Sunday, 12 February 2017


General Yakubu Gowon

In his acceptance speech at the end of the war from Phillip Effiong, Gowon noted: The tragic chapter of violence is just ended. We are at the dawn of national reconciliation. Once again, we have an opportunity to build a new nation. My dear compatriots, we must pay homage to the fallen. To the heroes who have made the supreme sacrifice that we may be able to build a nation, great in justice, fair play and industry. Obviously the slogan of no victor, no vanquished was defiantly that of General Gowon, because it was more beyond that of a slogan, Gowon was pressurized by many to punish the Ibos for their involvement in the war. J Isiswa Elaigwu the author of the biography “Gowon” told us how many of Gowon’s lieutenants wanted jungle justice meted out on the Ibos, he also wrote that there were many civilians public servants and old politicians who wanted the Ibos to be punished, but Gowon, he continued “like a leader who knew his mind and what he wanted, Gowon put his foot down firmly in favour of magnanimity in victory. To the chagrin of some of his lieutenants, he hastened the reintegration process. It was a courageous decision to take: it was the right decision too. 

General Gowon with Justice Mbanefo, formally Chief Justice of Biafra,  

Many people who accuse Gowon of indecision hardly compare the various cases to see the issues involved. One cannot agree more with Admiral Wey when he said: ‘Gowon is a gentleman and he has a mind of his own. But he was over-considerate. This incident showed that Gowon had a mind of his own and could be stubborn once he felt convinced about a particular policy position. In this instance, Gowon was probably not 'over-considerate', given the fact that Ojukwu was even pardoned in 1982. Perhaps Gowon had a foresight which many of his lieutenants who later paraded themselves as nationalists lacked.” The new Nigerian newspaper special war souvenir wrote this abut Gowon’s 'No victor, no vanquished' policy: “His magnanimity, his sense of urgency, his honesty of purpose and his devotion to the cause of One Nigeria and the welfare of the ordinary man and woman in the country are the qualities that have won him the devotion and support of all the people of Nigeria, including the rebels, if only secretly. The Daily Times of Nigeria January 15, 1970, wrote: “It can be truly said of General Gowon that he was moved by Abraham Lincoln's words at a similarly crucial stage in the American history: 'We are not enemies but friends.

Nigerian soldiers jubilate at the end of the war 
We must not be enemies. . . . The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave and hearthstone all over this broad land, will but swell the chorus of the federation when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” Atedo Peterside in a Case of Two Generals’ in The New Times Magazine of December 1979 page 26 wrote: “Well, a Civil War broke out in 1967 and it was a bloody one. But then there were few people, at the end, who did not agree that the war would have been far bloodier, if the temperament of the man at the helm of affairs had been of a different sort. The Civil War ended in 1970 and Gowon practiced what he had always preached vis his disinterest in executing even the worst offenders in the 'enemy' camp This singular act won Mr. Gowon lots of friends all over the world, . . . and above all, he regained the confidence of eight million 'Biafrans' who had been fed with endless stories of Gowon's 'genocidal' tendencies for upwards of thirty months." Whatever else he might be guilty of, Mr. Gowon will go down in history as the leader who kept the nation together during a bloody Civil War. Ironically, some of his rash colleagues, who lobbied him unsuccessfully to launch a vendetta after the war, are currently parading themselves about the nation as true nationalists.” In addition Gowon also introduced the three ‘R’s’ of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation.

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