Gowon and his one-Nigeria

By Ab-Davidson Nwohonja on

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Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria’s former military head of state, recently repeated some statements he has always made in the past, especially after he changed his mind from, “there is no basis for Nigerian unity, which has been so badly rocked, not only once but several times”.

Last Friday, October 17, 2014, he told Nigerians that irrespective of their religious, ethnic and political differences that they should work towards ensuring the unity of Nigeria. He declared that Nigeria’s unity was not negotiable.

Gowon made the statement during his 80th birthday anniversary celebration. President Goodluck Jonathan and his Vice, Nemadi Sambo, were among prominent individuals that were present at the occasion.  Also, among them were Earnest Shonekan, former leader of Nigerian Interim National Government (ING) of August 26, 1993; and one George Fraser, described as one of the foremost effective builders of relationships in Africa.

Few days earlier, Gowon had made another of such statements concerning Nigeria’s “unity”. It was during the annual LEADERSHIP Conference and Awards ceremony for the year 2013, when he said that anyone who did not recognise Nigeria as a nation should leave and find elsewhere to live. His words: “They (such Nigerians) must project Nigeria in that true love. Let us not go saying Nigeria is not a nation. Whenever I hear that, it really makes me feel sad and I would say to such people that if Nigeria is not a nation, get out of it and go and choose a nation or live in a nation of your own.”

As was the case in the past, he also led his audience to believe that the war between Biafra and Nigeria produced no victor or vanquished. “I refused to accept anyone was conquered. It is all of us on both sides that conquered the spirit of division to keep the nation together” he had said.

But one cannot help it, but disagree with him on many of those statements. Indeed, the time has come when such dishonest claims must be challenged, so that the average person can know the facts and the truth. Yes, it should be challenged because when untruth is allowed free reign for a long time, people begin to see it as truth.

To start with, nothing can be far from the truth, claiming that in the war between Biafra and Nigeria, that there was no winner and loser. The incontrovertible fact is that Nigeria fought a war with Biafra; a war in which Nigeria was the aggressor, supported and urged on by Britain, Russia and other foreign countries, and Biafra was defeated.

The evidence that Biafra lost and Nigeria won has been there for all to see in the last 44 years. In every aspect of life – social, political, financial, structural, and all – the signs are there. It therefore rankles when people like Gowon make such statements. Is it not a fact that many soldiers who fought on the Biafra side were locked up in detention, years after the shooting war was over? Is that a treatment given to people who did not lose a war?

How could Gowon make that statement when civil servants from the Biafran side could not get their jobs back? Did Gowon think people have so short memories to have forgotten that the gratuities and pensions of many workers from the Biafran side were seized up till today? Gowon should know that many have not forgotten (and will never forget) that he seized the monies of Biafrans in the banks.

How could the people forget that he seized schools from the owners because he did not want Biafran children taught their history, or to learn about the atrocities committed against them?

No Gowon, the people have not forgotten that a part lost that war and as such their economy were strangulated and all industries in their land systematically destroyed. They know that as a result of the war, they were shut off from having contact with the world through their airports and seaports? How could Gowon say no part lost the war and some people who were majority were made minority and inconsequential afterwards, even second class citizens and their land turned to a wasteland.

The list can go on and on. But we will stop here.

For his statement that Nigeria’s unity was not negotiable, it goes a long way to show that Gowon is living in the deep past. If not he would have known that a lot have changed in the world since his murderous campaign against Biafra. If he was not living in the past, he would have known of United Nation’s (UN) declaration on Indigenous Peoples.

Is there any leader in the world today who does not know that the UN, through that declaration made it abundantly clear that Indigenous Peoples have a right to self-determination?

The General Assembly of the UN gave that instrument on September 13, 2007, when it declared among other things that indigenous peoples were equal to all other peoples and recognized their rights to be different.

The UN affirmed “that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such,

“Affirming also that all peoples contribute to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures, which constitute the common heritage of humankind,

Affirming further that all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust,

“Reaffirming that indigenous peoples, in the exercise of their rights, should be free from discrimination of any kind,

“Concerned that indigenous peoples have suffered from historic injustices as a result of, inter alia, their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests,

“Recognizing the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of indigenous peoples which derive from their political, economic and social structures and from their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies, especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources,

“Recognizing also the urgent need to respect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples affirmed in treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements with States,

“Welcoming the fact that indigenous peoples are organizing themselves for political, economic, social and cultural enhancement and in order to bring to an end all forms of discrimination and oppression wherever they occur,

“Convinced that control by indigenous peoples over developments affecting them and their lands, territories and resources will enable them to maintain and strengthen their institutions, cultures and traditions, and to promote their development in accordance with their aspirations and needs,

“Recognizing that respect for indigenous knowledge, cultures and traditional practices contributes to sustainable and equitable development and proper management of the environment,

“Emphasizing the contribution of the demilitarization of the lands and territories of indigenous peoples to peace, economic and social progress and development, understanding and friendly relations among nations and peoples of the world, Recognizing in particular the right of indigenous families and communities to retain shared responsibility for the upbringing, training, education and well-being of their children, consistent with the rights of …”

Added to the foregoing, “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

“Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.”

There are so much more that the UN granted Indigenous peoples in that 2007 declaration, which space does not permit to be tabled here, but which exposed Gowon, who by his statement proved that he was still at home with his numerous actions of the past.

It becomes instructive to know that Gowon did not (and still does not) give a hoot about the right of people to determine who to associate with and how they wished to be governed. He showed that his stance has not changed years after the Biafra/Nigeria war.


Now, with the forgoing in mind, is it not appalling that Gowon in spite of the murder of millions of innocent women, children and the aged – through his bombs and “starvation – was still standing on that stance?

It means he still believes that forcing a people into a war – nudged on by British imperialists – was right, which must be replicated in the current dispensation, more than 40 years after. In the end of everything, his attitude points to one thing, he (together with his neo-colonialist masters) does not care about the people that own the land; they are only interested in the people’s land and the things in it. It is obvious they have enjoyed it this far, as many people have run away from their lands to other parts of the world because of the stifling conditions Gowon and his goons placed on their land, which made it uninhabitable.

But one message should be clear to Gowon, and that is that things have changed greatly. This is not 1967. Many people are no longer going to run away from their ancestral land for the likes of Gowon to acquire and enjoy the things in it.

This is 2014; and it is those who do not want to live in the land with the current social and political requirements (as established by the civilized world) that will find another place to go and live. The adage says that he who holds up what belongs to a child so that the child’s hand cannot reach it will bring his hand when it begins to ache, and then the child will take what rightly belongs to him.

Interestingly enough, people like Gowon do not seem to realise that things have changed considerably, and that the oppressive hand of Nigeria over Biafra has started to ache Nigeria and Nigerians seriously.


Posted on October, 23 2014

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