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OPINION: The persecution of Nnamdi Kanu



OPINION: Buhari’s presidency at Nigeria’s expense [1]

JUST about time the world took notice. Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is the leader of the self determination Independent People of Biafra [IPOB]. To be sure Kanu is not the founder of IPOB. The founder and promoter is a respected international lawyer and business man of Igbo extraction. A casual search online will tell the story of the founding and the aspirations of IPOB and the calibre of those behind the organisation. But everything about IPOB in the last couple of years has all been about Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and his band of fanatical supporters in the Igbo nation and in the diaspora. For them Nnamdi Kanu is a god and the quest for self- determination of the Igbo by any means including a referendum is non-negotiable. The same Igbo in a different circumstance and under a different leadership lost a war for secession between 1967-1970.

Kanu’s IPOB has since been branded as a terrorist organisation and banned by the federal government of Nigeria. The Nigerian government did not stop. It worked overtime, and it is still doing so to get countries in Europe, North America and elsewhere to also designate Kanu’s IPOB as a terrorist body and then to treat its members as violent and subversive people. For obvious reasons, the government has not succeeded in spite of its desperation. Virtually every country except a few African countries which the Nigerian regime has the power to blackmail have shunned the overtures and arms-twisting tactics to label IPOB.

But Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who appeared to have lost his voice that hitherto spewed lies, half-truths, alternative facts and propaganda in the aftermaths of his loss in the ruling All Progressives Congress [APC] local Kwara state politics and the glaring spectacular serial failure of the central administration he speaks for, last week came back from the cold to beg global tech giants to muffle the voices of those who the regime regards as dissidents. Last week the international news agency, Reuter, had reported the Nigerian regime had requested that Google should exclude ‘terrorists’ organisations that the regime banned from using its channels for whatever purpose. The report said that Nigeria is home to millions of internet users and that platforms like ‘YouTube, Twitter [TWTR.N], Facebook [META.O] and Tiktok are popular’. The minister told visiting executives of Google in Abuja that YouTube ”channels and emails containing names of banned groups and their affiliates should not be allowed on Google platforms”.

Charles Murito is the Google’s sub-Saharan African director for government affairs and public policy. He told our Minister in not a too subtle manner that he [Mohammed] was asking for something that was already part of Google’s operating standard. He said his organisation has in place a system for trained users to flag troublesome content. But apparently to humour Mohammed Murito said: ‘’We share the same goals and objectives” because ”we do not want our platform to be used for ill purposes.” Of course Mohammed was not satisfied. He said blatantly that the Nigerian regime was particularly concerned with online activities of the IPOB.. He just wanted to hear that IPOB and its affiliates have been banned from all Google’s platforms. It was the same mindset that led to this regime banning Twitter in June 2021, blocking access to Nigerian users and threatening to prosecute citizens who ignored the draconian rule. Twitter’s offence was it removed a post from the President, General Muhammadu Buhari threatening to punish self-determination IPOB.

What is certain and clear from the onset in 2015 was that there has been no love lost between Gen. Buhari and Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB. To be sure the dislike is mutual. Even long before Buhari was elected after three previous failed attempts at the presidency, IPOB had insisted that he would be bad news for them and their brand self-determination struggle. And when it concerns the Igbo and activist groups from the south east, no matter how fringe they are, Gen. Buhari appears to take their activities as affront to his person. He never fails to remind youngsters from the Igbo nation how their uncles, fathers and forefathers were defeated, humiliated and dispossessed during the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967-1970. And how the young men and women who describe themselves as Biafrans would face worse fate. For Buhari it does not matter that the young agitators played no part in the civil war and indeed that virtually all of them were born long after that war during which millions of Igbo were massacred.

