By Jude Atupulazi
Unlikely situations often produce unlikely heroes. The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, is today riding in a blaze of glory, especially among the so-called ordinary folk.
He’s become so popular that some of those who hitherto spurned him have even joined the queue of his admirers and this is no thanks to the cluelessness, timidity and docility of our governors in the entire Southeast.
Kanu’s increased popularity stems from his formation of the Eastern Security Network, ESN, his own equivalent of the security outfit of the west known as Western Nigeria Security Network, otherwise called Amotekun. But unlike Amotekun which was formed by all the governments of the western states and leaders, Kanu’s ESN remains his brainchild alone. It came into being as our leaders dilly-dallied and foot-dragged over the formation of their own version of Amotekun.
Recall that soon after the governors of the western states came up with Amotekun, their counterparts in the east made a show of forming their own, but as days turned to weeks and weeks, to months, nothing materialized. Instead, nothing more was heard about it until it petered out.
As nature abhors a vacuum, Kanu sprang into action and came up with his version aimed at protecting the people of the Southeast Zone. That action of Kanu received roars of approval in many quarters and the roars are yet to subside.
Indeed, Kanu has always profited from the inaction of Southeast’s leaders; never wasting time to take the lead by doing what the governors could not do at any given time. He has been vocal against the Federal Government where the governors from the Southeast have been silent.
He has been confrontational where the governors have been meek. He has risked his life and even been imprisoned where the governors have been scared of leaving their comfort zones. Perhaps, because Kanu is not looking for favours from Abuja or looking for soft landing, he has been able to paint a picture of a man of the people.
While I personally take exception to some of Kanu’s methods, especially his seeming rashness and lack of respect to constituted authority, there’s no denying the fact that he has a nuisance value which our leaders would have done well to leverage.
While it can be understood why our governors and leaders; including the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohaneze, have been skeptical in working with Kanu, the Kanu matter has gone long enough for our leaders to have fashioned a better way of relating with him and using his nuisance value to greater effect in the same way the west had at various times used the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and now Amotekun, as bargaining chips.
Before then, we all saw how the Southsouth managed to use the Niger Delta Militants to advance their cause, leading to amnesty for the members.
But here, our governors are happier to invite the military to deal with IPOB as the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma, has just admitted doing. He was unabashed enough to declare that it was he who invited the Nigerian Army to come flush out the ESN members. Today, the Nigerian Military, ever relishing any opportunity to deal with anyone here, are carrying out raids from the air against the ESN members. They don’t care if in the course of doing so, some innocent lives would be affected.
Uzodimma alleged that the ESN people were killing, harassing and kidnapping people, the very things the Fulani herdsmen have been doing and for which none of them have been arrested. (Up till now, we are yet to see those killed or kidnapped by ESN, mind you).
So ,if Uzodimma has not effected the arrest of any of the killer herdsmen in his state, why go after those who are chasing them away? And why have his fellow governors not reprimanded him?
Really, the situation before the invasion of Orlu by soldiers provided the governors the best opportunity to work with ESN, even if surreptitiously. Since the governors are so scared of openly taking steps to protect their people against the Fulani herdsmen, wouldn’t it have been better if they had decided to work under ground with ESN?
Can this happen in Yoruba Land? Isn’t this why the FG never takes the east seriously? Now, have we not seen how the north is protecting terrorists? Don’t we daily read how Sheik Gumi and some of their governors have been defending them and trying to justify why the terrorists carry high calibre weapons? Are we not seeing how, instead of arresting them they are giving them money running into millions of Naira?
But in our case, we are betraying those whose crime is trying to defend our land after our leaders have failed to do so. For sure, something is wrong somewhere.
Having failed to do the needful at any given time, would it be okay for our governors to be resentful of Kanu and his boys? Methinks there’s no basis for that. Our governors have continually lost their opportunities to be heroes for reasons known only to them, some of which we can however guess.
For Uzodimma, we all know how he came in and how desperately he wants to ingratiate himself before Abuja. This is why many see him as a lackey or lap dog of Abuja. Besides, he belongs to same party and isn’t expected to do things that will embarrass his party.
What about the other governors? Let’s look at Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State. Here’s a man who, even while in the opposition party, PDP, had always been suspected of working for Abuja. During the last presidential election, he led the few PDP chieftains who kicked against the choice of former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, on the ground that they were not consulted.
It took some diplomatic manoeuvres by Atiku Abubakar and Obi to finally get from Umahi and co what looked like an agreement; even though what played out in the ensuing election left much to be desired, as Buhari’s APC got the highest number of votes in Ebonyi, as well as the required 2/3rd.
Was it any surprise when Umahi eventually defected to APC in an obvious move to contest the presidential election in 2023?
In the same election here in Anambra in 2019, agents of the state government worked for Buhari and in some areas were seen giving money to people to vote for APC. It was only in Abia and Enugu that things looked normal.
But beyond the presidential election, it has always seemed as if the Southeast governors are afraid of raising a finger against the Federal Government. Not even after the Fulani herdsmen attacked and slaughtered people in Nimbo, Enugu State, did the Enugu Governor deem it serious enough to bark.
He only asked the people to pray and shortly after was seen in Aso Rock grinning from ear to ear after meeting with Buhari. Till this day, not one of the Nimbo killers has been arrested.
Indeed, only the Southeast governors know what is holding them from doing what they should do in defence of their people. Are they, like Umahi, planning to defect to APC? Or are they looking for a soft landing when they leave office?
We may not know but suffice it to say that our governors in the Southeast have contrived to make Kanu a hero because of their inaction and or docility. Where they have failed to act, Kanu has acted; where they have failed to bark, Kanu has roared; and where they have been treading softly, Kanu has marched boldly.
Why is anyone therefore begrudging Kanu of his hard earned popularity? I’m even sure that if we had such timid and indecisive governors in Ojukwu’s time in the First Republic, they would not have put up any fight in the face of the genocide that took place in parts of the north during the pogroms.
For how long then, would our leaders continue to shy away from acting decisively and proactively? One government official was telling me the other day that no one was yet to be killed in Orlu. But I ask, must someone be killed before our leaders act? What on earth justifies the invasion of Orlu by soldiers when no such invasion has taken place elsewhere where tensions are higher and more dangerous activities going on?
Amotekun, since its formation, has been chasing Fulani herdsmen out of their hideouts. No western governor has invited anyone to deal with Amotekun and the Federal Government seems reluctant if not scared, to do anything in the west.
But here in the east, they know our people and their penchant to curry favour by selling their people if need be. Uzodimma has just proved it by inviting soldiers to flush out those who have risen up in defence of their people.
But what Uzodimma and his accomplices in the military do not seem to appreciate is that the more they chase Kanu, the more popular they make him to become; and of course the harder it will be to tame him.