Written by Odimegwu Onwumere
Many people see General Yakubu Gowon as a gentle man, but this is an oversight. It is unfortunate that Gowon, who removed the military garb in the past forty years, is still wearing the military mentality. His is not only military mentality, but ethnic bias. The statement that was credited to him since General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu died, could buttress his sentimental approach towards the Nigerian project. One wonders why on earth Gowon could open his mouth and said that the former Biafran warlord should not have led his people to secede from the country. Maybe, Gowon is losing his senses to age, and one should remind him that what Ojukwu did was the best option to the then Gowon-led Nigeria that wanted to cleanse Ndigbo out of the surface of the earth.
In the essay, “Uwa Di Egwu – The World Is Deep: My Biafran Airlift Story” – By David L. Koren, December 2, 2011, Koren said: Those who opposed the Biafrans have not seen gangs running through their neighborhoods, dragging people out on the street and chopping them up. Biafran people saw the trains full of refugees pouring in from all over Nigeria. They accepted those refugees into their homes and villages. And they heard their personal, immediate stories. A people who know they are facing genocide do not give up. Israelis say, “Never Again.” An old Igbo proverb says, “Only a tree stands still when it knows it’s being cut down.”
Since Gowon wants to make a name by exhuming old wounds it is him who is supposed to apologize and plead to all the present Nigerians for taking the leadership of the country at that time whereas he was not the most senior army official. What is best called mutiny in the military if a ‘junior’ officer like Gowon could rise up to lead his seniors? Gowon did, and he is not regretting this. He is also not regretting the fact that his fellow northerners used Ndiigbo as suya aftermath the 1966 coup.
With Gowon’s statement against Ojukwu, one is poised to ask if it is only in Nigeria that someone will wake in the morning and want to make a name from radiant rubbish as we can see in Gowon’s statement against Ojukwu. What is the condolence of Gowon to the Ojukwu family if he could say that it was unfortunate that Ojukwu took up arms against Nigeria? Was his message meant to console Ndiigbo or to mock them and remind them of the pogrom in the north against them that has refused to abate in the Northern Nigeria till date? If Gowon was a youth and had made such a derogatory statement against Ojukwu, it could have been waved with the back of the hand that he is not yet experienced and matured. But here is a man who has lived with experience. Conversely, his experience could be such crass statement on Ojukwu because a man who came to leadership through the back door will not know what people who came through the front door see. Since Gown came to leadership cheaply he feels that every statement also should be cheap and is cheap.
From all indications, Ojukwu was a man of peace but Gowon is far from that. He should remember that Ojukwu agreed to go to Aburi in Ghana (after the deliberation on Benin failed) to broker peace but Gowon broke the agreement. And Gowon did not allow Ndigbo to rest aftermath. Because Gowon came from a region where mourning meant nothing, then he feels that he should mock Ndiigbo while they are mourning? It was people like Gowon who labeled Ojukwu a rebel whereas Nigerians today have known the true rebels. They are those like Gowon who want power by any means necessary above board of their seniors in their profession.
Gowon refused to remember that he broke the Aburi accord which was aimed at bringing in peace because he felt that he was stubborn. This goes a long way to show that Gowon has been very sentimental and hypocritical not only against the Biafrans but against the Nigerian army. Without doubt, it was people like Gowon who have erroneously tagged the Aguiyi Ironsi coup as an Igbo coup. Because Ironsi is Igbo, they do not want to see anything Igbo as meaningful even in the grave. Hogwash! Gowon, as a self-imposed Head of State, reneged in the Aburi agreement, which has been causing security breaches in the country since then and here he is farting up.
Like Barrister Chris Mustapha Nwaokobia, Presidential aspirant in the April general elections reportedly described Gowon’s statement: “It exudes cowardice because while Ojukwu was alive, Gowon never made such a statement. I also believe that as Africans, we are not suppose to speak ill of the dead. So, rather than make critical comments that would open up old wounds, he should be more mature with his age. He should also have looked at issues that led to the war and join the government to address them because they are still the issues on the front burner now.”
However, Gowon wants to draw pity to himself by using the friendly Ojukwu death, but he should understand that history has a better toll on a person and not how the person sees himself or herself. Day of reckoning will visit any liar who wants to score cheap publicity with Ojukwu. Somebody like Gowon has never made an open statement against his region’s Boko Haram that has a gravy agenda in killing lives and destroying people’s hard earned property (because it is not either an Hausa or Fulani is in power), but here he is talking against Ojukwu. Gowon, without doubt, could be the reason Ojukwu once said, “Because I am Igbo.”
Whether Gowon likes it or not, Ojukwu has left a gigantic legacy in the history of the world, but one wonders what Gowon could be remember of. Maybe, DISAGREEMENT over any solution that could bring peace, as we have seen in the Aburi accord. Gowon’s statement over a mourning people is rude and brutish. He needs to apologize. Nigerians understand Ojukwu but Gowon does not because he has refused to attain the consciousness where intelligent is separated from leadership or being a president. Gowon, it is unfortunate that he still sees things in the country with the illiterate eyes of the sixties, not knowing that we have passed that era. This is a man who could not utilize the money he claimed Nigeria had in excess to develop the country, here making statement against the Hero called Ojukwu. This is like a stove calling kettle black.
Gowon could be jealous of Ojukwu, because of the latter’s overwhelming followership. This could be why he carved a niche in debasing Ojukwu even in death. He forgot that Ojuwku is honoured among Nigerians who don’t wear ethnic glasses, even in death. Like Gowon is still doing till date, he has not reacted to any national issue except he is dragged to do so. But Ojukwu was the first Nigerian who opened our eyes that people could truly stand for their right even in the face of tyranny. Between Gowon and Ojukwu, we can truly see who is wise but preferred to be a coward. This should be the last Gowon would remind Ndiigbo of what they saw over forty years ago in the hands of the Hausa/Fulani unilateral government. Why did he not make this statement when Ojukwu was alive? However, it is only the living that would not choose to be coward over the dead. It is dangerous when people like Gowon see Ndigbo as a people who should apologize to the rest of Nigerians always, and many people are still saying that Nigeria will not break.
Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. Mobile: +2348032552855 (or) +2348057778358. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org