L-R: Babangida, Obasanjo and Buhari: the first two have called for the restructuring of Nigeria; a call eminent Nigerians, including Igbo leaders, have welcomed but which Kanu is opposing
From a position of near obscurity, he came into limelight. What he started like a joke eventually snowballed into something really serious. A man who was until recently regarded as a sort of jester, has turned a beautiful bride. Previously listened to by only his fanatical supporters, the entire country is today listening to him. That man is Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
Indeed when Kanu was dishing out all manner of messages about Biafra on Radio Biafra from his London abode, I was among those that regarded him as a crank seeking notice. He may still not be far from that. But at least, for today, he has established a reputation as a freedom fighter. Those looking for a hero since Ojukwu's demise have quickly taken to him. They are ready to carry out any of his whims, regardless of the consequences. And that makes their leader, Kanu, a very dangerous fellow, if you ask me. Why?
In the Northern part of the country we have those known as the Almajeris. They are mainly street urchins who rely on the food thrown at them by the wealthy few. Because they rely on them for food, and perhaps money, these urchins are ready to carry out any bidding of their masters. They have thus been known to kill, plunder, rape and loot once they receive the green light. That has accounted for the many Christian and Igbo lives lost in parts of Northern Nigeria in the guise of political, religious and ethnic killings.
While the Almajeris are dangerous, the real danger are those that sponsor them. Their charges have been so brainwashed that they will not bat an eyelid killing their siblings or even their parents if such people are labelled enemies of their religion or whatever it is they are tutored to be against.
Without those sponsors, the Almajeris will lose their potency. The arms they use are given by their sponsors. They are protected from the police by their sponsors and worse still, they see those sponsors as their Gods on earth.
The Fulani herdsmen are also products of the same system. The sophisticated guns they carry are given to them by the cabals behind them and for whom they work. Beyond protecting their cattle, they have today metamorphosed into instruments of destruction and death. All this is happening in the North. Let's come home.
As I said before, Nnamdi Kanu has metamorphosed from a harmless idler to the man of the moment who commands a large and committed, even fanatical, followership. It is not easy. To achieve this kind of stature, you have to pass through some sort of crucible. Kanu did. He was arrested and incarcerated. The injustice of his incarceration helped to create a myth around him. When he came out, he became a messiah, at least to those devoted to him and his cause. They are already beginning to liken him to Mandela who was imprisoned for his cause.
And what about Kanu? He is smart enough to know that he is onto a path he never dreamed of. What he considers as a success today is making him to believe he can achieve more and that includes stepping up as a leader of not just his ardent followers, but as a leader of Ndigbo. And there lies the problem, a big one.
Because of his obsession to be a leader, a spokesman, a fighter and whatever, he has been making many unguarded utterances and taking unilateral actions, believing that he has become a cat with nine lives. One of his actions, the last sit-at-home strike, was leveraged upon by some mischievous youths in the North, otherwise known as Arewa Youths, to throw the nation into confusion by issuing a quit notice to Igbos in the North.
They pointed at the sit-at-home strike as the last straw that convinced them that Ndigbo were causing trouble in Nigeria by stopping others from doing their business. They also cited the call for secession by MASSOB members as another reason for their call.
We know that the Arewa Youths were wrong to have blamed the Biafra agitators for any of their actions; after all, it is a fee society where the constitution guarantees the right of free speech and association to the citizens.
But probably because of the way our brothers in the Biafra movement have been going about their business, the Arewa people became infuriated. But this is a different topic.
But the issue is the way and manner the agitators are carrying on. Just recently, Kanu called for a boycott of elections in Nigeria by the Igbos, beginning from the Anambra election in November. He also said he was against the restructuring of the country. For him, the only way is to secede from Nigeria.
Now, the rest of the country, outside the North, are clamouring for a restructuring of the country. Last Wednesday, a formidable group comprising people from the Eastern and Western parts of the country gathered to call for a restructuring of the nation. The Igbos were led by Prof Anya O. Anya, while the Yorubas were led by Christopher Kolade. They believed that the only way the country can peacefully solve their problems was through dialogue.
Before then, many Nigerians, including former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, had added their voices to such a clamour. The group of Southwest and Southeast leaders who met said they were hinging their clamour on the call by Obasanjo and Babangida.
So it is as if every sane Nigerian wants dialogue. But Kanu does not want it. He is calling for outright separation, even though he has not made contingency plans for such an eventuality. Assuming Biafra is granted today, who are going to be the leaders? Are the leaders going to be chosen from the rabble rousing group of keke drivers, artisans and the numerous agberos that find it convenient to hide under the Biafra agitation to loot?
Although the pro-Biafra people have divided the Southeast into administrative areas, that division is at best utopian. It is not ever going to work as long as the ones who set it up are the people I just mentioned. Granted that some elitist minds are joining the struggle, they are still swallowed up by the sea of ignoramuses peopling the struggle.
It is these people that Kanu is appealing to their emotions, knowing that virtually anything he tells them is as good as believed. Now he is against the conduct of guber poll in Anambra and also against the restructuring of the country, even when his positions on both are against those of his people. What then does Kanu want?
Does he want to incite his crowd against the recognised Igbo leaders? Does he want to disturb the polity? Who does he think he is? A messiah?
I think it is time Kanu was reined in before he becomes a major embarrassment to the Igbo Nation. The elders and leaders of Ndigbo cannot be saying one thing on the state of the nation and kanu will be saying another thing. Some people can see that as a ploy by Ndigbo to confuse the nation by speaking from both sides of their mouth.
Kanu has to be shown where he belongs. He has played his part and has to sit down and allow others more knowledgeable and recognised to take over. The stage the country is in now requires mature handling; not anything rash like Kanu seems to be doing.
I watched a video clip of Kanu in front of a mammoth crowd in his country home. Thoughts of Adolf Hitler shortly before the Second World War flashed through my mind. Then Hitler was riding on the crest of popularity. His speeches were wildly cheered and his philosophy whole heartedly accepted. They never knew they were dealing with a crank who would later throw Europe into the biggest bloodletting in its history.
At this stage in our national life, we have to tread softly, exploring any means to see if peace can be got without bloodshed. The Kanus of this world should be relegated to the background or else the country will be pushed over the precipice quicker than expected, a development that will have devastating consequences for all.
Kanu, thank you for the awareness you have created but enough is enough. This coming battle is not for the inexperienced. It is for the mature and it requires diplomacy, loads of it.