By Tony Adibe
When Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), started hitting the airwaves and heating up the Nigerian polity with the London-based Radio Biafra, a platform through which he released his hate speeches and insults, he probably thought the development earned him the mouthpiece of the Igbo race.
Moreover, when his sit-indoor-order reportedly received about 80 percent compliance within some major cities in the South-east zone of Nigeria, he might have felt that circumstances have automatically placed the leadership of the entire Igbo race on his palms. Apparently, the same way unfolding situations in the 1960s placed the leadership of Igbo land, and indeed, the defunct eastern region on the shoulders of the then young Biafran leader, Col Emeka Ojukwu. But the two scenarios are not the same. They can hardly be.
Kanu perhaps felt emboldened to speak, even about matters he ought to have maintained silence on. Towards the end of June, the IPOB leader reportedly called on Anambra people to boycott the governorship election scheduled for November 18. His reported call came even when the Igbo are yet to come out of the problem they were thrown into when Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, the then leader of Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) asked the Igbo to boycott the last census. The Igbo who obeyed Uwazuruike’s misleading and mischievous call did not realize the implication: when the census was conducted, the population of the Igbo declined. Federal resources are usually distributed based on population of an area.
However, for the first time, the leadership of Ndigbo seemed to have risen up to the occasion by not only scolding Kanu but also calling him to order. That Kanu heads IPOB and directs a pirate Radio Biafra, does not make him the Igbo spokesman.
The highest Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndi-Igbo, hit hard on IPOB and Kanu with a warning to desist from actions capable of heating up the polity. Ohanaeze was reacting to IPOB’s call for a boycott of the forthcoming governorship poll in Anambra State.
“We don’t need this heat up…Leaders of these movements must not arrogate to themselves the supreme leadership of Igboland…Statements of the kind credited to Kanu are provocative, misleading and unproductive. Why should Anambra people be denied the opportunity to choose their own leader? Why should any of us who are not from Anambra, no matter how highly placed, descend to the arena and dictate for Anambra people when to vote, whether to vote or who to vote for?” asked the President General of Ohanaeze, Chief John Nnia Nwodo. “We must resist any attempt to turn division amongst us,” he warned.
Elder statesman and founder cum national chairman of the Justice Party, Chief Ralph Obioha, said Kanu should be guarded lest he drags the Igbo into the kind of mess they will live to regret for a very long time. “Ndigbo are struggling to come out of the mess Uwazuruike put us into when he and his MASSOB prevented a majority of Igbo from participating in the last census. And now this young man with split personality – Nnamdi Kanu who claims to be a Jew, even when the Jews have not said they are Igbo or the Igbo are Jews – has emerged to drag the Igbo man into another round of mess,” Obioha said angrily in an interview with Daily Trust on Saturday.
Obioha regretted that prominent Igbo leaders like former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and others, rather than caution the young Kanu “who abuses everybody in Igbo land and Nigeria, they are patting him on the back.”
He said: “Look at the title Nnamdi Kanu has given himself now…His Excellency, The Supreme Leader of IPOB and Biafra. He enjoys such amusing titles. Doesn’t that tell you something about the mentality of the young man? I only pity the gullible Igbo youths who follow such people sheepishly because the word Biafra is now their opium.”
Even Kanu seemed to have lost the support of the father figure and co-founder of IPOB, a former President General of Ohanaeze, Dr Dozie Ikedife, who participated in the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. Ikedife and Kanu do not agree on ideological differences or modus operandi with which to go about Biafra. The Anambra State-born medical doctor knows the implication of violence and war. He does not want to adopt any of these.
“I am not in support of any other brand of Biafra agitation that would involve physical engagements, assault or insults and preaching ethnic hatred,” said Ikedife in an interview. He quickly added: “The Biafra agitation I support is a peaceful one. A Biafra founded through a referendum or legislative process backed by law and not violence,” he restated.
But Kanu ‘who was born yesterday’ and didn’t experience the agonies of the Civil War is busy crusading for violence, blood, war. He is still basking in the euphoria of the media spotlight he has gotten so far. Perhaps, Kanu is not only a sad man but one in a hurry to get things done, even if it means doing them badly. He said in a recent interview that his attempt to restore Biafra Republic was spurred by “the sufferings Ndi-Igbo were being subjected to in Nigeria, the maltreatment and marginalization of the Igbo people.” Kanu further said: “I am extremely bitter with the maltreatment of Ndigbo. That is why it looks as if I am zealous.”
More shocking to Kanu’s firebrand and brashly arrogant style of crusading for Biafra is the rejection of secession from the southeast governors, Ohanaeze and other prominent groups and personalities in the zone.
A communiqué issued at the end of the meeting of southeast governors, Ohanaeze, and select leaders of thought in Enugu on July 1, 2017 killed any optimism IPOB leadership probably had for receiving the approval or endorsement of the Igbo leadership in respect of Biafra’s resurrection.
Ebonyi State governor and chairman of the Southeast Governors Forum, Dave Umahi, who read the communiqué, also condemned Kanu’s reckless hate speeches and disrespect for civil authorities. Umahi said: “Ndigbo are in support of a united Nigeria where peace, love, fairness, justice, equity and equality of opportunity are paramount regardless of creed, ethnicity, gender or political affiliation.”
They also declared their support for the restructuring of Nigeria on the basis of fairness and equity, while also appealing to the federal government and all Nigerian leaders to quickly set in motion the process of dialogue among Nigerians on the modalities of achieving the issue within a reasonable time frame.
But a day after the governors and Igbo leaders met, IPOB said that the Igbo leaders comprising the governors, National Assembly members, traditional rulers, religious leaders and other stakeholders, spoke for themselves and their immediate families. IPOB expressed disappointment over the position and comments of the elders during the Enugu meeting, emphasising that the leaders contradicted the aspirations of the teeming Igbo people.
IPOB said in a statement issued by its media and publicity secretary, Emma Powerful, that the position of the Igbo leaders failed to reflect the will of the ordinary people in the zone, but was aimed at protecting their interests and that of their immediate families and cronies who have been the beneficiaries of the Igbo common patrimony.
Nevertheless, only time will tell if Kanu will ever get the support of the Igbo elite since virtually all the prominent people support a one united Nigeria rather than opting for a break-away Biafra Republic. This is unlike in the 1960s when the Eastern Region Consultative Assembly unanimously asked the then leader of defunct Eastern Region, Col Emeka Ojukwu, to declare the Republic of Biafra. Perhaps, Kanu is still acting alone, basking in the euphoria of gullible Igbo young men and women who, one prays, wouldn’t push him to do things that may burn the fingers of Igbo people.
By Tony Adibe, writes from Enugu
Op-Ed: Content and contribution are solely the opinion of the author, it does not represent opinion policy of Abacityblog
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