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Princewill at 50: Cole’s Strategist, Wike’s Nightmare

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By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze

Preamble

Prince Tonye Princewill, popularly known as the Prince of Niger Delta Politics, was a two-time gubernatorial candidate in Rivers state; first on the platform of the defunct Action Congress (AC) that gave birth to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2007 and later on the platform of the Labour Party in 2015, one time Leader of the Forum of opposition political parties (FOPP) in Rivers state, Founder and President of Princewill Political Associates (PPA), a political pressure group whose impact in the politics of Rivers state needs not be overemphasised and currently the Director of Strategic and Communications of the Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation (TCCO), a position he intends to use to ouster Governor Nyesom Wike and install Pastor Tonye Cole as the next Governor of Rivers State come March, 2019.

At 50 years of age, Golden Prince Tonye Princewill has already done things that many of his age mates dread to attempt. From running successfully Riverdrill, his oil and gas conglomerate employing many hundreds of Nigerians and other business interests to being the youngest gubernatorial candidate in Rivers state elections of 2007 as candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria and Labour Party Governorship candidate in 2015.

Prince Tonye Princewill, the son and scion to the famous King (Prof) Theophilus Jacob Tom Princewill (CFR), Amachree XI, the Amayanabo of Kalabari Kingdom, whom he shares the same birthday with, celebrated his 50th birthday on 4th January, 2019. His father aswell elebrated his 89th birthday on the same date.This unique sharing of the same birthday between father and son makes this family different from other families on earth. 

Having followed this young man for over a decade, I must confess that the politics of Rivers State, no matter who the author may be, can’t be complete without the mention of this enigma; a technocrat of the highest order, an accomplished businessman, a consummate politician and a philanthropist par excellence, whose impact in the political engineering of the State can’t be overemphasised. He stands out as a professional engineer and a business magnate, who did not take politics as a profession for lack of means of livelihood. 

Prince Tonye Princewill was a senior technical project manager and business analyst of the highest caliber.  A strategic thinker with excellent problem-solving ability, he is highly adaptable and well experienced across diverse environments.  From global, multi party, multi million pound projects to hands-on, low budget challenges, he has a proven track record of getting the job done. He is an excellent communicator, effective at all levels and confident in resolving business, technical and political issues. The motivation, enthusiasm, technical expertise and team building skills Tonye brings to his projects have been pivotal to their successes.

A post-graduate of Imperial College London, he is a certified PRINCE II practitioner with a sound working knowledge of both ITIL and Change Management and has until quite recently been a regular presenter on project management issues. In addition to his Information technology and Oil and Gas interests, Tonye has a business empire that spans across the aviation industry to the haulage of petroleum products for NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) and OANDO. His company is involved in strategic placement of resources with the targetted placement of investment from outside and within Rivers State.

The Prince was 50 years old on 4th January 2019 and is credited for exhibiting wisdom beyond his years when he withdrew unconditionally his tribunal case against the PDP in Rivers state for what he called strategic reasons in 2007. The AC PDP partnership practiced in the state is a study in selflessness and political engineering in Nigeria.

Princewill is a professional who deliberately entered into politics as a result of his concerns for his people and personal attempts to help them. He decided to bring his acumen and dynamism to bear on his effort to serve his people as Governor in the 2007 and 2015 elections. Even as a private businessman, he has been a people-centered person, who prefers to sacrifice to make others happy.  

 Prince Tonye TJT Princewill from the Beginning (Birth & Education)    

Prince Tonye TJT Princewill was born to Prof and Mrs TJT Princewill on 4thJanuary, 1969. He began his formal education in Nigeria at the famous Hillcrest High School Jos from 1976 to 1980. His post primary education saw the young prince at the prestigious Federal Government College, Port Harcourt (1980-1985) where he won many laurels including award as the best English student in the school. With an outstanding performance at the West African School Certificate Examination and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board exams, the young Tonye enrolled at the Universityof Port Harcourt the same year he left secondary school, naturally equipped to study and bag a Bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering (1985-1990). By 1991, after his youth service, Prince Tonye Princewill had left the shores of Nigeria in search of the Golden Fleece and eventually feathered his cap at the Imperial College, London with an M.SCin Postgraduate studies in Mineral Resources Engineering and a Diploma of Imperial College (DIC) London. His interests are people, film, football, swimming, basketball and travel.

