Where Were You When Jack Gowon Got Married in Lagos?

Where Were You When Jack Gowon Got Married in Lagos?

Tuesday, December 7, 2021 8:35 am


Wedding of Jack (Yakubu Gowon) to Victoria

By Bola Adewara
By my estimation, Yakubu Gowon is still the best Head of State (HOS) Nigeria ever had. For me, not Murtala Mohammed, not Balewa, not even Musa Yar-Adua, or the thief called Abacha and the derelict in leadership, (you know who I mean ke) but the man fondly called Jack. Oh, we enjoyed Jack when he was the head of state.

He was the HOS at a morally innocent time in Nigeria. Jack did so many things many Nigerian HOS before and after him couldn’t do. I will cite examples:

Only Jack had the nerve to ride in an open motorcade with little or no security in the 12 states of Nigeria. Can you imagine! Those days, when Jack was visiting states capitals, children in primary and secondary schools were lined up along the streets his motorcade would pass through, from early in the morning till when he came. That day, no school. Why? We wanted to see Gowon.

As we waited, different police outriders would be entertaining us along with road with varying riding skills. In Ibadan, I heard of one Baba Ibeji, a skilled police rider who would hold the levers of his bike, a leg on the seat and the other leg stretched backward. He had several stunts till the day he had an accident and died. I heard the story. I didn’t live in Ibadan. The police riders entertained us anytime Jack came to town. No head of state enjoyed this.

Another thing he did that no one did was serve us, children, a bottle of Coke during the Independence celebration. I cannot remember how many times, but I remember Jack served us a bottle of Coke. We, too, chop Nigeria money.

Perhaps the biggest was his wedding on April 19th, 1969, when he took to the altar very pretty Victoria Hansatu Zakari. The wedding ceremony took place at the famous Christ Church Cathedral, Marina, Lagos. The happening Church!

Since the civil war was still going on that year, many considered it distasteful that Jack chose that time to wed. But grapevine sources said Gowon had to do that to create better confidence in the minds of Nigerians, many of whom saw him as a stripling, unfit to be the HOS.

In the Supreme Military Council he constituted on becoming the HOS, he was perhaps the youngest and the only single. In a cabinet having the likes of Obafemi Awolowo, Aminu Kano, Shehu Shagari, etc, super perm secs like Allyson Ayida, Philip Asiodu, Ahmed Joda, etc 12 governors like Oluwole Rotimi, Mobolaji Johnson, Ukpabi Asika, Abba Kyari, etc and top military commanders like Benjamin Adekunle, Mohammadu Shuwa, Murtala Mohammed, Segun Obasanjo, etc, Gowon was being looked upon as a boy, fit to be their sons.

Grapevine sources said he was advised to remove that blot from his escutcheon, and he so, the compulsory wedding at such an inauspicious time took place. This is one of the many questions I like to ask Jack anytime I see him.

One of the fallouts of his wedding was the design of his cake becoming a talk of the town. He had a five-stepped wedding cake known in Yoruba land as Kaki Alagbeka Marun. Since then, three-step, four-step, five-step wedding cakes became a fashion in the early 1970s. Wedding cakes without steps were considered inferior. Indeed, Jack set the pace in many areas, like telling foreigners that Nigeria’s problem was not money but how to spend it. He denied ever saying this.

All in all, we loved and still love Jack, the son of missionaries. He is an Ngas (Angas) from Lur, a small village in the present Kanke Local Government Area of Plateau State. His parents, Nde Yohanna and Matwok Kurnyang left for Wusasa, Zaria as Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionaries in the early days of his life. His father’s pride was that he got married the same day as the future Queen Mother Elizabeth married the future King George VI.

The fifth of eleven children, Jack grew up in Zaria and had his early life and education there. At school, he proved to be an outstanding athlete: he was the school football goalkeeper, pole vaulter, and long-distance runner, who broke the school’s mile record in his first year. He was also the boxing captain.

Papa Jack, if you are reading, at 87, we pray the Lord will keep you in good health. You and Mama Vicky are still looking excellent.

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