Military Rebellion of July 29


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Military Rebellion of July 29, 1975:

The Coup Against Gowon - Part 4

continued from




Nowa Omoigui


Gowon’s Transition: Options for demilitarization.


Shortly after Gowon’s announcement in 1970 that he planned to hand over in 1976, an internal debate erupted within the bureaucracy regarding options for the country.   The four main options canvassed by policy analysts and advisers were,

  1. The evolution of a one party state with General Gowon as the leader

  2. A military-civilian combination – such as the Diarchy proposed by former President Nnamdi Azikiwe in which elected civilians would run the government but the military would have veto in a partnership.

  3.  Full elected civilian regime

  4. Full military rule (i.e. status quo )

It must be recalled, however, that this would not be the first time talk of demilitarization would occur in the Gowon regime.  During a broadcast on November 30, 1966, Gowon had said,


“As soldiers, my colleagues and I are ready to go back to the barracks any day. But the work of national reconstruction must be completed, public confidence in our institutions restored; and civilian leaders demonstrate to the nation that they are ready to take over and project a better image of the country than it had just before January, 1966……..” 


By “national reconstruction,” what Gowon meant at the time was as follows:

  1. Reorganization and long-term integration of the Nigerian Army.

  2. Resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced persons.

  3. Preparation of the Second National Development Plan.

  4. Continuation of the “fight against corruption in public life.”

  5. Preparation of a new constitution.

Just over six months later, during his inaugural address to the first civilian members of the federal executive council on June 12, 1967, Gowon said:


“Your appointment to the Federal Executive Council marks a turning point in the history of the military regime.  We are now embarking on the road back to full civilian rule…...  Left to me alone, I would have brought civilians into the Federal Executive Council in accordance with my promise to the nation long ago. But the mention of civilian rule was one of the nightmares of Lt. Col. Ojukwu. One of the many concessions I had to make to him was to keep civilians out of sight. He told me many times that we will be pushing him out of the Federation if I brought civilians into the Federal Executive Council. He always pleaded with me that he would find it very difficult to keep his own civilians and ex-politicians in the backroom if their counterparts elsewhere were to help me in running the Federal Government in Lagos.…Any neutral observer who has recently been to Enugu knows that Ojukwu was bent on forcing the East out of the Federation to satisfy his personal political ambitions….…I had to assume full powers and declare a state of national emergency to deal with the situation when it became clear that to me that no concession could stop Ojukwu from trying to secede; and Lt. Col. Ojukwu declared his secession in Enugu three days later..…..When the country has been reunited without Ojukwu, the Armed Forces will hand over to civilians chosen by the electorate….”


On July 1st, 1967 in another last minute public offer to avoid war, the federal government listed six conditions.  Interestingly, these included,


“2. Public announcement of acceptance and recognition of Federal Government authority over Eastern Nigeria by the former Military Governor, East, Lt. Col. Ojukwu or any other Eastern officer…(italics mine).    


4. Acceptance of appointment of Civilians as Commissioners into the Federal Executive Council and State Executive Councils….


6. Agreement that constitutional talks on the future of Nigeria will be held by the duly accredited and equal representatives of the twelve states.” (Some might interpret this – in modern day parlance - as a “national conference”)


Nevertheless, Ojukwu ignored all of these “conditions” and the war broke out five days later – which ended when another Eastern officer, Lt. Col. Effiong (then a Biafran Major General) surrendered following Ojukwu’s flight into exile. 


Barely two days after the war was formally declared over, one of the prominent politicians in the Gowon cabinet, Chief Anthony Enahoro, observed poignantly that:


“This was a military-military operation, and so I would like to make it quite clear there have been no peace negotiations of any kind and there will be no peace negotiations of any kind. When the time comes, the people of Nigeria (italics mine) will get together and work out their future.”


When Gowon announced his nine-point plan, therefore, there were already signs of a growing schism between those were eager to see the military (as a whole) leave the scene immediately (now that the war was over) and those who were not.  Unsurprisingly, the newly victorious military-bureaucratic elite was among the latter.  Then there was a schism between those who felt six years (1970-76) was too long for the transition and those who felt it was just fine, given the intricacies of reconciliation, rehabilitation and post-war economic stabilization.  Deep in the background were those elements of the conservative traditional power blocs that were apprehensive of the modernizing tendencies of the military. 


