by Isi Esene
Nigeria’s war-time military president, Yakubu Gowon, has been unequivocal in his reaction to the book titled, ‘There was a country,’ published by renowned author, Chinua Achebe.
In the book, which detailed his experience during the Nigerian civil war, Achebe had accused Gowon and Obafemi Awolowo of using hunger as a weapon of war against the Igbos in the course of the war.
Gowon said on Tuesday that the book was “written to whip up unnecessary sentiments”.
He said, “Many books have been written about the civil war and unfortunately none had been as controversial as that of Achebe, which accused me and Chief Awolowo of genocide against the Igbo. Nothing can be further from the truth, because every decision we took was for the interest of a united Nigeria.
“It (Achebe’s book) is nothing more than a propaganda and many people have failed to see it that way, and that is why most of the reactions have been varied and vitriolic.
“I am not aware of any Igboman that had an account with the then Barclays Bank that was seized, because at the end of the war many of them got their money back. And it was because of our resolve to ensure that there was no victor no vanquished. We wanted to put the experience of the civil war behind us. We put in place a lot of measure to ensure that everybody was reintegrated into a united Nigeria.
“So it is very unfortunate for Achebe to accuse me and Awolowo of starving the Igbo to death.”
He said he stood by every decision his government took during the civil war and he is ready to defend his actions anywhere. He also denied preventing foreign aid from reaching the Igbo during the war.
“Most of those who accused us of genocide were looking well fed at the end of the war. During the war we opened road and air corridors to allow food, medicine and other aids to the people. Nobody can do such a thing to his people because I was optimistic that the war would end one day and we shall come together under a united country.
“So that was why we were very careful about every decision we took during the civil war.”
According to reports, Gowon said all doubts will be laid to rest when he finally publishes his civil war memoirs.
The 78-year-old chairman of the Nigeria Prays initiative concluded by saying, “I have been sufficiently challenged and the whole truth will be revealed one day,” he said.