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Gen. Buhari set the tone very early in his presidency on how he intended to deal with the Igbo and everything Igbo in his divisive, weird and wicked 97% versus 5% treatment of citizens depending on voting patterns. Apparently some elements in IPOB thought the best way to fight back was to unload on Buhari. The President was not spared any derogatory name and abuse. At a stage and probably up till today many IPOB partisans cannot be persuaded that the man in Aso Rock is the same Gen. Buhari who ruled Nigeria as an usurper between 1983-1985. For them he remains a clone in spite of what appears to be evidence to the contrary. And probably because of the unhealthy relationship, the regime tried its utmost to criminalise ‘insulting the President’, a ‘crime’ which is certainly not known to the laws of the country. So what to do to avenge the insult? Brand IPOB a terrorist organisation, arrest their leaders and jail them.

On October 18, 2015 barely five months into Buhari’s presidency, Kanu was arrested in Lagos by the secret police otherwise known as the Department of State Services [DSS]. He was having his day in court even if it was feared then that his diligent prosecution was not the priority of his jailers. Two years later in April of 2017 a bail was contrived on medical grounds and he was freed on stringent conditions. Five months later, the Nigerian Army invaded his home in Afara-Ukwu in Abia state. It was a bloody invasion. Kanu escaped. And fled the country. He was declared wanted and deemed to be in violation of his bail conditions. In my neck of the woods, we say that only a tree would stand still even while told it would be cut down. On this issue the saying of my people, which I suspect has parallels in the languages of some other nations in the country, is in conflict with Nigerian laws. In other words, if you are on bail from a court of law and there is evidence that you could be killed, you have no right to run for dear life. Curious.

In June 2021, Kanu was rearrested reportedly in Kenya and brought back to Nigeria ”to continue facing his trial”. Some persons who should know what municipal and international laws say have argued that Nnamdi Kanu may be a victim of extraordinary rendition. To be sure there is legal rendition. However, extraordinary rendition ”is the illegal transfer of a suspected criminal to [his/her] home country where the criminal is further harassed and tortured by the concerned authorities…”. Decent societies frown at extraordinary rendition because its victims could be subjected to ”indefinite imprisonment without trial and the possibility of torture”. This fear may have informed the recent intervention and pronouncement of an organ of the United Nations in the case of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.

A little over two weeks ago, the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a report indicting the governments of Nigeria and Kenya for the arrest and extraordinary rendition, torture and continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu. It therefore asked the Nigerian government to immediately ”release Kanu unconditionally” and report back to it within six months. The UN agency’s report read in part that ”…the failure of the [Nigerian] Government to explain what actions of Mr. Kanu amounted to such criminal acts and how, and observing the lack of any evidence that any of his actions may in fact amount to such crimes, the Working Group concludes that Mr. Kanu is in fact being persecuted for his peaceful exercise of rights, most notably his freedom of opinion and expression.

”In the present case, the Government of Nigeria has presented no exceptions permitted under article 19[3] of the Covenant nor is there any evidence to suggest that Mr. Kanu’s exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression was anything but peaceful. In fact, the Government has chosen not to provide any explanation for the arrest, detention and subsequent proceedings against Mr. Kanu. In these circumstances, the Working Group concludes that Mr. Kanu’s detention is thus arbitrary under category 11”. The UN body said: ”In the present case, Mr. Kanu was not furnished with an arrest warrant by Nigerian authorities nor was he promptly informed of the grounds of his arrest in Nigeria”. It said that it was its determination, after a thorough review, that the detainee’s rights had been violated under all known international treaties to which Nigeria and Kenya are signatories including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We are, however, not unaware that Nigeria is a sovereign country. It could pick and choose which international treaties and covenants to obey or to ignore. But it must bear in mind that given its circumstances today, it can ill-afford to be arrogant and dismissive of everybody. Nigeria is currently being badly managed. Its fault lines have been exacerbated giving rise to agitations nationwide. I do not as an individual subscribe to the dissolution of Nigeria. But I am persuaded that the present structure has not worked. And may never work. As they say, only a fool does a thing the same way and expect a different result. If Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s agitation, without violence even though the state is visiting violence on citizens, would lead to a fair, just and equitable Nigeria, then count me in. This could also be the closet positions of many Nigerians of good conscience.

AUTHOR: Ugo Onuoha…

Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.

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