The departure of two prominent civilian members of the Gowon cabinet at that time reflected some of these underlying dynamics.  In June 1970, Alhaji Yahaya Gusau, then Federal Commissioner for Economic Development and Reconstruction, resigned over infighting with his “super permanent secretary”, Allison Ayida, who he felt was bypassing him with Gowon’s approval.  Virtually one year later, on June 30, 1971, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Federal Commissioner for Finance and Vice Chairman of the Federal Executive Council resigned, some say to prepare for politics, while others say it was to protest certain early signals that civilian rule was increasingly becoming a mirage


Nevertheless, Gowon did lift the ban on politics in 1972. Pressure groups like the intelligentsia, press, and trade unions called for a rapid return to multiparty democracy. But Awolowo's call for Nigeria to become a "democratic socialist" state made many in the military uncomfortable.   Demands for new states were also prominent and the debate became bitter.   When former President Azikiwe, for example, proposed an increase from 12 to 22 states, he was attacked by East Central Administrator Ukpabi Asika, who referred to ex-office holders like Azikiwe as “ex-this”, “ex-that”, and “nattering nabobs of negativism.”  In North Central State, acrimony between the old Zaria and Katsina provinces was also highly acrimonious. Such fierce exchanges made Gowon nervous. In an interview with Elaigwu, he would later explain that he did not want to take decisive (or perhaps precipitous) action on the States issue because,


 “…..there are some things whose nut you will find you cannot crack at this time; time will help sort out the issue.”


A mixed group of civilian Federal and State Commissioners, Military Governors, the Administrator of the East Central State and some Federal “super permanent secretaries” were the most articulate campaigners for the “National Movement” or “One Party State” option for Nigeria under Gowon.  The most prominent civilians in the group were Mr. Tayo Akpata, Alhaji Femi Okunnu, Mr. Ukpabi Asika, Mr. Phillip Asiodu and Mr. Allison Ayida. Teams were even sent abroad to study models in other countries, including Egypt, Zaire and Guinea.  For example, in early 1972, one of the “super permanent secretaries”, Eme Ebong, led a delegation to Egypt.  While Gowon readily acknowledges that such efforts were indeed made by others, he denies having any personal interest in perpetuating himself along such lines. 


Nevertheless, under the guise of consultation, conferences on “national policy” were held at different locations in the country, attended by elements of the military, traditional, bureaucratic and intellectual elite.   It was at one such conference held in Zaria in October 1972 that the first hint of a crack in the military became subtly apparent.  According to Professor Billy Dudley, then Lt. Col. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Commander of the 9 Infantry Brigade (and a protégé of Brigadier Murtala Mohammed) openly opposed a “National Movement” model (with Gowon at the top).  He openly said that an officer may well be able and competent but would be useless as a commander if he could not win the loyalty of his men.  Little did those in the audience appreciate at the time that the dark complexioned, soft spoken, young Lt. Col. from the “far north” would later mastermind a coup that would remove Gowon from office.


Meanwhile, Gowon’s “Bureaucratic Knights” (as former President Shagari describes them), carried on relentlessly.  In an address to the Nigerian Economic Society in 1973 titled “The Nigerian Revolution, 1966-76”, Allison Ayida said,


“…In the light of our recent history, there is equally convincing evidence to demonstrate that a national leadership acceptable to the country as a whole will not emerge in 1976 through an autonomous election like a deus ex machina.”


