By Dr Ugoji Egbujo
It’s not alarmist. Crisis is looming in Igboland. The sore has been allowed to fester, for too long. Pus has accumulated. Massage and warm compresses won’t do now. A surgical knife must go in.
The government must act decisively, one way or the other. Prevarication can lead to a costly gangrene. The wound must be drained and cleaned, so that it can heal. The wound dressing must involve comprehensive political engagement of the southeast, and a restructuring of the federation.
We are on a slippery slope. Nnamdi Kanu was granted bail by a court. He is being tried for offences bordering on treason. He has flouted the bail conditions. He must have been emboldened by the enticing temerity of the Arewa youths. ShettimaYerima and his Arewa youths committed treason. They issued a quit notice to Igbos to leave the north,or face severe consequences by October 1. They did more than plagiarize Nnamdi Kanu’s hate files .They were not arrested. They were not charged.
The Federal high court judge that granted Nnamdi Kanu bail wouldn’t rightly be concerned about effect of Arewa youth’s impunity on Nnamdi Kanu’s actions as no case has been brought before him. So despite the double standards, the court may have no option but to revoke his bail. The law is an ass. The federal government has found its missing courage, it has asked the court to revoke the bail. The federal government is not permanently timid. The judge has no decision to make. Well, Nigerian Judges can be creative, sometimes. If the bail is revoked, Nnamdi Kanu will have to abandon his tour of his Biafra, and return to a ‘zoological’ prison in Kuje. That is now almost inconceivable. Almost.
This is where it gets complicated. If Nnamdi Kanu’s utterances can be relied on, he would not submit himself for incarceration. Then once again, the judge will have no options. A bench warrant will be issued against him. When a Bench warrant was issued against Tompolo, the Nigerian police didn’t find him. So the federal government may let the police not find Nnamdi Kanu. Tompolo was discreet though. He sought refuge in the creeks. He was out of view, until he came to bury his dad. Nnamdi has said he cannot go on exile. It’s beneath him to go out of circulation, into hiding. That would make him lily-liveried. He was sent by God.
He has been touring Biafra. So he isn’t exactly a Tompolo, who claims no territory. Tompolo wasn’t seen. Yes he wasn’t seen destroying crude oil pipelines. Nnamdi Kanu has no pipelines to put out of use. He can’t touch the economy. He has no way of bringing the federal government to its knees, from the shadows without amputating his nose, turning Igbo land into a cauldron. IPOB is now a non violent organization. That’s their new image.
So the Police may be forced to arrest an ubiquitous and garrulous Nnamdi Kanu. However, it is not compulsory, not inevitable. This is Nigeria. The police declared Shettima Yerima and Arewa youths wanted . Shettima sauntered from place to place, huffing and puffing. The Police chose not to see him. So the police may easily fail to see Nnamdi Kanu. The government has an alternative. It may send the Minister of Interior to say something absurd that exonerates Kanu. The Judge will understand. This is Nigeria. The Minister of Interior said that the Arewa Youths claimed they were misquoted. Heavens didn’t fall. Shettima later denied the minister and his tales. Shettima is ,obviously, not a coward. He boldly stated he was withdrawing the quit notice to honour Buhari. The ijaw youth council president is sure Shettima had state dinners.
The government has other options. It can send an official to waffle about heating up the polity. Then it can explain the decision to trash the court warrant and let Kanu roam as politically sensible. That’s what cowards do. In fact it can ask the attorney General to reverse himself, and say that Kanu cannot be arrested. And he would blame it on security concerns. That’s what the chief law officer said about his impotence against the Arewa Youths who committed treason in broad daylight.
The government can always chicken out. So the wound can fester a little more. They have been warned. Ango Abdullahi warned them about Shettima, they capitulated. So Ohaneze has warned the federal government. Nnamdi Kanu could be set to bask in his own impunity. The Judge would understand. Nnamdi’s criminal case could be effectively over. Nnamdi may not risk going to Abuja. He is sure no policeman would come to his Biafra to arrest him. He has warned Buhari. He said his non violent IPOB would slaughter any Policeman who comes to arrest him in Biafra. That’s is his idea of civil disobedience.
The Die is cast. The federal government can’t arrest Nnamdi without crossing the red line of double standards. The federal government cannot leave Nnamdi and his daringness without conceding sovereignty. Igbo elders are quiet. Igbo youths are restless. Emotions have replaced reasons. The elders have taken refuge in timidity. They now speak in muffled tones. The politicians can be forgiven. Politics entails opportunism. Nnamdi Kanu,increasingly, looks like a king or a king maker.
The churches have a strong influence on Igbo politics. Igbo politicians go to churches to declare their candidacy and to lobby the clergy and their congregations. The churches play politics of denominations godlessly. But the church claims to be the light of the world. Igbo church leaders are quiet.
In northeast the clerics kept low profile. The core north didn’t like President Jonathan. People refused to speak up. Boko haram was troubling Jonathan, and making the place ungovernable. That was exciting. Powerful figures maintained a conspiratorial silence. Yusuf and Shekau preached, told the people what they wanted to hear. They talked about poor governance and corruption. They told them that democracy was sinful, ‘zoological’. That it was designed to keep the ordinary people in perpetual servitude. Their followership grew. Boko haram metastasized.
Some Igbo Bishops are frolicking openly with Nnamdi Kanu. Some others are relishing the prospects of a loathed President Buhari being taught some lessons. Biafra is always seductive. Igbos are emotional about it. It is sweet nostalgia of what nearly was. The promised land. Anyone who comes in the name of Biafra is welcome.
