News Update

Ojukwu, Kanu and the Two Biafras

By Jude Atupulazi

TACT, this four letter word, has often been the difference between success and failure and between disaster and victory. It just depends on how it is used.

The main news this period all over the country and beyond, as far as Nigerians are concerned, has been the arrest and extradition of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB. He arrived in Nigeria last Sunday after his arrest abroad in a very coded operation which was so coded that even President Muhammadu Buhari was reportedly said not to have been aware of the plan until it was in the bag.

Last Tuesday, when the social media posted a picture of a haggard looking and seemingly demoralized Kanu in hand cuffs at a Federal High Court, Abuja, many, including me, thought it was a joke and that it was an old picture taken during his previous trial. But moments later, as the story kept trending, and after it was broadcast in the traditional media, it became clear that the story was real.

By now, most Nigerians must have been saturated with the reasons for his arrest. His arrest is obviously the beginning of a long drawn out saga whose ending may not be predicted. But as Nigerians continue to get used to the fact of his arrest, one fact is becoming indisputable: Kanu is a victim of tactlessness.

In writing this piece, I took cognizance of the fact that Kanu is many things to many people and that any material on him was bound to elicit all manner of reactions. But then, for us in the media, the needful has got to be done as always.

To his supporters, who are legion, Kanu represents the new face of the Biafran struggle. He is a man fast assuming the stature of a god to his followers, a man who can do no wrong and a man who is all knowing. Above all, he is to them, a messiah.

To those who are not sold on the ideas of Kanu, he is a rabble rouser, rash, crude in his methods, and disrespectful to elders. Above all, he is seen as unnecessarily garrulous, without being tactful.

From what had happened before his arrest no one can honestly describe Kanu as tactful. Yes, Kanu, like many of us, is pissed off with the treatment meted out to Ndigbo in Nigeria. No Igbo man or woman should be happy about our situation, unless such a person is a hired agent of those who oppress us. But then, no matter how aggrieved or angry anyone can be, such anger or grievance must be exercised within the limits of the law, else, the person runs the risk of falling out with the law.

Kanu, by his tactlessness and crudity, has brought a heap of problems on his head. He arrived at this simply because he is a one man army who discards the advice of people better positioned to advise him. Kanu, no matter how anyone might see him, has not been very respectful to his elders in Igbo Land. I remember the time he asked his followers to kill the then President of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Nnia Nwodo, simply because Nwodo believed in restructuring while Kanu believed in referendum. Can you beat that?

Then recall his video recordings where he barked out orders to his people. Most of such orders were insulting to the Igbo people and often incited people to violent conduct. It was actually rare to see him praise anyone; he only spewed hateful words, mostly against his people.

Then came the activities of the unknown gunmen. While no one can actually hold him culpable; yet, his utterances and video recordings made many to believe he had a hand in it.

Now, if anyone wants to know if Nigeria’s law enforcement agencies are working, let the person kill any of them. They almost always come up with immediate arrests of the culprits. In the last four months, more policemen and soldiers have been killed than at any other time in the country’s recent history. These are not what one would expect the security personnel to fold their hands and watch.

Often when some people decry what they term the military invasion of parts of the Southeast, they fail to tell why it is so. Our people say there is no smoke without fire. They also say that anyone who brings home ant infested wood is asking the lizard to visit his compound.

The soldiers have laid siege to Igbo Land today because their members have been killed. That’s one thing they never tolerate.

Again, people question why it is only here that the Federal Government deploys its forces to crush people. But then they fail to ask why somebody is giving them a legitimate excuse to invade our land. If police offices and offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, are burnt; if prisons are attacked and criminal inmates unleashed on the public; if the election coming up in Anambra is opposed by a group, why on earth would the security agencies not fight back?