Although he was speaking in the context of justifying a ‘national movement’, there was good reason for Ayida’s gloomy forecast.   Opposition had obviously been gathering since 1970 to various aspects of the nine-point plan, bringing together a disparate group of special interests.  For one, former politicians were eager to return to the good old days prior to 1966. Any delay – for whatever reason - was unwelcome.  University based intelligentsia were envious of the new status (and access) being enjoyed by senior civil servants in the “military-bureaucratic” alliance.    They were humiliated (and alienated) by the ultimatum given them by Gowon during the lecturers’ strike of 1973 to succumb or be forcibly packed out of University Housing by soldiers.  Within the larger community of intelligentsia, ‘far north’ elements in particular were alleged to have become increasingly concerned about “southern influences” around Gowon who, in any case, had long been viewed in some quarters as being a “Christian missionary.”  It did not matter that Gowon had appointed the deserving and highly competent Alhaji Abdul Aziz Atta as the Secretary to the FMG and Head of the Civil Service to replace Ejueyitchie when the latter retired.  Fully one third of all Federal Permanent Secretaries came from the Midwest (now Edo and Delta States).   That they had helped save Nigeria in time of crisis was now a distant consideration and in any case, some of the compromises of the civil war era were now deemed to have since outlived their usefulness.


Further, the Sahel drought of 1972-74, said to be the worst since 1914, badly affected the ‘far north.’ Although he responded strategically by supporting heavy federal and state investments in irrigation schemes and reforestation, some accused Gowon of responding too little and too late.  In the opinion of some, he did not even bother to visit the region to commiserate until late 1973.  Paradoxically, in a meeting that was arranged to smooth things over, Gowon came across to some of these men as being “high handed” and “arrogant.”  According to Billy Dudley, such men included Dr. Mahmud Tukur, Ibrahim Tahir, Suleiman Kumo, Jibril Aminu, Mohammed Uwais, among others.   According to this hypothesis, with the support of some old ‘native authority’ functionaries, some members of the so-called “far northern intelligentsia” eventually hooked up with some of “far north” element in the military (some of whom had personal grudges and agendas). They allegedly used the platform of common old school ties at Barewa College and Government College, Keffi.  Thus, through what later became known as the “Kaduna Mafia”, they allegedly undermined not only the option for a one-party state under a civilianized Gowon (surrounded by a clique of “super-permanent secretaries” from the far south), but also the notion of continuing military rule under his tutelage. 


It was clear by early 1974, therefore, that the one-party idea (under Gowon) was not going to sell (and Gowon himself says he was not interested in it).  It was also evident – from the national policy conferences - that the concept of a Dyarchy had little public support.  It was left, therefore, for Gowon to choose from between a return to full civilian rule and a continuation of the status quo.  Although there were already undercurrents against him, it was his decision on October 1, 1974 to opt for a continuation of the status quo (and renege on his promise to leave in 1976) that unmasked full-scale efforts to get him out of office – by any means necessary.


The political and economic substrate


A coup is a political event.  It requires a motive, the means by which the motive can be fulfilled and the opportunity to do so.    Let us place the political and economic substrate in context. 


Gowon basked in international and national glory immediately after the war.  Although some writers are quick to dismiss his time in office with all sorts of epithets, the truth is that he (and many of his governors) achieved many great things and established many important foundations for the country (and their states).  Some of these foundations have since fallen by the wayside, ignored or even undermined in the feeding frenzy of some of the leaders who came afterwards.  But like many leaders before and after him, he also faced some serious problems and made some very serious errors.  Among many key events of the Gowon era were the following:


1.        The switch from ‘left hand drive’ to ‘right hand drive’ bringing in advantages in the regional and world economy.


2.        In line with decimalization, the currency switches, on January 1st 1973, from ‘Pounds and Pennies’ to ‘Naira and Kobo’ and the currency diversification of Nigeria’s external reserves. 


3.        Development of a Federal Low Cost Housing Scheme – albeit beyond the reach of many.


4.        Gowon maintained very strong support for African liberation movements and kept Nigeria’s role in the nonalignment movement.  In September 1970, he speedily patched up relations with those African countries that had supported Biafra during the civil war.  On February 10, 1971, he implemented a strategic decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. (Gowon subsequently visited China in September 1974.)  Nigeria remained a strong member of the Commonwealth, although difficulties arose with Britain’s Conservative Party over its decision to sell weapons to Apartheid South Africa and its application for membership of the EEC. 


