Let Nnamdi Kanu Go Home


Nnamdi Kanu was apprehended in Kenya in June 2021 by security agencies and brought home to face trial. First arraigned on 14th October 2015 before eventually securing bail and fleeing the country, the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) leader was slammed with an 11-count charge bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods. Kanu was also accused of inciting violence through television, radio and online broadcasts that resulted in the loss of lives and property of civilians, military, paramilitary, police forces as well as the destruction of civil institutions and symbols of authority in the Southeast.

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Following his arraignment, I wrote a column, ‘The Tricky Trial of Nnamdi Kanu’ where I drew parallels between his travail and that of his friend-now-turned-foe, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari who was charged with similar offences under President Olusegun Obasanjo. “Because some people cannot differentiate between Biafra and the Igbos, Kanu has been able to create a ‘We’ versus ‘Them’ narrative on what remains an emotional injury in the Igbo collective psyche,” I wrote before reaffirming the point I made in my 1st October 2017 ‘Platform Nigeria’ presentation, ‘A Nation on the Edge: Which Way Nigeria?’, where I spoke about the danger Kanu posed to ethnic relations in Nigeria. “By his conduct and utterances, Kanu has succeeded in alienating many open-minded Nigerians (outside the Southeast) who appreciate the legitimate demand of Igbo people for fairness, equity, and justice in an inclusive nation they can call their own,” I pointed out while referencing a number of his reckless diatribes, especially against Yoruba people.

Egged on by a mob, with online support from several of his kinsmen in the Diaspora, “Kanu was allowed to take hate speech to an unprecedented level. Even when he was presented a golden opportunity to champion the genuine grievances of his people with civility, following an ill-advised treason trial that catapulted him into national limelight and prominence, Kanu could not rise beyond the mediocrity of the adulation of some street urchins,” I had said at my 2017 ‘Platform Nigeria’ presentation. “Kanu felt that by making incendiary statements to offend, insult, intimidate and threaten people from other ethnic groups, he was helping whatever his cause was. At the end, he made a strategic miscalculation.”

Given the foregoing and other interventions, I cannot by any stretch of imagination be described as a fan of Kanu. In fact, in my first column in November 2015, ‘The Man from Biafra’, I made that very clear. But I also cannot deny that Kanu is a huge factor in Nigerian politics today or pretend that his continued detention is helpful in the circumstance in which we find ourselves. I am delighted that many critical stakeholders are gradually waking up to that reality.

Last week, no fewer than 46 House of Representatives members under the aegis of ‘Concerned Federal Lawmakers for Peace and Security in the Southeast’ wrote President Bola Tinubu, calling on him to invoke Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Section 107(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 to release Kanu from detention. The membership of those who signed the letter cut across major political parties: the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP). And the signatories represent all the six geopolitical zones in the country and from 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

It is significant that the federal lawmakers who advocate Kanu’s release have chosen the civil approach of a letter to the president rather than the political option of a motion in the House of Representatives. “We collectively believe this is long overdue and would be instrumental in opening the door for much-needed conversations surrounding peace and inclusivity, as well as addressing the issues that led to the agitations, especially at this time when Nigeria is going through several constitutional reforms,” the House members wrote in their letter. “We resolutely believe that this singular act can serve as a pivotal gesture towards national unity, as it would address some of the political, security, and economic concerns in the region. It would encourage stakeholders from the Southeast to engage more actively in the national discussions on the renewed hope agenda, thereby promoting inclusivity and addressing long-standing grievances. This, we believe, will also help dismantle the apparatus of violence and restiveness that has plagued the region, allowing for a focus on economic growth and development. This comes at a time when the nation-state is under enormous pressure, including but not limited to unemployment, insecurity, hunger, and poverty, thereby de-escalating tension from all sides.”

After reminding the president that a similar gesture led to the release of Omoyele Sowore and Sunday Igboho, the members concluded their letter with what the administration stands to gain by Kanu’s release: “…the benefits of such a bold and compassionate act are manifold. It would pave the way for peace initiatives, economic revitalization, and a renewed sense of belonging among the citizens of the Southeast. It would also enhance your administration’s legacy as one that prioritizes national unity, peace, and progress. We are hopeful that you will consider this request with the gravity it deserves and take the necessary steps to bring about a new era of peace and inclusivity in Nigeria.”