Cole’s Strategist and Wike’s Nightmare

This one man riot squad of a person most of the time instills fear and admiration in the minds of his followers with the manner and speed he conducts the affairs of any task given to him that today he is more a terror to Governor Wike and his likes.

 He shouts when the need to shout arises and when it becomes imperative to offer positive criticisms or suggestions on how to move the State forward, he does it with passion and at the risk to his life like when dared the dreadful Nyesom Wike for the exalted office of the Rivers State number one seat during the 2015 gubernatorial election.

With all these feats and experience and age at his side, it was the thinking of most of his admirers particularly key political watchers of Rivers State politics that Prince Tonye Princewill have matured for the exalted office of the Governor of Rivers State but surprisingly he was among the first to accept the coming of Pastor Tonye Cole as the Standard Bearer of Rivers State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC). He gave up his ambition to another great son of Rivers State who has established himself as a leading light in our generation. Somebody well acknowledged world wide as a great Administrator and outstanding Industrialist to lead Rivers State out of its present sorrow and pitiable state. 

Since his appointment as the Director of the Directorate of Strategic and Communications for the Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation, Governor Nyesom Wike has gone into hiding knowing that his miserable administration will come to an end in matter of few months.

Prince Tonye Princewill and His Type of Politics  

According to the Prince, “My political career is intact. Good people are becoming more and more critical to move Nigeria forward. When Nigerians realise we cannot continue like this, they will look for people like us or younger versions to exhibit excellence and toughness combined. I do not have to be the one running for office, but either way I will be involved.

The dream was never to rule, it was to lead. And lead by example. I do that every day in whatever capacity I find myself. It is not easy to engage with all kinds of politicians and come out clean. I believe I have done that. It is not easy to come from nowhere and make a name in state and national politics; I believe I have done that. It is not easy to join the Nollywood family and make an impact, I believe we have done that and it is not easy to develop the business contacts we did without politics, yet we have also done that. If politics has not allowed me show my capacity today, one day I will in whatever capacity. Maybe I am bigger than just Rivers state or politics. Maybe my dream is to be a statesman. The country is short of them.”

Fortunately I am not prepared to kill, maim or sacrifice human life to achieve political goals. So my ambition and my dreams are measured by the price I am prepared to pay for them. The dark actors in Rivers state know that if I decide to go down the path of violence, neither of them would rest easy. They know I am not the one who would be afraid. But like the story of the two women and King Solomon, I am not prepared to kill my people in order to lead them. There has to be a line.

Our leaders have let us down. History and God will not be too kind to us. Your only redemption is to show your track record. Corruption needs to be addressed head on but we must be able to talk and walk at the same time. Fiscal discipline, creating the environment for growth, security in the Niger Delta especially and the promotion of a positive identity are crucial if we want to crack the No 1 problem in Nigeria – JOBS.”

His Advocacy

The liberal democrat has been involved in a lot of advocacy for his people. A few that may be mentioned here are as follows:

– He was at Enugu personally to liaise and collaborate with the Ohaneze Ndi Igbo leadership to enable them to submit suggestions on how to resolve the Niger Delta issue in 2009.

– Believes in internal democracy and that political parties in Nigeria must be ideology driven and has in that regard appealed to His Excellency Alh. Bamanga Tukur the then PDP National Chairman to make the party an ideological based political party.

– Did the impossible totally unlike any politician in Nigeria by his dramatic resignation from the Vision2020 Committee of which he was a principal member, to protest a military assault on Gbaramatu, in Delta State. Such principled politics has made Prince Tonye Princewill a brand name in the Niger Delta struggle and earned him legions of awards–attesting to his emergence as an important leader.

– He is the Founder and Leader of Princewill Political Associates (PPA) a political pressure group spearheading emancipation and uplifting the welfare of the people of Rivers State.

Rivers State Unity Government- Amaechi and Princewill – Lesson To the World 

 One other area that Prince Tonye Princewill remains a leader whose impact in the politics of Nigeria can’t be forgotten in a hurry was how he engineered the Unity Government in Rivers State with his senior brother and friend, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi erstwhile Governor of Rivers State. Power sharing as we all know, whichever way it is operated in the country, especially in the current political dispensation has not really worked out the way it has impacted on the electorate in other climes.

