Having been still fully alive and healthy 46 years after he was toppled as Nigeria’s Military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon must have passed through times that tested his conviction and faith in the country. Although out of power for such a very long period, he must have witnessed or even influenced some events which most probably he had never imagined would ever happen.
As the military ruler who led the federal troops to victory in a war with the rebels under the command of late Colonel (later Chief) Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, he really demonstrated unrivalled courage and conviction which were products or manifestations of his absolute faith in Nigeria. Although he was just in his late 20s at the early stage of the war and a little over 30 years after it, Gowon was only relentless, but certainly not reckless in the execution of the war; a particular disposition that pointed to his enormous leadership qualities which he fully utilised during his nine-year reign as Head of State.
It is quite good that Gowon is still very much alive to tell a lot of stories about challenges of the particular past in which he was in charge and express his feelings about the several happenings that followed his time as well as explain his understanding of the present. As the military ruler who not only executed the 30-month civil war for the Federal Government but also presided over the process of re-unification of the country, Gowon still remains the most important leader that Nigeria has ever had.
In other words, Gowon’s was and is still the most critical of all the roles played by all the past leaders towards the entrenchment of the principles of oneness and indissolubility of the country. The utmost zeal with which he implemented the Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Programme of his government tremendously helped to heal the wounds sustained by the two sides engaged in the war, with each obviously allowing for mutual interaction between them.
It is equally good that Gowon is still alive to serve as a study and, of course, an example to many of the Nigerian citizens who, based on their respective orientations and resultant perceptions, seemingly believe that it is completely difficult, even if not impossible, for them to consider their ethnic and sentimental backgrounds as well as religious beliefs as simple identities that naturally facilitate recognition of one another and not instruments for the intimidation of others. By allowing a lot of cultures other than his own to sink in him as a result of which he became everybody’s friend that he still is, the former Head of State is definitely a unique personality.
It is a personality that is made up of some elements which, though may appear diverse or even antagonistic to one another, are really contingent or dependent on one another as no one of them can get any meaningful expression without the other(s). The kind of relationship he established with various groups or communities of Nigerians and which he still sustains is such that continuously defines him as much as it indicates that there is every Nigerian in him.
As the biggest unifier of the county, General Gowon might have been terribly pained by the current efforts being made by some forces to violently unbundle it. All such agitations for the fragmentation of Nigeria which regularly turn violent represent an attempt to reverse the achievements recorded in the basic area of nation-building.
Certainly, nothing can be more despicable to Gowon than the divisive tendencies of some groups or forces within the country which have continued to raise very unsettling issues of the structure and existence of Nigeria. The inability of the authorities to initiate and sustain processes that can lead to the containment and diffusion of such destructive agitations is equally disturbing to not only Gowon and his likes but to even those citizens who have adequately come to terms with certain realities that have continued to make the existing togetherness of diverse Nigerian communities a compelling necessity.
If this justifiable annoyance over the prevalence of severe threats to the corporate existence the country is added to the frustration over the rising insecurity in the north which is Gowon’s immediate environment, it will then be very easy to correctly understand the apparent discomfort that characterises his feeling about Nigeria. As a leader who, while in the military applied physical force and in retirement initiated a prayer project-Nigeria Prays, he must have felt victimised by all those elements and groups whose activities have amounted to the reversal of the past achievements.
Every other person in Gowon’s shoes must have felt letdown that, even while still alive, his successors have already allowed the country’s well-cherished achievements to suffer severe setbacks. It is a kind of experience that dashes the hope for a better future, especially considering the fact that not much effort is being made to reposition or re-direct the country towards the path of unity and genuine development.
But it is, at the same time, an experience that comes with a challenge for especially those who have made huge investments in the future of the country and are therefore deserving and desirous of dividends. This kind of scenario easily turns into a battle between the investors and the spoilers or hijackers of the investments with each side desperately trying to either win over or destroy the other.
General Gowon, as both a soldier and a prayerful person, is a full warrior whose success or victory is almost all the times guaranteed. He clearly has all it takes in terms of knowledge of the country and the courage to spearhead the articulation and adoption of counter-measures against the evil acts of the country’s saboteurs.
He is therefore required by all those whose trust in him is unquantifiable to begin to engage the various stakeholders in the country for a discourse on the fundamental issues of national unity, security and development. There appears to be a strong desire among a lot of Nigerians that Gowon should embark on an open engagement of those groups making varying, nay conflicting, agitations about the structure, corporate existence and future of the country with a view to dousing the tension and ultimately finding a way out of the crises.
The belief that the former Military Head of State will be most joyous if, while still alive, normalcy returns to the country re-enforces the confidence that he will consider the weight of the call for his enough intervention so that the foreseen ugly circumstances can be averted. All the well-meaning citizens of Nigeria who are presently yearning for such an effort will definitely be a lot happier and more confident when they begin to see General Gowon’s hands in the process for the resolution of the crises in the country.