Every man and woman of goodwill and benevolence, undoubtedly, felicitated with retired military head of state, the second in the series, general Yakubu Gowon, who clocked 87 years, last Tuesday.
To have chalked up over four and half decades and with a relatively good health in tow, Jack, who Biafran propagandists derisively referred to as “Jack Wagon”, had the singular providence and unprecedented coincidence of having his surname paraphrased to mean “Go on with One Nigeria”.
Nothing could have been more definite for a young military officer on whose slim shoulder, the fortunes and fate of a country, on the brink, were wobbly placed. I salute you sir on your birthday as you continue to count.
Now, away from the slew of felicitations, I have a problem, a big one for that matter with either Gowon’s sense of history, or his appreciation of it. A cynic once quipped, that history is always written by the winners. I strongly believe that man needs an urgent purgation of his emotions. After all, as Bishop Desmond stress, “if you’re neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say you’re neutral, the mouse would not appreciate your neutrality.
Gowon pretends not to remember that between July 29th and August 1st 1966, the country was without a leader. History records that in the four days I talked about, the flag of the northern separatist group flew at full staff or mast at 9th mechandised b rigaxd headquarters, that is, Ikeja cantonment. This is after no less than 260 officers of Easter Nigerian origin, chiefly Igbos, were killed, with two of them reportedly buried alive.
Our man should have been more forthcoming on the question of why the seniority structure was not adopted in determining the successor of general Ironsi after his death, and why he scoffed at the Aburi accord that could have saved the country from a 3 year vicious and horrendous civil war. Gowon, now his his senile and twilight days, is a Bible-clutching, peace-preaching, prayer-mongering, God-fearing good old man, who has deciding to close the stable after the horse had bolted.
I wonder if the general could ever come to terms with the opportunity of a life time which he fluffed when for nine grueling and checkered years, he took the country on a painful and torturous ride, just to maintain the status quo and please his backers in 10 downing Street. Twice he postponed his handover, something which keeps haunting the country.
If Gowon is sincere about going on with one Nigeria, 200 million or so Nigerians, should be saved the sour grapes.