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I watched some videos of Nnamdi Kanu inspecting a guard of honour formed by his Biafran Security Service and the Biafran National Guard in military uniform recently. It gave me the chills. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he hoisted the Biafran flag, flaunted a Biafran passport and a coat of arms, etc. There is a video of him openly soliciting for money at the World Igbo Congress in Los Angeles in the U.S. to buy arms to fight Nigeria in 2015 before his arrest. Effectively, Kanu had created a sovereign state within a sovereign state.
I don’t know any country in the world that would accept or condone this frontal challenge to its security and sovereignty. Certainly not the United States of America, not the United Kingdom or France. Did the Brits and the Yanks expect the Nigerian state to sit idly by as a spectator and just watch Kanu’s ultra ethnic/religious thumb-in-your-eye activities which were already precipitating the country into a major conflagration? Haven’t you seen what is happening in Catalonia in Spain, or what happened in Southern Cameroun recently? No country will allow what Kanu did to go unchecked.
Out on bail, he upped the ante by declaring Aba as the spiritual capital of Biafra on August 27, 2017, where he stated inter alia: “Where we are is Biafraland. Aba is the spiritual capital of Biafraland. We started in Aba in 2015 at CKC. That day, heaven authenticated our move that IPOB will restore Biafra and that’s what we have come to do. We died in Aba at National High School. They shot and killed us in other places in Biafraland where they were protesting for my release. As our people rest in the grave, we’ll never rest until Biafra is restored. I don’t care what they say in Abuja. I don’t give a damn what they say in Lagos. I’m a Biafran and we are going to crumble the zoo.
“Some idiots who are not educated said that they’ll arrest me, and I ask them to come, I’m in Biafra. If any of them leaves Biafraland alive, know that this is not IPOB. Tell them what I said. Tell Buhari that I am in Aba and any person who comes to arrest Nnamdi Kanu in Biafraland will die here. I’ll never go on exile I assure you. Some people talk about restructuring, are we doing the restructuring of Nigeria now? Are we doing fiscal federalism? Are we doing devolution? What we want is Biafra! Forget all the nonsense they write about us. We are not slowing down and no man born of a woman can stop us…”
Until recently, I didn’t pay much attention to him. All that changed when the deadly implications of his activities and actions started to unfold in a more direct way just a few weeks ago; his overarching modus operandi had raised fears of a general ethnic/religious conflagration in the country. Everyone could feel the tension in the country a few weeks back. It was really unnerving and frightening.
Again, I watched the video of some women spreading their wrappers on the ground for Kanu to walk on. I saw yet another video of a man prostrating to kiss his feet. Many men and women, both young and old showered praises on him and even worshipped him. Yes, I am not kidding, they idolised and worshipped him. There is another video of a man describing Kanu as god-like to him and that anything he commands him to do, he would gladly do.
Some of us know what such deification of a man can do to a person’s mind. He begins to see himself as an all-powerful demigod. His followers/victims lose their ability for independent rational reasoning just like the man who said anything Kanu commanded him to do, he would gladly obey him. That is a classic example of brainwashing. The more the victim surrenders control of himself, the more powerful his captor becomes. History is replete with leaders whose actions caused the needless deaths of millions of people across the world: Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, etc.
We see this time and again from fake religious/cult leaders who lead their followers to commit mass suicide. Remember The Guyana Tragedy? On November 18, 1978, more than 900 followers of the Rev. Jim Jones participated in a mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, ordered by Jim Jones. Only a few members came out alive to tell the horrific tales of abuses that went on in that temple. There have been others after Jim Jones.
There are so many disturbing videos and audio recordings of Kanu crossing the line on the internet. This guy’s manner was reprehensible, his utterances uncouth, vulgar and delusional. His methods were extremely reckless and dangerous. As if that wasn’t enough, his ethno-religious bombast was chilling, provocative and appeared deliberately designed to provoke a wider ethnic/religious conflagration in the country. And not surprisingly, he made no pretension about his mission and actually took concrete actions to achieve it. He seemed obsessed with the realisation of Biafra at all costs as if that was the solution to the problems in the South-east. But for the quick intervention of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike with his statewide broadcast to reassure all citizens of their safety and the timely action by the South-east governors, perhaps we would have been talking of a bloody ethno/religious conflagration across the country. Whose interest would that have served?
