Read Awolowo’s 53-year old letter from prison to Ironsi

Today, 29 July 2019 marks 53 years since  Major General Aguiyi Ironsi, Head of State and Lt. Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, were murdered in a revenge coup in Ibadan.

When the January 15, 1966 coup  brought Ironsi into power, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was spending term in Calabar  Prison. He was jailed by the Tafawa Balewa Government  for  alleged treasonable felony.

Awolowo  thought that the new regime would release him. But that did not happen.

Here is Awolowo’s letter from prison to Major General Aguiyi Ironsi, pressing for his and colleagues release. His plea was not heeded though, until General Yakubu Gowon came on board, in a counter coup.

Dated 28th March 1966


To: The Supreme Commander and Head of the Federal Military Government, Lagos.
Thro: The Director of Prisons, Prisons Headquarters Office, Private Mail Bag 12522, Lagos.

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Prerogative Of Mercy:
Section 101 (1) (A) of the Constitution of The Federation Act 1963

1. I am writing this petition for FREE PARDON under Section 101(1) (a) of the Constitution of the Federation Act 1963, on behalf of myself and some of my colleagues whose names are set out in the Annexe hereto.

2. Before I go further, I would like to stress that the reasons which I advance in support of this petition, in my own behalf, basically hold good for my said colleagues. For they share the same political beliefs with me, and have intense and unquenchable loyalty for the ideals espoused by the Party which I have the honour to lead.

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3. There are many grounds which could be submitted for your consideration in support of this petition. But I venture to think that SEVEN of them are enough and it is to these that I confine myself.

(a)In the course of my evidence during my trial, I stated that my Party favoured and was actively working for alliance with the N.C.N.C. as a means, among other things, of solving what I described as ‘the problem of Nigeria’, and strengthening the unity of the Federation. In October 1963 (that is about a month after my conviction and while my appeal to the Supreme Court was still pending), a Peace Committee headed by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, made overtures to me through my friend Alhaji W. A. Elias to the effect that if I abandoned my intention to enter into alliance with the N.C.N.C. which, according to the Committee, was an Ibo Organisation, and agreed to dissolve the Action Group and, in co-operation with Chief Akintola (now deceased), form an all-embracing Yoruba political party which I would lead and which would go into alliance with the N.P.C., I would be released from prison before the end of that year.

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