Tuesday 2 July 2024

On This Day in 1995, Dr. Akanu Ibiam Passed Away

Sir Francis Akanu Ibiam KCMG KBE (29 November 1906 - 1 July 1995) was a distinguished medical missionary and former Governor of Eastern Region, Nigeria. Ibiam was born on 29 November 1906 in Unwana, Afikpo, Ebonyi State, into an Igbo family. He was the second son of Chief Ibiam Aka, a traditional ruler of Unwana. He later became the traditional ruler, Eze Ogo Isiala I of Unwana, and Osuji of Uburu.

He attended Hope Waddell Training Institute in Calabar and King's College in Lagos before graduating with a medical degree from the University of St. Andrews in 1934. As a medical missionary for the Church of Scotland, he established Abiriba Hospital (1936–1945) and later supervised mission hospitals at Itu and Uburu.

Ibiam was not ordained as a minister but served as an elder of the Presbyterian Church. He was recognized for his missionary work with several honors, including an honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1949 and a substantive Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1951. He also served as president of the Christian Council of Nigeria (1955–1958) and principal of Hope Waddell Institution in 1957. In 1959, he became president of the University College of Ibadan. In 1962, he chaired the committee that established the Protestant Chapel at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka Campus.

In 1956, Queen Elizabeth II conferred knighthood on Mazi Francis Akanu-Ibiam in Enugu. However, in 1969, Ibiam returned his knighthood and renounced his English name, Francis, in protest against the British government's support of the Nigerian federal government against Biafra during the Civil War.

Before Nigerian independence, Ibiam was active in local government, serving in the Eastern Regional House of Assembly and the Legislative and Executive Councils. After independence in 1960, he was appointed governor of Eastern Region and served until the military coup of January 1966. Following the coup, he was ejected from the State House by his successor, Colonel Emeka Ojukwu, who later became the president of Biafra.

During the Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970), Ibiam supported the Biafrans and facilitated relief efforts through his church contacts. He played a crucial role in organizing the nightly airlift of relief supplies into Biafra. After the war, Ibiam continued his work in reconstruction and hospital service. He was involved with the Bible Society of Nigeria, the Christian Medical Fellowship, and served as a president of the All Africa Conference of Churches.

Ibiam passed away on 1 July 1995, with over 20,000 people attending his funeral in Unwana. Several institutions are named in his honor, including Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu, Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic in Unwana, and Francis Akanu Ibiam Stadium at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

#Africa #Nigeria

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