Flaunting his misguided power and influence, he boasted that the coming Anambra governorship election would not hold, and then expanded his threat to the entire South-east in the 2019 elections. He called for a sit-at-home protest to demonstrate his new-found powers. He boasted that he controlled the people of the South-east 100 per cent. Kanu threatened that if his bail was revoked and the federal government re-arrested him, he had already left instructions with his IPOB members to burn down Nigeria.
I shudder to think what this man would have become if he succeeded with Biafra. Kanu lacked the temperament of a leader. He was already drunk with the adulation showered on him. Power in the hands of a man like Kanu would have amounted to a dangerous mix of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. He demonstrably drew disturbing similarities with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un who routinely executes his people on the flimsiest of excuses.
For all my frustrations and doubts about Nigeria, and despite the imperfections of how it was created, I don’t want a break-up of our fatherland and I believe so many other people share this with me. I believe we can make this country better. I am against the marginalisation of any section of this country like President Muhammadu Buhari is doing to the entire South, especially the South-east. And for the umpteenth time, I state that those who brought Buhari to power put a knife to the fragile things that hold us together.
I am wholeheartedly and unreservedly in support of the restructuring of Nigeria to make it work for us all, and not for the current few. Whether this was Kanu’s ultimate game plan, I have no idea, but I have my doubts. The question to ask Kanu is: Was secession the answer to marginalisation? What made him think that a sovereign Biafra state would end poverty and corruption in the South-east as we have in other parts of the country? Who appointed him leader of the Igbo to lead the charge for Biafra? Did he even think through the full ramifications of Biafra on Igbo people across the country?
Would a Biafra have ceased to produce jesters and clowns like Rochas Okorocha if it had succeeded in breaking away? Most of the people shouting Biafra were acting more out of emotion rather than reason. The truth is the South-east has had a succession of bad leaders just like the rest of the country. The region is still so backward despite its potential, precisely because of a lack of innovative and creative leadership to unleash a tidal wave of opportunities for its people.
However, I must state without equivocation that Buhari’s ethnic agenda to right the perceived wrongs done to the North and his brazen implementation of that agenda despite protestations, is what is fueling the likes of Kanu and the massive agitations in the country even though I found Kanu’s methods and tactics abhorrent. Again, the president’s feeble response to the mindless atrocities, killings and destruction of properties by the Fulani herdsmen, is another case in point. At a time he should have shown leadership, he opted for partisanship.
To save Nigeria, this country has to be restructured. Restructuring is not a call to arms, but a call for equity and justice so that everybody will have a sense of belonging in this potentially great country.
Still on Kanu, I must confess that I was amazed by the physical metamorphosis of this young fellow: from a clean-shaven jeans and shirt-wearing romantic fine boy on the streets of London to this fiery, incendiary hate-spewing, war-mongering, grey-bearded secessionist megalomaniac.
His sudden transformation to Mazi Kanu in traditional Isi-agwu (head of lion) jumper, complemented by a Rabbi’s cap, his latter-day slow gait, slightly hunched back and his gold-plated walking stick to create the image of an elder of pre-eminent distinction from the army of jobless folks who thronged his father’s house to practically worship him in his new role as the new uncrowned leader of the Igbo race testified to my suspicion about this man’s sense of delusional grandeur. He used to walk normally like you and I, even as recently as his release from prison on bail. Where did all these theatrics come from so suddenly? Is this what perceived power does to a man? What was a young man in his forties with no trace of ill health, or visible handicap to his ability to walk doing with a walking stick?
Again, why was he displaying the photograph of Donald Trump, the president of the United States of America alongside his, when announcing the activities of IPOB? Did Trump subscribe to his activities? Was that action alone not a classical case of “419”, using Trump’s picture to hoodwink and fool his gullible support base to create the impression that Trump supported the Biafra cause? Wetin concern Trump with Biafra? Did this not also tell us that this was a disturbed young man? That he even chose a world-reject like Trump to market his Biafra cause said a lot about his mental state. What was wrong with Kanu?
