I wasn’t alive during the Biafran War- obviously- but my parents were, and my mum used to tell us stories of how people ate Leaves and Lizards to survive! As I was getting my Master’s Degree at the University of Lagos, my course coordinator, Dr. David Aworawo would say, “The Biafran War dragged on due to the recalcitrance of Ojukwu, and the ambivalence of Gowon!” From all accounts, the war wasn’t palatable- mostly for the Biafran side!
The man called Nnamdi Kanu, was the Director of the now shut-down so-called “Radio Biafra”- a radio station set up in the UK, which broadcast anti-government propaganda from the UK, into pockets of certain Eastern Nigerian States. To be truthful, I didn’t really know so much about Kanu, until his arrest sometime last year. To me, Nnamdi Kanu was just a hypocritical caricature, seeking for self-grandiosity, by inciting violence while hidden in the comfort of London! I called him hypocritical because he disowned Nigeria, yet still, travelled with a green Nigerian passport. He referred to Nigeria as a zoo, and hurled all manner of insults at the President…all in the name of Biafra! Yet I didn’t think much of him…until he was arrested by the DSS on a visit to Nigeria last year.
I love having conversations with my big sister. She has such a quirky, intelligent mind. I visited her recently, and we had a really interesting conversation on the issue. She basically said, “Nnamdi Kanu was a nobody, until the Federal Government made him a Legend!” According to her, if Kanu’s movements were simply monitored, or if he was taken in for questioning and then released, events wouldn’t have turned out the way they have. But he was taken by the SSS, and has been continually detained by the DSS, even when a Federal High Court ordered his release. His supporters- MASSOBites and IPOBites- took to the streets in Anambra, Abia, Imo, Rivers and Delta, calling for his release. In certain instances, they clashed with security operatives…a few died…Kanu is still being held by the Government.
I have no sympathy for Nnamdi Kanu. I understand the agitations of the Igbo’s, but as I have alluded to, Kanu is a self-serving individual who in no way serves the collective interest of the “Igbo Nation”. But as events usually turn out in history, his continued detention by the FG has sort of transformed him into something of a “fabled figure”…maybe not along the lines of “Turi Guiliano” in Mario Puzo’s acclaimed bestseller, “The Sicilian”; even though his supporters would want to portray him in that light…however skewed that view may be! As the protesters chanted their demands for the release of Kanu, a MASSOB spokesperson said, “No agitation is complete without arrest, detention and persecution. It shapes the minds of activists, drawing sympathy from international and external observers; it also shows that Nnamdi Kanu and Radio Biafra have become a factor of reckoning in Nigeria”. And so, by his continued detention, Kanu has become- at least to his followers- a “demi-god”! What was simply an underground station in the UK, broadcasting gibberish to certain pockets of the country by a hypocritical and cowardly individual, has now become a popular movement within the confines of Nigeria!
After the High Court ordered Kanu’s release, the FG immediately slammed fresh charges against him- including illegal possession of items, and maintaining an unlawful society- and held him further in detention. Femi Falana, a renowned human rights activist and lawyer, asked the FG to stop violating court orders, and immediately release Kanu (and Dasuki). He warned that holding on to the 2 men in spite of the orders of the court, amounted to a violation of the law that Buhari pledged to uphold! Bear in mind that Falana is a supporter of the President!
Chief Guy Ikokwu, chieftain of the defunct NADECO, believes that Kanu’s actions are not “treasonable”; and that he is only utilizing the tools of the digital media sphere. He noted that the radio station is registered in the UK, and that in the past, Prof. Wole Soyinka, a very prominent Nigerian, had operated Radio Kudirat, which was endorsed by NADECO. He then stated that if Kanu is guilty of treason on account of Radio Biafra, then millions of Nigerians are guilty of treason in the social media space! Now, I wouldn’t go so far as giving equal justification to Radio Biafra, as I would to Radio Kudirat, which was set up to actualize the electoral mandate of the late MKO Abiola; and to call for democracy in Nigeria, while speaking out against the Abacha tyranny. In my opinion, Kanu wanted to achieve the status and legacy of Ojukwu, without the pain and suffering endured by a man like Abiola! Kanu’s detention was not something that was meticulously planned or foreseen by him; but was rather an event which simply happened, and on which he has now capitalized, to “immortalize” himself. I say this because when Nnamdi Kanu flew into Lagos and lodged in a hotel, he didn’t do so under the name “Nnamdi Kanu”; but with a different name- “Nwanekaenyi Ezebuiro”. In fact, the name, Nnamdi Kanu, was nowhere on the guest list, and it took a room-to-room search of the entire hotel by the SSS, before he was finally discovered in Room 303!
I believe that most people clamoring for “Biafra” do not really know what they are even fighting for. Kanu’s supporters are blindly following a man with no true “Igbo heart”. If not, he would not have hid away in London! Kanu is not half the man Ojukwu was. Even though Ojukwu eventually had to flee to Ghana, he did not start a fight from the confines and safety of “obodo oyibo” i.e., “the white man’s land”, without regard for the safety of the lives of those who would be incited to employ violent means, due to his inflammatory remarks! But nevertheless, though Kanu is really a man of “very little standing”, the FG, by continually detaining him, propels him further into the limelight!
The Government now tows a very fine line. Releasing Nnamdi Kanu would make a mockery of why he was arrested in the first place, and might also come across as acceptance of a “mistake” and justification for Kanu’s actions, by his supporters. On the other hand, his continued detention comes across as further violation of the law, while also fuelling the drive of his supporters, who now see him as a strong opposition figure- the man who took on the Federal Government (even though Kanu did not necessarily orchestrate the chain of events that have happened since his arrest).
Nnamdi Kanu is certainly NO LEGEND. But whatever the Government does next, they must make sure he does not die in their custody. We do not want to even imagine what would unfold in the country, if that happens!