TranscriptCNN International interview with Nigeria'sPresident Obasanjo and Publisher Chido Nwangwu onDemocracyand Security Issues


Biafra: Gowon's needless fights with historyand Ojukwu


Special and Exclusive to USAfrica TheNewspaper, Houston

Nigeria's former miliatry dictator (1966-1975), retired GeneralYakubu Gowon was the man who led -on the Nigerian side - theprosecution of the unjust and bloody Biafra-Nigeria war. At the'cessation of hostilities' in January 1970, Gowon declared to theworld that there was no victor, and no vanquished. To heal thedestroyed, brutalized and decimated infrastructure of the Biafra,that is, the former Eastern Region, the main theatre of that mostbrutal war in Africa's recent history, Gowon talked about'Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation',the so-called 3Rs. But with his recent comments, the world whichbelieved him at the time have doubts, today. Ndigbo knew better evenin 1970.

One of Gowon's war officer's is Nigeria's current ruler, retiredGen. Olusegun Obasanjo, who have more than added to the globalconcern about the deliberate policy of Nigeria's post-wargovernments/regimes to discriminate and deny. (See USAfricaonline.cominsight on Obasanjo and Biafra by its contributing editor Prof.Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe,titled "Obasanjoobsession with Biafraversus facts ofhistory").The world now knows better as well.

32 years ago on the 3Rs, it did appear that Gowon spoke from hishead. He pretended to be speaking from his heart. His latest outingreminds one of the legendary English Playwright, William Shakespearewho noted in one of his great books, Macbeth, that: 'there is no artto find a mind's construction on the face.'

He was a gentleman...' Well, Ndigbo in their time-tasted andcautious ways have always known that 'obi di awuwo/aghugho (the mindis a mastermind). They did not need any 'art' to deconstruct Gowon'smind then. They do not need one now. They felt it and still feel itin every facets of the 'New Nigeria'.

Since the 'end' of Biafra-Nigeria war, views have been expressedin certain quarters that Gowon's government masterminded an officialmultiple containment policy of exclusion that every Nigeriangovernment has implemented against the Igbo ever since. And thiscontinues to take its tollon the Igbo in particular and the Nigerian State in general, eventhough their rulers continue to be in denial.

In his recent BBC interview reported on the front page of theChristmas 2002 special edition USAfria The Newspaper (datedJanuary 15, 2003) and the Lagos newspapaper, Vanguard (of December23, 2002), Gowon appears to have deconstructed his own mindimplicitly. And in doing that he said what we have always known andfeared, that he would not have 'spared' if they had captured him.What with his recent utterances in a BBC interview regarding the heroand Oxford-trainedformer head of state of the defunct Republic of Biafra, ChukwuemekaOdumegwu Ojukwu, who courageously led his people to challengeinjustice and an extermination and genocidal war against Igbos andother easterners. Gowon, as we know served as the leader of theNigeria soldiers having seized power by military coup in 1966.

Would one be wrong in interpreting this as amounting to the samefate of instant brutal death meted out to the famed Biafran Commanderand one of the principal actors of January 15, 1966 coup, TimOnwuatuegwu and that intellectual giant, Dr. Kalu Ezera on properidentification after the war? Just to mention the most documented.Now can anyone reconcile this with Gowon's apologies over the war,especially at Afikpo about 1998, which was a subject of intensedebate among the Igbo in the Diaspora?

Does Gowon in view of his upbeat of having another person's fatein his hands want anyone to take him serious in his traversing overIgboland with his 'Nigeria Prays?'

Is that not a half-hearted and hypocritical preoccupation that isdeeply ingrained in the psyche of past and present Nigerian rulerswhen it comes to Igbo plight and the Nigerian question? Gowon is notGod! And thank goodness, Gowon and his local and foreign adviserswere not wiser than the Igbo who prevailed on the Biafran leader toproceed abroad at that moment in history.

Further, in Gowon's recent outbursts, he told the BBC thatOdumegwu-Ojukwu couldn't be allowed to lead Nigeria because he oncesought to divide it. I consider that ill motivated, inciting, veryinsensitive and most insincere as his authoritative position that hewould not have 'spared' Ojukwu if he were captured.

If the fact must be restated, it was Gowon who was a party to thecounter military coup of July 29, 1966, the sole aim of which was toeffect the secession of Northern Region from the rest of the Britishcontraption, Nigeria. Issuing from the above, Gowon proudlyproclaimed to the entire world that there was no basis for oneNigeria. And when it suited him and his advisers, he reversed himselfand assumed command over his superiors, thus seeking to bastardizehierarchical discipline in the Nigerian military.

