Continued from last week
(5) A petition of this kind is, by its very nature, bound to be replete with self-adulation. I hope and trust that, in the circumstances, this is excusable. It is in this hope and trust that I assert that my colleagues and I have the qualifications and capacity to render invaluable services to our people and fatherland. Every day that we spend in prison, therefore, must be regarded as TWENTY-FOUR UNFORGIVING HOURS OF TRULY VALUABLE SERVICES LOST TO OUR YOUNG COUNTRY. Even my most inveterate enemies have given the following testimony about me: ‘AWOLOWO HAS STILL A GREAT DEAL TO GIVE TO THIS COUNTRY.’
No country however advanced and civilised can afford to waste any of its talents, be they ever so small. Nigeria is too young to bury some of her talents as she was compelled to do under the old regime.
It is within your power to restore my colleagues and me to a position where our fatherland can again rejoice at the contributions which we are capable of making to its progress, welfare and happiness.
(6) Nigeria is now SIXTY-SIX MONTHS old as an independent State. The final phase in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence was initiated by my Party in the historic Self-Government motion 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 precise terms, I have spent FORTY-SIX out of the SIXTY-SIX MONTHS of independence in one form of confinement or another. I happened to know that the leaders of the old civilian regime, in spite of themselves, did not feel quite easy in their conscience about the plight into which they had manoeuvred me in the scheme of things; and I dare to express the hope and belief that you, personally view my present confinement with concern and disapproval.
(7) It is usual — almost invariably the case — on the accession of a revolutionary regime, for political prisoners and, indeed, other prisoners of some note, to be released as a mark of disapproval of some of the doings of the old regime, or in token of the new dawn of freedom which comes in the wake of the new regime.
It would be invidious to quote unspecific instances. But in the case of my colleagues and myself, by courageously and adamantly opposing the evils which your regime now denounces in the former civilian administration, I think we are perfectly justified if we expect you to regard us as being in tune with your yearnings and aspirations
for Nigeria, and therefore entitled to our personal freedoms under your dispensation.
- In view of the foregoing reasons which clearly demonstrate
(i) that I have always and, under trying circumstances, steadfastly and unyieldingly
(a) stood for the UNITY OF NIGERIA,
(b) been opposed to POLITICAL OPPORTUNISM with its attendant evils,
© fostered the growth of DEMOCRACY in Nigeria;
(ii) that my incarceration
(a) has led to the heightening of political tension among Nigerians, which tension can only be relaxed by my release,
(b) has deprived our fatherland of invaluable services such as we have rendered before, and can still render now and in future, in greater measure; and
(iii) that the evils which my colleagues and I condemned and valiantly refused to compromise with in the old civilian government are what you now quite rightly denounce, and are taking active steps to remove in order to pave the way for national and beneficial reconstruction,
I most sincerely appeal to you to be good enough to exercise, in favour of myself and my colleagues, the prerogative of mercy vested in you by Section 10 (I) (i) (a) of the Constitution of the Federation Act 1963, by granting me as well as each of my colleagues A FREE PARDON. If you do, your action will be most warmly, heartily, and popularly applauded at home and abroad, and you will go down to history as soldier, statesmen, and humanitarian.
- THOSE CONVICTED FOR TREASONABLE FELONY
- THOSE STILL SERVING THEIR TERMS
- Chief Obafemi Awolowo
- Chief Anthony Enahoro
- Mr. Lateef K. Jakande
- Mr. Dapo Omisade
- Mr. S.A. Onitiri
- Mr. Gabby Sasore
- Mr. Sunday Ebietoma
- Mr. U.I. Nwaobiala
- THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY SERVED THEIR TERMS
- Mr. S.A. Otubanjo
- Mr. S.J. Umoren
- Mr. S. Oyesile
- THOSE WHO HAVE NOT YET BEEN TRIED
- Mr. S.G. Ikoku
- Mr. Ayo Adebanjo
- Mr. James Aluko
The Supreme Military Council considered my petition, but could not immediately grant my request. According to information which was later confirmed, it was feared that my release might create problems with which they might find it difficult to cope before they had properly settled down in office.