Incidentally, just a week earlier, Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, had made a similar appeal, also in a letter to the president, where he stated that “…the political freedom of Nnamdi Kanu will no doubt complete the reconciliation of Nigeria and bring an end to the needless Monday sit-at-home order, which has disturbed businesses and civil activities in the South-East.”

One point I have consistently made over several years is that ours is a fragile polity where many of our citizens are yet to imbibe the values of group living or how to compete without resorting to primordial hate when they do not prevail. But given the numerous appeals made by Ohanaeze Ndigbo, now joined by members of the House of Representatives, President Tinubu must consider the political option on the Kanu issue. While it may be difficult to conclude that his release would put ‘unknown gunmen’ out of business in the Southeast, there is no doubt that it would aid the process of finding a solution to the security challenge that plagues the region.

I subscribe to the sentiment expressed by the House members. Despite the challenges we face today, not even the most implacable enemies of Nigeria will deny its socio-economic potential and the enormous capacity of its people. Yes, we cannot dispute the fragility of the Nigerian state. But there is a country in our consciousness that many indeed want to see—a Nigeria that works for citizens and would take her rightful place as the leader in Africa. That dream is also shared by many of our Diasporans despite the toxicity of a few on social media.

I returned to Abuja yesterday after two weeks visiting Canada and the United States. Perhaps because I attended more social events in the two countries—graduation ceremonies, birthdays, church services etc.—than at any point in the past, I encountered several young Nigerians. I could hear the longing for home, even by those who are doing very well for themselves and their families. My conclusion: What we need to do is put our act together to reverse the ‘Japa’ syndrome to our advantage. But we are not going to do that if we cannot rise above certain prejudices. That is why I join in the plea that Kanu be released. We need all stakeholders onboard to rebuild our country for peace and prosperity. In any case, three years of incarceration is enough punishment, even if we discount the September 2017 military ‘Operation python dance’ that wreaked havoc at his family compound in Abia State.

In the famous 26th August 2000 speech delivered by then visiting American President Bill Clinton to the Joint Session of our National Assembly which I once referenced on this page, he raised certain critical issues about our country. “I know that decades of misrule and deprivation have made your religious and ethnic divisions deeper. Nobody can wave a hand and make the problems go away. But that is no reason to let the idea of one united Nigeria slip away,” Clinton admonished while speaking to those who delight in magnifying artificial differences. “After all, if we started trying to redraw the map of Africa, we would simply be piling new grievances on old. Even if we could separate all the people of Africa by ethnicity and faith, would we really rid this continent of strife? Think of all the things that would be broken up and all the mountains of progress that have been built up that would be taken down if that were the case.”

Where there is much deprivation and too little tolerance, according to Clinton, “differences among people will always seem greater and will always be like open sores waiting to be turned into arrows of hatred by those who will be advantaged by doing so.” President Clinton then reiterated the point many have also made about our national potential and the global expectation of Nigeria as the most populous black country. “The world needs Nigeria to succeed. Every great nation must become more than the sum of its parts. If we are torn by our differences, then we become less than the sum of our parts. Nigeria has within it the seeds of every great development going on in the world today, and it has a future worth fighting for.”

The ultimate responsibility now lies with President Tinubu. But there are growing concerns. Having caught the Buhari disease, most critical appointments are going to Lagos and in the process, he has created for his administration the impression of an excessive Yorubaness or what a friend from the Southwest has dubbed ‘Lagosification’ in the distribution of opportunities. Releasing Kanu may relieve the president of some of the ethnic burdens he has unwittingly placed on himself. He may also need to be reminded that he cannot build a restorative presidency by positioning only his Lagos loyalists in the front row of national ‘renewed hope’! That, of course, is an issue for another day.

I don’t know whether Kanu still sees Nigeria as a ‘zoo’ rather than a country, but it really doesn’t matter. What is important is that his continued incarceration is now pointless. And for those who peddle the nonsensical ‘let the law take its course’ line, the Australian deal with the United States that saw Tuesday’s release of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange is proof positive that even the most powerful of countries can be pragmatic in dealing with such matters. Therefore, all factors considered; President Tinubu should take the high road on Kanu. The IPOB leader should be allowed to go home.

• You can follow me on my X (formerly Twitter) handle, @Olusegunverdict and on www.olusegunadeniyi.com

By Naija247news
By Naija247newshttps://www.naija247news.com/
Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

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