When renegades reign
Nigeria’s political space is one crazy environment. Things happen all too quickly. It is, perhaps, one of the very few places where renegades, and sometimes, wanted outlaws, disappear without trace.
Nnamdi Kanu was one such renegade. In fact, he is branded a terrorist! Was he allowed to escape willfully or were the Nigerian authorities simply incompetent in managing the country’s borders, in spite of the several billions poured into security arrangements?
The answers could be blowing in the wind but one thing is certain; Kanu is yet to be smoked out and remains a thorn in the flesh of the Muhammadu Buhari administration. The lad does not even believe that ‘this Buhari’ is real but from Sudan!
What does Kanu really want? Buhari’s stool or service time as Supreme Leader of Biafraland, a dream his many ‘hypnotized’ followers would cherish comes to pass. Some extremists think he wants both of Buhari’s neck, the Aso stool and even headship of Biafra. A triple quest!
Crazy things happen in our climes. And, Kanu gunning for the neck of Buhari or Aso Rock could be one of the craziest things to imagine. So, what is the possibility that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, might be tempted to vie for an elective post presently?
As strange as it sounds, the utterances and actions of the IPOB leader, have oftentimes sent confusing signals as to where he may be headed or, if, indeed, he has any dreams he is really chasing. At once, he sings the restructuring anthem, and shortly after derides Nigeria as a ‘zoo’, preferring instead to ‘die’ for Biafra.
Kanu, who is currently in London after escaping the military invasion of his Isiama Afaraukwu home in September 2017, considers himself as one with considerable influence on the people of South-east.
Therefore, an examination of the several ways in which he has immersed himself in internal political issues, other than the call for a sovereign state of Biafra, presents a picture of one who may be tempted to challenge not just the establishment, but even seize the moment to fight for the presidency, which is now considered the lot of Ndigbo after years of a so-called ‘marginalization.’
Now, here are the permutations many consider unimaginable. A wanted Kanu gives up his freedom in London, returns to Nigeria, and joins the presidential race in 2023, the fear of being jailed from his ‘treasonable offense’ notwithstanding. Will Kanu play Mandela and deliver himself unto the hands of ‘oppressors’ as he is want to scream always? Will his now forlorn supporters be patient to undergo the years of selfless struggle to agitate and win the ‘restructuring’ war, even with their leader clamped behind bar?
Has Kanu not argued that a restructured Nigeria is the safest route to overcoming the challenges of marginalization? May be a peep into Kanu’s romance with the concept of a restructured Nigeria will suffice.
Will restructuring end Kanu’s agitation?
Before his escape, and during one of his interactions with lawyer and elder statesman, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Kanu had stressed that only restructuring will end his agitation for Biafra. The legal luminary confessed that much during a press conference of the Southern Leaders of Thought in Lagos, saying that Kanu had assured him that his group would stop Biafra agitation if the nation is restructured. Nwabueze reportedly said:
“Self-determination does not mean secession as IPOB is clamouring. It means the ethnic nationalities want to govern themselves within Nigeria. Restructuring is not a matter that can be implemented by amendment of the 1999 Constitution. It imperatively requires a new constitution adopted or approved by the people at a referendum. It is sad that while the clamour for restructuring is reaching a crescendo and is sweeping across the country, the National Assembly is still regaling us with talks about constitution amendment, and buttressing its position by the erroneous assertion that the 1999 constitution can only be amended or altered (Sections 8 and 9), but cannot be abolished and replaced by a new constitution. By taking this untenable position, the National Assembly makes itself a big obstacle in the way of restructuring.
“We think the way forward for Nigeria is for the people, in exercise of the power inherent in them as a sovereign people, to make through a referendum, new constitution, constituting a new political order. In our circumstances as a country, with a great diversity interests and outlooks, it seems generally agreed that a federal system appropriate for our situation. We, therefore, conceive restructuring as requiring, modified as necessary, the restoration or re-established of the kind of federalism that existed under our 1960/63 constitutions. That is the central object or purpose of restructuring.”
The very erudite Prof may have spoken but many posers can’t be wished away in a hurry. First, will a restructured Nigeria make Kanu get involved in the politicking of the country? Second, does abandoning the Biafra agitation on the basis of restructuring mean that Kanu is nursing a political ambition within the Nigerian project? Third, could it also mean that having a restructured Nigeria will give Kanu and his ilk the kind of gratification to build his Biafra in a Nigerian entity?
Only Kanu can tell the inner most workings of his mindset on this subject.
It is instructive, however, to note that the Buhari-led administration had sold restructuring as one of its campaign manifestos during the 2015 presidential election. So far, the promise of restructuring remains what it is, a promise! The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had vowed, “to initiate action to amend the Nigerian constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to state in order to entrench true federalism and the federal spirit.”
