FORMER head of state General Yakubu Gowon has pleaded with those calling for the balkanisation of Nigeria with renewed calls for the creation of the failed Republic of Biafra to think again as the country is better off with Igbo’s being part of it.
Between July 1967 and January 1970, Nigeria’s Igbos tried to break away from the federation creating Biafra and bitter 30-month civil war ensued. As head of state, General Gowon had to lead the fight against the secessionist move and after the war, he had the tough task on uniting the traumatised nation.
Speaking yesterday in Onitsha at the funeral of Chinyere Asika, wife of the war-time sole administrator of East Central State Ukpabi Asika, General Gowon said Nigeria is better off with Igbos. He added that he had a deep appreciation of the commitment and sacrifice of the deceased and her husband, to the survival of Nigeria as one entity.
General Gowon said: “I was struggling to get an administrator for the newly created East Central State when the name of the late Ukpabi Asika came up. He was then a lecturer at Ibadan and when we met, I did not know which one of us was younger but he exuded strength of character and understanding and wanted to start work immediately.
“I cautioned him to think about it and told him you must consult your brothers and your wife to know if you would accept. I came away convinced that this was the man I needed.”
At the service which took place at the All Saints Anglican Cathedral, Onitsha ,Anambra State governor Willie Obiano also eulogised Mrs Asika. He described the deceased as a woman who exemplified the virtue of patience, charity and humility.
General Gowon added: “I did not know how to place his wife, Chinyere but when she arrived from Kenya, she plunged head-on into the idea. She was a courageous woman, caring and humble and I remember her efforts in Otu Olu Obodo, a public service initiative which she used as a tool of empowerment for her Igbo kinsmen and women.”
Governor Obiano told the children and the Asika family to imbibe the virtues of patience, charity and humility from Mrs Asika, while urging the congregation and Ndi Anambra to remember her good deeds and pray for the repose of her soul. Also in attendance was the former defence minister Lt General Theophilus Danjuma, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari.