DR. AKANU IBIAM’S LETTER TO HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II.
Your Gracious Majesty,
I am deeply and humbly constrained to present you with this letter. For many years, indeed throughout my mature life, I had been a proud but disinterested admirer of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and her peoples. The history of Your Majesty’s country is replete with heroism, discoveries which were near miracles, and institutions of higher learning of the most outstanding character and achievement. Britain, though insular and small in size and capacity, had centuries ago proved conclusively, to the world that for any community and nation to reach the acme of greatness and respectability, it is not quantity that counts but quality and the type of people who make up the nation.
British Christians had the privilege and honour of evangelizing not only a good part of Africa, my own continent, but also a greater part of the rest of the world. Her missionaries, men and women, left home and kindred and comfortable life, to spread Christianity far and wide in areas of the world where, for want of a better description, life was anything but civilized in the Western sense of the word, civilization. They endured lack of scientifically purified water, electric or gas light. They trekked long miles of single-file roads, endured our moist heat and drenching rains, the nuisance of mosquitoes, and sand flies and other indigenous African insects. In the earlier days of missionary venture, they imported tons of tinned foodstuffs and cared nothing for their lives so long as they could preach the Gospel and its Good News, heal the sick, and bring education and enlightenment to the people. The result of this effective humanitarian service, supported financially, morally, and prayerfully by the Churches way back in their homeland, has born exceedingly abundant fruit, and for us in Biafra (formerly Eastern Nigeria), their work has, by grace of God, made our homeland as much a Christian country as any other reputed countries of the world.
Despite annoying treatment meted to me and my fellow African students now and again in certain quarters, I was highly impressed with the religious life of the people of Britain, particularly in Scotland, where I lived and studied in the University of St. Andrews for seven years in one of the coldest parts of the United Kingdom. Altogether, I resided in Britain for ten long years. And having seen their homeland and lived in this Christian atmosphere in which they grew up, the self-denial and self-sacrifice of Christian Missionary came home to me very forcibly, I drew much inspiration from their splendid example, and my understanding and realization of the full meaning and significance of the Christian life dawned on me with great sense of joy and thankfulness.
After taking my medical degrees, therefore, I offered my services to the Foreign Mission Committee (now the Overseas Council) of the Church of Scotland, Edinburgh. I joined the Church of Scotland Medical Service, Calabar Mission, Nigeria, and served the mission and its offspring, the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, from February 1, 1936 to January 31, 1967. With the consent and approval of the Overseas Council, I was on leave of absence without pay during the last five years, December 1960, to January 1965, of my missionary service, while I was Governor of Eastern Nigeria. As the only Nigerian among a group of some seventy European Missionaries for twenty five years, the going was in the main, stiff and at various times, I felt most frustrated and unhappy. For although Missionaries inspired me without knowing it themselves, I regret to say that, by and large, they did not encourage me. Such a situation did not bother me, however, because I was inwardly happy to serve my people in this unique capacity, and I was not going to quit, come weal, come woe, until, like other missionaries, I had served my turn for thirty years or reached the age of sixty years. If European missionaries, I argued within me, could leave their well-ordered homeland and ease of life, more or less, and where they could make a name for themselves academically or otherwise, and came to my homeland where amenities of life in the European background were hardly existent, I did not see any reason why I, an African, could not follow in their footsteps and serve my own people in my own country under conditions which called for Unclad hardship and demanded much self denial and self sacrifice.
In 1949 New Year Honours Awards, Your Majesty’s revered and late father, His Majesty King George the sixth, graciously conferred on me the honour to be an Officer of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E) for services to the Church and State. Again, in the New Year Honours, 1951, he conferred on me the dignity to be a Knight Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (K.B.E) for selfless service to the Church and my country. I happened to be in London at this time as a special guest of the British Council, and when I was invited by a Buckingham Palace Official to present myself before His Majesty to receive the insignia and accolate of Knighthood, I begged permission to have them conferred on me on my return home to Nigeria. I did receive the insignia and certificate at the hands of His Excellency the then Governor of Nigeria, Sir John Macpherson, but I had the unique distinction and singular privilege of receiving the accolade from Your Majesty’s august person during your Majesty’s Royal and memorable visit to Nigeria in February, 1956.
On the attainment and independence of Nigeria and sovereignty by Nigeria on October 1, 1960, Your Majesty was graciously pleased to appoint me as Governor of Eastern Nigeria within the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the recommendation of the Honourable Premier of Eastern Nigeria with the assent of his Excellency the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In August 1962, Your Majesty conferred on me the dignity of being a Knight Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (K.C.M.G.).
For these great honours and special recognitions, I am humbly grateful to Your Majesty and Your Majesty's Britannic Government. They are a happy reflection of the importance of Africa and her people before God and man. Howbeit, I must renounce all of them at this time. I do so to register the strongest protest at my command against Your Majesty's Government of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for supplying military equipment and arms to Nigeria which has waged a senseless and futile war of aggression against my country, the Republic of Biafra. My objection and protest are directed solely and entirely to the British Government because I believe that the staunch British friends of Africa, particularly the CHURCH, and informed British public opinion will deplore this unkindly act of the British Government to the Republic of Biafra. With the highest sense of responsibility, therefore, and bearing clearly in my own mind the moral issues which are at stake, and my own stand thereat, I return the insignia and paraphernalia of my title to Your Majesty’s Britannic Government through the British Deputy High Commissioner who is resident here in Enugu - the capital city of the Republic of Biafra.
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. 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. 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 Molested women and burnt down the homes of Easterners and left them penniless.
The most painful and unsoldierly act of all was that these Northern Nigerian soldiers killed their superior officers, including and especially His Excellency the Military Governor of Western Nigeria, Lt. Col. Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, and his guest and comrade, His Excellency, the Head of Supreme Military Council and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the former Federal Republic of Nigeria, Major-General J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, both of them of blessed memory. On July 29, 1966, they were kidnapped by Northern Nigerian soldiers and ruthlessly killed after torturing them. It must be stated here that the late Major-General J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Eastern Nigerian at that time, went all out to build up ONE UNITED AND STRONG NIGERIA through a unitary Government Administration, but paradoxically and ironically, he met a cruel and untimely death for that very reason. It is very strange, therefore, that Nigeria should be futilely waging a war of aggression against Biafra in her impossible bid to force Biafra back into this very same union—One Nigeria from which she had been so purposely and systematically forced out. Be that as it may, all kith and kin fled Northern Nigeria, Western Nigeria, and Lagos and returned to their homeland of Eastern Nigeria, the only place they knew they could have protection. In the process, Eastern Nigeria was left to look after and cater for at least two million refugees, and she has done and is doing so with commendable achievement. Eastern Nigeria did not retaliate in any way, for we do not kill strangers within our gates, and being humble and sensitive Christians, we refused to commit murder, contrary to the commandment of God, particularly as we believe that two wrongs can never make a right. Northern Nigerians in Eastern Nigeria were therefore collected together and escorted safely by train across the border to their own section of Nigeria.
In the succeeding months, the Hausa/Fulani controlled Lagos Government of Nigeria purposely, directly, and inexorably forced Eastern Nigeria out of the Federation, and our Military Governor with advice and consent of out Consultative Assembly had no other choice but to declare Eastern Nigeria a free, independent and sovereign state to be known as the Republic of Biafra. This happy and historical occasion took place on May 30. On July 6th, Nigeria attacked Biafra in her mad wish to force Biafra to return to the Nigeria federation. Having killed 30,000 of us in their land and seized our property worth millions of pound sterling, they have now come to kill more of us in our own homes and make the rest of us slaves to the Hausa/Fulani Feudalists and Moslems.
The people of Biafra are, therefore, fighting a war of LIBERATION AND SURVIVAL. We adamantly refuse to be colonized by the Hausa/Fulanis of Northern Nigeria or any other people in the world. Moreover it is an ardent desire of the Hausa/Fulani and Moslem Northern Nigeria to subjugate Biafra and kill Christianity in our country.
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.
It is simply staggering for a Christian country like Britain to help a Moslem 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.
In the circumstance, Your Majesty, I no longer wish to wear the garb of the British Knighthood. British fairplay, British justice, and the Englishman’s word of honour which Biafra loved so much and cherished have become meaningless to Biafrans in general and to me in particular. Christian Britain has shamelessly let down Christian Biafra.
I love the Republic of Biafra very dearly and pray that, by grace of God, she may remain and continue to grow and live and always act like a truly Christian country for all times.
I am, Your Majesty
Yours Most Respectfully,