To some people, Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) is a man of the moment. Although he was out of the scene for quite sometime, having been locked away for almost two years for alleged crimes bordering on treason, kanu seems to have gotten his groove back, and now appears to be in a hurry to recover lost time.
Since his release on bail from prison detention he has demonstrated an inclination to quickly advance his philosophy for Igbo development to the centre stage. From utterances, both guarded and unguarded, to frenzied appearances among some excitable young men, mainly cultivated through sympathy for his long detention, Kanu has sure been hitting the headlines. Since then, Nigerians have continued to be treated to Kanu’s relentless dose of impassioned speeches, media interviews and rock star-style crowd surfing.
Not too long ago, however, Kanu seemed to have pushed this latitude of high-spiritedness to a new level by electing to pass a verdict on three former presidents of Nigeria, based on his own personal preferences and bias, as it pertains to what they did for Ndigbo.
Specifically, the past Presidents he called out for evaluation were Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the immediate past president. In an apparent magisterial mien, Kanu did the unthinkable by positioning them on his flawed scale to weigh as he pleased. For instance, he gaily expressed his love for Shagari over the Great Zik because, according to him, Shagari built the Enugu-Igwocha (Port Harcourt) Road.
He obviously had no love for Jonathan, because, in his warped calculation, the former President did nothing for the Igbo, having, according to the IPOB leader, failed to deliver a particular road, before exiting office.
Since this judgement was based on his own subjective and obvious narrow emotional considerations, I will not begrudge Kanu’s right to free speech, no matter how inconsiderate and jejune those views were.
But it is strange that a man who has styled himself the leader of a well-respected race did not show the requisite decorum in his assessment of past leaders of his society. If I were him, I would first acknowledge that these past Presidents and nationalists showed good intentions for the country at the different times they found themselves on the saddle. This is because no matter what their failings were, it is obvious that these three eminent personalities worked hard for the development of this country, depending on the prevailing circumstances at their respective periods in office.
I am of the persuasion that anybody wishing, in good conscience, to conduct an objective appraisal of their various administrations, will certainly find positive things to say about each of the leader’s development philosophy, in line with the needs of the nation at those times. To be honest, there is really no reason and need for Kanu to have slackly compared and judged them, the way he did, if not for the purpose of stirring up controversy and outrage.
It would have been best to ignore his unhelpful rabble-rousing, but considering the perceived mounting tension Kanu’s IPOB leadership is raising in the country, one now needs to truly examine his motivation and vision for the development of the Igbo Nation which he so claims to love.
This is important because at every point in history, circumstances throw up certain individuals who aspire to lead their peoples, in line with the peoples’ declared aspirations.
When that happens and particular leaders emerge, they are often accorded cult followership and messianic status by a people hungry for purposeful leadership and political emancipation.
In that circumstance, such leaders bear a responsibility to lead with wisdom and a deep sense of history, to avoid getting carried away by the ease with which they are able to move a mass of people. Only the focused and resolute leaders are able to steer their people towards their true aspirations, while those who get consumed in their warped vision, will, in line with the scriptures, lead their people to damnation.
Many have been expressing the opinion that the giddiness with which Nnamdi Kanu talks and acts does not show that he is equipped with the right qualities for the task ahead. There is no doubt that a leader in whom the people have invested their trust and fate is required to, at all times, manifest more than average intelligence, knowledge and decorum. If Kanu possesses these qualities, he unfortunately did not let them manifest in the careless interview he granted a newspaper on the performance of these past Presidents.
The least expected of a man who portrays himself as today’s symbol of the Igbo cause is to atleast have a correct reading of what the zone had benefitted across different regimes. For instance, let us examine the impact of one key project each of these three former Presidents implemented for the good of the Igbo nation.
At the time of Nnamdi Azikiwe, the River Niger bifurcated the Igbo in the mainland and isolated them from easily reaching Lagos, the then federal capital, where the Igbo held sway as the nation’s leading business men. I want to believe that Kanu probably forgot his thinking cap when he failed to mention that Azikiwe built the Niger Bridge to integrate the Igbo and link them to Lagos.
