|Wednesday, July 7, 2021|
Pontifical Urban University, Vatican City (Rome)
"When my adversary has drafted his writ against me, I shall wear it on my shoulder, and bind it round my head like a royal turban. I will give him an account of every step of my life, and go as boldly as a prince to meet him." (Job 31:35-37).popular Igbo proverb says, "The chick being carried away by the hawks is not crying for the predator to release it. It wants to be heard." In another context, Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding Fathers of the United States of America (USA), said, "When tyranny becomes a law, rebellion becomes a duty." In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:
"If peace means accepting second class citizenship, then I don't want it. If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of evil and injustice, then I don't want it. If peace means being complacent and accepting the status quo, then I don't want it. If peace means being passive, then I don't want it. If peace means a willingness to be exploited and humiliated, then that's the kind of peace that I don't want." - Martin Luther King Jr.
In September 2017, when the 'Python Dance II Military killings' in the Southeast and invasion of Nnamdi Kanu's ancestral home by security forces at Afara-Ukwu, Umuahia, Abia State took place, I wrote an article in condemnation of it which went viral on social media and which was published in several online Newspapers in Nigeria. The article was titled, "Python Dance Military Killings: Biafra and the Conscience of the World."
In that article, I minced no word, when I blamed the government for taking such violent action against unarmed, non-violent Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB members, who only protest with their Biafran flag, asking for referendum for self-determination of their people. I advised the government to thread with caution the Nnamdi Kanu phenomenon and the Biafra Question. I told the government that the reasons for the warning are not far-fetched.
One of which is that as things are now in the country, Nnamdi Kanu is no longer a private citizen. Love or hate him, Nnamdi Kanu has transformed himself into the most visible public figure, a symbol of Igbo question and collective aspiration as a people in the entity called Nigeria. Regardless of how one may detest his rhetoric and approach to the Biafran question, the events of the military invasion of Igboland and Nnamdi Kanu's ancestral home in Umuahia in September 2017 was very unfortunate. The same with the recent illegal interception, kidnapping of him in Kenya and his eventually, deportation to Nigeria to face the same prompt-up charges of 'treason felony' the government has been peddling against him.
As I wrote in the above said article in September 2017, personally, I thought the Nigerian government could have found a better way to address the Biafran question and Nnamdi Kanu phenomenon. I think that so far, the government had failed on this matter. One of the questions the Nigerian government and its admirers need to ask themselves is this, "Why is it that Nnamdi Kanu, in spite of all the demonizing narrative of him coming from the government quarters, mainstream Nigerian media, etc., and his foes, has continued to attract millions of followers who love to listen regularly to his Radio Biafra broadcasts?"
Mind you, those who love to listen to him over the Radio Biafra each time he broadcasts do not come only from Eastern Nigeria. Many of them are from other parts of the country, who love listening to him. The question is what is it that is in Nnamdi Kanu that make him attract such fellowship? Put in another way, what is that Nnamdi Kanu is broadcasting in his Radio Biafra that the Nigerian government doesn't want the people to hear and know about?
It is like asking, "What was it that John the Baptist was preaching that irritated King Herod and his wife Herodias so much, to the point of asking for the Baptist's head?" What of Jesus Christ? "What was it that Jesus preached and did that made the powers that be, to conspire against him and condemned him to die the 'shamefully' death on the cross?
Think also of the great prophets of the Old Testament who went through the same path at the hands of the principalities and powers of this mortal world. Prophet Elijah suffered similar fate at the hands of the wicked Queen Jezebel and her weak husband Ahab. And so were Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and host of other prophets of the Old Testament.
But we all know that, in each of the above cases, the human wickedness visited on these great Biblical figures, was not the final answer. Because no matter how hard you may try to suppress truth and kill the bearer of truth, a prophet for that matter, or a 'Son of God', the truth must at long run triumph, and the prophet vindicated. Note, Nnamdi Kanu is neither Jesus Christ, nor any of the prophets mentioned in the Bible.
However, great men and women throughout history toed the same path Nnamdi Kanu is passing through today for the liberation of their people from the hands of tyrants and oppressive regimes. Think of the freedom fighters of the yesteryears, those who sacrificed even their lives for justice and freedom of their people. For example, what those great founding Fathers of Africa's political independence had to suffer at the hands of European colonial masters before liberating their people from colonial yoke.
In addition to personal sacrifices they had to make, they also suffered betrayals from some of their own people, the same people they were trying to liberate. Did Jesus Christ not suffer betrayal from one of his Apostles, Judas Iscariot? What of Julius Cesare at the hands of his best friend, Brutus? Gandhi experienced it at the hands of his fellow Hindu. Martin Luther King Jr., also went through similar experience of betrayal at the hands of his fellow African-American.