Kanu in my estimation failed the one important quality of leadership: selflessness. Kanu was arrested and imprisoned alongside Onwudiwe Chidiebere, Banjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi. They were arraigned by the federal government last year on an 11-count charge for terrorism, treasonable felony and illegal possession of firearms, among others. He alone was granted bail ostensibly on health grounds. That to me was somewhat political. Contrary to the expectations of some, he accepted the bail and left other apparent accomplices in prison. Once he got out, he never spoke publicly about the other guys rotting away in prison. I never once heard him fight for their release. I had expected him to refuse his bail until others were equally granted bail. But no, he took the bail and forgot his co-accused. To me, that did not look good for his leadership credentials. What kind of freedom fighter abandons his followers in prison while he enjoys freedom? With Kanu almost certainly now a fugitive from justice, God only knows when his co-accused will smell freedom. He has put those who signed his bail surety in trouble with the law as Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe admitted recently; another failure of leadership. These people staked their reputations and credibility built over several decades to surety someone they barely knew. Now, they are going to suffer the short end of the stick. However, I can hardly sympathise with them because they wanted to earn some political gain from Kanu’s then-rising profile.
The irony is that Kanu was not the only one who abandoned his co-accused. Ohanaeze leaders and the South-east intelligentsia were uninterested in their plight. Charles Soludo was not interested in their freedom, the former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, was not interested in their release either. Instead, the inconvenient truth is that they gave subtle nudging to Kanu and his activities.
Some have argued that Kanu and his IPOB members were not armed and that their pro-Biafra protests were peaceful. But anyone who was honest enough would have seen a clear direction towards violence. For God’s sake, Kanu was soliciting for money to buy guns, bullets, etc., to wage a war of secession against Nigeria. He created a uniformed army, a national guard, etc. Danger, they say, comes in many forms. Did Nigeria need to wait for him to be armed before taking action? From his statement declaring Aba the spiritual capital, he sounded like someone armed and ready for a duel.
We were witnessing a quiet replay of what the Northern elders, the Borno Elders Forum (by the way, where are they now?) and the entire Northern intelligentsia did with Boko Haram. They nudged the deadly sect on until it became too late. I can recall how even the Sultan of Sokoto denied that it was not Boko Haram that was carrying out the mindless atrocities, killings and bombings. The Northern intelligentsia rationalised all the inexcusable behaviour of members of the terror group all because they wanted power at all costs.
They never condemned the bestial terrorists. Instead for every attack by the terrorists, they condemned the Jonathan government “for allowing the attack”. Even Buhari, the hero of “Change”, supported Boko Haram all in an effort to undermine the then government. He emerged the biggest beneficiary of the activities of that evil sect. Lest we forget, the terror group went as far as nominating him as its chief negotiator with the Jonathan government.
His party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) latched on to every opportunity to benefit from the activities of the terror group. Nothing was abhorrent to it as long as it could gain from the mindless destruction of lives; a pursuit rooted in the philosophy of the end justifying the means. At the height of the Boko Haram saga, the party’s governors went to Maiduguri, Borno State, the heartland of the terror group, on a purported solidarity visit to pose for photographs on the streets of the city and then circulated them widely in the press the next day as if that was enough to solve the problem. Note that the governors didn’t proffer solutions to deal with the terror group. They were more interested in the photo opportunity. Have the APC governors visited Maiduguri again on a solidarity tour? No!
The party of “rogues and come-and-chop politicians” got what it desperately wanted, but today it is a miserable failure in governance. The propaganda it used to win power has so far failed it on all fronts. Can you beat that? Today the terror group it supported to win power is still out of control. If you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind.
The leaders of the South-east were repeating the same mistake. We’ve been witness to this tendency in the recent past. When the Odua People’s Congress (OPC) and other such violent groups in the South-west were breaking the law, leaders of the South-west were usually silent, they did not condemn the groups. The same thing happens in Niger Delta, the elders give subtle encouragement to criminality of some people masquerading as freedom fighters but who in actual fact are fighting for their personal pockets.
Kanu seemed to enjoy pushing fate. He needed the danger that came with it to promote himself and looked tough. For a brief period, he said anything, did anything and got away with it. And like all high-risk gamblers, he saw himself as the ace in the pack to actualise Biafra. But after boasting for weeks of his invincibility, Kanu again failed the leadership test as he fled at the sound of a gunshot, leaving his poor gullible followers to die needlessly.
This Article was first published by ThisDay.