The sudden reappearance of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, after over a year of disappearing, is generating its natural traction, writes Emmanuel Ugwu
When a video clip and pictures showing Mr. Nnamdi Kanu praying in Jerusalem recently appeared on the internet, not a few knew what to make of it. There was no mistaking the image: it was indeed the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). But even as the video and pictures went viral, doubts still persisted as to whether they were pictures taken well before Kanu disappeared on September 14, 2017.
In fact, some thought it was IPOB propaganda gimmick. However every shred of doubt was cleared when Emmanuel, younger brother to the IPOB leader, told some journalists on the phone that Kanu was in Jerusalem praying at the Wailing Wall on Friday.
He gave the name of the person, who posted the video and pictures as Castro Nkume and went further to state that the deputy director of IPOB, Uche Ejiofor had confirmed that the leader was in Jerusalem.
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“I can confirm that Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB is alive,” his younger brother enthused.
IPOB, on its part, promptly announced that its leader was alive and was “sighted praying at the Wailing Wall in the city of David in Jerusalem, State of Israel”.
The IPOB media and publicity secretary, Emma Powerful, in a statement said the reappearance of Kanu in Israel, “is the second coming” of the missing leader. He therefore announced “to Biafrans, friends of Biafra, lovers of freedom, men and women of goodwill across the world that the supreme Leader of the Indigenous people of Biafra, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu will be coming live on Radio Biafra London on Sunday 21st October 2018 at 6pm Biafra time”.
It is expected that the radio broadcast would further lay credence to the claim that Kanu was not liquidated by Nigerian troops. The video clip and pictures posted on the net contained no audio component. The leader of IPOB was generally believed to have died more than a year ago, when troops involved in operation python dance II had on September 14, 2017, stormed the palace of Eze Israel Kanu, the father of the IPOB leader, ostensibly to dislodge IPOB members.
The separatists had converted the compound of the Egwukwu II of Afaraukwu Ibeku into their headquarters following the return of their leader from detention. And given the scale of destruction, including the bedroom of the IPOB leader, which was riddled with bullets, it was inconceivable that he managed to escape unscathed.
As casualties were said to have been carried by soldiers, it was believed that Kanu’s body could have been taken away by the troops. The suspense was thick in the air. But all the while, IPOB never said that its leader was dead nor did they count him among the living. The question on the lips of many was: Could it be possible for Kanu to be alive and maintain such silence, given that he had always taken his traducers to the cleaners in war of words.
Both the Nigerian government and its military high command denied killing the IPOB leader just like they also denied killing IPOB unarmed members. But it was hard to believe the authorities as they had never admitted to any killings even when the evidence was very glaring.
So Kanu has succeeded in cheating death and fooling everybody, including those that wished him death. His parents, Eze Kanu and Ugoeze Sally, who also disappeared in the smoke of the bombardments, are yet to be seen or heard from and the people of Afaraukwu are very worried about the whereabouts of their monarch.
As the whereabouts of the IPOB leader lingered, security agencies never made any public pronouncement to indicate whether or not they knew where Kanu was hiding if he was alive. It’s possible the authorities knew but chose to keep mum in order to cover the shame of their failed mission to eliminate the IPOB leader.
Kanu’s escape also highlighted the efficiency of IPOB intelligence, which they had often relied on in their running battle with the authority. But a former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu had proved to Nigerians and indeed the world that he had a superior intelligence gathering network.
Soon after the IPOB leader disappeared, Kalu reportedly declared that Nnamdi Kanu had made his way to London through Malaysia. He did not make public the date that Kanu entered Malaysia and when he arrived in London as well as the means of escape. Kalu was largely ignored with his opponents accusing him of playing politics with a serious issue that affects his own people all in the name of seeking to please President Muhammadu Buhari.
Since the disappearance of the IPOB leader had complicated his trial for treasonable felony pending at a federal high court, Abuja, it was a matter of time before Kanu talked himself into trouble. On October 11, 2018 Justice Binta Nyako summoned Kalu to appear in court on November 14, 2018 to testify on the whereabouts of Kanu.
The subpoena was issued on the request of Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, following Kalu’s “outburst” of September 18, 2018, when he reportedly told journalists in Minna, Niger State, that he knew that the IPOB leader was in London.
Kalu had visited the former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) and reiterated his knowledge of Kalu’s whereabouts while fielding questions from journalists.
Kanu’s unknown whereabouts also caught Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe on the wrong side of the law. The Senator representing Abia South had as the chairman of Southeast caucus in the Senate, signed the bail bond for Kanu’s release after he was granted bail on health grounds. The IPOB leader was still enjoying his freedom, when troops invaded his home, leading to his disappearance.
But the court would have none of that as Justice Nyako insisted that Senator Abaribe must produce the IPOB leader or forfeit his N100 million bond or even be committed to prison. Abaribe had tried to wriggle out of the imbroglio to no avail, saying he was not a party to operation python dance II, which led to Kanu’s disappearance.
All the arguments put forward by Abaribe’s counsel that the Senator should not be held responsible for Kanu’s disappearance had no impacts. But it would be interesting to see how the issue would pan out at the next court sitting on November 14, now that Kanu’s whereabouts has been confirmed by his immediate family and IPOB family.
The IPOB leader, through his separatist activities, was a thorn in the flesh of no less a person than President Buhari. Kanu’s separatist messages rankled the ears of the president and others, who share the strongly belief in the corporate existence of Nigeria with all its imperfections.
To them, the IPOB leader was an irritant and if allowed to continue with his gospel of Biafra self-determination, Nigeria would be plunged into crisis that could dismember the nation. It was therefore not a surprise when troops were sent to Afaraukwu in the capital city of Umuahia to deal with the IPOB problem. Kanu’s critics accused him of cowardice when he was not pronounced dead after the military operation.
They accused him of leading dozens of young men and women to their early graves in the quest for Biafra only to disappear, when it mattered most. Kanu actually behaved like the man, who first started the Biafra consciousness for self-determination, the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who declared the short-lived Republic of Biafra and led his people to fight for its survival.
Ojukwu disappeared on losing the war but his whereabouts in Ivory Coast (now Cote D’Ivoire) was in the public domain until he got a state pardon and returned from exile in 1982. And even if Kanu had died, truth is that the Biafra question would have remained unresolved as IPOB has always maintained that it has concentric layers of leadership hence the death of one leader would not end the quest to restore Biafra.
Not only that, Biafra is an ideology that has permeated millions of hearts hence it would be extremely hard to wipe it away just by killing a man called Nnamdi Kanu.
Those who believe that the elimination of Kanu would put an end to the Biafran agitation could readily point to a historical example from Sri Lanka, which for over two decades, was bogged down with separatist armed struggle by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The separatist agitation ended with the death of the founder and leader of LTTE, Velupillai Prabhakaran on May 18, 2009 while leading the Tigers in battle with the Sri Lanka troops. The death of the LTTE leader and members of his nuclear family actually ended the Tamil quest to create an independent state in the area covering north and east of Sri Lanka.
While both the LTTE and IPOB share the same ideology of separatism, the former was engaged in armed struggle to realise its objective while the latter has till date not taken up arms against the Nigerian state. Though IPOB is expectedly in joyous mood on the reappearance of its leader, Kanu, there is no hint that the separatist movement would change its tactics of using non armed struggle to achieve its objectives.
Its spokesman said Kanu and “other reputable and hardcore Biafrans will leave no stone unturned to restore Biafra sovereignty” as long as Biafrans are held down in Nigeria, adding that, “Biafra independence and freedom is gathering momentum around the world right now. We will not relent in pursuing hard for total Biafra freedom in the near future.”