Murtala Mohammed,Ojukwu Were Over Ambitious..Gowon

Although the civil war ended 44 years ago, its capacity to polarise discussions in contemporary times has still not waned. A glimpse of that was evident in a recent interview former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, granted The Guardian to commemorate his eightieth birthday anniversary. From implying that the motive behind the decision by the late Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to secede from Nigeria was driven by ambition for power, to suggesting that the coup which terminated his administration and led by the late Gen. Murtala Muhammed, was carried out for reasons that were not particularly altruistic, Gen. Gowon stirred the hornet’s nest, literarily.
“Ojukwu, for example, used to pride himself that he was going to make history, but I used to tell him that, ‘no, Emeka, it is history that will make you,” he said of the leader of the defunct Biafra Republic and former presidential candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). “My colleagues that we went for training together like (Alexander) Madiebo (he was Biafra’s army chief) and others; when they used to say Igbo nation, I would tell them to shut up, that there is only one nation that I know, which is Nigeria. We used to say that as a joke; but what happened? They wanted to create an Igbo nation.”
With regard to the notion that he was overthrown because he had become so tolerant of corrupt practices by his principal officers, he said: “Seriously speaking, they also wanted to rule and probably they wanted to enjoy power. “We wanted to reorganise the Nigeria Airways to the standard of one of the best in the world. We invited foreign experts and they came in 1975. But the new government abandoned it. So what has happened to the Nigeria Airways today?” But to the Murtalas, that was an unflattering depiction of their patriarch who many Nigerians still regard as a paragon of selfless service.
Murtala’s daughter, Mrs Aisha Oyebode, told Saturday New Telegraph on the phone that it was the height of mischief to suggest that it was anything other than altruism that inspired the coup that brought his father to power. Although Oyebode claimed not to have read the interview in question, she said that her late father’s larger family would issue a formal statement in reaction to the relevant sections that mentions their father which our correspondent had read to her. But retired Catholic archbishop of the Lagos Archdiocese, Cardinal Anthony Okogie, said reports which indicated that the military governors in the Gowon administration were corrupt had angered the public and helped to validate the Murtala coup.
“If my memory serves me well, I think a report categorically returned a guilty verdict on virtually all of Gen. Gowon‘s lieutenants, with regard to corruption. The only exception was the military governor of Lagos State, retired Brigadier-General Mobolaji Johnson. “Understandably, the mood of Nigerians went sour, reinforced by popular disenchantment. It was in the middle of this, perhaps only a question of time before the coup that kicked Gowon’s corrupt regime out. So I don’t understand anything about this new attempt to re-write history.”
There were however some kind words for the ex-head of state from the former aviation minister, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, whose father, the late Remi Fani-Kayode, was deputy premier of the defunct Western Region. “Gen. Gowon, more than any other person, saved my father. I am aware of what happened that day, even though I was only six years old then. When the mutinous soldiers came to take my father away, he (Gowon) was not even around,” said Fani-Kayode, adding that the former leader did everything possible to save his father.
“Along with Mr. Takuda, an army officer from the Middle Belt, the former head of state did everything to save my father. It was not clear who sent them to arrest my father who saw some of his abductors killed in the ensuing gun battle. My faher was told that he was being held in the barracks for his safety,” Fani-Kayode told Saturday New Telegraph on the phone. “I have great love, respect and affection for him for saving my father. He is very brave and courageous. If he had decided to run away since he was the target of the mutineers as commander-in-chief, the history of Nigeria would have been different today,” he said.
Also, former minister of internal affairs and one of APGA’s governorship aspirants in Imo State, Mr. Emmanuel Iheanacho, disagreed that Gowon’s states creation exercise was designed to give the north undue advantage over other sections, a sentiment prevalent in the south. “Over time, people pursued things that were far from the ideal upon which the country was founded on; things that did not unite us. “It becomes even more of an aberration when next door neihgbours sack Imo indigenes from their workforce because they are not Abia people.”
According to him, such argument is akin to blaming the colonial masters for the woes of Nigeria of today. “We must be able to demonstrate enough capacity, discipline and patriotism and get right in this dispensation before we can justifiably blame the military for allegedly leaving behind a legacy of corruption,” Iheanacho also said. Also speaking on the issue of the motive that underpinned the Murtala coup, former secretary-general of Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, Col. Joe Achuzia threw his weight behind Gowon’s insinuatio of lust for power.
“Even after the original coup by the majors, Murtala Muhammed contested for leadership of the counter-coup with Gowon, until other northern military officers decided in Gowon’s favour. “So one can say that in terms of justification and motive, Muhammed might have had every reason to be hungry for power,” he told our correspondent on the phone.
‘If my memory serves me well, I think a report categorically returned a verdict of guilty of corruption on virtually all of Gen Gowon‘s lieutenants, except the military governor of Lagos State, retired Brigadier-General Mobolaji John son. Understandably, the mood of Nigerian s went sour, reinforced by popular disenchantment. It was in the middle of this, perhaps only a question of time before the coup that kicked Gowon’s corrupt regime out. So I don’t understand know anything about this new attempt to rewrite history. I hope I have answered your question,’ the retired Cardinal of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Anthony Olubunmi Okojie told our correspondent on the phone.


Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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