In our context, however, during the First Biafra War, Ojukwu had full of it at the hands of his most trusted fellow Biafrans at the military command and among civilians as well. Therefore, if Nnamdi Kanu is today passing through similar tunnel of those travails and betrayals like the great prophets and freedom fighters of the past, it means his mission is gem. It also means that his mission of liberating his people is 'divinely ordained.'
As they say, there are three places you may found true liberators of their people, namely, a) in exile, b) in prison, and c) in the grave. Nnamdi Kanu had passed all of this except the last one. Was it imprisonment? Nnamdi Kanu was sent to prison for almost three years between 2015 and 2017. Today, he is once more in prison - incarcerated by the same powers and principalities in Nigeria who want him dead by all means. Is it exile? Did they not force him to go on exile when the security operatives invaded his home at Afara-Ukwu in Umuahia to kill him on September 14, 2017? He miraculously escaped.
Unfortunately, today, they have gotten hold of him once more. They intercepted and kidnapped him from plane in Kenya, en route to his base in Europe. At the Kenyan Airport in Nairobi, they got hold of him inside plane, took him away, dehumanized and tortured him there for eight days, before the Kenyan authorities, collaborating with their Nigerian counterpart, decided to hand him over to the Nigerian hangman to do with him as it may please them.
Mind you, the only offense of Kanu for which they want to eliminate him by all means, is that he is agitating for freedom and independent state for his Biafran people, from the gate-keepers of this British contraption called, Nigeria. Kanu is being haunted by powers that be in Nigeria, simply because he is fighting for the freedom of his people. This is why Nigerian authorities are accusing him of all unimaginable offenses as if it is a crime for one to seek for the freedom of his people and independent state of theirs.
All the travails and trials Kanu has passed through so far and still passing through, when weaved together, are his turban as a liberator of his people. They constitute his bandage of honor as a true freedom fighter of his people, in the struggle for Africa's second independence of the Biafran people from the hands of neo-colonialists and their local spinoffs in Nigeria.
Whether Nnamdi Kanu will be there or not when Biafra comes, is another thing altogether. However, one thing is certain. Volumes upon volumes of books will be written about him. Historians will spend hours and hours of their lectures telling the story about Nnamdi Kanu and his liberation struggle of his people, to many generations of students in years to come. Countless number of Monuments, Cenotaps and Epitaphs will be erected in his honor. Musicians are going to compose different melodious songs in his honor. All these will happen, because as the Holy Scripture tells us, the same stones they used in killing a prophet, they would use in erecting monuments in his honor.
In other words, Nnamdi Kanu has achieved in few years of his life on earth, what many of his generation would not even dream of accomplishing all their lives. That is the story of true prophets. To many, Kanu is a hero and great man, a freedom fighter, agitating and struggling for the liberation of his people. However, to the few of his avowed foes, who castigate and judge him out of jealousy, envy and hatred, he may be a villain. And to Buhari regime, he is a 'terrorist.' In spite of all these, however, to many young people in Biafranland and beyond, Nnamdi Kanu is a liberator, freedom fighter, a motivator, an inspirer, a light and hero. Someone who had opened their eye and challenged their thinking faculty to be conscious of the founding history and social structures upon which Nigeria and Africa, are founded and governed today.
Mind you, the Apartheid South Africa and most of Western countries had declared Nelson Mandela a terrorist, simply because he was fighting against racial segregation against Black Africans in South Africa. Gandhi was also declared a 'terrorist' by the British during his independence struggle days in India. So, if the Fulani Muslim Oligarchy-controlled federal government of Nigeria says Kanu is a 'terrorist' because he is agitating for the freedom and self-determination of his Biafran people, and so be it. Great freedom fighters of the past before him, had toed similar path, but were vindicated by history at the end. I am sure, Kanu's case won't be different.
Mahatma Gandhi has this to say about his own travails, what he went through to gain the political independence for India: "It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honored by humiliation of their fellow human beings."
No matter how hard the Nigerian government and its sponsored mainstream media may try to demonize and humiliate Nnamdi Kanu, the fact remains, they cannot take away from him an inch of what he has already achieved for the liberation of his people. How the International Community sees him as a freedom fighter and a courageous defender of his people's human rights and struggle for social justice and self-determination.
