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Ojukwu Blames Civil War On Gowon

By Lemmy Ugheghe, Vanguard Daily (Lagos), 1 March 2001

Abuja—Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu said yesterday that former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon caused the Nigerian civil war (1967- 70). Chief Ojukwu who spoke at a seminar entitled, Historical Perspective of the Nigerian Civil War, Lessons for Nigeria, at the War College, Abuja said the war was triggered by Gowon's refusal to follow laid down rules and procedure in the army.

Many Nigerians and non-Nigerians blame Chief Ojukwu for causing the war after declaring a Republic of Biafra. But throwing light on the circumstances that led to the war yesterday, the former Biafran warlord said: I would be doing Nigeria wrong by failing to speak. Before you can understand the Nigerian civil war, we must go back and look at the army so as to decipher who was loyal and who was a rebel.

According to him, following the death of Maj.-Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi through the coup de'tat, he (Ojukwu) proposed that Col. Adebayo Ogundipe should succeed him given his position in the army hierarchy. Murtala agreed with my position but Gowon repeatedly said my boys will not accept that.

I (Ojukwu) asked him who his boys were that would alter the laid down rules and procedure, and since, I was then the Commander of the Eastern Zone and as such I decided to hold forte by challenging the desires of Gowon which led to the coup de'tat.

Because of my position, which was based on principle and against Gowon, the civil war broke out. For three years Gowon was trying to get me. The war was a continuation of the coup de'tat; the war was an orchestration of his (Gowon) desire to legitimise and rationalise his (Gowon) coup de'tat.

Chief Ojukwu acknowledged making some mistakes, saying I made some mistakes as a human being, but my mistakes were less than most people's because I had a background as an administrator which put me on a better pedestal to relate with the people.

On how to move Nigeria forward, he said peace will come when we have been able to look at past with sincerity and objectivity. Government, he said must lay emphasis on reconciliation, restitution and restructuring since to forget is not possible particularly when the wounds of the civil war are still hurting.

He asked Nigerians to adopt positive attitude to nation-building and shun selfishness as there is enough for everybody in this country and anybody who say otherwise is greedy.

He dismissed the 1999 constitution as selfishly conceived, wrongly formulated and unrepresentational of the collective interest and yearning of the Nigerian people.