IN DEFENCE OF YAKUBU GOWON— Cowardly Ohaneze Ndigbo Should Face the Fulani Who Carried Out the Heinous 1966 Pogroms against the Igbo


IN DEFENCE OF YAKUBU GOWON— Cowardly Ohaneze Ndigbo Should Face the Fulani Who Carried Out the Heinous 1966 Pogroms against the Igbo



Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe, PhD, DD

Odogwu of Ibusa

President, International Coalition against Christian Genocide in Nigeria (ICAC-GEN)

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Gen Yakubu Gowon

The recent statement credited to one Okechukwu Isiguzoro who styles himself as a chieftain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in which he called on General Yakubu Gowon to render apology to the Igbo for his role as Nigeria’s Head of State that prosecuted the civil war is not only smack of pig-headed ignorance of the trajectories of the Nigerian Civil war, but a distasteful attempt to create unwarranted political cleavage between the Igbo and their Middle Belt kinsmen, of which General Gowon is an institutional head; a devious act that could only benefit the institutionalized enemies of the Igbo—the Fulani.

Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi
Chief Obafemi Awolowo
General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu of Biafra

I don’t know whose interest the like of Okechukwu Isiguzoro would be serving by creating a political cleavage between the Igbo and their only trusted ally in Northern Nigeria at this dicey point of Nigeria’s history. It is unfortunate that neither Okechukwu Isiguzoro nor his Ohaneze Ndigbo had at any moment developed the least courage to call the rampaging Fulani oligarchy to order for their continuous hatred of the Igbo or demand apology for the heinous 1966 pogroms against the Igbo. No! Okechukwu Isiguzoro and Ohaneze Ndigbo will not have such animal courage because they are under the financial patronage of Governor Hope Uzodinma who is the Caliphate alter ego in Igboland. The last Presidential election should have taught the like of Okechukwu Isiguzoro the important lesson of inter-ethnic bridge-building rather than creating unnecessary cleavages between allies.

I don’t think Mr. Okechukwu Isiguzoro actually understands the political conduct of the Nigerian civil war, and if he does, he would have understood that General Yakubu Gowon who took over power four days after the death of General Aguiyi-Ironsi following a protracted power struggle between him and Murtala Mohammed, was the only saving grace of the Igbo from total extermination.

Indeed when one puts the events of January 15, 1966 and the subsequent pogroms against the Igbo on the scale of ethnic sentiment, then the Igbo should realize that both the Middle Belt and the Yoruba actually love the Igbo. Thus, if the issue of apology becomes paramount to the Igbo, then the Igbo should equally be willing to apologize to those ethnic groups whose kinsmen were victims of the January 15, 196 coup d’etat. Or is Okechukwu Isiguzoro telling us that the Igbo as a people are perfect, even unto themselves?

What of those Igbo leaders who sabotaged Biafra or crossed over to Nigeria? Has Okechukwu Isiguzoro demanded their apologies? What of those Igbo still sabotaging collective Igbo interest like Hope Uzodinma, Rochas Okorocha, Orji Uzor Kalu, himself— Okechukwu Isiguzoro and his Ohaneze Ndigbo who take diktats from Governor Hope Uzodinma against collective Igbo interests? We have been waiting for Okechukwu Isiguzoro and Ohaneze Ndigbo to react against the recent venomous sermon and insinuations against the Igbo by the Imam of an Abuja Mosque in the presence of the National Security Adviser Nuhu Ribadu. But Okechukwu Isiguzoro and Ohaneze Ndigbo will not do so otherwise their illicit and bloody money from the Caliphate will not come again.

To state the reality, Yakubu Gowon was the most humane, democratically and liberal-minded of all Nigeria’s Heads of State. Isiguzoro might not know this fact because apart from not being a historian, he belongs to the group of short-sighted, acutely mawkish Igbo errand boys to Fulani oligarchy masquerading as Ohaneze Ndigbo, and whose main preoccupation is to please their Fulani masters by creating hatred between the Igbo and their potent allies.

Gowon never wanted to go to war with Eastern Nigeria, particularly the Igbo, whom he considered his kinsmen; but circumstances created first by General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi and subsequently fast-forwarded by Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu played into the hands of the Fulani, who had and still have inveterate hatred of the Igbo. The pogroms were in the Northern Muslim part and not the Middle Belt. The Gbom Gwom Jos then for instance, against the instruction of the Northern Emirs advised other Christian traditional rulers to protect the Igbo because they were their brothers.