This has been attributed to the nature of the country’s politics, which makes it extremely difficult for the party that loses election to be carried along by the party in power, and contribute in development initiatives. Many conclude that power sharing, in our own experience, is a charade, and an awkward arrangement that would cause more division in the polity and derail the development agenda rather than speed it up

But the  political arrangement in Rivers State, where the then Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the then Action Congress (AC) worked together, according to observers, has clearly demonstrated that irrespective of political divides, politicians can join forces to drive objectives forward. They see the Rivers example as an alliance to improve governance and deliver the dividends of democracy to the people of the state.

While achieving this objective, it reduced political tension and recourse to violence. Indeed, for a state that had witnessed serious politically motivated crisis, and trying to break away from the past, experts argue that the State government would have created another battle for itself, while fighting outside forces if it had decided to govern alone.

This experience by Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Prince Tonye Princewill still stands as a study in political sagacity, engineering and is the best solution to a tense environment which sadly most States in Nigeria have failed to copy or implement. 

Further Attestation to His Type of Politics  

Prince Tonye Princewill politics is based on his oft quoted phrase – “you are blessed to bless others”. He is also motivated by the Bible which states in Proverbs 28:27 that “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack; but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse” in his drive to better the lots of the less privilege in our society. A few of his philanthropic exploits are as follows:

– On 26th July, 2008 he sponsored 20 youths from Niger Delta and four members of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) to watch live the Manchester United and Portsmouth Football Clubs all English Clubs during they visit to Nigeria at Abuja

– He started the year of 2012 when he visited and donated 25 million to the Port Harcourt Polo club, 26 million towards Microfinance for rural women, several million towards setting up a 3D studio for film academy scholars

– By June, 2012, he sponsored ten bright Nigerians under the aegis of Change Nigeria Group (CNG) on a tour of Dubai and South Africa where they met with members of the UAE royal family, institutional investors and leaders from far and wide so that they could discover for themselves the secrets of their success. .

– The Prince through the Princewill Trust Fund sponsors the yearly Amachree Scholarship Fund for indigent students from the 23 Local Govt Areas of Rivers State and for 2012 about 150 Rivers Indigenes in Higher Institutions in the country at the cost of N20M was concluded successfully.

– Donation of N25m to the Polo Club recently meant for the construction of a standard pavilion in honour of his father

– Donation of N23M Skill Acquisition Scheme to our LGAs and training of our rural women in Rivers State by empowering them through skill acquisition scheme as a believer in the saying don’t give me fish but teach me on how to fish

– Scholarship to indigent students of Rivers State a rare privilege to pursue their educational careers in higher Institutions.

– Donation of a bus to the National Association of Ijaw Female Students.

– Indentified and donated N2.5million to the Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) during its last State NUJ Fifth Delegates Conference of which he was the Conference Chairman.

– Donation of computer equipment to media organization such as the Tide Newspapers furnished and equipped the Cyber Cafe of the Federated Correspondents Chapel

– . On 2nd of May, 2012 he did the impossible by donating an equipped classical Media Centre to his then political party, PDP at Abuja for the use of Journalists. During one of the Women Day in Rivers State, the Prince instituted a 26 Million Naira Microfinance Fund for Rivers State Rural Women.

– An active and key player in creating awareness for the melancholic plight of the less privileged like the orphans by his sponsorship of NNENDA, a Nigerian home video that highlighted the plight of abandoned children and the sponsorship of“Melody Shelters Singing Talent Show” that cost him N120M wherein the final events saw Godswill Orphanage of Kogi State clinching the coveted trophy and the Championship Prize of N10M while the Runners-up, the Lifetime Orphanage of Rivers State got the Prize of N5M. Rachael Homes, Abuja came in third carting home the N3M prize. Five Hundred Thousand each was given to the other remaining five Homes as co-champions.

– Assisted his alma-mata UNIPORT Alumni when he donated the sum of N5M to the Leadership of Engr. Sampson N. Adumu led Exco to aid them in their activities during the launching of the Association in Port Harcourt on July, 2012.

