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Awolowo’s Letter From Jail To Aguiyi Ironsi Urgent For His Launch

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CONFIDENTIAL

28th March, 1966

The Supreme Commander and Head of the Federal Navy Authorities, Lagos.

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Thro: The Director of Prisons,

Prisons Headquarters Workplace,

Personal Mail Bag 12522,

Lagos.

Sir:

PREROGATIVE OF MERCY: SECTION 101 (1) (a) OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERATION ACT 1963

1. I’m scripting this petition for FREE PARDON underneath Part 101 (1) (a) of the Structure of the Federation Act 1963, on behalf of myself and a few of my colleagues whose names are set out within the Annexe hereto.

2. Earlier than I’m going additional, I wish to stress that the explanations which I advance in assist of this petition, in my very own behalf, principally maintain good for my mentioned colleagues. For they share the identical political opinions with me, and have intense and unquenchable loyalty for the beliefs espoused by the Social gathering which I’ve the honour to guide.

three. There are a lot of grounds which might be submitted on your consideration in assist of this petition. However I enterprise to assume that SEVEN of them are sufficient and it’s to those that I confine myself.

(1) In the middle of my proof throughout my trial, I said that my Social gathering favoured and was actively working for alliance with the N.C.N.C. as a method, amongst different issues, of fixing what I described as ‘the issue of Nigeria’, and strengthening the unity of the Federation. In October 1963 (that’s a few month after my conviction and whereas my attraction to the Supreme Court docket was nonetheless pending), a Peace Committee headed by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, made overtures to me via my pal Alhaji W. A. Elias to the impact that if I deserted my intention to enter into alliance with the N.C.N.C. which, based on the Committee, was an Ibo Organisation, and agreed to dissolve the Motion Group and, in co-operation with Chief Akintola (now deceased), kind an all-embracing Yoruba political social gathering which I might lead and which might go into alliance with the N.P.C., I might be launched from jail earlier than the tip of that 12 months. I turned down these phrases as a result of I used to be of the thought of opinion that their acceptance would additional widen and exacerbate inter-tribal variations, and gravely undermine the unity of the Federation.
TODAY, THE MILITARY GOVERNMENT, OF WHICH YOU ARE THE HEAD, LEAVES NO ONE IN ANY DOUBT THAT IT STANDS FOR NIGERIAN UNITY. BUT IT MUST BE EMPHASISED, IN THIS CONNECTION, THAT IF I HAD PRIZED MY PERSONAL FREEDOM ABOVE THE UNITY OF NIGERIA, I WOULD HAVE BEEN SET FREE IN 1963. IN THAT EVENT, THIS PETITION WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN NECESSARY, AND THE WORK OF CONSOLIDATING THE UNITY OF THE COUNTRY TO WHICH YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES NOW SET YOUR HANDS MIGHT HAVE BEEN MADE EXTREMELY MORE INTRACTABLE AND IRKSOME.

As lately as 20th December, 1965, similar peace phrases (the one variant being that the alliance with the N.C.N.C. which was now a actuality must be damaged) have been made to me right here, in Calabar Jail, by a delegation representing one other Peace Committee headed by the self-same Chief Justice of the Federation and purporting to have the blessing of the Prime Minister, with the unequivocal promise that if I accepted the phrases my launch would comply with virtually instantly. I rejected the phrases for the explanations which I’ve outlined above.

(2) One of many monsters which menaced the general public lifetime of this nation as much as 14th January, this 12 months is OPPORTUNISM with its attendant evils of jobbery, venality, corruption, and unabashed self-interest. From all accounts, you might be inflexibly resolved to destroy this monster. That was exactly what my colleagues and I had tried to do earlier than we have been rendered hors de fight since 29th Could, 1962.
On two completely different events I used to be provided, first the put up of Deputy Prime Minister (earlier than Could 1962), and second that of Deputy Governor-Normal (in August 1962), if I might conform to fold up the Opposition and take part a Nationwide Authorities. I declined the 2 presents as a result of they have been designed completely to gratify my self-interest, with no considered fostering any political ethical precept which may gain advantage the folks of Nigeria. The discovered Decide who presided over the Treasonable Felony Trial, commented unfavourably on my non-acceptance of certainly one of these posts and held that my motion lent weight to the case of the Prosecution in opposition to me. I have to say, nonetheless, that in all conscience, I felt and nonetheless really feel really public-spirited individual ought to settle for public workplace not for what he can get for himself — such because the revenue and glamour of workplace — however for the chance which it presents him of serving his folks to the very best of his capability, by selling their welfare and happiness. To me, the 2 aforementioned posts have been sinecures, and have been meant to immobilise my abilities and stultify the function of watch-dog which the folks of Nigeria regarded upon me to play on their behalf, at that juncture in our political evolution.