Nnamdi Kanu: The Bearer of Truth about Nigeria
In my article, "Python Dance II Military Killings: Biafra and the Conscience of the World", I cited the speech of the late elder statesman Maitama Sule, made during the Northern Elders' Forum congratulatory visit to the then President-elect, General Mohammed Buhari after the elections in 2015, in which he counseled President Buhari with these immortal words of wisdom:
"With justice you can rule Nigeria well… Behind every crisis anywhere in the world is injustice. The solution to that injustice is justice and fair-play... Justice is the key. Do justice to all irrespective of tribe, religion or even political inclinations. Justice must be done to whosoever deserves it. The world itself can never be governed by force, never by fear or by power. In the end, what governs is the mind, what conquers is the spirit. And the weapon of mind and spirit that conquers is justice and fair-play." - (Maitama Sule, Northern Leaders' Forum Visit to Buhari after his election in 2015).
What is gradually, becoming clearer to most Nigerians these days, is that Nnamdi Kanu is not the "evil" Buhari regime presented him to be. Nnamdi Kanu is also not the problem with Nigeria. In fact, Buhari and his style of governance and anti-Igbo policy is the real problem with Nigeria. Buhari's lopsided style of governance that favors mainly his Fulani ethnic group and Sunni Muslims, almost at the exclusion of other ethnic groups and Christians, especially, the Igbo Christians of Southeastern Nigeria, is the problem with the country. As the Holy Scripture teaches us, "The whole city celebrates when the godly succeeds, they shout for joy when the wicked die" (Proverbs 11:10).
If Nigeria breaks up today, it is not as a result of the so-called agitators for Biafra or Oduduwa Republics. No. Rather as one author puts it: "It is the Islamic agenda being pursued by the North and Fulani herdsmen terrorism and not agitation for Biafra that put the death nail on Nigeria." Cornelius Tacitus puts it this way, "The lust for power, for dominating others, inflames the heart more than any other passion."
If Nnamdi Kanu is a major voice, his admirers and foes alike love to listen to his Radio Biafra broadcasts always, it is because many see him as one who speaks the truth to power and condemns the injustice in the land. Something, the powers that be hate most. You may not like his style of rhetoric. But the fact is that things have reached that deplorable situation in Nigeria, that sometimes, to make your voice heard, you may need to behave like a 'mad' person.
Certainly, such a person like Nnamdi Kanu, is therefore, bound to be an enemy of those at the corridors of power - 'Establishment', who are eating from the wrath and corruption pervading the society. Plato says, "No man is more hated than those who speak the truth." But Shakespeare reminds us that, "Even though the heavens fall, let the truth be told and let justice be done."
As Elle Wiesel says, "The greatest sin in the world is indifference." Nnamdi Kanu refused to remain indifference to the sufferings of his people in the entity called Nigeria. Nnamdi Kanu is not a violent man, neither is he the cause of violence and bad governance in Nigeria. It is the way Nigeria is governed by those in positions of authority - all those who hold the word captive, that is so irritating as to make some ordinary citizens behave the way they do. If Nigeria is governed well, with discipline, respect to the rule of law and human rights, etc., I can assure you, the behavior of its citizens will change automatically.
Again, the root of violence in Nigeria is founded in the many types of inequality and injustice, which continue to exist and grow in the country. Nigerian government also uses violence as a form of intimidation to her own citizens. In fact, the federal government of Nigeria uses violence and abuse to establish and maintain power and control over their own citizens, that way instilling fear into the same people they ought to protect. These are the causes of violence and insecurity.
All these mean, that the continued incarceration, torture and humiliation of Nnamdi Kanu by the Nigerian government is unnecessary. Such cruelty of approach by the Nigerian government against Nnamdi Kanu and his Igbo people as the case may be, can neither stop the agitation for the restoration of the sovereign State of Biafra, nor appease the spirit of an average Igbo person to begin to see him/herself as fully integrated Nigerian citizen.
Keeping Nnamdi Kanu longer than necessary at the hands of Nigerian security operatives or in prisons, will only heighten the already over charged political climate and insecurity in Nigeria. The result of which, nobody knows how it will end.
The fact remains that majority of the people are on the side of Nnamdi Kanu. They see him as a victim, someone being punished by the Nigerian authorities, simply because he is fighting for the freedom and well-being of his people. You do not force marriage on somebody who does not see him/herself welcomed as equal partner in the same house and family with you.
The message and challenge of Nnamdi Kanu is clear: Nigeria needs to be 'renegotiated.' That is where the dialogue with him needs to begin. It is where the dialogue with other federating ethnic-nationalities, who want to opt out of this British contraption called, Nigeria, needs to begin.