FORMER military head of state General Yakubu Gowon has turned down the offer of apologising to Nigeria’s Igbos for the ordeal they went through during the civil war saying that his government did the right thing to keep the nation one.
Between July 1967 and January 1970, Nigeria fought a bloody civil war in response to a declaration by the Igbos to secede from the federation. They had declared the Republic of Biafra and sought to create a sovereign nation in response to pogroms Igbos suffered across Nigeria during which 30,000 innocent people were murdered in cold blood.
In the ensuing war, it is estimated that 2m Igbos died, the bulk of them children, starved to death as Biafra was blockaded by land, sea and air with no access to food. General Gowon, who was Nigeria’s head of state at the time, agreed to establish mercy corridors to supply Igbos with food but disagreements between himself and the Biafra leader Odumegwu Ojukwu scuttled the plan.
This week, Nigeria has been recognising the 50th anniversary of the end of the war and while speaking on the subject, General Gowon insisted he did the right thing. In interview he granted the Hausa service of the BBC, General Gowon said he sees no reason why he should be remorseful over the civil war.
General Gowon said: “The Biafran war was fought only to keep Nigeria one, contrary to what some people who wanted disintegration. Henceforth, I see no reason as to why I should be remorseful over what we’ve done; since we did it because of our love for the country.”
He added that the war ended with no victor, no vanquished and Igbos were fully integrated into Nigeria after the conflict. To his credit, General Gowon insisted that no civil war medals should be handed out to the victorious Nigerian troops after the conflict and he also introduced a reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation programme.