General Yakubu Gowon was proclaimed leader of Nigeria on 01.08.1966,after the Nigerian army staged the second coup in an year.(It is known as the Nigerian Counter-Coup).
He was only 32 years of age at the time,being born in 1934.A career military officer,who had no political interest or experience,or ambitions,he was asked to become the leader by those who staged the second coup.He was asked to take over not only because he was the chief-of-staff at the time and the coup-makers were junior,but more so because he was apolitical,unambitious, not corrupt and was above the army factions,not being involved in both coups.He took over at a time when the eastern Nigeria broke away and proclaimed itself as Biafra.He fought on and won this war,securing the unity of the country and launched a programme to reconcile with the Biafrans.He was,in turn,ousted by the army in 1975.Thereafter,he entered the Oxford University to pursue the studies which were interrupted for a decade,earning his Doctorate.He never wanted to enter politics and is still involved in charities and is now considered as one of the few elder statesmen of Africa and the world.
I have studied the career of General Gowon,and have been able to learn the following from him
1.How to rise against partisanship and remain above the fray.
2. Secessionist wars can be won through military means,without much resources.(He successfully fought and ended the secessionist war in Biafra in 1970).
3. How reconciliation should happen after a victory,by being fogiving,conciliatory,magnanimous but firm.
4.How to treat the vanquished with respect and honor.
5. How to take the momentum of a war victory to bring progress to a country by capitalizing on the patriotism in a positive manner.
6.How to gracefully bow down after a defeat. Gowon was overthrown in another Coup in 1975,and he went to Britain to resume the interrupted studies and ended up with a Phd.
7.How to serve the broader interests of the people and the world in other ways. Gowon was,and is still,active in many non-political activities,both in Nigeria and in Africa and is now considered one of the much respected elder statesmen of Africa.
8. You can learn from your mistakes mistakes and be more productive.
9. A set-back is not the end of the road to a life.
10.Be humble and be a learner,no matter where you are (or were in the past).
11.Everyone can and has many things to fulfill in life,if you take stock of your position and think positively.
12.Not to be ambitious vindictive and vein,but to be broad-minded and forgiving.
Jagath Gunawardana Attorney-at-law