By Okanga Agila
Genuine freedom fighters anywhere in the world are known for a definite character. They fight and remain in personified expressions in words and actions. They do not run away; they do not go into hiding and dump adherents to languish in sorrow alone.
Social activists have their fate sealed by the beliefs and convictions in the cause for public good. It makes them impenetrable to bullets and guns. It melts the fire force of all armoury. They dare authorities in the face, without shrinking to defend their cause even at the risk of their lives.
This is the portrait you see in all social crusaders around the world. They come from different backgrounds or orientations and perhaps, may even vary in perceptions, but the system of the pursuit of social justice has uniformity. This is what you encounter in forces like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, the Afro-American civil rights crusader and his likes everywhere.
When he delivered the historic speech, which ironically turned out to be his last public address, at the Mason Temple, a Pentecostal church in Memphis, Tenn, April 3, 1968, decrying the injustice done to the protesting city sanitation workers in Memphis, King Jr knew he dared the authorities. But he was bold and eloquent, irresistibly beholding, as he harped for a change of the low pay and poor working conditions of the workers.
Less than 24 hours later, Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. But he told the people to live and fight for their humanity in these words, “We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying that we are God’s children. And that we don’t have to live like we are forced to live”.
Even in death, Martin Luther King Jr is worshipped by all mankind. He dared the forces against humanity, but did not take to his heels. But in Nigeria, the people are compelled to see a strange and very deceptive version of a freedom fighter, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). In the last two years, he has heightened tension in Nigeria, particularly in the Southeast region under the fake claims of fighting for the realization of a “Biafran republic.”
He gambled with reason and sacrificed wisdom on the altar of greed. He lured most of his people into avoidable mess. He enjoyed the drama because it raised a platform for him to freely swindle his people. He barked violence at every point and swore that the “republic of Biafra” will be actualized through brute force. He established private security organizations – the Biafra Secret Service (BSS) and the Biafra National Guard (BNG) to militantly cage everybody.
Kanu massively recruited criminals into these organizations. He thereafter unleashed them on a hapless Igbo nation, as kidnappers/abductors, cultists, murderers, extortionists and armed robbers. These miscreants could do nearly everything criminal, laced in violence, including attacking worship places to either kill or rape female worshippers. IPOB security identified and murdered individuals opposed to the cause and style of self-determination as enunciated by Kanu and buried them in secret shallow graves.
BSS and BNG were all powerful and even dared physical confrontations with soldiers. Police officers were their favorite barbecue. They effortlessly murdered police officers in the line of duty, who attempted to enforce public law and order. Kanu dared soldiers or any security agent to attempt his arrest anywhere in Biafran land” and be roasted to death. He directed BSS and BNG members to raze Nigeria to ashes if his bail is revoked and he is re-arrested.
Listening to Kanu, you were prone to mistake him for a man with guts and someone committed to the cause he had hoodwinked all leaders in the Southeast to buy the meal ticket. He flamed with fake courage.
But how did Nnmadi Kanu funded the BSS and BNG or his operations generally? Kanu had exceptional skills in swindling his people. Some reports indicated that Kanu armed with the secession agenda allegedly approached the Igbo congress in the US to request money to buy guns and ammunitions to fight the Nigerian state. How much he got from the gamble is not clear. But there were overwhelming doubting voices. And he never learned from it.
But the criminal instincts in Kanu could have earned him a deal, as he first of all disparaged the Igbos in Europe as broke. He praised the Igbos in America, as more sensible. But certainly, they were not foolish enough to donate their hard-earned money into the sort of project launched by Kanu. They preferred devoting the monies to improving the living conditions of their impoverished people back home.
But Kanu argued that the problem of Igbo nation was all about identity, through separatism. He was not comfortable with their NO answer and could have probably pushed the funding at individual levels. But it is plausible the argument that Kanu eventually sourced for funding and that’s why he formed the BSS and the BNG, which he armed with weapons. So, he came back to Nigeria and became the untouchable, always spitting fire.
It was easy to say, Nnamdi Kanu was absorbed in his convictions. But it was far from it. When the Presidency ordered a military operation to cleanse the Southeast of these criminal elements who had infiltrated every nook and cranny of the region, Kanu’s emptiness and hidden agenda was exposed. At first, Kanu’s “troops” displayed some bravado by engaging the military in unprovoked attacks. Soldiers observed restraint, as “Operation Python Dance II” launched by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai had not officially commenced operations. Mere military patrols infuriated IPOB members who came out ferociously against soldiers.
However, Kanu’s underbelly was exposed when the Nigerian Defence Headquarters (DHQs) officially declared IPOB a militant terrorist’s organization, after a professional investigation of its activities. It listed several reasons including the raising of a private army by Kanu. The Southeast Governors Forum (SGF) also reviewed the operations of IPOB and discovered its multiple aberrations and slammed a proscription on it.
It was expected that Nnamdi Kanu would be courageous enough to stay and defend IPOB and the cause he murdered sleep for millions of people. But he rather exhibited the unexpected. He shamefully fled into hiding. That is not the mark of a genuine freedom fighter. It was paradoxical that Kanu dreaded death, but pushed armed Southeast youths to kiss their early graves. Since then, Kanu has not been forthcoming.
Kanu, the self-appointed cleric of the Biafran gospel, the one-time dreaded alfa and omega, the numero uno of the Biafran struggle, who rejected all entreaties to a civilized and decent manner of prosecuting his separatism agenda suddenly became effeminate. He forgot his avowals to have “Biafra” now or never. He was tamed so easily and that is how any agenda hatched on dubiousness perishes and fizzles out.
What is left of Kanu and IPOB is a cocktail of disclaimers of him and his organization from leaders, groups and institutions in the Southeast. The dirge was personally announced by “IPOB Media Strategist, Tim Elombah himself, who posted on Facebook thus; “Breaking! SE Govs, Senators, Ohaneze, Disown Kanu, Proscribe IPOB”. It was unbelievable, but true. Now, Kanu who plotted to invade Abuja to demand for President Mohammedu Buhari’s head to deliver at Umuahia is proscribed. Kanu’s guts have melted, with his vanishing shadows.
But operation “Egwu Eke II” (Operation Python Dance II) is ready for a dance with Kanu and IPOB. But it appears Kanu is not prepared for the dance. But viewing the video clips of Kanu and his brainwashed illiterates, who stoned an APC belonging to the military and attacked soldiers at a roadblock at Isialangwa, one thought they were ready to do the dance. It was possible to provoke the soldiers into vengeance, but there was no indication that anybody was murdered. One thought Kanu’s gods have consumed all the Nigerian troops like it happened in Nigeria at a time with Baba Alakyo in Nasarawa state.
But the comportment of soldiers was simply because the Army was under strict instructions of the Chief of Army Staff not to molest anyone, let alone kill anyone, no matter the depth of provocation. The cordiality of soldiers radiated the more when they arrested Kanu’s boys and offered them launch of jollof rice and fish, something Kanu had denied them throughout the struggle for a fake secession.
Let those who admire Kanu intimate him that true freedom fighters, do not runaway. Fleeing is an irrecoverable sign of defeat. Having done this, Kanu should perish the thought of his “Biafran” pursuit forever. He is free to scout for new strategies to swindle his people, but the tactics veiled as Biafran struggle has been demystified.
Okanga, a traditional warrior writes from Agila, Benue State.