By Comfort Obi
I don’t know what these three people – Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, a Jewish High Priest, Immanuel Shalom, and an Abuja-based Chattered Accountant, Tochukwu Uchendu – are thinking about now. But in their shoes, I will be full of regrets. I will be walking the wall in anger, and l will be screaming blue murder.
The three gentlemen are in trouble. And that is putting it mildly. They are about to lose a 100 million Naira, each. And if they take things for granted, it could be worse. They have only about eight weeks to find a way out of the crossroads. I don’t know the magic they plan to pull. But two things can save them from these seeming self-inflicted penalties.
One, produce the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, and haul him before a Federal High Court in Abuja. Or, manage to convince the court that Kanu’s disappearing act was due to the irresponsibility of the State.
If you ask me, the former seems impossible, unless somebody tries an Umaru Dikko on Kanu. You remember Dikko – the very powerful Minister during the President Shehu Shagari regime. He escaped to London when this same President Muhammadu Buhari & co toppled the civilian government of Shagari. Buhari, trust him on that, was convinced that Dikko was the most corrupt politician then. So, with the help of some mercenary – security agents, they put Dikko in a luggage/crate, tagged “Diplomatic bag,” and hauled him to the Heathrow Airport, London. Lucky old fellow, who is late now, they were about to cargo him back to Nigeria into the waiting hands of Buhari, when his ordeal leaked. He was rescued.
The story was, and still is, that it was some Isreali people who got the contract to deliver that human cargo to Nigeria. Now, in Kanu’s case, I don’t see it happening. Kanu has since claimed he now practices the Jewish religion. He now lives in Isreal, he says, where he goes to the Wailing Wall to wail. As for the second option of convincing the court, the law, they say, is an axe. So, what are their options?
Hon Justice Binta Nyako, a Judge of the Federal High Court Abuja, before whom Kanu and his compatriots are facing treasonable charges, is very angry with Abaribe and Co.
Their trouble began when they decided to take Kanu on bail, and so, signed a bond as to the tune of N300 million. This case is a popular one. But a brief re-cap is necessary here.
Kanu, as you know, is the leader of IPOB. He says he is the one to emancipate the people of the old Eastern region. He says he would succeed where the Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu failed. Propelled by whatever forces are behind him, he promises the people paradise on earth when his Biafran dream materialises. And he has quite a large following of youths. They are in hundreds of thousands, most of them, unemployed and angry. I don’t want to use the word brain-wash, but he has so convinced these youths, males and females, that there is no tomorrow without Biafra. That “Biafra is near”. Freedom at last. So, when he asks them to jump, they ask how high. He developed a cult personality. And, is worshipped by his followers. He is a thin god, their own thin god. Nobody else matters. They could lie down and ask him to walk on them. I never witnessed this, but I understand that they wash his feet. The opposite of Jesus Christ washing the feet of His disciples. In Kanu’s case, his disciples wash his feet.
Suddenly, Kanu took over the South-east. His followers believe in him more than they believe in anybody – Governors, Senators, Religious Leaders, Traditional Rulers, Elder Statesmen – in the South-east. They obey his every word. If he tells them not to eat, they would never dare. His followers fear him. And he instilled fear in everybody, almost. Even some high profile politicians in Igbo land, out fear, more than anything else, are cautious not to incure his wrath. As an icing on the cake, Kanu has a caustic tongue.
He has no respect for anybody. He dismisses NASS members, Governor, Religious leaders, Traditional Rulers and Elders Statesmen in very derogatory unbecoming terms. Idiots, brainless and, slaves, he calls them. And he throws in the ‘B’ without any qualms. Kanu is ferocious in speech. He pulls no punches. Nobody is beyond his acidic tongue. Some of the things he said endangered the lives of his compatriots in other parts of the country.
On a number of times, Igbo leaders had tried to intervene, to ask him to mellow down. They ended up frustrated. Everyone of them who tried came out with the same impression: The young man does not want to hear anything from anybody, they chorus.