– Sponsored and organized football competitions with some past football stars based in Port Harcourt, female and U-18 Soccer Tournaments his drive to continue to give succor to our youths.

– Once intervened and assisted people in Rivers and Bayelsa States that were affected by the damaging floods in the land.

– Has touched hundreds of the lives of the widows in Rivers State through his “New Life For the Widows in Rivers State”

Tonye Princewill and the Film Industry 

1. Created history when he premiered the first movie in Port Harcourt in September 12th, 2009 when Nnenda, a movie about the ills of orphanhood was staged at the famous Silver Bird Cinemas in Port Harcourt.

2. He followed up with the premiering of the International award winning “The Figurine” anchored by the famous Kunle Afolayan in 11th October, 2009 at the Silver Bird Cinemas, Port Harcourt. This movie was the second Nigerian movie to hit box office status after Stephanie Okereke’s ‘Through the glass.’

3. The Prince premiered Kajola the most expensive film ever produced in Nigeria at the silver bird cinema Abuja on 3oth july, 2010 with a whooping production cost of One Hundred and thirty Million Naira (N130M) The plot of the movie set in Nigeria 2059, which is expected to appeal to all Nigerians in the sense that it explores the implications of the continuous neglect of the poor and the widening gulf between the rich and poor and the ensuing catastrophic outcomes stemming from such neglect.

4. He sponsored the production of the first movie in Nigeria on celluoid Camera titled “76”hinged and anchored on the coup of 1976 in Nigeria aimed at recreating history for the incoming generation and preserving a remarkable part of the history of our nation. The post production is ongoing in Germany. The second is Valor, a movie that deals with the Niger Delta and Boko Haram issues and is also at post production.

At the Toronto International film festival in 2016, Tonye and crew stood out as the movie 76 which he proudly produced was singled out for honor.

On his next movie about Boko Haram the Prince of the less privileged stated,  “we will go to Sambissa. We are also doing a documentary as we speak which is bound to open doors Nigeria has kept closed for over 40 years. But in everything we do, we do it with wisdom and care. The unity of Nigeria is paramount. I see our differences as worthy of celebration and not a cause for conflict. Fear should not rule us, love needs to start winning. I am glad to be in the midst of an industry that can make and is making a difference”.

5. The RIVMAP which is the brainchild of Prince Tonye Princewill to serve as a platform for the emancipation of our youths from poverty and hopelessness by discovering, nurturing and grooming talent in the arts to stardom had during its inaugural outing that cost him the sum of N20M had Mr. Timi Julius carting away the N5M Record Deal in Music with the Dancing group of the Thrillers winning the N2M Prize in the Dancing Group and Mr. Jacob John a Welder/Fabricator based in Port Harcourt from Akwa Ibom winning the N1M meant for the Comedy group.

6. Sponsored Mr. Valentine Ohu in Broadcast Journalism, Miss Crystabel Goddy in Acting, Mr Telema Senibo in 3D Graphics, Miss Mercy Akudo also in Acting and Mr Stanley Kotey in 3D Graphics to the Del-York Film Academy

7. Donation of multi-million Naira equipped studio to some youths he sponsored to the Del-York Film Academy,

His Mission

On his mission, the Prince stated, “I have seen wealth, but, I have not found it interesting accumulating it. What is of interest to me now is how to touch those lives that are not yet privileged to have the basic things they need for survival. I want justice to be done to all and to be able to speak for the voiceless majority who do not have access to the corridors of power. Those are the people I feel most concerned for, and as I said earlier, my desire to make their voices heard by those who lead, made me to join politics”.

His Vision

On His vision: “Rivers state should be one big development unit. I don’t think that what we have now in the State is enough. Certain parts of the state are not yet feeling the impact of government and amenities are not evenly spread. While some areas are begging for the state government attention, others are having more than their fair share of the state’s resources. This lopsidedness in the distribution of social amenities needs to be checked so that every part of the state would be adequately taken care of”. It becomes obvious that Franklin .D. Roosevelt, a former president of the United States of America, an orator and philosopher of great acclaim, had the likes of the Princewills in mind when he wrote: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.” Holding tenaciously to this eternal verity, TP as he is called by admirers, believes that a leader should be a public servant, who strives relentlessly to put smiles on the faces of his followers without placing undue emphasis on their social status or dashing the hopes of the poor masses”.