It should be recalled that Chief Awolowo while serving his Prison term in Calabar Prisons had by a letter dated 28 March, 1966 and titled: “PREROGATIVE OF MERCY: Section 101 (1) (A) of The Constitution of The Federation Act 1963”, pleaded with General Aguiyi-Ironsi to grant him and the other members of his party convicted for treasonable felony alongside him, some of whom had already served their terms, and others not yet to be tried, for amnesty. According to the letter, those still serving their terms of imprisonment at the time of the petition included himself—Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Mr. Lateef K. Jakande, Mr. Dapo Omisade, Mr. S. A. Onitiri, Mr. Gabby Sasore, Mr. Sunday Ebietoma, and Mr. U. I. Nwaobiala; while those who had already served their terms included: Mr. S. A. Otubanjo, Mr. S. J. Umoren, and Mr. S. Oyesile. On the other hand, those who were yet to face trial included, Mr. S. G. Ikoku, Mr. Ayo Adebanjo and Mr. James Aluko.

The question is why did Aguiyi-Ironsi fail to see it as a most pertinent political necessity to grant Chief Awolowo immediate and unconditional pardon, so that he would, in Awolowo’s words, “go down to history as soldier, statesman, and humanitarian?” Indeed, not only the case of Chief Awolowo  was brought before the Supreme Military Council but also the request for the release of thirty-five (35) Tiv members of the Joseph Tarka-led United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) who were under incarceration by the Ahmadu Bello-led Northern People’s Congress (NPC) for their roles in the Tiv riots.

Peter Enahoro was said to have met General Aguiyi-Ironsi several times for the release of Obafemi Awolowo and his men, of which his brother Chief Anthony Enahoro was among. Quite disgustingly, Aguiyi-Ironsi’s response to Peter Enahoro was that based on the rumour that he was part of the January 15, 1966 coup, it would not be the interest of his regime to have Chief Obafemi Awolowo and other political prisoners released.


Indeed, so far as it concerned the release of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and other political prisoners, the only voice Aguiyi-Ironsi could hear in the Supreme Military Council was that of the Fulani-born Lt. Col. Hassan Usman Katsina, the Military Governor of the Northern Group of Provinces. Even the wise counsel of his close friend and Military Governor of the Western Group of Provinces, Lt. Col. Adekunle Fajuyi was nowhere close to his listening ears.


Similarly, Joseph Tarka—President of the United Middle’s Congress (UMBC) was reported to have met General Aguiyi-Ironsi six times without result, and it was rumoured that Joseph Tarka was to be arrested by Aguiyi-Ironsi for similar roles too; all in his bid to please the Northern Fulani oligarchy. Yet his cowardly dilation did not save him from being consumed by the same raging fire of hatred by the Fulani oligarchy. This was how the historian Ruth First described Aguiyi-Ironsi’s political debacle over the release of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the 35 Tiv rioters:


“For fear of antagonizing the North, the regime did nothing to mobilize support for itself. The most obvious step was the release of Chief Awolowo, Chief Anthony Enahoro and their associates of the treason trial in the West. General Ironsi three times set a date for their release. The first date was in March; but Ironsi told Peter Enahoro of certain rumours that he himself had taken part in plotting the January revolt: ‘To allay fears that the South had conspired against the North, he decided to defer…. Another date was fixed in May. At the discussions in State House, the Governor of the North said vehemently that Chief Awolowo’s release at that time would cause furors in the North … though Fajuyi pressed, as he had done for many months, that contrary to exciting rebellion in the North, Chief Awolowo’s discharge would rally civilians to the banner of the military regime.’ The final release date was set for I August 1966. By that date Ironsi was dead. Ironsi temporized in the same way over Tiv demands. He claimed to be impressed by their arguments for Middle Belt autonomy; but nothing happened. He received deputations from J. S. Tarka, the Tiv leader on six different occasions; but then reports began to circulate that he was about to have Tarka arrested. Government was already being run largely by rumour and intrigue.”


Aguiyi-Ironsi forgot that the Middle Belt and particularly the Tiv were a dominant force in the rank and file of the Nigerian armed forces at the time, beyond the fact that they were not happy with the killing of Lt. Col. Pam, the most respected elite Middle Belt army officer then. Instead he relied largely but precariously on the patronage of the Fulani Caliphate for his survival such that he granted Muslim Fulani Northern politicians absolute freedom to plan his demise, while putting all the southern politicians like Okpara and Osadebe and others under house-arrest.

But the question here is should Awolowo have to write a petition before the issue of his pardon could be addressed by Aguiyi-Ironsi’s regime, bearing in mind that at the root of what brought the same Aguiyi-Ironsi to power was the incarceration of Awolowo? What problem would the early release of Chief Awolowo have caused the regime except to build a stronger power base which could have no doubt saved the regime as well as the entire nation from the catastrophic events that followed thereafter? Indeed the reaction to the January 15, 1966 coup in Remo Division—Chief Awolowo’s home-base was evident of what Aguiyi-Ironsi’s release of Obafemi Awolowo should have meant for his regime. As Ruth First reported:


“The coup was greeted with more enthusiasm than independence itself had been six years before. ‘Here in Ikenne and Shagamu you can feel the streets sighing with relief today, ‘ wrote a school teacher. Nzeogwu and the young majors were heroes. In the West, the thuggery stopped almost overnight; the region veered from chaotic banditry to jubilant expectancy with astonishing speed. Within a fortnight, the Police mobile contingent from the Northern Provinces was withdrawn.”

Again, it is obvious that were the thirty-five Tiv political prisoners of Ahmadu Bello released by Aguiyi-Ironsi, the prospect of building a united Northern Nigeria front against Aguiyi-Ironsi in particular and the Igbo in general by the Middle Belt and Hausa-Fulani should have been difficult. But General Aguiyi-Ironsi and his band of self-centred Igbo advisers around him only thought of their immediate gain without looking at the overall consequences of their actions to their wider Igbo ethnic kinsmen.


However, it took his successor, General Yakubu Gowon to play that role of a soldier, statesman and humanitarian, when he immediately granted unconditional pardon to Awolowo four days on assumption of power. Not only that, he went further to appoint him the Vice Chairman of the Supreme Military Council and Minister of Finance; thus in another way fulfilling in part the original vision of the 15 January, 1966 coup plotters. And when it came to the choice of whom to follow at that critical moment, Chief Obafemi Awolowo did not need anybody to tell him where to pitch his camp.


There was no doubt that General Aguiyi-Ironsi was lacking in principle, direction and courage, which were the primary qualities of a good leader. All the while he was gazing at the besieging ghost of the late Sardauna of Sokoto Sir Ahmadu Bello and was mostly concerned with how to placate him without minding the consequences of dereliction of the responsibilities of his office as a soldier entrusted with precarious political responsibilities. Indeed to Ironsi, the Sultan of Sokoto was already regarded as a second Head of State with equal status to him. This explains why he left his office against all conventional protocols to welcome the Sultan of Sokoto at Lagos Airport during his visit.

Has it ever occurred to Okechukwu Isiguzoro that Republic of Biafra was declared on May 30, 1967 and it took Yakubu Gowon one month and two weeks, precisely on July 6, 1966 to declare war against Biafra; that was after sending emissaries to plead with Odumegwu Ojukwu to rethink his action. This was without prejudice that Gowon was living with his Igbo fiancée penultimate to the declaration of the war.

In the first instance, if Yakubu Gowon was not willing to go ahead with the war, another person particularly the wicked Murtala Mohammed would have taken over with disastrous effects. Aguiyi-Ironsi as Head of State quelled Niger Delta Republic declared by Isaac Adaka Boro. In the same vein, Gowon as Head of State was under obligation to keep Nigeria one. Moreover, does Okechukwu Isiguzoro think that the Nigerian civil war was fought without recurrent attempts at international level to settle the conflict amicably? The question here is why was it impossible to settle the conflict amicably before Biafra’s eventual defeat and surrender?

Gowon unilaterally recalled Col Murtala Mohammed from the war-front because of his avid hatred of the Igbo and tendency to do anything unconventional to annihilate the Igbo. The result was his later overthrow by the same Murtala Mohammed. At the end of the war Gowon earmarked huge sums of money for the reconstruction of Southeast. Okechukwu Isiguzoro should find out how the Igbo-born Administrator of East Central State Ukpabi Asika utilized the money. Gowon also devoted a lot of money for the rehabilitation of University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Okechukwu Isiguzoro should go and find out how Professor kodilinye spent the money. As an undergraduate student of University of Nigeria, Nsukka from 1984 t0 1988 I was still sitting on pieces of block to receive my lectures in wooded prefabricated buildings. Was Yakubu Gowon the cause? Against all oppositions from Fulani oligarchy, Gowon still absorbed some Igbo senior army officers into the Nigerian armed forces.

On the three vexatious but least understood policies of (a) Aburi Accord; (b) the use of hunger as a weapon of war, and (c) the post-civil war 20 pounds exchange policy, I will briefly give strategic outlines for the instruction of Okechukwu Isiguzoro and his Ohaneze Ndigbo for want of space.

