General Yakubu Gowon, also known as Jack Gowon (born October 19, 1934, Pankshin, Nigeria), Nigerian military leader, who served as head of state (1966–75).

From Plateau state in the middle belt of Nigeria, Gowon’s father was an early convert to Christianity. Gowon was educated in Zaria and later became a career army officer. He was trained in Ghana and in England at Sandhurst and twice served in the Congo region as part of Nigeria’s peacekeeping force there in the early 1960s. After the coup of January 1966, he was appointed chief of staff by Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, the new leader. Northern officers staged a countercoup in July 1966, and Gowon emerged as the head of the new government.

General Gowon believes in the unity of Nigeria as demonstrated during the ethnic tensions that threatened to fatally divide Nigeria. Although he was eventually successful in ending attacks against Igbo in the north, he was unable to affect a more lasting peace. In a final attempt to resolve the conflict, on May 27, 1967, Gowon declared a state of emergency and divided Nigeria’s four regions into 12 states.

By the mid-1970s General Gowon was emerging as an international leader and was involved in the establishment of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

General Gowon earned a Ph.D. at Warwick University in 1983, he became a professor of political science at the University of Jos in the mid-1980s and attained the status of an elder statesman of Nigerian politics.