It was an illegality that ought to be resisted. History recordsthat Ojukwu exemplarily and courageously resisted that illegality. Hekept a time-honored military tradition, while other senior officers,mostly of Western Region, bowed to it. He deserves respect and honorfor his valor and not vilifications. More than anything else, it wasGowon who subverted the Aburi Accord that has now resurrected as aSovereign National Conference seen as a panacea for resolving thefestering Nigerian question. That unholy action was the immediatecause of Biafra-Nigeria war and the resultant genocide that Gowonsuperintended against the Biafrans. It amounted to a declaration ofwar on Eastern Region, a peaceful and progressive people, whosenationals had been massacred in their thousands in the other regionsof Nigeria, while he (Gowon) watched.

The subversion of Aburi Accord remains at the heart of the currentstate of anomie in the land. As Ojukwu observed recently, it was adocument to which Nigerian leaders accented to its spirit and letter.For Gowon to have assumed supremacy above that document and todaywants the world through BBC to believe that he should be exoneratedfrom Nigeria's past, its present unjust structure and tragicconsequences, while Ojukwu be made to take the heat, shows howdistanced he is still to the realities of those days and much morethe uncertainties of present times in Nigeria.

Today, Gowon's 'United Federal Republic of Nigeria' is onepoisonously perforated with pervasive insecurity, ethnic bigotry andreligious zealotry and I dare say it is one in which the basis of oneNigeria does not now exist, as it did not when he spoke 36 years ago.It is one in which there is no Nigeria and there is no Nigerian inthe true sense of it.

Most who believe in Nigeria as it is today and think they areNigerians are those who continue to ravage the resources of NigerDelta peoples and the Igbo. They are those who benefited and stillbenefit from Nigeria's infamous corrupt and greedy traditions. Thosewho shout one united Nigeria are those who are willing always to pitythe poor against the poor, exploiting their marginal existence andsometimes are as much willing to sacrifice their comrades to achieveand sustain their selfish ends.

Also, Gowon's 'United Federal Republic of Nigeria' and all thosewho refer to that amorphous amalgam as such, is one in which truthseekers look in retrospect, and concede to Odumegwu Ojukwu hisvisionary and heroic status in African history. The reason being thatif Gowon did not, shortsightedly, repudiate the Aburi Accord justbefore the Biafra-Nigeria 1967-1970 war, those conflicts would nothave been fought and its high cost to the Igbo and the rest ofNigeria, would have been avoided.

This explains why such statesmen as Julius Nyerere of Tamzaniasupported the rights of Biafrans to self-determination. Perhaps,countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan wouldhave adopted it and saved Africa the blood spillage in their ownregions.

Growth and development would not have been stifled on account ofwars and constant threat to peace. Poverty, ignorance and diseasewould not have been bold imprints on most soils of Africa, from CapeTown to Cairo. Africa would have been a safer, competitive and moreprosperous place. The unfortunate thing for Nigeria nay Africa, isthat those responsible for such missed opportunities as relatedabove, rather than engage their conscience, the still voice in themin a dialogue of true reflection and repentance, always prefer torevise history themselves or through paid and professionalrevisionists. And those abound for a penny mostly in Nigeria oftoday.

Most who know the challenge that Nigeria faces in BakassiPeninsular that Gowon ceded to Cameroon in order to achieve his totalblockade policy against Biafra between 1967-70, believe that such a'gentleman' should be busy trying to harmlessly detonate that timebomb made more lethal by his successors, especially the mediocreregime in Abuja presently.

He will not do that! He will not take responsibility for that andother mistakes of his junta years. Instead, he chose to re-enter thepeoples' consciousness in a few weeks to an uncertain election yearthrough cheap swipes frontally on Ojukwu and indirectly on Biafra,probably an attempt to resurrect the ghost that haunted former VicePresident Alex Ifeanyichikwu Ekwueme down in 1999 in his bid for theNigerian Presidency.

To reach a wider audience, retired General Gowon agreed to makehis views known on the BBC. And this is an era, Jack Straw, theBritish Foreign Secretary has publicly expressed the courageous viewthat Britain's colonial legacy is responsible for some of the crisesaround the world. I believe he singled out Kashmir, Palestine andIraq in that truthful reflection. To that list, of course, Nigeria(and the later issues which led up to the Biafra 1967-1970 war)should be added.

Why can't Nigerian rulers, past and present speak with suchfrankness? Why can't they at least own up to their invidious pastlike the leaders in the Western world and begin a genuine search foran alternate 'United' than this one being sustained on sporadicdeaths and destructions? Should they not as well be offering a 'Lott'of apologies from a contrite heart? And if they cannot, should theynot just simply 'shut up?' Well, Gowon may choose to fight withhistory.He may choose to struggle with his conscience. On bothscores, he may not be helped by anyone but himself.
Ekeopara is a contributing analyst for andUSAfrica The Newspaper (where this December 28, 2002 essay willalso appear). Links to this essay are appropriate but archiving onany other web site or newspaper will be a copyright violation.

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Hey, should I repeat myself; nah! Unless the Lotts of racism continue to ruin the promise of America; if they act and think that persons like me are children of a lesser God; if they continue to spit at the glory and blessings of a fruited plain known as God's own country. God bless America! By Chido Nwangwu

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