For the records, Kanu and IPOB may have their points. A number of things they say is the truth. But the opinion held behind Kanu, even by a number of his admirers, is that he crosses the red line often. That his method is wrong. That, he is not diplomatic. And that he is feeding a lot of Igbo youths with the wrong diet. And they use Gani Adams, the OPC leader, who began like him. The difference: Adams respected Yoruba Obas and elders, and some political leaders. He never called them idiots. When they think he is about to cross the border line, they pull him back. He obeys. He so re-packaged himself. He now dines and wines with kings. And has been crowned the Aare Ona Kakanfo of the Yoruba, a prestigious title earlier held by Akintola and MKO Abiola, both late.
But, not Kanu. He listens to nobody.
You cannot say you are not a Nigerian and still be using the Nigerian passport. You cannot say you are not a Nigerian and still be using the Naira. You cannot stay in Nigeria and say you have your own national flag, national anthem, currency, international passport as a sovereign nation. You cannot have a Sovereign within a Sovereign. When Ralph Uwazuruike’s MASSOB started, it was the same thing, almost. A huge difference: Uwazuruike was not as foul-mouthed as Kanu. But, he and MASSOB caused the Igbo quite a lot. They are the reason why, population-wise, the Igbo is now, falsely, regarded as the least ethnic group. They asked Ndi-Igbo not to take part in the Census. They are the reason why the voting-strength of the South-East is the least. They asked Ndigbo not to register for voting. And, at a point, they asked Ndigbo not to allow their children to be given vaccination in schools, claiming that it was a ploy by the military to get rid of Igbo children. They now and then destroy the economic development of Ndigbo by ordering people to sit at home.
In the instant case, Kanu played into the hands of the Nigerian government with his actions and choice of words. Yes, he always said IPOB members do not carry arms, but, at times, the words of the mouth can kill, and/or push some people to kill. In fact, every war is caused by the words of the mouth. The Radio Biafra he was managing was almost, always, a call for arms struggle. How ready are the Igbo? What is the opinion of Igbo leaders, who include tested Military Generals, Diplomats, Intellectuals and leaders in every aspect of the Nigerian economy?
Not many people were, therefore, surprised when he was picked up, and detained by the DSS. While a whole lot of people cried foul, others said he had it coming. Whatever, when his detention seemed to be lasting forever, he garnered some sympathy across board, even from those he insulted everyday. Not a few people blamed the Nigerian government for picking Kanu up when he, for whatever reasons, arrived Nigeria, from Britain, which citizen he also is. Several opinions were that they should have ignored him, and just monitored him and his activities. But with government and its advisers, one can never tell. So Kanu and Co were arrested, and for months on end, according to unconfirmed sources, kept in an underground cell by the DSS.
But finally, the court process began. The courts, perhaps, based on security reports wouldn’t give Kanu bail. Until, a number of those he insulted intervened. His bail was negotiated, and terms reached. Promises were made. He knew. He was briefed. Everything was thrown in, including his health which was said to be bad. So, Abaribe and Co took him on bail. Whether they were drafted by the Igbo leadership, or did that out of their own compassion, you know, sympathy for a kinsman, I cannot confirm. But they did. A handsome young man, when he came out, he was still hip. Like they say, “fine boy, no pimples.”
For a couple of weeks, Kanu kept to his very stringent bail terms. At the time, one wondered why those terms were that stringent. It was perhaps to cage him and his caustic tongue a little. But soon, Kanu proved that a leopard does not change its spots. He began, gradually, by visiting all those he felt helped him while he was in detention. A whole lot of them, really, including Prof. Ben Nwabueze. Then he began to visit other Igbo leaders. Then, he had a meeting with South-East governors in Enugu. And they took a group photograph. But he was to mock them and some others later. He said they disowned him while he was detained. But now, they were struggling to take photographs with him. He really felt they needed him more than he needed them. Then, he began to address rallies, crowds and crowds of people. His foul mouthedness in full display.
The state protested that he was breaching his bail terms. The Judge warned. Those who took him on bail were on edge. And some said: haul him back into jail until his case is decided. But as the date for his next court appearance approached, they felt Kanu was becoming uncontrollable. His Afara, Abia home, was like a pilgrimage centre. Hundreds of youths milled around. Then enters, the Army’s Operation Python Dance.
That code-name does not rhyme. A python does not dance. Slimy, big fellow, it is as dangerous as they come. It kills, without mercy, by breaking the bones of its unsuspecting victims. It swallows anything on its way. The army said it was to rid the South east of criminals – armed robbers, kidnappers, assassins, ritualists, cultists, the lot. They said it was a kind of show of strength, of force, a road show. But when they got to Kanu’s Afara, it turned awry.
