Tuesday, April 16, 2024

I was criticised for being too slow crushing Biafra secessionists but I did it, Gowon encourages Tinubu

“I think all one can say to Nigerians is that they have to give the president time to get things really done,” said Mr Gowon.

• February 22, 2024
Ex-military ruler Yakubu Gowon, President Bola Tinubu and photo used to illustrate starved Biafran children
Ex-military ruler Yakubu Gowon, President Bola Tinubu and photo used to illustrate starved Biafran children

Yakubu Gowon, a former military ruler, has encouraged President Bola Tinubu not to worry about criticisms from Nigerians, saying he was criticised for being “too slow” leading Nigeria into civil war to crush Biafra secessionists. Yet he crushed the secessionists. 

“I was telling him (Mr Tinubu) that there’s no Nigerian leader that can get there, that will not get all of these; all that is being said about him. But with Nigerians, don’t you worry you will get criticised,” Mr Gowon stated.

He said, “If I can remember, when I was fighting the war I was told I was too slow and that probably Nigeria cannot make it and that we should now seek for discussion. Well, did we do it or not? They probably do not know the problem underground so that is where we are.”

Mr Gowon, who ruled Nigeria between 1966 and 1975, made this statement while speaking with journalists when he visited the Presidential Villa on Wednesday. 

The ex-military ruler said he visited Mr Tinubu to “discuss various matters, especially the issue of the ECOWAS problem at the moment, being the surviving leader, or founding fathers of the ECOWAS.”

He added, “I think all one can say to Nigerians is that they have to give the president time to get things really done and it is too early to sort of say perfect results will be achieved. That is my opinion.”

Last year, Mr Gowon dismissed the Nigerian Civil War that claimed close to three million lives “a little fracas.” 

Former President Muhammadu Buhari, who fought on the side of the Nigerian Army against the Biafran agitators, estimated the number of those killed during the Civil War to be over one million.

The Nigeria-Biafra war broke out in 1967 following the South-East’s secession from Nigeria. The war lasted over 30 months, ending in 1970. But agitation for secession still lingers in the South-East. 

An estimated three million people were reportedly killed during the war, many rounded up by Nigerian soldiers and shot at close range while hundreds of thousands were starved to death. 

Although the war was not properly documented, several accounts with substantial corroboration indicated how Nigerian soldiers massacred Igbo civilians in Asaba, Onitsha, and Enugu, amongst other communities in the region. 

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