Boycott of Elections: Time to Rein in Kanu

That the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, has assumed national prominence before, during and after his detention, is not in doubt. While many of his people paid no more than a passing attention to him when he was outside the country, especially those not ardently in support of his Biafran project, his arrest and detention by Nigeria’s security forces changed all that. Overnight he became an issue, no thanks to the politicisation of his detention. The Igbo elites were forced to become more involved and it was they that helped to arrange the fulfilment of Kanu’s seemingly impossible bail conditions.
Since his bail however, Kanu seems to have assumed an even larger than life status. His home became a Mecca of sorts and politicians even started wooing him to achieve political points. His members also began to deify him and people have today become used to seeing images of people bowing to him as though hewere God.
Being a mere mortal, all this has seemed to turn Kanu’s head to the extent that he probably sees himself as the sole mouthpiece of the Igbo Nation. This was probably why he was recently credited with a call on Igbos to boycott future elections in the country, a call that has however been met with strident opposition in many quarters.
Kanu’s call for a boycott of elections is similar to that by Ralph Uwazurike in his heyday as leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB. Then, Uwazurike had called for the boycott of the National Census by the Igbos, with his foot soldiers violently barring law abiding citizens in some Southeast states from being part of the all-important exercise.
Knowing the importance of a census, many were appalled by Uwazurike’s call and subsequent actions by his loyalists. Today, again, another Biafra agitator, Nnamdi Kanu, is urging Igbos not to be part of any election in the country. Going by his call, it will also include a boycott of the forthcoming Anambra guber election.
Now, elections offer the citizenry the chance to choose their leaders through whom their various grievances will be addressed. Kanu and his fellow Biafra agitators have always lamented the treatment of their people by the Nigerian government and by other Nigerians. This formed the reason for their agitation for a country of their own.
However, while they have a right to legally clamour for whatever they believe in, they should also know that where their rights end is where others’ rights begin. But more importantly, Kanu should know that the Igbo Nation has recognized spokespersons in the forms of the governors, legislators and Ohaneze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural group.
Any serious statements are supposed to come from these people after extensive consultations. For instance, when the defunct Biafran Republic was proclaimed by the late Chukwuemeka Odumegu Ojukwu in 1967, it was by the mandate of Igbo leaders and elders after extensive consultations. Ojukwu did not wake up one day to declare Biafra.
Given the tension in the country today generated by the quit notice to Ndigbo in the Northern parts of Nigeria by some Arewa youths, it behoves everybody to be careful about what they say or do so that the polity is not further charged.
Kanu’s call was unilateral. He was not speaking for the Igbo Nation but for himself. But there is no doubting that his call may have negative consequences for Ndigbo.
This is why we are calling on the Igbo states governors and the Ohaneze to call Kanu and other aggrieved groups to order through dialogue so that Ndigbo will always speak with one voice and earn some respect.
Despite everything, we are still part of Nigeria at the moment and should therefore refrain from certain comments that will only inflame passions. This is not a period for unguarded comments. It is one that calls for deep reflections.