A former military head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, says the leader of the defunct Biafra, the late Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, underestimated him by thinking that he (Gowon) would never go to war.
Gowon, who led Nigerian forces to defeat Ojukwu’s army during the Nigerian civil war from 1967-1970, said this at the Diamond Jubilee Lecture of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria in Lagos on Thursday.
The former head of state said he was known to be a ‘Born Again’ Christian and Ojukwu, who was the then premier of the Eastern Region, thought his region could secede from Nigeria without consequences because he thought Gowon would not want to go to war.
He said, “During the crisis, my colleague and brother, Emeka Ojukwu, said, ‘We know Gen. Gowon, he is a Christian and he would not like to fight. Do you know the first thing he puts in his suitcase? His Bible; and that will make him not to engage in a fight’. I think unfortunately, he was proved wrong.
“As a Christian soldier, it was my duty to keep my country together.”
Gowon said he was happy that the new generation of Nigerian leaders were also putting the unity of Nigeria above their political ambitions.
He said despite the predictions that Nigeria would break up in 2015, the elections went on peacefully.
He also commended President Goodluck Jonathan and the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, for the conduct and outcome of the election.
Gowon commended the church, particularly Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria, for its role in nation building.
He said, “During the civil war from 1967-1970, it was the prayers of the people of God and the military that helped to keep the country together. It was God that helped to stem the tide of coups so that we could enjoy democracy today.
“Even when many predicted the break-up of Nigeria by 2015, the effective prayers of the people intervened and the elections were peaceful. As an observer, I was impressed by the turnout and camaraderie of all Nigerians.
“I said if the elections could be this peaceful, the end would be glorious. And didn’t it become glorious? It did by the act of good leadership in both parties and the acceptance of the outcome of the election even though it went against one of them.”
Also speaking, the Vice Chancellor, Mcpherson University, Ogun State, Prof. Adeniyi Agunbiade, said the church must be active in nation building.
He, therefore, urged all Christians to show the world the way.
“The church is more than just buildings and edifices; it is the lifeline of any society. It is a unique solution that should inculcate change. The church plays a very significant role in the society. It is meant to be the salt and light in the society, being the only organisation in the world with such high morality level,” he said.