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(three) This leads me to the third floor. From newspaper reviews, it will seem that you just and your colleagues — like all well-meaning Nigerians — are anxious that on the termination of the current army rule, Nigeria ought to change into a flourishing democracy. Now, democracy is a political doctrine which could be very intimately expensive to my coronary heart. It was to the tip that it is likely to be accepted as a lifestyle in all elements of the Federation that I campaigned most vigorously and relentlessly within the Northern Provinces of Nigeria, from 1957 to 1962, to the implacable annoyance of a few of my political adversaries. It was to the tip that this doctrine would possibly survive the extreme onslaught of opportunist and mercenary politics that I refused to succumb to the temptation of the Nationwide Authorities. Many views — a few of them well-considered and respectable — have been expressed concerning the worth or disvalue of opposition as a function of public life in a newly emergent African State. Talking for my social gathering, I submit that the Opposition which I led did, to all intents and functions, justify its existence and was acclaimed by the plenty of our folks as important and indispensable to rapid- nationwide progress. This was so, as a result of it was unexceptionably constructive. The abrogation of the Anglo-Nigeria Defence Pact was one of many feathers in its cap. A number of the insurance policies which the Authorities of the day later adopted — such because the creation of a Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the introduction of drastic measures to appropriate our stability of funds deficit — have been amongst these persistently and constructively urged by the Opposition inside and outdoors Parliament.
The purpose I want to emphasise right here is that it was not out of spite or hatred for anybody that I selected to stay in Opposition as a substitute of becoming a member of the much-talked-of Nationwide Authorities. I did so with a view to serve our folks to the very best of my capability within the place wherein their votes had positioned my Social gathering, and to make sure that the younger plant of democracy grows right into a sturdy flourishing tree in Nigeria.

(four) For the reason that declaration of emergency within the Western Area on 29th Could, 1962, political pressure has existed in Western Nigeria. My conviction on 11th September, 1963, along with the encompassing weird circumstances, has led not solely to the heightening of that pressure in Western Nigeria but additionally to its profuse and irrepressible percolation to the opposite elements of the Federation. The result’s that it may be mentioned, with out a lot worry of contradiction, that at the moment the vast majority of our individuals are passionately involved about and fervently solicitous for the discharge of myself and my colleagues.
The work of reconstruction on which you and your colleagues have embarked calls for that each one the residents of Nigeria of their respective callings ought to give of their most finest. A state of psychological pressure, nonetheless a lot it could be introduced underneath management or repressed, doesn’t and can’t conduce to most effectivity. Despite themselves, folks labouring underneath feelings which this type of pressure robotically generates are certain to make avoidable errors which of their flip have hostile results on nationwide progress.

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It’s, due to this fact, within the nationwide curiosity that this pressure must be relaxed, if doable, with out additional delay.

(5) A petition of this sort is, by its very nature, certain to be replete with self-adulation. I hope and belief that, within the circumstances, that is excusable. It’s on this hope and belief that I assert that my colleagues and I’ve the and capability to render invaluable providers to our folks and fatherland. Daily that we spend in jail, due to this fact, have to be considered TWENTY-FOUR UNFORGIVING HOURS OF TRULY VALUABLE SERVICES LOST TO OUR YOUNG COUNTRY. Even my most inveterate enemies have given the next testimony about me: ‘AWOLOWO HAS STILL A GREAT DEAL TO GIVE TO THIS COUNTRY.’
No nation nonetheless superior and civilised can afford to waste any of its abilities, be they ever so small. Nigeria is simply too younger to bury a few of her abilities as she was compelled to do underneath the previous regime.