If the IPOB leader understands the true import of that bridge to the Igbo race, he wouldn’t have forgotten to give Zik his due credit, when placed side by side other key development projects, like the Enugu-Igwuocha (Port Harcourt) Road which he rightly ascribed to ex-President Shagari.
In the same vein, his assessment of what Goodluck Jonathan did for the Igbo is at best off the mark, and clearly jaundiced and unedifying. How on earth did Kanu overlook all the landmark projects Jonathan executed to reintegrate the Igbo, preferring in stead to blame him for an uncompleted East-West Road? Did Kanu forget that although the Igbo are the number one merchants in Nigeria, they had no international gateway to call their own, until Jonathan took charge? Before then, for the Igbo man in the South east to travel out of the country, he must pass through another zone. Kanu was probably abroad when Jonathan initiated the Enugu (Akanu Ibiam) International Airport to address this need.
The Igbo should not forget that before Jonathan, all the geo-political zones of the country had international gateways except the south east zone. The distribution was that North West had Kano International Airport; North East had Maiduguri International Airport; North Central had Abuja International Airport; South West, Lagos International airport as well as Lagos sea port while the South-South had Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt sea port, Warri Sea port, Onne and Calabar sea ports. The only zone that appeared to have been clearly marginalized was the South East which had neither an international airport nor a sea port.
It is only Jonathan that truly acknowledged this unfair treatment of Ndigbo and sought to address it by not only constructing the Enugu International Airport but also upgrading the Owerri Airport to an International Cargo Airport.
I am sure that Kanu should by now know that if by any remote possibility, the drum of agitation he is currently beating degenerates into an unbearable tension with likely restriction of movement within zonal boundaries akin to what happened during the civil war, his only recourse is the Enugu International Airport which Jonathan built and not Kano, Lagos, Abuja or even Port Harcourt airports.
To fully appreciate the import of Jonathan’s gesture in providing this access, one has to properly situate it at a period where growing preference for the six geopolitical boundaries was already heightening the clamour for regional self-support.
There is no denying the fact that Jonathan administration embraced the Igbo the way no other Government had done since the civil war and anybody saying anything to the contrary is only being painfully unfair. If President Jonathan’s vision was to properly reintegrate the Igbo into Nigeria’s political mainstream from which they have long since been distanced for about half a century, he sure did a good job of it. His milestones in this regard are legion: The first and only President since after the civil war to give an Igbo man the position of chief of Army Staff; the only President that could have given Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu a National Heroes burial; and beyond leaving the key levers of the economy in the hands of the Igbo he is the first President to appoint an Igbo man secretary to the Government of the Federation since the end of the civil war.
Add that to the fact that Jonathan appointed an Igbo lady as the secretary to the all important
2014 National conference which recommendations every right thinking Nigerian is now calling for its implementation for the purpose of restructuring the country.
It is for these and other good reasons that the people of the mainstream Igbo nation have refused to join in the conspiracy that is fuelling the plot to blame Jonathan for virtually every thing that has gone wrong in this country.
Affirming this unprecedented accommodation of the Igbo in the place of Power in Nigeria under President Jonathan Tony Nnadi Secretary-General, Lower Niger Congress recently wrote:
“If anything, President Jonathan leaned so heavily towards the Igbo that his traducers openly declared his Presidency an Igbo Presidency, for which reason the hatred and aggression reserved by the aforementioned malevolent forces exclusively for the Igbo got transferred to President Jonathan, with venom.
He stated further that “The Igbo regained their group self-confidence which the same anti-Jonathan forces damaged strategically since 1970 and therefore Jonathan had to be punished severely for letting the genie out of the bottle.”
Mazi Nnamdi kanu, should therefore realize that leadership is not about insulting elders and alienating others, but about building bridges of friendship and creating new opportunities, based on a sound vision on development.
There is no gainsaying the fact that IPOB may not get to its desired destination if Kanu’s divisive utterances and diatribe are not properly guided.
Mr. Goodness T-Man is a political commentator from the South South