By Jude Atupulazi
If there is anything sticking out like a sore thumb in today's democratic setting in Nigeria, that thing has to be the treatment of foremost Biafra protagonist, Nnamdi Kanu. He is presently paying the price for his belief in prison. But it is a price that should have been mitigated by his release as ordered by the courts through three different injunctions but shunned by the federal government each time.
Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and director of Radio Biafra, was arrested and clamped into detention on October 14, 2015, when the Directorate of State Services, DSS, apprehended him in his hotel room, Golden Tulip Essential Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos State.
On more than three occasions, the high courts had granted Kanu bail but the Federal Government still has not allowed the Abia-State born activist to breathe the air of freedom.
According to Ori Martins, who wrote for Sunrise Nigeria, a news publication, ''While the President Muhammadu Buhari administration must be commended for promptly charging the case to court, it must also be excoriated for not obeying the three court injunctions which have so far granted Kanu bail. It is not in doubt that the continued detention of the activist is a part of the reason Biafra agitation is high and strong in the South East region''.
The writer also referred to a quoted statement by former Anambra governor, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, which went thus, “When you arrest an Nnamdi Kanu, for instance, and court grants him bail and the government refuses him bail, then you are inviting Biafra agitation”.
But apart from the travails of Kanu in the hands of the Nigerian government, it was beginning to look as if his own people had disowned him. I am talking about the people that matter; not the artisans that people MASSOB and IPOB; artisans who have no clout to actually get the ear of the federal government.
But just the other day, all that changed when a powerful team of Ndigbo's elite finally spoke out against Kanu's treatment. Led by the likes of former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Charles Soludo, and social crusader and economist, Pat Utomi, among others, they called on the federal government to release Nnamdi Kanu, pointing out the injustice of it all.
It was a proud moment for Ndigbo as for the first time in recent years, we saw a group of people not scared to speak out for fear of losing contracts or favours from above. To know that this is coming at a time when we have a new Ohaneze leadership that is equally talking tough, is enough reason to give the most pessimistic Igbo some hope that a light can be spotted at the end of our ever dark tunnel.
Once again, let me state that I am not in support of the Biafra agitation; or rather, that I am not sold on the idea of having a physical Biafra. My position is merely based on the fact that I do not see the possibility of its realisation.
The people that spoke out that day also pointed out that they did not necessarily believe in Kanu's idea of achieving Biafra. They however insisted that his treatment in the hands of the federal government was wrong. I agree whole and entire.
Kanu's treatment is just another sad reminder of the kind of government we have at the centre. A government that pretends to be law abiding but which actually disregards the law. It is indeed only in these dark parts that a court order is freely and regularly flouted by those who should be leading lights.
But it is noteworthy that the Kanu saga may have lingered because of the way Ndigbo are perceived in this country. For long in Nigeria's politics, we have displayed a gluttonous tendency whereby once crumbs are thrown to some of us they begin to wag their tails animatedly like excited dogs. Such people then gleefully work against Igbo interests. Thus the rest of the country have come to notice this behaviour and have been exploiting it. This is why we are not ''feared'' or even respected. When we talk they see it as a mere rant. But when the west talk, they are taken seriously. That was why after they raved and ranted against the treatment meted out to the late M.K.O. Abiola, the west got compensated with the presidency. That, we all know, would never have happened if it was us.
It may seem that we are waking up late but it is better late than never. The Igbo need to rally behind the Igbo cause and Igbos themselves. The Kanu matter can be a take-off point, especially as everyone knows the FG has messed up the matter. We can raise our voice to the highest level which will include taking the matter to the United Nations. This has become a human rights abuse thing and since we are at an advantageous position, common sense demands that we press home that advantage.
We have to expose Buhari for what he is: a pretender. He cannot be posing as a saint to the outside world while he is the opposite at home. This is a sweet position to be in and if well handled, can herald a new era of Ndigbo being taken seriously in Nigeria.
We have to take it up from where the MASSOB and IPOB members stopped and make political capital out of this. It may have started as a joke; I mean the Nnamdi Kanu struggle, but such seemingly little things have often led to bigger things. That is the stuff history is made of.
It sure felt good to see a Soludo not talking about the naira and the dollar, but talking about how wrongly his fellow Igbo man has been treated. It felt good also to see an Utomi not talking about the economy, but talking about how to address an injustice done to his brother. It felt good to see both men and others of their ilk united and talking about same thing that concerned the Igbo nation.
These are people who will talk and Nigeria will listen. They should be joined by our governors and of course, the Ohaneze Ndigbo, not just on the Kanu case, but on issues bordering on the interest of Ndigbo. The momentum has been gathered, the timing has not looked better. Let's therefore use this as the launch pad to Igbo revival, even if it is happening in the late noon of our existence as a people.
I think it is also time to call our brothers in MASSOB, IPOB and other groups, together and coordinate them, even if secretly, and use them as a bargaining chip. No one is asking them to go and kill or to go and expose themselves to be shot. But they can be positively used in some other way that will be beneficial to the Igbo Nation.
We should also be ready to come out as openly as we just did for Kanu and condemn future killing of these Biafra agitators. They have a right to protest just like any other group in Nigeria as long as it is peacefully done. It just isn't right that those who are beaten cannot be allowed to cry.
Like Ezeife stated, when the likes of Kanu are unjustly incarcerated, his followers or sympathisers are only being encouraged to increase their noise about being allowed to leave Nigeria and have the Biafra of their dreams. It doesn't matter if the modus operandi of its actualization isn't plausible.
I suggest that the Igbo elite, including the Ohaneze and Igbo governors, should muster courage and meet with the FG over the Kanu case. If the FG decides to ignore them or get them rounded up and locked up in a room, it will be a price to pay for leadership. But then, they will have made a bold statement and the world will take note.
Buhari is not a monster, even if his actions portray him as one. It is time someone or some people looked him in the face to tell him the home truth. HE IS NOT BIGGER THAN NIGERIA.
This is the time to do so. Even if he does not return any time soon from his health sabbatical, his vice, Osinbajo, is very much around. Even if no fruit germinates from such a visit, a message will have been passed. The time for shadow boxing is over.