March 19, 2013, former military head of state, Yakubu Gowon, decided to give his reason for the civil war that threatened the country between 1967 and 1970. This was the first time he was making any direct comment about the ugly incident. In doing this, he chose faraway Yola, the capital of Adamawa State, while answering to the invitation to address the staff and students of the American University of Nigeria (AUN).

While Gowon may have his perspective on the issues of that time, some of the comments he made stand to be questioned by the average Nigerian. For example, he said: (1) He was acting in accordance with the constitutional powers conferred on him. But the question is: which constitution? It is known that the general came into power through a coup d’état which suspended the constitution of that time. He is also aware that the means that brought him to power is considered an aberration, even by his fellow military men. Therefore, to say he was acting in accordance with the constitution does not hold water.

(2) He was just trying to bring back his sisters and brothers that were misled by the rebels. This sounds very good. But were the children and other people he starved to death the ones he was trying to bring back? Was using jet fighters to kill people in the markets and schools part of the ways of bringing back his brothers and sisters? Is not the killing of women and children during war a crime? How come he wiped out villages in an attempt to bring his misled people back? Perhaps he wanted to bring them back dead as he did.

(3) The civil war united Nigeria. Well, perhaps he has not been listening to the comments of other eminent Nigerians who have variously described the country as a failed state which is more divided now than before the war. I wish actually that the country is really united. But events of these days point to the contrary. It is good we are praying. But we need to go beyond that and take positive actions that will unite the country and move it forward. As it is now, the country is still struggling after more than 50 years of political independence, and as a former leader, the general is looked upon to proffer solution to the problems of this country. The call for a sovereign national conference cannot be wished away if we hope to have a better Nigeria.

(4) He had no choice. He had lots of choices which he failed to utilise. He had the choice to stop the killing in the North, but he did not stop it. He had the choice to make good use of the Aburi Accord, but he did not. He had the choice to allow the people whose lives and economy he destroyed to withdraw their money left in the banks, but he chose to give N40.00 to those he could not kill so that they would die of frustration resulting from their displacement.

While it is important that everybody should work together to build Nigeria, we cannot afford to wave away our mistakes of the past as if people were not hurt. Gowon has no excuse to justify the civil war; he should rather help find solution to the problems of Nigeria.



Ikoro writes from Lagos.


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