General Yakubu Gowon was the military Head of State of Nigeria between August 1966 and 1975. It goes without saying that a lot of the blame that has gone around for the Civil war has fallen on him over the years.
A tell-all book from the former Head of State is exactly what he needs to provide. However, we don’t want just any autobiography. There are a few things we’d like to hear from the horses’ mouth or read from… you know what? Here are 5 things we’ll need him to talk about in his book…
The reason for the Civil War?
Yes, we all know that the pogroms in the North and the inhumane massacres led the Easterners to flee to safety in the homeland and even when that wasn’t proving to be enough, the need arose to make a decision: the Nigerian government had to protect all and sundry or the Easterners were left with no choice but to secede. That’s the worst summary of the worst bloodbath in Nigeria’s history yet General Yakubu Gowon’s recent statements kind of just makes us think it was just a geographical thing. Like Gen. Odumegwu Ojukwu just wanted to tilt the Nigerian map one way. There’s really no way we can say it, so here’s a direct quote:
“If we had allowed the eastern region to go away, the map of Nigeria would have looked funny; it would have been tilted one way.”
(August, 2016 chat with Senator Shehu Sani)
Surely that cannot be right. We’ll need General Yakubu to tell us, the real circumstances-from the Head of State’s standpoint- that led to the war. Not just numbers or statistics but also the stories that we have not heard, the secret intel and couldn’t be shared with all the other people that have written about this horrible time in our past that keeps rearing its head.
In Chimamanda Adichie’s words, “Logic can convince but it is in fact emotions that leads us to act” (15th Commonwealth lecture, 2012). So maybe an emotional narrative from someone who was at the helm is the last thing we all need to heal and finally move on.
What he now thinks of the NYSC
Two weeks ago, PMB tweeted via his @MBuhari account that he still thanks General Yakubu Gowon for initiating the youth corps scheme. Not everyone will agree, especially the Youth Corpers, but then PMB is entitled to be thankful for what he wants to be thankful for.
We’d like to know what the former Head of State now thinks of the one-year mandatory service. If he still thinks it’s serves any one of his famous three Rs especially now that Corpers are either being used to perpetrate election crimes or getting killed thousands of miles away from their homes in election violence and all the other kinds of violence happening around the country.
The Aburi Accord
Someone really has to set the records straight here. Could he really not understand what was agreed? Did he really forget the document in Ghana?
The Aburi Accord was the consensus reached between delegates of the Federal Government of Nigeria and Eastern Nigerian leaders led by Colonel Ojukwu in Aburi, Ghana as a final attempt to prevent an all out war in Nigeria. The meeting was held in January, 1967, just a few months before the Civil War eventually broke out.
There are stories about why the Accord didn’t survive. Many people say they left the document in Ghana. Another account is that there were misunderstandings after concerning the interpretations of the agreement.
It is just really important to know why this life saver of a contract was not adhered to.
We’ll need him to call out every single Nigerian leader on any lies they might have told in the past
Here’s a fun fact: General Yakubu Gowon was a superior to every single military leader Nigeria has ever had (with the exception of General Aguiyi-Ironsi, but he’s dead now so). Every past military leader in Nigeria served under his command. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1955 when he was just 21 years old.
His memoir will definitely have to confirm or expose as lies anything former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar might have said in the past about our very cloudy military past.
In the words of Nowa Omoigui, Nigeria’s most popular military historian: “It is my expectation that General Yakubu Gowon will publish his memoirs someday… when that eagerly awaited event takes place, much more will fall in place.”
The way forward
Beyond clarifying things in our past with as much honesty and clarity as is required in these circumstances, we’d like to hear his opinion on how Nigeria can emerge from this slow and very painful lull. We don’t mean in terms of policies or the cliche “elder statesman advice”. General Yakubu Gowon was immersed in gut of it when all of our problems as a country started and he has watched as the wounds and mistakes of the past have followed us. He has watched how history has time and again repeated itself by way of persecution of a group in the hands of others. He was there there when oil boomed. He has watched as we squandered the benefits. There’s probably no one else qualified to drop wisdom filled texts that will guide us out of this haze.
So we don’t just want a tell-all scandalous memoir written to get back at people. That will be nice, but a book filled with wisdom on how to forge ahead is what we really need.
Creative mind. Enthusiast. Learner. Multipotentialite. And here, an assistant editor.