From the blog

NIGERIA: ‘My Father Arrived London With N75k Not Half Of Central Bank’ – Ibi Gowon

Reactions continue to trail last week’s UK parliamentary debate of the #EndSars protest in Nigeria, mainly because of the recommendation of sanctions against Nigeria government officials for their role in the massacre that followed the protest, but also for a particular inference of looting made against former head of state General Yakubu Gowon by MP Tom Tugendhat in his submission.

Tugendhat claimed that Gowon arrived London after his reign as Nigeria’s head of state with half of the country’s central Bank, a claim that Gowon has described as baseless and reckless.

Now General Gowon’s son Ibrahim has added his voice to the controversy in a letter to Tugendhat, who he branded ‘dishonourable’ and accused of abusing his parliamentary privilege to make baseless accusations without any proof.

In the statement preceding the letter, Ibi thanked ‘’friends who got in touch with me regarding the utterly preposterous words uttered by the Right Dishonourable Member Tom Tugendhat, earlier this week’’.

‘’This ill-informed weasel made claims that could easily be refuted by simple fact checking. He had his full faculties about him when he made his utterances and this odious individual knew he could hide behind his Parliamentary Privilege so as to avoid any legal proceedings.

The flippant, perfectly placed “so it’s said” comment used with dramatic effect as his “get out of jail” card. In any other setting this would be nothing short of slander. It is said that the first thing someone will do when they want to bring another person down is to sully that person’s name; and that is precisely what Tugendhat attempted to do to my father. 

Ibi lamented the way Nigerians jumped on the bandwagon and lapped up Tugendhat’s comments and wondered if we have become so idle that we do not bother checking facts anymore, asking ‘are we so devoid of our history that we believe what any imbecile says? Or is it that some oyinbo says something and we take it as fact, because he is a British Parliamentarian, and his words/views are gospel? If the latter is the case, then we have hope. They have us where they want us; trapped in a colonial, post-imperial mind-set; prepared to suckle on the teat of whatever bosom full of nonsense we are fed. 

I have communicated my displeasure to the member Tugendhat. To say what he did without a shrewd of evidence serves only to prove he is the mother more than a monger of mendacity. 

Below is Ibi’s letter detailing how the first family scrapped by on their arrival in England after the coup d’état that deposed General Gowon from office: 

Mr. Tugendhat 

I must say I am incredibly disappointed in you and what you said. I used to think you were one of the decent ones in the house; alas I was proved wrong. 

You went on air and stated that Gen. Gowon had left Nigeria with half the CBN. Where on earth did you get those facts from? Who did your research? What you uttered was false. He was a man who was ousted from power whilst in Kampala. When there, it was through friends that he managed to get funds to travel to Britain. When he arrived in the UK he had to his name N75,000 Naira to his name is his sole account. With no home to call his own, it was the charity of others that allowed him and his family to survive. He had no house. A friend, a Mr. Emmanuel Oti allowed him and his family to stay in one of his properties. The name Oti might ring a bell with you. Emmanuel’s son played rugby for England. 

The Nigerian authorities at that time made sure they froze his account. Those were difficult times. Times when one had periods where there was no electricity and food was scarce at times. I remember My mother lighting candles, so one could do homework. I recall very well eating boiled rice flavoured with a bit of butter to flavour and pilchards, because we had no money. I can still “taste” that meal to this day. Even the second hand green left hand drive VW Passat he drove was bought for him. I will return to this. 

When my parents bought a house it was through the charity of others. Friends clubbed together so that he and his family could have a home, particularly as he had enrolled at the University of Warwick where he would for the next six years and would earn his BA and PhD. The back and forth to Warwick and the inclement British weather eventually wore out his Passat. Some years later some of his friends thought it was unbefitting of him to drive the vehicle he then had and purchased a more suitable vehicle for him. 

What particularly irks me about your grandstanding is you make out he was one of the looters. You make those accusations with no backing whatsoever. Perhaps you should consult the historian Ed Keazor who has interviewed all the people who took part in the 1975 coup plus other important politicians and civil servants of that era, and he will paint you an accurate picture. Had my father taken half of CBN one would have resided in Belgravia, and I and my sisters would no doubt reside in one of those six storey town houses in SW1, SW3, SW5 or SW7, and not a two-bedroom flat in North London. In addition to all this my sister and I attended prep school and the public school not because of ill-gotten wealth, but because of the generosity of friends and benefactors. Every time I watch The Bond film Skyfall, the line said by Javier Barden about Bond always having attended the schools and institutions he did at the goodwill of others, resonates with me. As I know it was the same for me. Some of my school fees (and sisters) were paid for by various friends of his. Hardly the behaviour of a man who as you said absconded with half the CBN. 

Your nonchalant grandstanding was nothing short of insulting. Insulting because you just spewed hyperbole without doing a modicum of research. You behaved like the Online tabloid media in Nigeria – uttering baseless claims without validation, purely for sound bites and sensationalism. 

Kindest regards

Mr. Ibi Gowon