5.        The Gowon government made a decision in 1971 to join OPEC – the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries.


6.        Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Decree No. 4 of 1972  (better known as the “Indigenization Decree”). Although well intentioned by patriotic motives, this decree, which was formally promulgated in April 1974, was plagued by allegations of ethnic and insider favoritism and corruption and may even have been premature (in the view of some) given the underdevelopment of appropriate business ethic among indigenous entrepreneurs.   Many shares were acquired for little or no value, feeding into the consumptive (rather than productive) mentality of many Nigerians.  Twenty-two (22) activities were exclusively reserved for Nigerians and international commercial banks were to reserve at least 40% of all loans and advances to Nigerian businesses.  Because of the alleged ethnic distribution of those who were said to have benefited the most, there is – to this day - a residual bitterness in certain parts of the polity about the “Indigenization Decree.” Nevertheless, at the time the decree was conceptualized, foreigners owned about 70 percent of commercial firms in Nigeria.  It was not the kind of statistic any government could ignore.


7.      Establishment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) via Decree No. 24 of 1973.   In spite of its subsequent financial and organizational problems, most people view the establishment of the NYSC as one of the highlights of the Gowon era. Interestingly, though, at the time, students (allegedly prompted by politicians) went on a nationwide strike to protest it. But this was not the first brush between the Gowon regime and students.  In 1971, Kunle Adepeju, a student at the University of Ibadan died of gun shot wounds during demonstrations against the University administration.


8.        Hosting of the Second All-African Games in Lagos in 1973 at which John AkiiBua of Uganda broke the world record in the 400 meters hurdles.  


9.        Establishment of the Agricultural and Cooperative Bank, and the Bank of Commerce and Industry.   These were also well intentioned, designed to assist Nigerian business and agricultural class with sources of capital. However, many Nigerians chose to divert such agricultural and commercial loans and grants to other pursuits.


10.      Following a successful summit in Addis Ababa, General Gowon became Chairman of the OAU from 1973 to 1974.  It was as OAU Chairman that he coordinated the solidarity decision of many Black African states to sever diplomatic relations with Israel following the 1973 October Yom Kippur War.


11.     Along with President Eyadema of Togo, the establishment of ECOWAS in May 1975.  The Nigeria Trust Fund at the African Development Bank – which finances projects in poorer African countries was also a child of the Gowon regime.


12.     Conceptualization and initiation of the Universal Primary Education (UPE) Scheme. Although plagued by subsequent problems of inadequate planning and projection (in part due to expectations of bigger Oil revenues and a slip of tongue during a public rally), the intention was laudable. 


13.     Establishment of the National Universities Commission (NUC) in 1974. 


14.     Construction of massive road networks and conceptualizing a massive program of investments in public infrastructure.


15.  Planning for the second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) was initiated by the Gowon regime but the event was postponed until 1977 by his successors, citing administrative hitches and the need to scale it down.


Let us now review some of Gowon’s more serious ‘misadventures’.  It must be noted, however, that many of these are a matter of opinion.


Political misadventures


Although it was one of the few items among his “nine points” that he pursued with vigor, perhaps the most serious political misadventure of the Gowon era was the 1973 census. Results released in May 1974 (against the advice of the Census Commission Chairman) indicated that Nigeria's population (supposedly 79.76 million) had increased by 43.3 percent since 1963, far more than any other any developing country. With 64 percent of the reported population, the ‘North’ had registered an increase of 72.4% since the1963 result that was controversial even then.  The Midwest had increased in population by 27.6 percent, and the East by 11 percent, while the West decreased by 6.0 percent.  Lagos increased by 71.5 percent.  In spite of the ban on political activity (which Gowon had reinstituted in light of public acrimony about States creation) prominent Nigerians went public with angry protests about the results.  “It just can’t be true” said Chief Awolowo of the West in a major speech.  Others, including some military officers from areas that “improved” their scores, made public statements praising the count. Gowon did try – unconvincingly – to reassure the nation that post-enumeration check (but not a recount) would be conducted and that the final result would be released in October 1975. 