Conclusion

To many Rivers State people, he is the Prince of the less privileged while to his political associates he is the Prince of the Niger Delta Politics and to most of his friends from the other parts of the country, he is the latest Bridge Builder while to you the reader he is a consummate politician!

On his new task as the Strategist and Director of Communication of Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation, I am convinced that he will bring his wealth of experience to bear by ensuring the ouster of Governor Wike whose administration in Rivers State is the apt definition of disaster  come March 2019.

Finally, I must confess that in my interaction with human beings within my sixty one years of sojourn on earth, I have come across very few strong-willed personalities comparable to Tonye Princewill. But of them all, none can be described as an unassuming but very dogged in the pursuit of any course he believes to a fault. An accomplished academician, an orator and a patriot, a charismatic politician, an outstanding philanthropist, a voice for the voiceless, a study in humility, a great manager of human resources, a fearless warrior and unassuming humanist, foresighted and a believer in a united, stronger and viable Rivers State. This special gift to the people of Rivers State and Nigeria is the only child of his father, HM King Prof. T. J. T. Princewil, Amachree XI the famous Amanayanabo of Kalabari kingdom, a renowned Scholar and first class Royal father in Rivers State.

It will do you a lot of good if you will find time to watch this documentary http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfxbUJYEIX and you will be convinced that truly we are blessed by this special gift to mankind.

I hereby on behalf of his associates, friends and family wish and present to him 50 precious garlands to this man of honour who has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that it is better to serve than to be served on this special period of his 50th birthday (Golden jubilee). God will surely bless and multiply you. 

Chief Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and can be reached via ezemediaconcept2020@gmail.com

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Africa

Akwa Ibom Corps Member Slaughters Boyfriend

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Princess Odume

A corps member identified as Princess Odume, was on Monday arrested by the Akwa Ibom police command for the murder of a yet-to-be-identified man.

The young woman, who is said to be a graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, was stripped naked by neighbours of the victim who caught her trying to skip the fence with a machete.

The Akwa Ibom Police Public Relations Officer, Odiko Ogbeche-Macdon confirmed the victim was the alleged murderer’s lover.
He also said, “The police are investigating. The police have her in custody, she committed the act, but as I speak, an investigation is ongoing as to how and why she did it.”

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Africa

COVID-19 Claims the Life of a House on the Rock Pastor

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Pastor Adeyinka Akinbami

A House On The Rock pastor, Adeyinka Akinbami(61), lost his life to COVID-19 on Friday, the 8th of January, 2021.

The Senior Pastor, of the church, Paul Adefarasin, urged Nigerians to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols.

“Yesterday (Friday), I received the rude and shocking news of someone deeply dear to me and all of the HOTR family. The passing of Pastor Yinka Akinbami has become most painful because if there truly were good men, he was certainly one. To my brother, sleep well till we meet to part no more.

“Family, kindly allow me to solicit your intercession for his dear wife of over 30 years; Pastor Tolu, his children, his children-in-law, and grandchildren. We can only at best imagine how much pain they are feeling. We share the pain of his loss but they will feel it a lot more.

“It’s important to remind the community about the deadly nature of the COVID-19 and its mutant virus strains. Please do your part by following all the recommended precautions. That way, you are able to protect yourself and others who become proximal to you. God bless and keep us all”, Adefarasin Tweeted.

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Bizare

Pius and Dr, Ifenyiwa Angbo: The sad story of everyday Nigerian hardworking women.

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Pius Angbo

The Channels news staffer Pius Angbo-seen in this picture battered his wife, who went public with the beating. In her own words, the woman had these to say:-
”Hello people, my name is Ifeyinwa. I am a doctor. I have been married to Pius Angbo of Channels TV for six years, and for six years, I have not known peace in this marriage. It’s been from one woman to another.
I just had baby. It was a Caesarian section just about 4 weeks ago. Just because I told him to spend wisely and not on women so recklessly considering we have four children, that is why I got this beating. He tried to strangle me and all that, sat on my incision, the children were crying.
When I was pregnant with this child, when the pregnancy was three months, it was the same thing. He would sit on my stomach. hit me, try to strangle me and all that”

As the outcry over the beating gathered momentum, a sitting State Governor called for a truce between husband and wife. Now, you can see husband and wife hugging it out.
Pius Angbo should be arrested and face the full wrath of the law for causing his wife such bodily harm. As shown in those pictures, the beating went too far, and because Ifeaniyiwa had a cesarian operation four weeks ago, the man almost killed her. The matter should not be swept under the carpet.
The next time around, the woman may not be alive to tell her story. Her case represents a tiny fraction of what everyday Nigerian woman is facing. I spoke with the Lagos State Police PRO and waits to talk with the Commissioner of Police very shortly, concerning this matter. More updates will be made public.