Nobody has actually told us the story of what happened. How the soldiers left the road and branched into the Palace of Kanu’s father. Did anybody instruct them to do that? If so, it was not well thought out. It was an advice meant to destroy. It was suicidal. With the number of youths stacked around, the soldiers had no business going there. They should have continued with their show of force, unless they were attacked. They have not told us anybody attacked them. The allegation is that it was unprovoked. So, they entered there. And according to reports, engaged in indiscriminate shooting. Like they were in a war front. And, according to Kanu, by the time they left, 28 people lay dead. The fact that not one soldier was wounded shows it was an unequal combat. It was like killing a fly with a sledge hammer. Kanu’s father’s Palace was vandalised. And, it was another black day in the history of our country. This alleged massacre, no matter the provocation, was as ill-advised as the advice to proscribe IPOB. And it is the reason Abaribe & Co are in this mess.
Two mysteries therein. Kanu’s parents – their Royal Highnesses – disappeared from the Palace. Till date, nobody can quite say where they are. Are they alive? I believe so. But it is such a shame that the Eze and his Ugoeze would disappear without a whimp from the traditional institution in the South east, or even the governors. But perhaps, they know what we don’t know. The most mysterious is Kanu’s magical disappearance. Until, recently, when he appeared in Israel, all sorts of theories abounded. Orji Uzor Kalu, former Abia state governor, told us Kanu was alive either in Britain or was it Malaysia or Brazil? Another strong theory was that he was in the creeks of the Niger Delta. Another said he was taken away by the military, and so, in their custody. Yet, another said he has been killed.
But, this other day, to everybody’s relief, Kanu showed up in Israel. But like him, not quietly. He is threatening fire and brimstone again. He is advising the Igbo not to vote in 2019. This advice is a chalice filled with poison. I hope no true Igbo son or daughter drinks from it. The Igbo should go out and vote en mass. The Igbo have a huge stake in the 2019 election and, in Nigeria. They should never alienate themselves from other tribes. Their investments cut across Nigeria. Yet, the questions remain:
How did Kanu escape with all that military might around him? Some people believe it was planned. Was it? They also ask why he started speaking up at this time? With the general elections in 2019 just around the corner? Something does not seem right.
Now, he has angered Justice Nyako. And, she has descended on Abaribe and Co. Their kindness and compassion for a kinsman in trouble have put them in a difficult situation. What is happening to them should not happen to anybody. Kanu should have kept quiet where he was. He should have allowed the guess work – as to whether he is alive or dead to continue. He should have left a big question mark on his whereabouts. See what his notice-me-or-I-die attitude has caused people who stuck out their necks for him. He says no court in Nigeria can try him. Meaning he does not care about those who took him on bail, or what is happening to them. But they have a good case to make. The following is why.
Kanu was around, and did not jump bail until the unfortunate military invasion of his country home. I know the law can be an ass, yet opinion is, perhaps, but for that invasion, Kanu would have still be Afara, enjoying his status as ”the new king of the Igbo race.” He was enjoying the fawning from the youths. So, why scare him away? It was that invasion that scared him, unless his escape was planned.
The government should take responsibility for the military mis-adventure which gave Kanu the leeway to escape. It should take responsibility, unless there is something we don’t know, for giving Kanu the impression that the military invasion was part of plans to kill him. It should take responsibility for the incompetence of the security agencies which allowed him to leave the country, unless it was so planned. And, for whatever it is worth, Abaribe & Co should not be punished for a situation they did not create.
If Kanu wants to stay off Nigeria’s shores, let him be. There are enough problems within for Nigeria to worry about him. Boko Haram. Herdsmen, Kidnappers. Armed Robbers. Bandits. Cattle rustlers. Hunger. Anger. Unemployment. Incessant strikes. Collapsing education and health sectors. A fragile economy. Unless his actions outside the country is capable of causing a security breach here in Nigeria, he should be left alone to talk. No person who intervened to broker peace should be made to suffer. Perhaps, Kanu likes to hear his own voice. Many of them do. It gives them some relevance, or so they think. It’s freedom of speech, in a free world.