However, on 27 July 1966, Mr Olu Olofin, then Editor of Irohin Yoruba arrived in Calabar to deliver a special message from Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, the then Military Governor of the Western Region and a member of the Supreme Military Council. Olofin brought the good tiding that the Supreme Military Council had granted my petition, and that I would be released any time from then.”
As he picked the SDP ticket in Jos, MKO said in his first media interview:
“My assignment now is like what the Yoruba call Arugba. When a a community is under affliction, they look for a man to carry the calabash of sacrifice to the river to cleanse the community. He may come back or not return. He carried the calabash but did not return. The sacrifice he bore is the only reason the military has spared us in 21 years after they were humiliated into their barracks, never mind that our politicians have continued to be more wayward than ever.”
Like it was said of Christ that if the Princes of this world had known they would not have crucified the king of glory, the principalities of Nigeria annulled MKO’s victory because they underestimated him as a billionaire with ties to the system who will not engage in a long fight .
But they misread MKO who sang “were” to survive as a young man and crooned “Onidodo onimoinmoin” to catch fun as a billionaire. There was this hanger-on of his who managed to have a photograph with Abiola in the same attire and would proudly show it to people till he died recently. “People who don’t know that MKO was my friend would say I was his hanger-on. See us in the same dress. Who does that with a hanger-on?” MKO!
He was fond of cruising Lagos at night with a goalkeeper with his Abiola Babes called Raymond King whom he called “Ramoni Oba”…Raymond would drive him as they had fun all over the town.
I recall this dinner the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) had in honour of Abiola 30 years ago at the Ikoyi official residence of Dr Yemi Ogunbiyi as Managing Director of the Daily Times and I was assigned by The Punch to cover the event. Abiola came late while dinner had already been served. As he came in, he was greeting everybody round. He got to my table and I heard his unmistakable voice “Mo n kie o dahun, a jo ma je ounje e ni o”. He took the fork and grabbed a meat from my plate and started munching even when everything was waiting for him on the high table.
Such a man would not see any difference from the best hotel in the world and the worst dungeon on earth if necessary to stay in any. His forebear Awo had his first son killed while in the gaol and Abiola had his wife assassinated while in detention. But such stuffs don’t break such men.
Abiola’s letter to radical lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi two days before he was killed in detention showed the quality of his mind under these circumstances:
“ My dear Gani, Praise be to God for your life and the courage, fortitude and determination with which He endowed you. May we live long to be of service to each other in the contribution we make to the development, peace and justice/fairplay in Nigeria and beyond. The “Express” story is a hoax. True, both Anan and Anyaoku (apparently working together, although I saw them separately), wanted me to sign a statement that I will not, once again, demand my mandate, once released. They both believed such undertaking would expedite my release. To each of them, my answers were:
(1) Having been cut off from all both human and media contacts for four years, I was like a man put in an open grave, I quoted Rt. Hon. Harold Wilson’s statement October, 1964, a few days before his first Labour victory in 13 years: “24hrs is a long time in politics.”
If 24hrs is a long time, four years cut off from politics can be likened to eternity. Diplomats can guess: political leaders must be sure because credibility once lost can never be regained.
(2) Both diplomats spoke of arranging my UNCONDITIONAL release. With the demand for that kind of statement that will render me a “deserter”. Any release obtained on that basis would be the worst form of capitulation.
(3) The declaration of 11/06/94 was made at a major public rally to thousands of cheering supporters. A statement under the table of AGUDA House purportedly negating it will not be acceptable as authentic. My rejection will naturally read “duress” into it. Judged by the circumstances (therefore) it will not be worth the paper on which it was written. A declaration made publicly (at a major rally) and clear ( in the most unambiguous terms) at any similar rally.
You cannot render a man naked at the marketplace and prefer to dress him up in the bedroom!
TO BE CONTINUE
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