From the standpoint of the military the census provided a way to increase the defence budget without the knowledge of the public.   According to Oluleye, because soldiers were involved in the exercise, “finance for movement and “Basha” Barracks construction was made available from the census account.”  When the exercise became controversial, however, the Army found its image smeared by its involvement.   One of the unintended consequences of the Census debacle, coming at the same time as the Tarka and Gomwalk corruption scandals, was that it created an atmosphere for politicians to begin having informal discussions with elements within the military.


Economic misadventures


The effect of wartime economic policies on wartime trade union tensions and post war inflation has already been alluded to.   But certain government actions after the war, although intended to increase real earning power in light of inflation, paradoxically encouraged even more inflation.  In January 1971, Gowon, reeling under accusations that his wartime actions (rather than international economic dynamics) were responsible for inflation, implemented the recommendations of the Simeon Adebo Wages and Salaries Commission and increased the salaries of workers.  Surprisingly, labor unrest resulted, some say aggravated by the not so tactful announcement by Information Commissioner Chief Enahoro that those private companies that had increased their salaries at least once since 1964 would be exempted.  Following the second and final report of the Commission, however, a subsequent controversial pay raise (with arrears) was again approved by the SMC in October 1971. 


In September 1974, Gowon accepted the report of the Jerome Oputa Udoji panel on public service organization, management and remuneration. However, when put into effect in January 1975, only the salary component of the report was implemented. The rest of the report was allegedly ignored.   According to then Federal Finance Commissioner, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, even the payment of salaries was carried out against guidelines recommended by Udoji and the Federal Ministry of Finance.  Civil Servants who drafted the government white paper on the Udoji award apparently skewed it to favour the civil service, thus igniting a wave of labor unrest because of the private and public sector discrepancies, exploited, some say, by disgruntled politicians and scheming soldiers.  Lump sums were paid in full along with up to nine months of arrears – fueling inflation as workers went on a spending spree.  


Because there was also widespread unemployment, inequities in distribution of wealth became apparent, increasing social tension. What had happened was that the process of transition from an agrarian economy of the sixties to a petro-naira based industrial-urban economy of the seventies had resulted in massive rural-urban drift in search of better remuneration.  Added to this was the effect of more and more “westernized” school graduates entering the labour market at a time the national industrial and agricultural base had not yet expanded sufficiently to absorb them – and huge politically unpopular defence expenditures were being sustained in the absence of demobilization.  The unemployment problem was particularly severe in the East, still recovering from the war and the initial residual reluctance of skilled Igbo to venture outside the East for jobs. 


In early 1975 oil production fell steeply because of a sudden decline in world demand, resulting in lower prices and shortfalls in revenue expectations.  Although prices recovered somewhat later in the year after an intervention by OPEC, the temporary economic gloom – and alleged mismanagement that caused it – combined with the widespread “Udoji” industrial action in May and June which brought the country to standstill, helped in rationalizing the overthrow of the government in July.


Ports Congestion


During the civil war, Port Harcourt was closed to foreign shipping. Lagos (Apapa) was the only port available for the country’s predominantly military needs.   Hence the government acquired the ports of Warri, Burutu and Calabar along with Koko and Bonny.   After the war, non-military goods flooded the ports, which thus had to be quickly rehabilitated.  Unfortunately the rehabilitation carried out was grossly insufficient to meet Nigeria’s unanticipated and explosive petrodollar economic needs.  Cargo traffic far exceeded the capacity of the Ports and the sixties era narrow roads and bridges at that time were collapsing under the weight of road haulage.  Rail haulage did not meet expectations either.  Containers were, therefore, being offloaded at the port creating huge delays in transition.   All sorts of measures were adopted to remedy the situation but they proved insufficient.  Therefore, Gowon appointed Brigadier Adekunle as the Military Port Commandant of Lagos with full emergency powers to decongest the port.


Unfortunately, cargo congestion was not the only problem.  Wartime Import embargoes had been lifted and foreign exchange controls relaxed.  The demand for cement and other building materials was astronomical, fueled in part by the Udoji salary awards.  Under pressure from the military the government committed itself to a massive Barrack building program and thus ordered 16 million metric tonnes of cement for the MOD alone, amounting to 80% of the country’s total cement import.


Although all Nigerian Ports combined could only handle 6.5 million tonnes of general cargo per annum, the government had expected ALL 16 million metric tonnes for the MOD delivered within twelve months!


By April 1975 about 105 ships, were waiting on the high seas for berthing facilities. By June the number had climbed to 455, of which 300 vessels were carrying cement.  Forced to wait an average of 180 days before berthing, freight surcharges of 30 % to 100 % were being paid per ship with the effect of raising import prices.   At the same time Nigerian agricultural exports suffered.   It has been estimated that the Government paid $ 4100 per day in demurrage for each cement vessel delayed over ten days.  


Intra-regional and Inter-regional tensions


Part of the background “political noise” during the Gowon era was created by intra-regional and inter-regional tensions that had emerged between some of the newly created states and between some of the old regions. 


The Interim Common Services Agency (ICSA), for example, was designed to oversee assets held in common by northern states at the time they were created from the defunct northern region in 1967.  Many politicians, writers, observers, and agents provocateur in the south saw it as a sign of perpetuation of the former allegedly monolithic "North", particularly after the controversial results of the 1973 census were released, apparently favoring the “old North.”  Long after Gowon left office, however, Nigeria has continued to suffer from such manifestations (real and imagined) of the colonial North-South dichotomy.   


The Eastern States Interim Assets and Liabilities Agency (ESIALA) did not attract such controversy from outside the former eastern region.  However, a bitter dispute arose within, between Rivers and East Central States regarding the disposition of properties – particularly in Port-Harcourt - owned by Igbo that had been “abandoned” during the war.   


In addition, border incidents between states popped up from time to time.  This remains an ongoing issue.


Foreign Policy


This is a difficult area because of the lack of complete information from all concerned.  The late Major General JN Garba has written his own opinions of Gowon’s foreign policy ‘misadventures’.  However, General Gowon has rarely gone on record to explain his thinking in detail on many less well-known areas of foreign policy during in his time.  Thus, what has been labeled negatively by some of his critics may simply be the direct result of lack of information.  I am in a position to comment in detail on some of them, like the Cameroon border problem.  


Some of Gowon’s close lieutenants – like the late Vice Admiral Wey – were extremely tight lipped about their experiences in government. But the Admiral did, on more than occasion before he died, express regret that those who took over from their government in July 1975 never bothered to seek policy clarity from them directly on any issue.  The Adedeji panel of 1975/76, which reviewed foreign policy since independence, took no submissions from Gowon or Wey or Hassan. 


Examples include details of how a planned mercenary invasion of Equatorial Guinea, for purposes of reviving Biafra, was thwarted and whether there were any trade-offs.  Then there was the case of personal diplomacy in his pledge to assist Hamani Diori with Nigerian troops during a coup attempt in 1972.  Others include Gowon’s decision – in 1975 - to pay the salaries of civil servants in Grenada and train their Police force at Nigerian expense. 


