Nigeria’s former military Head of State, Yakubu Gowon has opened on how at the age of 31 he became Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The former military ruler disclosed that coup and counter coup led him to power.
Gowon gave a breakdown of events that led to his emergence to power in a book titled, “The First Regular Combatant: Brigadier General Zakariya Maimalari,” which will be launched today, July 4 in Abuja.
The former head of state said that his then superior, Zakariya Maimalari would have been the Head of State in July 1966 but he could not as he was killed in a counter coup.
The book giving a breakdown of the coup and counter coup recalled that Major Nzeogwu at that time, had executed a failed coup on January 15, 1966.
The coup led to the assassination of the prime minister, Abubakar Balewa, the premier of the northern region, Ahmadu Bello, and the premier of the western region, Samuel Akintola.
Key officers from the North were also killed, including Maimalari.
Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi,who was the most senior military officer assumed power following the execution of the coup.
However his failure to prosecute those behind the coup led to his overthrow and subsequent death in a counter-coup by officers from the North.
Gowon, who was a lieutenant Colonel and Chief of Staff to Aguiyi-Ironsi, became Nigeria’s Head of State at 31.
“He would have been a natural choice for leadership after the event of that day. I do not see how I could have become commander-in-chief, if Maimalari or any of those senior ones above me from the same school were alive,” Gowon said.
In a previous report by NAIJ.com, Gowon urged Nigerians to eschew all forms of violence, criminal acts and behaviour capable of dividing the country.
“We should value the lives of our fellow human beings that God has created for a purpose. May we never take lives with impunity.
“We are offering fervent prayers that Nigerians will never raise their hands against one another.
“They should love one another irrespective of religious, ideological, political and ethnic affinities,” he said.