AGU is Nigerian-American International award wining musician, song writer and Producer/ publisher.

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Inside Nigeria

The Nigeria-Biafra war: Remembering the fearless heroes- photo-Gallery/video by Agu

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The Nigerian-Biafra-war

It was probably 15 years after the Nigerian -Biafran civil war ended that my thought process comprehended the full tragic impact it had on my family. The first time I saw four of my nephews, I wondered why they could not speak my dialect. Also, they had a last name that does not sound anything close to the language that I speak. I became inquisitive and began asking questions. My mother told me how the Nigerian soldiers took over my town and started kidnapping girls from my village. My senior sisters hidden inside the house Chimney were not spared after the soldier’s informant gave them away.
My father could not do anything to stop them. He came close to being killed by the same soldiers. He watched in utter shock how his girls got taken away. After that incident, my father left the village and never came back alive. It hurts to this day that i never get to know my father due to Nigerian-Biafran civil war. Anyway, this part of my story is reserved for another day.
Also, my nephews of Yoruba extract never had a father-son-relationship with their Yoruba fathers. Their lives were equally shattered. The entire Eastern- Nigeria is still a conquered place. Daily, you will think the war is not over.
Today, as we remember those who died during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, let me leave you with this memory. I would also implore you to read this article ‘Buried for 50 years: Britain’s shameful role in the Biafran war”.
See the shocking footages and photo gallery,

Buried for 50 years: Britain’s shameful role in the Biafran war

A million children starved to death. I’m haunted by the images I saw there – and by the complicity of the Wilson government

t is a good thing to be proud of one’s country, and I am – most of the time. But it would be impossible to scan the centuries of Britain’s history without coming across a few incidents that evoke not pride but shame. Among those I would list are the creation by British officialdom in South Africa of the concentration camp, to persecute the families of Boers. Add to that the Amritsar massacre of 1919 and the Hola camps set up and run during the struggle against Mau Mau.

The northern and western regions were swept by a pogrom in which thousands of Igbo were slaughtered

But there is one truly disgusting policy practised by our officialdom during the lifetime of anyone over 50, and one word will suffice: Biafra.

This referred to the civil war in Nigeria that ended 50 years ago this month. It stemmed from the decision of the people of the eastern region of that already riot-racked country to strike for independence as the Republic of Biafra. As I learned when I got there as a BBC correspondent, the Biafrans, mostly of the Igbo people, had their reasons.

The federal government in Lagos was a brutal military dictatorship that came to power in 1966 in a bloodbath. During and following that coup, the northern and western regions were swept by a pogrom in which thousands of resident Igbo were slaughtered. The federal government lifted not a finger to help. It was led by an affable British-educated colonel, Yakubu Gowon. But he was a puppet. The true rulers were a group of northern Nigerian colonels. The crisis deepened, and in early 1967 eastern Nigeria, harbouring about 1.8 million refugees, sought restitution. A British-organised conference was held in Ghana and a concordat agreed. But Gowon, returning home, was flatly contradicted by the colonels, who tore up his terms and reneged on the lot. In April the Eastern Region formally seceded and on 7 July, the federal government declared war.

Biafra was led by the Eastern Region’s Oxford-educated former military governor, “Emeka” Ojukwu. London, ignoring all evidence that it was Lagos that reneged on the deal, denounced the secession, made no attempt to mediate and declared total support for Nigeria.

I arrived in the Biafra capital of Enugu on the third day of the war. In London I had been copiously briefed by Gerald Watrous, head of the BBC’s West Africa Service. What I did not know was that he was the obedient servant of the government’s Commonwealth Relations Office (CRO), which believed every word of its high commissioner in Lagos, David Hunt. It took two days in Enugu to realise that everything I had been told was utter garbage.

