On this day, the head of state, Major-General Yakubu Gowon told the Organization of African Union consultative mission to Nigeria that the most valuable contribution that the mission could make in the present circumstances at that time was to call on the rebel leaders to abandon secession.
Speaking at the opening session of the mission meeting in Lagos, the head of the Federal Military Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Major-General Gowon said, “We cannot cease the current military operations to end the rebellion in the eastern parts of Nigeria until the rebels renounce secession. A new leadership of the East Central State must accept the new structures of the Federation based on 12 states.
After the cessation operations on these terms, representatives of the Federal Government and the states will then discuss the form of a new constitution and other matters. The Federal Government, in consultation with the state governments, will arrange for the resettlement of the victims of the upheavals of 1966 and 1967 and the rehabilitation of damaged areas.”
Speaking on the secession bid of the former Eastern Region, Gowon said, “Once the so-called secession was declared, the Federal Military Government had no alternative but to use force to end the rebellion. There is no peaceful means of ending secession, especially where the secessionist leaders are not prepared to listen to the voice of reason. I know the tragedies of war and the hardships that war inflicts on innocent citizens. I saw action in the Camerouns and the Congo and can therefore speak from experience. That is why I did so much to prevent the situation in Nigeria from developing into war.”
On the determination to keep Nigeria one, General Gowon said that if Nigeria failed, there was no guarantee that other African leaders could contain secessionist movements in their own parts of the continent.
“It was the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tahombe yesterday, it is Nigeria and Ojukwu today, who knows which African country will be the next,” he said.