By Ochereome Nnanna
IN 1998, two young professionals, Ogbonna Oleka and Ndubuisi Ofondu, had just finished the final draft of the authorised biography of retired Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu. They took it to him for his endorsement but ran into an argument with their subject.
They had entitled the book: Power with Civility. Kanu objected to the use of the word: “power” and told the authors he preferred “service”, as he was appointed to serve in all capacities he operated throughout his career. The authors insisted; and typical of Kanu, he let them maintain their “poetic licence” as they called it.
Power with civility
Power with civility adroitly reflects the intricacy with which the Creator packaged the character, instincts and personality of Ndubuisi Kanu, allowing opposite attributes to play together to produce a unique individual.
Indeed, Kanu is a retired warrior-at-sea who occupied many command and political offices as part of his military postings but quickly civilianised himself when he retired from service. He became a firebrand, placard-carrying pro-democracy activist within the fold of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, which fought for the revalidation of the late Chief Moshood Abiola’s annulled June 12 1993 presidential mandate.
Kanu was among those who signed an ultimatum for the General Sani Abacha regime to revalidate Abiola’s mandate and hand over power to him, which brought about one of the most vicious crackdowns by a regime in peacetime Nigeria.
Admiral Kanu was NADECO’s Chairman, Action Committee, which organised and participated in protest marches and public sensitisation activities. Some ex-military officers who were leaders of NADECO fought shy of sticking out their necks but Kanu not only signed the petition, he participated in the protest marches that followed, even when Abiola had been hauled into detention.
When many of the NADECO leading lights started escaping into exile, Kanu was among those who stayed put and continued the agitation. He is one of those who have kept the NADECO dream alive till date. Thus, Kanu has in the past 40 years, made himself a relevant part of the Lagos landscape, for which he was honoured by having a public open space at the Lagos State Secretariat – the Ndubuisi Kanu Square – named after him.
NADECO also stood (and still stands) for the total restructuring of the country for equity, balance and justice for all its citizens. The Admiral is also restlessly, sometimes even sacrificially, involved in the search for solutions for problems confronting individuals and groups, including those of total strangers.
Kanu holds strong opinions, but he never mislays his words or falls below the borderline of decency in canvassing them. As a young man, he combined great academic capacities (he was the only First Class Midshipman among foreign cadets at the National Defence Academy in India and the best all-round student of the 1962 set) with fearless military action at sea which distinguished him in India, during the civil war and when he returned to service at the Nigerian Navy.
Kanu thus disproved the fallacy that military career is for school dropouts and ne’er-do-wells. He was also among the first Igbo members of the Supreme Military Council in 1976 and later, Armed Forces Ruling Council, AFRC, barely four years after he was reabsorbed into the Nigerian Navy after the civil war.
When seven new states were created by the late General Murtala Mohammed in 1976, Kanu was posted to the newly-created Imo State as its new Military Governor, but was transferred to Lagos as Military Governor a year later.
Kanu, who has clocked 75, has been a Maritime Consultant and the Executive Chairman of RANGK Ltd and Underwater Engineering Ltd. He is also very active within the leaderships of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ndigbo Lagos Foundation and a strong pillar in the promotion of friendship between Igbo and Yoruba. He has awarded many secondary school and university scholarships to deserving students. He is daily involved in offering and searching for job opportunities for the youth, and has contributed immensely to the development of his native community, Ovim, and his community of residence, Lagos.
Prestigious command positions
The Admiral holds many chieftaincy titles, including Omere Oha of Imenyi, Ebube Mba of Isuikuwato, Ekwueme of Umuna, Orlu and Nturukpom of Ibiono Ibom in Akwa Ibom.
Born in 1943 at Enugu to the late Chief and Mrs Solomon Kanu of Ugwunta in Ovim, Isuikwuato LGA, Abia Sate, Kanu was educated at the Methodist Primary School, Enugu.
He later obtained his West African School Certificate with Grade One, joined the Navy in 1962 and achieved his Bachelor of Science, B. Sc, degree at the National Defence Academy, India.
Admiral Kanu held many prestigious command positions in the Navy, including: Flag Officer, Eastern Fleet; Chief of Personnel, Naval Headquarters; Flag Officer, Naval Training Command; Chief of Naval Operations, Naval Headquarters and Director of Logistics, Joint Operations.
Apart from actively fighting in the Biafran Navy and heading several top Nigerian naval command posts, Kanu also served in Lebanon under the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL.
A consistent pro-democracy activist, Admiral Kanu is a lover of music and tennis and a promoter of cycling. He is a holder of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) of the Abia State University and the Federal University of Technology, Owerri.
Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu is one of the nation’s frontline statesmen and nationalists.