Yakubu Gowon (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: Military head of state of Nigeria from 1966 to 1975, Gowon led the federal side to victory in the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War (1967-1970).
Born to a Christian missionary family, Yakubu Gowon received his early education in Zaria, Nigeria. In 1954, he enlisted in the Nigerian army. From 1955 to 1962, his military training took him to Cheshire, Sandhurst, Hythe and Warminster, and Surrey, all in England. He was appointed adjutant general of the Nigerian army in 1963.
When the army seized political power on January 15, 1966, Gowon became chief of staff at army headquarters. Following another military putsch six months later, Gowon, at thirty-two, became the head of state and the supreme commander of the Nigerian armed forces. Unabated ethnoregional conflicts resulted in a bitterly divisive, thirty-month secessionist civil war, which pitted the Ibo tribe against the Nigerian federal government. Gowon demonstrated remarkable leadership in leading the federal side to victory and genuine magnanimity in successfully reabsorbing and reconciling the defeated Biafrans.
Under Gowon, the Nigerian army grew from a largely ceremonial army of 10,000 to an elite army of 250,000 soldiers. Gowon’s failure to restore civilian rule, check corruption, or ensure efficient management of Nigeria’s sudden prosperity from oil resulted in his overthrow in a bloodless coup in July, 1975.
(The entire section is 270 words.)
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