The Aburi meeting of the Supreme Military Council that took place on January 4 and 5, 1967 in Ghana was as a result of the prevailing insecurity against the Igbo at the time which made it impossible for Ojukwu to attend any such meeting in Nigeria.  It had three major issues on the agenda to resolve. These were:

(1.) To resolve the question of leadership within the army, restore the chain of command which had become badly disrupted, and examine the crisis of confidence amongst the officers and soldiers which had rendered it impossible for them intermingle;

(2.) To evolve ways and means of carrying on the responsibility of administering the country until a new constitution had been determined; and

(3) To tackle realistically the problems of displaced persons. These considerations were reflected in the agenda which was agreed upon by members of the Supreme Military Council

Even Ojukwu and Eastern Nigeria Government officials agreed that Yakubu Gowon was powerless on the matter of the full implementation of the decisions reached at the meeting in the face of powerful forces surrounding him. This was vividly stated in the Press Release on the Aburi Accord by the Military Government of Eastern Nigeria. Paragraph (30) of the Press Conference explicitly stated:

“A few days after Aburi some Permanent Secretaries in Lagos met to criticize the decisions reached by the Supreme Military Council, the highest authority in the land. With regard to the reorganization of the Army they objected to the new title of “Commander-in-Chief” on the grounds that— ‘(1) it would be a subtle way of either abolishing the post of Supreme Commander or declaring it vacant to be filled by unanimous decision of the Supreme
Military Council… and (2) The Accra decision transfers the Executive Authority of the Federal Military Government from the Head of the Federal Military Government and Supreme Commander (in accordance with Decree No. 1) to the Supreme Military Council. The implication of this is that the Commander-in-Chief would have no power of control or dismissal over the Regional Governors….’ On the establishment of Military Headquarters, the Permanent Secretaries stated that ‘the establishment of Military Headquarters with equal representatives from the Regions headed by a Chief of Staff amounts to confederation.’ They made no effort to define what they meant by a ‘confederation.’ As regards the creation of Area Commands the Permanent Secretaries took exception to what they considered to be ‘dividing up the Nigerian Army into Regional ones, without links with or effective unifying control over the Army by the ‘Supreme Commander.’ This advice, which was clearly motivated by selfish interests, ignored the anxiety of the Nigerian public for a workable and effective settlement of the crisis and a quick return to normal conditions. In strict compliance with this advice, however, Lt.-Col. Gowon, true to his well-known characteristic of ignoring solemn agreements, made a volte-face at his press conference.”

On the issue of using hunger as a weapon of war, we must accept one factual strategy of the conduct of war—that no opponent is under obligation to feed his enemy. Even Biafra was not willing to do such. But in the case of the Nigerian civil war, it was the matter of the Federal Government insisting that any aircraft carrying relief materials to Biafra through the Nigerian airspace must be searched to be sure it was not carrying arms and ammunition to the rebels. This policy is currently evident in the on-going Israel-Hamas war. Israel cannot permit any humanitarian truck into the Gaza Strip without searching it for possible arms and ammunition.

On the other hand, Biafra’s position was that allowing such aircrafts to be searched by the Federal Government could risk the poisoning of the food items. Both sides were strategically justified in their respective positions. So the accusation against Chief Obafemi Awolowo that he instigated hunger against the Igbo during the civil war was a mere orchestrated war-time propaganda carried forward and thus unjustified.

On the issue of 20 pound currency exchange, the Igbo must in the first instance give kudos to both Yakubu Gowon and Chief Obafemi Awolowo who jettisoned the Northern Fulani insistence that the Igbo should be totally impoverished. This is because they were not under any obligation to do so except for humanitarian reasons. Secondly, the Igbo should understand the background under which this policy was carried out. During the civil war, the old pound currency notes were changed, leaving a lot of them as non-legal tender in the hands of those Igbo on the Biafran side. The Biafran Government also printed its own currency notes.

These were the two currencies that were not legal tenders in Nigeria then, which both Yakubu Gowon and Chief Obafemi Awolowo magnanimously decided to exchange at a flat rate of 20 pound given the absence of defined exchange rates. But true to those Igbo with acute sense of reasoning, they registered their amounts separately with the names of their wives, children and other relatives, and consequently received more than the stipulated 20 pounds. For instance, one of my uncles received 120 pounds from his combined old Nigerian and Biafran currencies.

These were indeed some of the circumstances that hand-twisted Yakubu Gowon which eventually made the civil war inevitable. The same mistake Okechukwu Isiguzoro’s Ohaneze Ndigbo is making today by hobnobbing with the Fulani and other Igbo haters of APC for their selfish reasons in the name of representing collective Igbo interest.


1 thought on “IN DEFENCE OF YAKUBU GOWON— Cowardly Ohaneze Ndigbo Should Face the Fulani Who Carried Out the Heinous 1966 Pogroms against the Igbo”

  1. A very good one. You should begin to do small booklets on such deliveries. You know full well that we do not have all the time in the world. The generation coming after ours could use such presentations as potent political beacon to make their living less arduous.

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