Kanu, a manipulative genius?
A somewhat obscure figure until he started broadcasting on Radio Biafra, from London to Nigeria in 2009, Kanu’s capacity to mobilize a substantial segment of the Igbo populace to stand with him on some key political issues has become a subject of intense review.
Does Kanu really have the numbers he professes? Or, is he one who is simply riding the waves?
No doubt, the sentiments weigh heavily in Kanu’s favour but all that appear to wane with the massive attempts by the Nigerian state to diminish a somewhat rising profile, even though perceived as destabilizing. The call for 2019 election boycott serves a quick reminder.
While calling off the election boycott on February 14, Kanu had said: “Having confirmed this evening that all our preconditions and terms have been met, signed, sealed and delivered; I hereby call-off the election boycott across Biafraland on February 16 presidential election.”
His spokesman, Emma Powerful, added a touch of drama to the claim. “The signed document agreeing to IPOB terms and conditions are in our possession and will be made public in due course. We can, therefore, state with utmost sense of responsibility and pride that IPOB has accomplished what no other people or group has been able to do in the history of our people…As a result of which we can state categorically that Biafra is a lot closer than we think as a result of this.”
Kanu’s declaration that all their preconditions and terms have been met has not gone without query. Though he did not give details of the preconditions and terms, one enduring poser remains. Could this be an indication that, despite his agitation for Biafran State, Kanu is surreptitiously involved in the nation’s political game? Could it also mean that Kanu is already indirectly involved in the jostle for political power, and could be tempted to contest for a higher office in the very near future?
Shall we then liken Kanu to a manipulative genius? Though this may sound harsh, but just like the average Nigerian politician, this profiling might not be further from the truth.
And, will Kanu form an alliance with PDP?
How safe is it to assume that the massive condemnation of APC in his live broadcasts during the electioneering period translates to a support for the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
Kanu had issued a threat on February 22, through a live broadcast – on Radio Biafra. Among others, he had said, “As the zoo (Nigeria) is planning to vote, we are here to guide you and listen to what I have to say because the enemies are coming.
“…If APC gets up to 100 vote I know our people are not serious. I want the cabal in the North to understand that the killing of unarmed innocent lives must be punished, everybody must make sure you protest against APC. As you go out today stay safe. APC has no stake in the lives of our people, its members are evil. We are against everything APC has done in the land. You must protest against APC by showing a complete rejection of the party and everything it represents.”
So, was Kanu’s call responsible for APC’s loss in all the five South-eastern states to the PDP? This remains very debatable because Kanu has severally also expressed his disgust at what he termed collaboration of Igbo leaders with a so-called Fulani cabal.
Kanu, an unwilling ‘Mandela’
Kanu is a man on the run, and that is putting it mildly. He knows how terribly, and quickly too, the Nigerian state wants him behind bars. It is seriously in doubt if Kanu wants to play a Mandela. If anything, his utterances suggest a man in love with his freedom, and who would spare nothing to catch his fun.
Listen to Kanu berate the Nigerian state when the judiciary came after him. It was Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High in Abuja who, on March 28, 2019, issued an arrest order on him for having flouted all his bail conditions and fled the country.
“The Nigerian court is a Kangaroo court. I did not jump bail, I left because the court failed to protect me. I shall not be honouring the court. I cannot be tried by a court I do not recognize. The zoo called Nigeria cannot jail me. I will fight till the last day. Till now, Binta Nyako’s court has yet to hold a hearing about the circumstances that led the Nigerian Army to come to my house to kill 28 people. Only upon a clear pronouncement of the intentions of that very court, which I suggest to them should be free, will this very case move forward,” Kanu reportedly said.
It is instructive to acknowledge the fact that the Nigerian government proscribed Kanu’s IPOB, by a court order, in 2018, as a terrorist organization and that the South-east Governor’s Forum also did same at an emergency meeting held at the Enugu government house.
All told, Kanu appears totally surrounded, at home and elsewhere, by a ruling class unwilling to accommodate his extreme agitations and not eager to relinquish an inch of power or authority to him.
Will this combination of factors diminish Kanu’s quest for power? May be, and may be not. One thing is clear though, Kanu does not appear like one who is ready to attend to the charges against him. But more importantly, he meets his match in Buhari whose leadership of the ruling party is insistent on bringing the runaway ‘terrorist’ to justice.
Until then, Kanu remains a fugitive, carrying with him the dreams, hopes and aspiration of a fiercely loyal clan intent on defining their own political space.
By John Chukwu…