Former Nigeria Head of State and Biafra war time leader, General Yakubu Gowon has reacted to the recent claims that he and his former Finance Minister, Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo perpetuated the carnage that resulted in the loss of millions Igbo lives by adopting the hunger strategy to win the Biafra war .
He was reacting to Professor Chinua Achebe’s new book, “There was a country,” in which it was alleged that both leaders pursued sub-human policies that killed Biafrans especially children during the war, which has been described as pogrom and genocide against the Igbo.
In his reaction, Gowon absolved his regime and late Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the accusations claiming that “if there was no secession, there wouldn’t have been the war that we had, which was a very unfortunate situation in the life of Nigeria”.
Speaking from his London home in a telephone chat with Vanguard, Gowon said he prayerfully took the decisions he took during the war and had no cause to regret his actions.
He claimed that it is natural that the the former Biafra leaders would give their own interpretation to favour them and pass blames, questioning the reason why Awolowo’s name was being dragged into the controversy: “Awolowo was not the cause of the secession. Why then are they bringing him into this controversy?
The interview excerpts:
What is your comment on Professor Achebe’s latest book?
Let me read it first. I’m not in the country now.
In the book, he said you and Chief Obafemi Awolowo implemented some policies aimed at killing the Igbos such as starvation and preventing food from getting to Biafran children during the war. What is your take on that?
Let him check himself and of course on our part, we know that, that was not what we were. That was how we were portrayed but, on our part, we know that was not what we were in our actions and all that.
But would you please go and ask historians about the beginning of the war rather than for you to ask me to comment about whether Awolowo and I actually had hands in what he is talking about? Go and find out from historians?
One would think that, as the then Head of states, you have direct and undiluted truth about the issue?
The historians will tell you the correct story. I am not in Nigeria presently and honestly this is a question that I have had to answer several times. You would have asked them if there was a controversy or whoever did what. Let them do their own interpretation of what happened.
But you are a key factor in getting to the root of the newly generated controversy…
(Cuts in) If there was no secession, we wouldn’t have the civil war. Awolowo was not the cause of the secession. Why then are they bringing him into this controversy?
If there was no secession, there wouldn’t have been the war that we had, which was a very unfortunate situation in the life of Nigeria. That is the answer that I would give to you about this.
What is your take on the opinion that your ‘no victor no vanquished’ resolution and failure to try the secessionists for treason account for some of the brewing controversies?
You can be rest assured that as far as we are concerned, we did everything that was possible. And we have no cause to regret what we did.
So, I think whoever is saying what I am now hearing that they are saying, the question is; why are they saying what they are saying now? For what reason are they saying it at this time?