You see, part of our problem is the application of sentiments wrongly. We have tended in the past few months to justify the killing of security personnel in the Southeast, forgetting that it is only here that they are being killed. The western part of the country is also agitating but their own version of Kanu, Sunday Igboho, has not resorted to violence either against his people or in their own land. His attention is solely focused on the herdsmen who have been causing problems in their land.

Back here, our brothers in Ebonyi State have been under attack by herdsmen. Being that our governors have not been able to do much to secure us, one would have expected that ESN would be deployed by Kanu to help those Ebonyi people. But no way, no trace of ESN was found. Rather, large scale killing of security personnel in Igbo Land continued.

Most of the officers killed were Igbos. They were breadwinners of their families, as well as brothers and sisters of some people. You do not expect such people to be happy with Kanu or whoever caused their grief. This is where Kanu or whoever is responsible loses connection with sane people.

I don’t think any Igbo person will say they would not want Biafra, although it depends on the type of Biafra. While some want a physical Biafra, others want a Biafra of the mind, where we will have a free rein to actualize our full potentials as architects of our own destiny.

Again, while there are some people who don’t care if war breaks out. Others want a recourse to dialogue from which the country will eventually get it right; that is if we will ever get it right.

There are also people who want everything destroyed so we return to ground zero. These are people the majority of whom have mismanaged their opportunities and so want to drag all down with them; they want others to come down to their level of nothingness. Sadly, many in this group are among Kanu’s army. That is why they cherish anarchic situations which provides them the opportunity to loot and plunder, as was seen during the EndSARS riots. I came across many of such people who kept shouting, ”We want Biafra”, ”Give us ”Biafra”, even though they knew little of what Biafra means.

When you have a majority of such people among your foot soldiers, then society is endangered. These are people who, once they believe in you, become fanatically attached to you and will not hesitate to carry out any order, including going after individuals perceived as enemies to the cause. This is why many are skeptical about Kanu and his gospel.

In our recent history as Ndigbo, we have had an Ojukwu and Kanu. Their common denominator is Biafra. But what distinguishes them is their modus operandi, temperament and position.

During the time of the late Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, there was an almost general consensus for a Biafran Nation. This followed the collective experience of Ndigbo in the hands of other Nigerians. Indeed, when Ojukwu declared Biafra on 30 May 1967, he was prevailed upon by the people to do so. It was not a one man show.

But in Kanu’s case, it is all about himself. He does not consult anyone. He will just wake up and bark out orders. He is a typical self-styled supreme leader.

For those clamouring for another war, it will also be expedient to make some comparisons between what obtained then and what obtains now.

In Ojukwu’s time, there was a generally accepted leader in Ojukwu, a trained soldier and leader of the then Eastern Region. There were also arms and ammunition left behind by soldiers of northern origin when they returned to the north at the beginning of the crisis that led to war. It was therefore easy for Ojukwu to coordinate and even execute a war.

Today, we have a man, Kanu, without military experience. He is not resident at home. He does not enjoy widespread support. He has even no base from which to fight.

As for the governors, they have divided loyalties, with some being more loyal to the Federal Government than to their own people. There are no arms and ammunition anywhere in the Southeast with which to prosecute a war.

Yet, we have people calling for a war. I then ask; if with all we had in the sixties we could not win the war, is it now that we have nothing that we can win?  From which base will Kanu execute the war since no governor in the east will allow that? This is why I shudder in disbelief when I see supposedly sane people acting and arguing like motor-park touts in the name of Biafra.

The Biafra of the sixties was better articulated and those at the helm listened to advice. Who does Kanu listen to? Isn’t he a lord unto himself? Shall we have a man who wakes up each morning and tells us what to do? In that case, I’d rather remain in a flawed system but which is governed by laws than in a system under the whims and caprices of one fellow.

Were I to be given a choice to make between Ojukwu’s Biafra and Kanu’s Biafra, I’ll unhesitatingly choose Ojukwu’s Biafra. I’ll feel a lot safer there; same way as I will in a flawed system which however is governed by laws.