I had been briefed that the brilliant Nigerian army would suppress the rebellion in two weeks, four at the most. Fortunately the deputy high commissioner in Enugu, Jim Parker, told me what was really happening. It became clear that the rubbish believed by the CRO and the BBC stemmed from our high commissioner in Lagos. A racist and a snob, Hunt expected Africans to leap to attention when he entered the room – which Gowon did. At their single prewar meeting Ojukwu did not. Hunt loathed him at once.

My brief was to report the all-conquering march of the Nigerian army. It did not happen. Naively, I filed this. When my report was broadcast our high commissioner complained to the CRO in London, who passed it on to the BBC – which accused me of pro-rebel bias and recalled me to London. Six months later, in February 1968, fed up with the slavishness of the BBC to Whitehall, I walked out and flew back to west Africa. Ojukwu roared with laughter and allowed me to stay. My condition was that, having rejected British propaganda, I would not publish his either. He agreed.

But things had changed. British covert interference had become huge. Weapons and ammunition poured in quietly as Whitehall and the Harold Wilson government lied and denied it all. Much enlarged, with fresh weapons and secret advisory teams, the Nigerian army inched across Biafra as the defenders tried to fight back with a few bullets a day. Soviet Ilyushin bombers ranged overhead, dropping 1,000lb bombs on straw villages. But the transformation came in July.

Missionaries had noticed mothers emerging from the deep bush carrying children reduced to living skeletons yet with bloated bellies. Catholic priests recognised the symptoms – kwashiorkor or acute protein deficiency.

That same July the Daily Express cameraman David Cairns ran off a score of rolls of film and took them to London. Back then, the British public had never seen such heartrending images of starved and dying children. When the pictures hit the newsstands the story exploded. There were headlines, questions in the House of Commons, demonstrations, marches.

As the resident guide for foreign news teams I became somewhat overwhelmed. But at last the full secret involvement of the British government started to be exposed and the lies revealed. Wilson came under attack. The story swept Europe then the US.

Donations flooded in. The money could buy food – but how to get it there? Around year’s end the extraordinary Joint Church Aid was born.

The World Council of Churches helped to buy some clapped-out freighter aircraft and gained permission from Portugal to use the offshore island São Tomé as a base. Scandinavian pilots and crew, mostly airline pilots, offered to fly without pay. Joint Church Aid was quickly nicknamed Jesus Christ Airlines. And thus came into being the world’s only illegal mercy air bridge.

On a visit to London in spring 1969 I learned the efforts the British establishment will take to cover up its tracks. Every reporter, peer or parliamentarian who had visited Biafra and reported on what he had seen was smeared as a stooge of Biafra – even the utterly honourable John Hunt, leader of the Everest expedition.

Throughout 1969 the relief planes flew through the night, dodging Nigerian MiG fighters, to deliver their life-giving cargoes of reinforced milk powder to a jungle airstrip. From there trucks took the sacks to the missions, the nuns boiled up the nutriments and kept thousands of children alive.

Karl Jaggi, head of the Red Cross, estimated that up to a million children died, but that at least half a million were saved. As for me, sometimes in the wee small hours I see the stick-like children with the dull eyes and lolling heads, and hear their wails of hunger and the low moans as they died.

What is truly shameful is that this was not done by savages but aided and assisted at every stage by Oxbridge-educated British mandarins. Why? Did they love the corruption-riven, dictator-prone Nigeria? No. From start to finish, it was to cover up that the UK’s assessment of the Nigerian situation was an enormous judgmental screw-up. And, worse: with neutrality and diplomacy from London it could all have been avoided.

Biafra is little discussed in the UK these days – a conflict overshadowed geopolitically by the Vietnam war, which raged at the same time. Yet the sheer nastiness of the British establishment during those three years remains a source of deep shame that we should never forget.

Frederick Forsyth is a former war correspondent and an author

Guardian Service

Execution of Mathias Kanu, A Biafran by Nigeria Army
Execution of Mathias Kanu, A Biafran by Nigeria Army.mp4
Nigeria-Biafra War | Road to Umuahia | British TV Reporter Peter Sissons Shot & injured | Oct. 1968.mp4

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