It’s inside your energy to revive my colleagues and me to a place the place our fatherland can once more rejoice on the contributions which we’re able to making to its progress, welfare and happiness.

(6) Nigeria is now SIXTY-SIX MONTHS previous as an impartial State. The ultimate part within the battle for Nigeria’s independence was initiated by my Social gathering within the historic Self-Authorities movement moved by Chief Anthony Enahoro and supported by me on 31st March, 1953. IT SHOULD BE REGARDED AS MORE THAN IRONICAL, AND AS PALPABLY TRAGIC, THAT TWO OF THE ARCHITECTS OF THAT INDEPENDENCE AND, INDEED, THE PACE-SETTERS AND ACCELERATORS OF ITS FINAL PHASE SHOULD BE UNFREE IN A FREE NIGERIA.
In exact phrases, I’ve spent FORTY-SIX out of the SIXTY-SIX MONTHS of independence in a single type of confinement or one other. I occurred to know that the leaders of the previous civilian regime, regardless of themselves, didn’t really feel fairly straightforward of their conscience concerning the plight into which they’d manoeuvred me within the scheme of issues; and I dare to specific the hope and perception that you just, personally view my current confinement with concern and disapproval.

(7) It’s typical — virtually invariably the case — on the accession of a revolutionary regime, for political prisoners and, certainly, different prisoners of some be aware, to be launched as a mark of disapproval of among the doings of the previous regime, or in token of the brand new daybreak of freedom which comes within the wake of the brand new regime.
It could be invidious to cite unspecific cases. However within the case of my colleagues and myself, by courageously and adamantly opposing the evils which your regime now denounces within the former civilian administration, I feel we’re completely justified if we count on you to treat us as being in tune together with your yearnings and aspirations for Nigeria, and due to this fact entitled to our private freedoms underneath your dispensation.

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four. In view of the foregoing causes which clearly display

(i) that I’ve all the time and, underneath attempting circumstances, steadfastly and unyieldingly

(a) stood for the UNITY OF NIGERIA,

(b) been against POLITICAL OPPORTUNISM with its attendant evils,

(c) fostered the expansion of DEMOCRACY in Nigeria;

(ii) that my incarceration

(a) has led to the heightening of political pressure amongst Nigerians, which pressure can solely be relaxed by my launch,

(b) has disadvantaged our fatherland of invaluable providers resembling we’ve rendered earlier than, and might nonetheless render now and in future, in better measure; and

(iii) that the evils which my colleagues and I condemned and valiantly refused to compromise with within the previous civilian authorities are what you now fairly rightly denounce, and are taking lively steps to take away with a view to pave the way in which for nationwide and useful reconstruction,

I most sincerely attraction to you to be adequate to train, in favour of myself and my colleagues, the prerogative of mercy vested in you by Part 10 (I) (i) (a) of the Structure of the Federation Act 1963, by granting me in addition to every of my colleagues A FREE PARDON. For those who do, your motion can be most warmly, heartily, and popularly applauded at dwelling and overseas, and you’ll go all the way down to historical past as soldier, statesmen, and humanitarian.

Yours really,

OBAFEMI AWOLOWO

A. THOSE CONVICTED FOR TREASONABLE FELONY

1. THOSE STILL SERVING THEIR TERMS

1. Chief Obafemi Awolowo

2. Chief Anthony Enahoro

three. Mr. Lateef Ok. Jakande

four. Mr. Dapo Omisade

5. Mr. S.A. Onitiri

6. Mr. Gabby Sasore

7. Mr. Sunday Ebietoma

eight. Mr. U.I. Nwaobiala

2. THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY SERVED THEIR TERMS

1. Mr. S.A. Otubanjo

2. Mr. S.J. Umoren

three. Mr. S. Oyesile

B. THOSE WHO HAVE NOT YET BEEN TRIED

1. Mr. S.G. Ikoku

2. Mr. Ayo Adebanjo

three. Mr. James Aluko

— with Dr.Chukwuma Christopher Osaji, Taiwo Osunsanya, Bello Isiaka and 59 others.

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