Gowon’s meetings with President Ahidjo of Cameroun were aimed at resolving the demarcation of the maritime boundary between the two countries.  The two men never discussed the Bakassi peninsula.  It was Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa that acknowledged the status and Camerounian sovereignty of the peninsula based on the facts at the time of Nigerian Independence.   The land border (near the sea) was demarcated at that time (1960) and the beacons are still there.  Gowon met with Ahidjo on April 4th, 1971 and reached a controversial agreement (as advised by Surveyor R Oluwole Coker) on the maritime delineation up to three miles offshore.  At Kano on September 1st, 1974, they declared a 2-kilometer corridor on either side of the line joining Fairway Buoy to Buoys Nos. 1, 2, 3 existing on Chart 3433 as an area free from oil prospecting activity. They also agreed – on Ahidjo’s insistence - to refer the whole issue of border demarcation to the UN for international arbitration. Later on, Nigeria discovered that an oil rig that had been set up by Cameroun in the Calabar channel had not been removed.  When Nigeria protested, Ahidjo explained that the rig was inactive but was only being “serviced.”  He later said he was willing to concede the Calabar Channel to Nigeria in its entirety (as some members of the Nigerian delegation had wanted in 1971). In return he wanted Cameroon-based companies to be able to prospect for oil within the channel just around the rig located one kilometer east of the Calabar Fairway Buoy. It was to resolve the implications of Ahidjo’s new proposal regarding the maritime frontier that Gowon met with Ahidjo at Maroua on May 31st 1975.  The line of delineation – marked on Chart 3433 - was known as the “Maroua Declaration.” Some lower level officials of both nations met on June 1st to discuss the wording of a “Joint Communique. ” The Cameroonians, led by Samuel Libook wanted a reference to the 1913 Anglo-German Treaty to be included in the one of the paragraphs in order to protect the freedom of shipping by either nation in the channel. The Nigerians, led by Ambassador Iyalla preferred otherwise, saying that agreements between independent African nations ought not to be guided by pacts between colonial powers – a point, nonetheless, that was tacitly at variance with existing OAU resolutions.  Unable to reach agreement, the matter was referred to the two Heads of State.  The new line of maritime frontier demarcation proceeded from Point 12 at the terminal of the line agreed on in 1971 and terminated at Point G, at the extreme southerly point on Chart 3433 accepted by both countries.  In the view of diplomats present, the newly defined line of demarcation secured the freedom of the Calabar channel, considered vital to Nigeria’s security interests. 




As previously noted, although Gowon was not personally corrupt, some persons in his regime allegedly engaged in corrupt practices.   For example, by the time of the coup, the average commercial property holding of his Governors was estimated at about 8 houses each in the range of N49,000 – N120,000,  along with farming estates.  This was a big deal at that time, although, using standards of Nigerian corruption in subsequent regimes, Gowon’s Governors were, in retrospect, Boy Scouts, as far as stealing is concerned. 


Nevertheless, like many regimes that came after, he did make an initial and ongoing effort to be seen combating corruption, such as with the Investigation of Assets Decree No. 37 of 1968 and subsequent efforts to investigate and punish deep seated post-war corruption in the military. It was also, in 1973, during Gowon’s regime, that the Police (under Alhaji Kam Salem) established the “X-Squad”.  It was specifically designed to investigate fraud, both in the public and private sectors.    Interestingly, the X-Squad, in its early years, unmasked many scandals.   What I am unclear about is how many cases were successfully prosecuted. 


For example, using the technique of over-invoicing, construction materials were often bought outside the country by public servants and contractors at exorbitant prices.   The difference between the purchase price and true market value was then expropriated.   Even the practice of importing expired drugs was already well established.


In March 1974, an international hemp trafficking scandal occurred.  Ms. Iyabo Olorunkoya mentioned the names of Brigadiers Sotomi and Adekunle in court papers in the UK.  Although they claimed innocence and denied some salacious details, both Brigadiers were retired by Gowon from the Army after she was convicted – reportedly under pressure from their embarrassed military colleagues. 


Even more important for Gowon’s image, however, was what took place in July 1974.  One Mr. Godwin Daboh – allegedly instigated by Paul Unongo and Benue-Plateau State Governor Joseph Gomwalk - wrote open letters to Federal Communications Commissioner Joseph Tarka who, along with the others, was also from Gowon’s home state of Benue-Plateau. He followed the open letters with an affidavit in court alleging corruption.  Tarka – a political juggernaut of the middle belt - was eventually hounded by the Press into resigning from office on August 1st, 1974.  In a subsequent Daily Times newspaper article, however, it was revealed that Tarka had initially resisted resigning because ‘If I resign, it will set off a chain of reactions of various events, the end of which nobody could foretell.’


A month later, on August 31st, a protégé of Tarka, one Mr. Aper Aku accused Benue-Plateau Governor Gomwalk of corruption in an affidavit filed at the Jos High Court.  Before that he had written several letters to Gomwalk and Gowon alleging corruption against Gomwalk.  After the affidavit, Aku was arrested for public incitement.  But Gomwalk was also called to Lagos to defend himself against the charges. 





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