A few days ago, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Charles Soludo passionately called on President Muhammadu Buhari to release Nnamdi Kanu, the incarcerated leader of the so called Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). Soludo was speaking during the presentation of a book titled “The Politics of Biafra and the future of Nigeria.”
According to Soludo, the continued imprisonment of Nnamdi Kanu would make him a hero in the mould of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo who was jailed for treason by the government of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Soludo added that prior to his prosecution; Nnamdi Kanu was unknown to many people but that his continued detention has turned him into a kind of hero. Soludo feared that unless Kanu was released, his continued incarceration would harm President Buhari’s chances of retaining the Presidency in 2019.
With due respect, the Professor got the analogy wrong. Chief Awolowo is not Nnamdi Kanu; Awolowo might have plotted against the government of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa but not against Nigeria in which he had painfully believed. I said painfully because Awolowo wanted Nigeria to be much more than “a mere geographical expression.” However, unlike Nnamdi Kanu, Chief Awolowo never set out to cause the disintegration or destruction of Nigeria, or the zoo as Kanu’s misguided followers call this country. Chief Awolowo was certainly more cultured than Nnamdi Kanu; he had a more sublime view of Nigeria than this foolish British-Nigerian Igbo chap.
Kanu said he formed IPOB to fight “incessant hardship, lack of holistic development in the socio-economic landscape of Nigeria, lack of youth employment, corruption in high places and economic regression”, which is alright. However, there is no corner of Nigeria that doesn’t experience these problems and if Kanu had applied himself to fighting this holistically, to borrow his term, he would have had a greater, nationwide following but this Biafra and “this zoo must fall” sentiments constitute his undoing.
Kanu has been held in Kuje prison for almost one year now. He was arrested in a Lagos hotel allegedly in company of a female consort. Nnamdi Kanu has given himself the dangerous task of creating for the Igbos a country called Biafra. As Director of Radio Biafra, he took liberty to abuse everyone he fancied while he was loose. Following his arrest, he was charged for treason alongside two others.
It is true that sometimes in December, 2015, a Federal High Court, Abuja, presided over by Justice Adeniyi Ademola, had ordered the unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu while his case continued. However, another High Court in Abuja, under the authority of Justice Dan Tsoho, reversed the earlier order and instructed that Kanu be remanded in prison. Since then, the issue of Kanu’s freedom has been argued back and forth inside the court with a couple of Justices excusing themselves from his on-going trial.
Professor Soludo has to understand that, under the present circumstances, President Buhari cannot release Nnamdi Kanu. If Kanu had limited himself to abusing President Goodluck Jonathan or the Igbo elders who he said had sold out to Nigeria, he probably would have been home now; but like an ill-born and ill-bred lad or someone under the influence of some hard substance, he went about insulting President Muhammadu Buhari. He needed to prove to his trading kinsfolk that he is the long awaited successor to Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu that will sacrifice himself for Biafra?
If only Kanu had restricted himself to punching at the zoo, to make the zoo fall, he might have been able to stay free and safe but he went about calling Buhari all sorts of names. By his own admission, Nnamdi Kanu exceeded his bounds. In December, 2015, he was reported to have issued a statement to the operatives of the Department of State (DSS) wherein he apologised to President Buhari, Goodluck Jonathan, Ohaneze elders and others for denigrating them. “Reference to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a terrorist, evil and paedophile is regrettable and uncalled for and for that, I unreservedly apologise and will be doing so in a private letter to the President.”
Kanu continued: “Before PMB, there was the administration of Goodluck Jonathan, I also said uncomplimentary things about him and Igbo elders as well, which I recognise now should not have happened because it is un-African to be rude or insolent to elders.”
Recently, Nnamdi Kanu appeared to have spurned another soft landing which the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) claimed to have negotiated for him. MEND said separatist groups in the Niger Delta and South East had agreed to negotiate a comprehensive peace settlement with the Nigerian government and part of this required that Kanu renounced Biafra. The militant group had said in a statement that “MEND hereby uses this opportunity to inform the entire world that following the group’s on-going negotiations with the Federal Government, Nnamdi Kanu has made it clear that he is willing to renounce Biafra in secret in exchange for his freedom.”
No sooner had MEND issued this statement than Kanu balked. The IPOB leader said MEND was dishonest and he preferred to stay in prison than to renounce Biafra. Let Soludo know that Kanu is in prison in accordance with his own wish; if he wants to be released, he will have to renounce Biafra or at least seek the pardon of those he defamed. Otherwise, he can continue to (mis)lead his people from Kuje prison and come out after he conquers Nigeria. As it is now, the President of Biafra is a prisoner of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (the zoo, I mean the big zoo).