By Uche Amunike
I was idly surfing the internet some days ago when I came across a post about the gallant Ndubuisi Kanu and it appeared preparations were seriously being made for his Night of Tributes. I kept reading different narratives about him, his life, career, ideologies, achievements and so many other things.
The remarkable thing was that every narrative I read was as interesting as the next one. I however came across that of my dear friend and senior colleague, IKEDDY ISIGUZO and particularly loved it. He did justice to the piece he wrote about this activist and great statesman and I enjoyed it so much that I had to share with you, my amazing readers. Please enjoy the rest of this most interesting piece…
There is an agreement that Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Godwin Kanu, who departed on 13 January 2021, aged 77, dedicated his life to the common good. The tributes to him are not the empty words deployed to honour the dead. And they have been pouring.
Ohaneze Ndigbo, Ndigbo Lagos, and other organizations in different parts of the country have honoured Kanu at events where tributes and his memories were shared. Each speaker remembered a remarkable man who gave his best wherever service called. Former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Allison Madueke said of Kanu, ‘He was a very principled person, an officer who served Nigeria and Igbo land to an excellent level. It is on record that Kanu was the first Commanding Officer of the Biafra warship. We have lost a friend and administrator.’
‘Kanu was a man of conviction, who marshalled points with logic and firmness to the point where you always knew where he stood on issues. He was also a straight forward and loyal friend,’ Professor Anya O. Anya, former Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, said.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said, “In every chapter of his life, Rear Admiral Kanu showed true courage, strength and leadership.
“One thing that really struck me about the departed patriot, was his Spartan lifestyle. In spite of the several privileged public offices he occupied, he did not exploit them for personal aggrandizement.
‘He lived a life devoid of the usual perks and privileges that one might associate with a two-time military Governor. He made himself available and accessible to everyone, regardless of class or status.” Lagos State had a day of tributes for him and named a housing estate after him.
Pan-Igbo Movement Intiative, PiMi, held a day “to honour a man who stood firmly for democracy at great inconvenience in the heady days that preceded civilian rule in 1999” on Saturday in Abuja.
‘Rear Admiral was a great man who stood up to be counted whenever matters that affected Nigeria were discussed. He acquitted himself creditably in his military career, stood firm in his place discharging his duties gallantly during and after the Civil War,’ PiMi Convener, Dr. Iyke Ezeugo said.
‘He was a simple, intelligent, brave man, an outstanding nationalist who left us with an excellent example of service and leadership – speaking only when it mattered and without fear or favour. His sense of purpose and style of engagements in social, political and developmental matters distinguished him.’
Kanu took front seat political roles at his retirement to the surprise of many.
‘Everything about politics concerns all of us,’ he remarked in a 2009 interview, about the zest he poured into the risky parts he played in a series of street protests to actualise the June 12 election that MKO Abiola won in 1993.
His involvement with the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, was one of the high points of his display of courage. He chaired NADECO’s Action Committee, joined the marches and signed the ultimatum asking General Sani Abacha to leave office.
Kanu remained in Nigeria when most NADECO top officials fled abroad to avoid assassination. He explained his decision to remain in Nigeria in the same interview: ‘Where I was trained in India; there was an inscription on the dome, ‘Safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The safety, honour and welfare of the men you command come next. Your own safety and welfare come last’.
Government tried everything to break his resistance. As Chairman of NADECO Action Committee, he was accused of planning massive importation of arms and ammunition importation, a grave allegation, more so under General Abacha.
‘I once had goose pimples because then, I was driving myself even though I had a driver. I reached a point there at Onikan, as I was passing the stadium, I saw a 505 Peugeot. As I got to Awolowo Road, I still noticed the car but I just went on to where I was going.
‘I don’t know how and when the vehicle passed ahead of me. I was on one side of the road when the car came close to me and somebody in the car shouted to me, Admiral Kanu, how are you? I just waved back to him but it was a very remarkable face until I saw the face years later on television. I had goose pimples, but what made him change his mind from shooting me, only God knows,” he said of one of his closest encounters with death under Abacha.
Kanu joined the Nigerian Navy in 1962 and obtained his B.Sc degree at the National Defence Academy, India.
He held command positions including Flag Officer, Eastern Fleet, Chief of Personnel, Naval Headquarters, Flag Officer, Naval Training Command, Chief of Naval Operations, Naval Headquarters, and Director of Logistics, Joint Operations.
He fought on the Biafran side during the Civil War, and once served under the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL.
Babatunde Fashola, former Lagos State Governor, while honouring Kanu in 2014, described him as a long distance runner in his choices and commitments.
Born 3rd November 1943, Kanu was just 31 when he was appointed to Murtala Muhammed’s Supreme Military Council. Olusegun Obasanjo, who succeeded Murtala in 1976, appointed him military Governor of Imo State (the present Abia, Imo, and parts of Ebonyi States).
He was later Governor of Lagos State.
Kanu is credited with providing the vision, resources and platform for the town planners that prepared the development plan of the old Imo state which Gov. Sam Mbakwe executed to the letter. Kanu increased the number of local government areas in the State to 21 and also established the Imo Broadcasting Service (now Imo Broadcasting Corporation). After his retirement, he founded RANGK Ltd, a maritime consultancy. He was also Chairman of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Transition Caretaker Committee, and a Director of Fidelity Bank Plc.
Kanu was married with children. He died on 13 January 2021 of complications from the COVID-19 virus. He will be buried in his native Ovim, Isiukwato, Abia State, on 15 October 2021.
Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues!!!