Still On Nnamdi Kanu - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Still On Nnamdi Kanu

By Vitus Ozoke

Like him. Hate him. But there is one thing you just cannot do. You cannot ignore Nnamdi Kanu. And take it from someone who has evolved through the range of all three emotions. When Kanu began his campaign of insults, calling Nigeria a zoo, and promising to break up the zoo and set free all animals of the Igbo breed, my first instinct was to ignore him as a rabble rouser. I ignored him for two major reasons: 1). I believed that seceding from Nigeria was a boneheaded idea and the worst of all options available to the Igbo; and, 2). I thought it was crass juvenilism to think you could insult your way into a new republic. So, I ignored him.

But ignoring him was not going to last long. My fears for Kanu didn't take long to materialize. I knew he would get himself in trouble with the authorities for what he said and what he did. And he did. I knew that no government, responsible or not, would fold its hands and watch, unchallenged, brazen acts of treasonable felony that threatened corporate sovereignty. So, I knew he was going to be arrested, and when he was on October 14, 2015, it was neither a shock nor a surprise to me. So, I continued to ignore him.

However, my attitude would shift from ignoring Kanu to not liking him, and this shift occurred when he was eventually granted bail on April 25, 2017. I was miffed because Kanu accepted to be released from prison, leaving behind four of his close lieutenants and co-defendants, Bright Chimezie, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu, and David Nwawuisi, whose only offense was being Kanu's loyal followers. Those poor four would spend 14 more months behind bars before they would be granted bail on June 25, 2018. It was then I published a long piece titled, "The Decanonization and Demystification of Nnamdi Kanu". Because to me, it was the ultimate act of betrayal for a General to leave his lieutenants behind in battle.

I recall then being told by friends and close watchers of Nnamdi Kanu that Kanu would use his bail reprieve to actualize his separatist project of an independent Biafran state, which would nullify the continued detention of his friends. Even though there is no principle of law, precedent, or practice that supported such bogus and wacky theory, I was willing to suspend disbelief and give it a chance. I was willing to watch how Kanu handled his bail. My hope and prayer was that his time in prison offered him the opportunity to rethink and reevaluate his strategy, gain fresh perspectives, and effect a course correction. But, alas, it got worse. Kanu came out of the prison gate swinging. He was recidivism on steroids. Like a man on a suicide mission, Kanu violated every term of his bail. At that point I knew it was not going to end well. Operation Python Dance followed and scores, if not hundreds, of barely armed and ill-prepared young men and women lost their lives. 

But it is one thing to break the laws and constitution of the land in pursuit of a revolution; after all, it is the nature of the business of revolution. Revolution and law-abiding citizenship are not good and cordial neighbors. But Kanu didn't just break the laws of the land, he broke the norms and traditions of Igbo land. He became the self-acclaimed King of the Igbo nation, held court in his Umuahia hometown where his teeming admirers pilgrimaged to literally kneel before him and kiss his ring. When videos and images of those aberrant and abhorrent behaviors started going viral, I knew that hubris had set in. I knew that Kanu had derailed. I knew that he had become a distraction. You see, the strength and secret to a successful revolution is to make the struggle all about the people, never about the revolutionary. The gain of a revolution for the revolutionary comes after the cause is won. You would think that Kanu would know that. And I suspect he does. Which then raises the question why he acts in reverse and contrary to that principle. Does Kanu really believe that an independent State of Biafra can be achieved outside existing political process?

Nnamdi Kanu had the opportunity to achieve a de facto Biafra. But he blew it. Kanu built a formidable quasi-political constituency, a constituency so loyal in its commitment, so unwavering in its support, and so unquestioning in its submission that it was willing to vote a blind goat if only Kanu endorsed it. Apart from the Late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (Ikemba Nnewi), no Igbo, man or woman, dead or alive, has ever garnered or commanded the sort of following that Kanu has. His is the classic cult of personality. It is not just a cult of personality, it is a suicide pact of the scale of Rev. Jim Jones of Jonestown, Guyana. Kanu's followers are willing to die for his cause. But Kanu's constituency is the weirdest constituency ever assembled. It is a constituency created not to vote, but to not vote. It is a constituency that stays at home on election days and boycotts voting. 

Of course, but sadly, the fact that Kanu's constituency is not a voting constituency does not mean that elections don't hold as scheduled, or that voting does not occur, or that people are not elected for that matter. No, what it means is that the same corrupt and compromised politicians who are in cahoots with the same anti-Igbo forces and elements that Kanu's cause is supposed to be fighting get elected and reelected to rule Kanu and his constituents. Otherwise, had Nnamdi Kanu been a prudent and strategic constituency manager, government houses and legislative assemblies, from Enugu to Umuahia, Awka to Owerri and Abakiliki, would have been predominantly, if not completely, IPoBist in character. That would have been one critical step toward the actualization of a united Igbo. A united Igbo does not necessarily mean a separate and independent Biafran state. No, a united Igbo means that you now have that critical mass that you can use to negotiate the list of your demands with other Nigerian regional groups. It means that you can no longer be ignored. But Kanu didn't pursue that route. Instead, he embarked on a campaign of intimidation. That has not worked, and will not work.         

Now, with all that said, I guess the question is, did I ever like Nnamdi Kanu, and when? And the answer, believe it or not, is YES. I like his courage. As a matter of fact, I love his courage. I do. But I do not like him because of him. No, I like Kanu because of Buhari. President Buhari and his Fulani ilk make it difficult for anybody to not like Nnamdi Kanu. As to when I began to like Kanu, it was after the February 2019 elections. Buhari's stupid 5 percent remark, his glaring anti-Igbo appointments, and his complicitous support of Fulani herdsmen terrorism did it for me. That was when I came to like Kanu's cause. I just wish Kanu were a little more strategic, a little more humble, a little less brash, a little less bombastic, a little less hubristic, and a little more real. Let's be honest and face it: the Igbo cannot afford yet another war, not at this time, which is the path Kanu is headed. There is a better way: organize and vote. Which is why the next Nnamdi Kanu must be one who is willing to make a strategic shift. I hope when the current dust settles, we will get down to the search for him. In the meantime, let's make sure that Nnamdi Kanu gets a free, fair, and transparent trial. I think he has earned and deserves that.  

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