Yakubu Gowon (yäkōō´bōō gô´wŏn), 1934–, Nigerian head of state. After entering the Nigerian army in 1954, he advanced (1966) to battalion commander. After Nigeria's second bloody coup in 1966, he was appointed commander in chief of the armed forces and head of the military government. The army put down (1967–70) the secessionist Biafran government of General Ojukwu independent of Gowon, but he led Nigerian reconciliation through his personal influence, becoming a major African leader by 1975. While out of the country in 1975, he was overthrown and began a life of exile in England.