Eight years old I was when the Nigeria Civil War broke out in 1967. Championing that crusade on one side was Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu from the Biafra land. Yakubu Gowon who also doubled as the Head of State was commanding for the Nigerian side. I remember the deep trenches built in every neighbourhood in my birthplace, Ibadan. These were designated hiding places from possible aerial bombardment from Biafra war aircraft. But no bomb was dropped on the city, we only saw armed and mean-looking soldiers parading the streets and rampaging many homes where the Igbo were suspected to be harboured by their Yoruba friends.
In that time of life as a child, I always wondered why the peace and sweet sleep of a child like me had to be disturbed and disrupted because of the ambition of one man called Ojukwu. I wasn’t old enough to have a comprehensive grasp of Ojukwu’s many writings stating why he was doing what he was doing. I was not mature in age to appreciate the razzmatazz from his many speeches. But later in my teenage years, I got hold of some of his tomes and talks. Thereon, I fell in love with Ojukwu. He was well-travelled and well-read. A true freedom fighter, a deep lover of his people, and a man who only sought fairness and a level-playing field for his people in the defunct Eastern Region. Ojukwu was a smooth and charismatic leader who seamlessly articulated his demands to the world. His war was a protestation against ethnic unfairness that fractured Nigeria. It was a demurrer against ethnic domination of the many by a few. It was a remonstrance against garroting groupies in the purlieu of authority who determinedly made others feel like second-class citizens in their own land. It was a demand for a separate nation from mother Nigeria that had not enough sweet and nurturing milk in her breasts for all her children without prejudice. For three years, Ojukwu stood strong to fight the war until the end when millions of lives were numbered perished.
Decades afterward came another young man from the East named Nnamdi Kanu. Kanu has been trying to continue where Ojukwu stopped. But his approach is ferociously and fiendly miles apart from Ojukwu’s. Kanu is a blowhard and prattler. His utterances have been adjudged seditious by the Nigerian government. His blustering and babbly acts are branded felonious. In his many obnoxious utterances, he called the Yoruba ethnic group ‘Armed robbers’, and once requested that the humble Man of God, Pastor William Kumuyi, be “stoned” because he is a Yoruba. “Kumuyi should be stoned and dealt with thoroughly if he comes to Aba for his planned crusade”, Kanu once said.
In Kanu’s world, no one in Nigeria is fit to be a human being except those who live in his world. No one in Nigeria qualifies for the breath of life except those in his cohort who talk and think like him. The following are a few of Kanu’s worldviews as publicly expressed by him.
“If you find anybody in your village asking after Radio Biafra, kill the baboon Awusa Foolani or Yoruba bastard. Let them keep searching as we keep tweeting for #Biafra.”
“Nigeria is a zoo and everybody living in that God-forsaken zoo deserves to die.”
“Any Igbo man that worships in any church with a Yoruba pastor is a fool…No Igbo man should attend any Church where the pastor is a Yoruba man; they are criminals and fools.”
“I implore all Igbo to tear and burn the passport of the zoo called Nigeria. Burn their flags too”
“Niger Deltans are cowards; we know what to do to them. Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Edo, and Cross Rivers states are our territory, and anybody who tries to oppose us will be crushed.”
“It’s either Biafra or death…”
These are just a few of his hate-filled jabbers. Many of his victims of sporadic violence, threat, and insults are also the Igbo elders and stakeholders. Kanu and his disciples are no respecters of anyone who doesn’t jump at their say-so and commands. As far as I am concerned, he is a quintessence of filth and an acme of ridiculousness. He is not my kind of freedom fighter.
But, last Sunday, he was ferried to Nigeria by undisclosed means. He was wanted for jumping bail after he was charged to court for sundry seditious offences. Many stories we hear about how he was bundled back home. But the story is that the man who hates Nigeria he calls ‘a zoo’, and who hates human beings he calls animals, is cooling his heels in the calaboose run by people he hates and demeans.
Having expressed all of these about this character, must we ignore the root cause stirring up Kanu’s crusades and fanatical cult-like enlistments in his army? Ignoring the root cause of a problem is a licence and liberty for its thriving and flourishing. The political arm of our government must be reminded that Kanu is a commander of aggrieved millions and a soothing star to innumerable Igbo youths. No single Igbo personality today controls the hearts and minds of men as does this guy even in prison. Kanu is an idea that will never die until the depraved ethnic chauvinistic ideas provoking thirst and hunger for the dismembering of Nigeria are killed and buried.
Nigeria is a hotbed of frustration and a seashore of ethnic jingoism. Many are the problems that make Nigerians want to disown Nigeria. Many are the protracted challenges that have become excuses for people like Kanu and others around Nigeria wanting out of the geographical expression. While you are nibbling on one boneheaded brouhaha, another silly issue is delivered in the labour room of ridiculousness. On and on, the Nigerian melodramatics and theatrics spin on while the needle of progress moves not one notch for Nigerians.
When I was growing up, there might have been ethnic misunderstandings, but not at the present frightening and despicable level. Inter-tribal affection was palpable. That affection is gone. It is lost in the midst of a senseless rat race for ethnic protectionism. Nigeria is still a gallimaufry of ethnic hatred and insularity. Appointments to federal political offices are skewed favouring the ethnic group of the man in power. Ethnic intolerance is the Red Sea Nigeria has been unable to cross into the Promised Land of peace and prosperity since the amalgamation of 1914. These are the problems that will give rise to other Kanus even if this Nnamdi Kanu is successfully silenced. Problems don’t go away because you wish they do. You go to the root cause of the challenge, resolve it, and then it becomes a thing of the past.
Kanu is far from being my kind of freedom fighter, but I believe that the best way to paralyse hate is by stretching out hands of peace through sapience and sagaciousness displayed in equanimity. Nigeria can prosecute Kanu; but not persecute him. Bandits and terrorists ravaging the North were qualified for amnesty and rehabilitation by the Buhari regime facilitated by a Malami in the justice ministry. Will Kanu also be considered if he is open to peace? The overarching goal of the regime must be peace across Nigeria. If I were Mr. President, that will be my goal. Peace like a river, not stirring up more waters of afflictions. The arrest of Kanu may be the God-sent opportunity to begin something new that can bring lasting peace to Nigeria.
Source: Nigerian Newspapers Online