In a protest letter sent to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Dr. Francis Akanu Ibiam wrote that he was renouncing all the awards given him by the British Government, because he once believed that the country was propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but did not see reason why the Christian-Britain would support the Muslim-Nigeria, against the Christian-Biafra, during the 1967 war.
Ibiam highlighted in that letter that during the months of May, July, August, and September, 1966, Northern Nigerian soldiers and civilians planned and committed the most atrocious crimes against Eastern Nigerians – now citizens of the Republic of Biafra.
He did not end there, he fumed, saying that sadistically, brutally and in cold blood, they murdered and slaughtered thousands of“my brothers and sisters” who were then living in Northern Nigeria and other parts of the former and defunct Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Ibiam further said that they killed innocent children, helpless women, and defenseless men without any reason or rhyme. They entered churches and hospitals and slaughtered them in cold blood. And most unbelievably yet only too true, they massacred women in actual LABOUR and their unborn children. They plundered, looted, assaulted and raped women and burnt down the homes of Easterners and left them penniless.
He said that it was simply staggering for a Christian country like Britain to help a Muslim country militarily to crush another Christian country like Biafra. “This is just too much for me, Your Gracious Majesty, this act of unfriendliness and treachery by the British Government towards the people of Republic of Biafra who, as Eastern Nigerians, had so much regard for Britain and British people,” said Ibiam.
And that persists till date, because contrary to the belief of some people that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat in the election that brought General Muhammadu Buhari to power, because he lost the election, a notable northern leader, Tanko Yakasai has affirmed the interview granted the ex-president in April, that northerners were spurred to kill people and destroy property if Jonathan had won.
In the March 28 election, it was revealed that majority of northerners had sharpened their knives, cudgels and fixed their guns if Jonathan had won. Yakasai said that upon the tantrums making the rounds that earned largesse from Jonathan to give him his support, the aging Yakasai revealed that he threw in his weight in support of Jonathan, because it was uncalled for that northerners think they own Nigerian; any other part of the country was not in the position to lead the country.
When Jonathan spoke for the first time on April 12, after the election, during his visit to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in Lagos, he told the world that he conceded defeat to the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Buhari, because he was afraid of crisis springing up if he had won. His statement did not contradict Yakasai’s public presentation in August 13, that the northerners were prepared to send the rest Nigerians packing if their son did not win.
The feeble Jonathan whom many had since the aftermath of the election erroneously adopted as their idol for conceding defeating to Buhari, had at the presentation said: “Since I assumed duty, I have been involved in quelling political crises in some African countries and I know what they passed through and what some are still going through. If you scuttle a system for personal ambition, it becomes a collective tragedy. You need to have a nation before you can have an ambition. It should always be the nation first. You don’t have to scuttle national progress for personal ambition. Democracy has to be nurtured to grow. Strong democratic institutions are the backbone and future of our democracy. They must be protected and nurtured. As for me, as a matter of principle, it is always the nation first.”
Jonathan who had since told the world leaders and Nigerians to assist Buhari to move the country forward, the truth was that Buhari could not have conceded defeat if he were Jonathan. Buhari’s utterances in the past of making the country ungovernable if Jonathan won, was the reason many Nigerians had fingered him, as allegedly the sponsor of the issue-less based Islamic Boko Haram.
While in many quarters people were praising Jonathan as epitome of wisdom, others were seeing him as epitome of cowardice, who got the hint of northerners’ shoddy preparation against rest Nigerians, yet contested in the election and did not allow another candidate from the south to contest. His so-called wisdom may be seen as a betrayal to the collective sensibilities of southerners.
It was regrettably that many people were tagging Jonathan with the matrix that he was a man of God, what could be tagged for selling his zone for the paltry, to concern his fearful nature in the hands of northerners, which the rest Nigerians do not know, when they would want any person from other parts of the country, to taste the presidency again.
It was the same Buhari who said that Jonathan’s deployment of soldiers to the north-east in the fight against the insurgents, that had commandeered all the service chiefs recently to flush out the goons within three months. In the case of Jonathan, due to bad media that was orchestrated against him, the Americans and Europeans characterised his move against the terrorists as human rights violation and frustrated all efforts by the Jonathan government to procure modern day fire arms, to engage the Boko Haram nuisance.
If it was for the reason that northerners were calling for hell to loose should Jonathan had won in the election that he conceded defeat, he might not be remembered in the history of Southerners, as an intelligent man. But if it were the rumour making the rounds that some international community members and some dignitaries in the country placed calls on him and hinted some reasons why the PDP should accept defeat, that still boiled down to the clattering of the northerners to combust the country if Jonathan was declared winner.
It was evidence that Jonathan exhibited unevenness, unawareness and narrow-mindedness on how to handle the election. Jonathan perhaps thought that the southerners loved Nigeria than the northerners, as a result, he should keep Nigeria one and accept defeat. This is not the right way to be a humble man. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida as Head of State cancelled the presidential election of June 12, 1993, and the Americans and Europeans did not loose the earth to fall down.
Imagine! Other reasons Ibiam gave, inter alia, for renouncing all the awards that Britain gave him, was that his objection and protest were directed solely and entirely to the British Government because he did not believe that the staunch British friends of Africa, particularly the CHURCH, and informed British public opinion would deplore this unkindly act of the British Government to the Republic of Biafra, in support of the north. With the highest sense of responsibility, therefore, and bearing clearly in his own mind the moral issues which were at stake, and his own stand in Biafra, Ibiam returned the insignia and paraphernalia of his title to Your Majesty’s Britannic Government through the British Deputy High Commissioner who was resident in Enugu – the capital city of the Republic of Biafra.
As if Ibiam was writing that letter today, he said, “Your Majesty, the British officials in Nigeria are fully aware of all these. They know that we are injured and deeply grieved people and had been cruelly treated by our erstwhile fellow citizens of Federal Republic of Nigeria. The British officials not only knew the crux of the matter, but they also encouraged Northern Nigeria to carry out and execute their nefarious plan against us. They are angry with Biafra because Biafra categorically refused to remain as part of the Nigeria federation and political unit only to be trampled upon, discriminated against and hated, ruthlessly exploited and denied her rights and privileges, and slaughtered whenever it suited the whims and caprices of the favoured people of Northern Nigeria. To add insult to injury, Your Majesty’s Britannic Government, instead of being neutral in our quarrels or finding ways and means to mediate and bring peace to the two countries, has now taken it upon herself to supply military aid to Nigeria to help them defeat and subjugate Biafra.”
Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State.