Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy

Matthew Kukah, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, says Yakubu Gowon, former head of state in Nigeria, and his family deserves an apology over claims that he looted the public treasury.

In November, Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the UK parliament foreign affairs committee, had accused Gowon of committing the act when he was overthrown in a military coup in 1975.

Speaking at the UK parliament committee debate on a petition on the #EndSARS crisis, Tugendhat said: “Some people will remember when General Gowon left Nigeria with half of the central bank, so it is said, and moved to London”.

Reacting to the accusation in an article titled: ‘Why Tugendhat should apologise to Gowon’, Kukah said the claim is “unfounded, irrational and bizarre”.

He said: “What does moving half of the central bank mean even in the most abstract language? How could such a feat be accomplished by a man who had just been overthrown from power and was obviously a wanted man in his own country?

“The entire accusation is so ludicrous it raises questions about Tugendhat’s moral capacity to even pursue his case.

“It is curious that he would have displayed such shameful ignorance and made such ill-conceived allegations with no scintilla of evidence, even when, at the click of a button, he could have had access to Gowon’s financial records and business dealings in his over 45 years of living in the UK.”

According to Kukah, prominent personalities in Nigeria and other African countries testified to Gowon’s integrity in a book of tributes he collated in 2004.

He listed some of the personalities to include Nelson Mandela, deceased South African president; Ernest Shonekan, Nigeria’s former head of the interim government between 1993 to 1995; late Shehu Shagari, first democratically elected president of Nigeria; and Muhammadu Buhari when he was Nigeria’s military head of state.

“I have gone to this length just to show that Tugendhat has committed such an egregious act and a faux pas that he owes his family and the British parliament a first apology for the great embarrassing show of foolishness.

“He owes the members of the #EndSARS protesters for damaging the credibility of their evidence of corruption in Nigeria. He owes Gowon and his family an apology for trying to impugn his reputation by reading a prepared text blindfolded by prejudice.”

Gowon has described the accusation as rubbish and the federal government demanded an apology from the British government over the “unsubstantiated” claim by Tugendhat.

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