Gowon's Broadcast - August 1, 1966


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‘No Trust or Confidence in a Unitary System of Government’: Lt.-Col. Gowon’s Broadcast on the Assumption of Office, 1 August 1966



This is Lt-Col. Y. Gowon, Army Chief of Staff, speaking to you.


My fellow countrymen, the year 1966 has certainly been a fateful year for our beloved country, Nigeria. I have been brought to the position today of having to shoulder the great responsibilities of this country and the armed forces with the consent of the majority of the members of the Supreme Military Council as a result of the unfortunate incident that occurred on the early morning of 29th July 1966.


     However, before I dwell on the sad issue of 29th July 1966, I would like to recall to you the sad and unfortunate incidents of 15th January 1966 which bear relevance. According to the certain well-known facts, which have so far not been disclosed to the nation and the world, the country was plunged into a national disaster by the grave and unfortunate action taken by a section of the Army against the public. By this I mean that a group of officers, in conjunction with certain civilians, decided to overthrow the legal government of the day; but their efforts were thwarted by the inscrutable discipline and loyalty of the great majority of the Army and the other members of the armed forces and the police. The Army was called upon to take up the reins of government until such time that law and order had been restored. The attempt to overthrow the government of the day was done by eliminating political leaders and high-ranking Army officers, a majority of whom came from a particular section of the country. The Prime Minister lost his life during this uprising. But for the outstanding discipline and loyalty of the members of the Army who are most affected, and the other members of the armed forces and the police, the situation probably could have degenerated into a civil war.


    There followed a period of determined effort of reconstruction ably shouldered by Maj-Gen. J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi but, unfortunately, certain parties caused suspicion and grave doubts of the Government’s sincerity in several quarters. Thus, coupled with the already unpleasant experience of the 15th January still fresh in the minds of the majority of the people, certain parts of the country decided to agitate against the military regime which ad hitherto enjoyed country-wide support. It was, unfortunately, followed by serious rioting and bloodshed in many cities and towns in the north.


     There followed a period of uneasy calm until the early hours of 29th July 1966, when the country was once again plunged into another very serious and grave situation, the second in seven months. The position on the early morning of 29th July was a report from Abeokuta garrison, that there was a mutiny and that two senior and one junior officers from a particular section of the country were killed. This soon spread to Ibadan and Ikeja. More casualties were reported in these places. The Supreme Commander was by this time at Ibadan attending the natural rulers’ conference and was due to return on the afternoon of 29th July. The Government Lodge was reported attacked and the last report was that he and the West Military Governor were both kidnapped by some soldiers. Up till now, there is no confirmation of their whereabouts. The situation was soon brought under control in these places. Very shortly afterward, at about the same time, there was a report that there  were similar disturbances among the troops in the North, and that a section of the troops had taken control of all military stations in the North as well. The units of Enugu and the garrison at Benin were not involved. All is now quiet and I can assure the public that I shall do all in my power to stop any further bloodshed and to restore law, order and confidence in all parts of the country with your co-operation and goodwill.


     I have now come to the most difficult part, or the most important part, of this statement. I am doing it, conscious of the great disappointment and heartbreak it will cause all true and sincere lovers of Nigeria and of Nigerian unity both at home and abroad, especially our brothers in the Commonwealth.


    As a result of the recent events and the other previous similar ones, I have come to strongly believe that we cannot honestly and sincerely continue in this wise, as the basis of trust and confidence in our unitary system of government has not been able to stand the test of time. I have already remarked on the issues in question. Suffice to say that, putting all considerations to test-political, economic, as well as social-the base for unity is not there or is so badly rocked, not only once but several times. I therefore feel that we should review the issue of our national standing and see if we can help stop the country form drifting away into utter destruction. With the general consensus of opinion of all the Military Governors and other members of the Supreme and Executive Council, a decree will soon be issued to lay a firm foundation of this objective. Fellow countrymen, I sincerely hope we shall be able to resolve most of the problems that have disunited us in the past and really come to respect and trust one another in accordance with an all-round code of good conduct and etiquette.


     All foreigners are assured of their personal safety and should have no fear of being molested.

     I intend to continue the policy laid down in the statement by the Supreme Commander on 16th January 1966 published on 26th January 1966.


     We shall also honour all international treaty obligations and commitments and all financial agreements and obligations entered into by the previous government. We are desirous of maintaining good diplomatic relationships with all countries. We therefore consider any foreign interference in any form will be regarded as an act of aggression.


     All members of the armed forces are requested to keep within their barracks except on essential duties and when ordered from SHQ. Troops must not terrorise the public, as such action will discredit the new National Military Government. Any act of looting or sabotage will be dealt with severely. You are to remember that your task is to help restore law and order and confidence in the public in time of crisis.


     I am convinced that with your co-operation and understanding, we shall be able to pull the country out of its present predicament. I promise you that I shall do all I can to return to civil rule as soon as it can be arranged. I also intend to pursue most vigorously the question of the release of political prisoners. Fellow countrymen, give me your support and I shall endeavour to live up to expectations. Thank you.



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