The Buhari government didn’t help matters. The sense of alienation has never been greater. Politicians who lost in 2015 took their grief personal. They have tapped into a rich vein of frustration and political insensitivity. The economic circumstances have yielded many idle hands. It’s a perfect combustible mix. The murderous forays of herdsmen fueled already inflamed tempers. A crisis looms in the east.
So no one cares to interrogate the minds peddling this secessionist idea. No one questions their methods vehemently . It’s enough that they mouth marginalization of Igbos and paint a colorful Biafra. It’s enough that Buhari is cast as a symbol of oppressive, anti-Igbo, Islamist, Hausa Fulani hegemony. Igbos are truly marginalized. The Bishops ought to be discerning. They claim spiritual insight. They can’t be as impressionable as the rabble. They can’t be as excitable as youths who didn’t experience the civil war. They cant afford to be enthralled by mere charm. Some of them actually now find Kanu intimidating.
Kanu says Jesus is not God. The Bishops don’t care. He mocks Mary. The catholic priests are unperturbed. If they are perturbed ,then they are filled with the spirit of fear. God gave them the spirit of power. Kanu says New Testament is junk. The priests don’t treat that as heretical. The priests must announce their allegiance to Christ. It wouldn’t matter if Kanu were a self respecting atheist who didn’t defame and ridicule other peoples religious beliefs. Kanu can’t get away with duplicity. He says the worship of Jesus is Idolatry.
It is good we don’t mix politics and religion. It is good we keep the state away from religion. But Kanu has not stopped announcing that God sent him. He said that God has decreed that there would be no election in Anambra state. We have spirit filled priests who claim they hear from God. Why can’t they confirm or condemn Kanu’s spiritual pronouncements?
The IPOB spokesman claims Kanu is a Christian. Kanu denies that he is a Christian. Why is it difficult to know whom Kanu is? If you ask hard questions , you will be told its not about Kanu. But who decided there will be no elections in Igboland? Kanu hears from God, so he says. He may actually hear from God. Since he drops the name of God, Igbos must be told what God he worships. The role of a priest is not just to collect tithes and offerings. A priest owes the people and the society a duty to expose religious charlatanism and sorcery.
When a man goes to Agwushi and collects prayers, and jumps over to adoration ground of father Ebube Muonso and collects more prayers, that’s syncretism. It could mean nothing. But it could be a window into a mind filled with confusion. Priests can’t sit astride and watch the people dance on the brink for lack of knowledge. Why is the church silent? Who is an anti Christ?
Truth and reason have been battered on Aba highway. Igbo priests are passing by like the Rabbi who snubbed the man beaten by highway robbers. Where are the good Samaritans? Where are they? The church perhaps isn’t ready to dabble into politics . Igbo churches dabble into it only when telling members to vote a Catholic and against an Anglican or vice versa.
Who really is an antichrist? A murderous Fulani Herdsman who kills some Christian farmers? Or a man who peddles damaging falsehoods about Jesus Christ and the Bible? If the church cannot speak for moral reasons, why can’t the church speak for prudential reasons? Why can’t it defend Christian theology against an onslaught from a charlatan?
Nigeria, they say, is a zoo. Our leaders act with impunity. Then the messiah comes for the Igbos and no one is ready to hold him to account for his speeches and positions. Only a few are interested in interrogating his mind. What sort of freedom do Igbos dream of? A freedom that would excommunicate dissent and plurality of views? A freedom where every critic is a marked traitor?
Ohaneze is timid. It may have actually become redundant. It sees the crowd that follows Kanu around and it is ready to embrace a little demagoguery, once in a while. Kanu has labeled Ohaneze leaders corrupt old men willing to sell their consciences and birthrights, for crumbs. Ohaneze excuses IPOB’s waywardness as understandable youthful exuberance. Ohaneze has no balls. So Ohaneze fudges and fudges.
Ohaneze knows Igbos are marginalized. But Ohaneze knows that Kanu’s exuberance puts Igbo lives and property at great peril. Ohaneze knows that the overall interest of Igbos is best served by an equitable Nigeria and not secession. Ohaneze knows the time has come. But Ohaneze is cowardly, or impotent. Without a bold church, without foresighted courageous politicians, without a fearless Ohaneze, who can save Igbos?
Political intolerance has been sown in Igbo land. There is this new song . A very rhythmic and danceable song by one Don Prince, aka Sampe. The sort of thing you hear in Pyongyang. It says Kanu is the leader, and there will be no elections henceforth in Igbo land. It says anyone who votes in Igboland would be sent to the north. The song has gone viral. The youths have become automatons.
Anyone who raises a voice against Kanu and his IPOB is branded a traitor. In one of his glib talks on Radio Biafra he boasted that the names of traitors were being compiled. IPOB is that non violent group that once threatened to murder Obasanjo. A few days ago it openly threatened to kill any policeman who dared to re arrest Kanu. The elders wallow in denial. They dismiss the dissemination of hate and brigandage as youthful exuberance. They think Kanu would get Igbos an autonomous region, and then disappear.
So they would take over and restore order. That’s the strategy. So the madness is a ploy. They whisper it, they nod their heads, smile knowing smiles, and wink. They are deluded. Some would say it has gone beyond Kanu. That’s true. The problem of Igbo marginalization was never about him. But no one should deny this frightening development. Nuisance can be fruitful. But nuisance can outlive its usefulness.
It’s good that the governors of South East states have met with Kanu.
The government has a political problem to solve. It has attended to it with arrogance , and sometimes with half-hearted condescension. Hesitancy and prevarication are no good options. The Federal Government has to be decisive. Military high handedness would be counter -productive. Constructive political engagement that enthrones law and order in the immediate term and equity, fairness and sense of belonging on the long term, must be commenced now. Any person who breaks the law and or threatens security of our country must face the law.