Born on October 19, 1934, he received his secondary education in Zaria, Nigeria where, in 1953, he obtained the senior Cambridge
school leaving certificate. The following
year, he enrolled in the Nigerian Army and was sent to the Regular Officers'
Special Training School at Teshie in Ghana. In 1955, he went to Britain
for further military training, and was at Eaton Hall, Cheshire, until
May, 1955, before entering the RMAS Anzio Company, Sandhurst, where
he remained until the end of 1956.
For the first half of 1957, Lt-Col Gowon
attended the young officers' course at Hythe and Warminster, England.
he was posted as second-lieutenant to the 4th Battalion of the Nigerian
Army at Ibadan, then Western Nigeria's capital city. In 1960 he served
as platoon commander in operations at the Nigerian-Cameroon border.
Later he became the first Nigerian to be appointed Adjutant of the 4th
Battalion. Lt-Col Gowon also served in Congo under the United Nations
Peace Keeping Force until 1961 when, he was posted to Army Headquarters
as staff officer.
He attended a course at the Staff College,
Camberley, Surrey, in 1962, and soon after his return to Nigeria, was
again sent to Congo. In 1963 he was promoted lieutenant-colonel and
appointed the Adjutant-General of the Nigerian Army. He was given command
of the 2nd Battalion in January, 1966. With the transfer of power to
the Armed forces by the civilian Federal Government, following the military
coup of January 15, he was appointed Chief of Staff at Army Headquarters.
The son of a missionary, Lt-Col Gowon was a keen hockey player and took part in competitive athletics including soccer and boxing. His other hobbies include cinematography and bird watching.