Gowon, Yakubu (Nigeria)
Yakubu Gowon became the leader of the Federal Military Government following a countercoup in June 1966. He played an important role in the ending of the Biafra civil war.
Gowon was born on 19 Oct. 1934, the son of a missionary from a small Northern Region tribe, the Angas. After his schooling in Nigeria, he enrolled in the Nigerian Army and was sent to the Regular Officers’ Special Training School in Ghana. He then received training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in England between 1955–6. He served in the Congo twice and in 1963 he was appointed adjutant-general of the Nigerian army. Gowon did not play a major part in the countercoup of 1966 but was chosen as a compromise candidate to lead the government.
Promises of a return to civilian rule failed to come to fruition and in 1967 Gowon declared a state of emergency, restructuring Nigeria’s four regions into 12 states. The Eastern Region responded by declaring independence as the state of Biafra. 3 years of civil war followed, after which Gowon pursued an enlightened policy of ‘no victor, no vanquished’. Despite a growing international reputation, his government was tainted by corruption and economic mismanagement. He was overthrown in a bloodless military coup in July 1975 while attending a meeting in Uganda.
Following his overthrow, Gowon went into exile in Great Britain.