•Ensure that Kanu is treated in line with rules and international conventions —WIC
•His arrest presents ample opportunity for dialogue —Senator Abaribe
•Give Kanu fair trial; look into problems of agitations —Ahamba, SAN
•Kanu may be the sacrificial lamb for better Igbo nation —Igbo Nation
•Grant Kalu pardon and bring the Igbo into reckoning —Nwamuo
•Arresting Kanu not solution to Nigeria problem —Odife, ex-deputy Gov
By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Dennis Agbo, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinedu Adonu, Nwabueze Okonkwo, Chinonso Alozie & Steve Oko
Igbo are witnesses to the unimaginable level of marginalization of Igbo race. The marginalization and exclusion became worse and peaked to provocative level under this Buhari administration.
Igbo are denied fair, just and equitable treatment in Nigeria as presently constituted. However, not all Igbo actually agree with the method the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu adopted in the agitation against the injustices and marginalization.
Kanu and his group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, have for years, been protesting against this ill-treatment and demanding a Biafra Republic. Their self-determination activities have been peaceful across the world, with members of the group marching through the streets and to embassies, to make their demands.
This was going on until Nigerian security officials began to attack them while dispersing their peaceful processions. Things got worse when the home of IPOB leader was attacked in 2017 while he was on bail after two years detention in Abuja prison.
The attack raised tensions between IPOB members and the Government. Kanu fled the country and continued to coordinate his members from there.
However, he was recently arrested in a yet to be ascertained country and circumstance. His family and lawyers alleged that he was abducted and forced back to Nigeria. He is now in the custody of the Department of State Services, DSS, and he is to continue his trial later this month. But his lead counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor has complained that Kanu is not in good health and needs to be allowed to see his doctors, saying he does not trust whatever attention he is getting at the facilities of the secret police. Igbo leaders reacted on the issue, positing possible ways to resolve the Kanu, IPOB and Federal Government crisis.
World Igbo Congress, WIC, in a swift reaction to Kanu’s ordeal called on the Nigerian Government to ensure that Nnamdi Kanu is treated in accordance with the rules and international conventions that guarantee that his rights and personal safety are protected. WIC also urged the British Government to stand up and defend the right of her citizen. The UK Government needs to investigate the collusion of any other country or party in this saga and also invited the United States, the United Nations and international community to take note of what it called “the ongoing abuse of human rights in Nigeria including the abduction of Nnamdi Kanu.”
The WIC also expressed disappointment over the disparity in the treatment of Boko Haram insurgents and Fulani herdsmen who have been designated as terrorists by known international agencies and agitators for self-determination, saying that “these killers are routinely arrested, compensated, released and oftentimes absorbed into the Nigerian security services. On the other hand, the Igbo have been subjected to massive shoot-at-sight order, arrests and abduction.
“We would like to emphasize that no government in the world or any international security agency has designated IPOB as a terrorist organization and Nnamdi Kanu is not on any terrorist watch list anywhere in the world,” WIC said in a statement by its Chairman, Basil Onwukwe and the Public Relations Officer, Prof. Anthony Ejiofor.
Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe who stood surety for Kanu’s bail before his house was invaded by Nigerian security operatives leading to his escape, has urged caution and strict adherence by the Federal Government to the rule of law in handling Nnamdi Kanu.
Speaking through his Media Adviser, Uchenna Awom, Senator Abaribe also advised the Federal Government to be guided by the provisions of Section 31 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights as it detains and re-arraigns Mazi Kanu in court for the continuation of his trial. The relevant section and charter he said presuppose that the detainee should be humanely treated while in the custody of the state.
“What it means is that it is the duty of the government in this instance to protect him and ensure the respect of his fundamental human rights while his trial lasts. For now, it is trite law, that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Abaribe said.
While calling for calm, Abaribe said: “The recent events present ample opportunity for dialogue and for the Federal Government to address the contending issues that seem to challenge the peace and unity of the country.”
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Chief Mike Ahamba, called on the Federal Government to give fair trial to the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, pointing out that the time has come for the Federal Government to look into the root causes of the agitations in some parts of the country.
On the legality of where and how Kanu was arrested, Ahamba said: “I don’t know if it is against any law but what I want to say is that let Nnamdi Kanu’s lawyer establish that. On my own, what I say is that they should give Kanu fair trial since they are in court.
“Whatever is causing the problems which may not have been addressed should be looked into by the President. If President Muhammadu Buhari does not want to look into the vast complaints of the majority of the people of Nigeria, then it is also something to discuss.
“Anyway, I don’t think it is Nnamdi Kanu and Biafra that is causing the problem, there is something that is causing that problem so you have to look at it again. We also want the President to arrest those causing trouble in the North not only in the South,” Ahamba said.
Some residents of Anambra State who reacted to Nnamdi Kanu’s re-arrest and detention believe that what the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, is passing through might be the beginning of good things for the Igbo nation. They observed that Kanu meant well for the Igbo just like any other person who loves his tribe and urged security operatives in Nigeria to tread with caution as Kanu has proved not to be an ordinary person.
An Awka-based lawyer, Mr. Ikechukwu Nwanmuo suggested that with the development, the best way to resolve the issue of the marginalisation of the Igbo in the country is to grant Kanu pardon and bring the Igbo into reckoning in the affairs of the country. Nwamuo said the Igbo elites might be pretending to dislike Kanu’s style of pursuing his objectives, but in their hearts, they know that all he has been saying are true.
He said: “Yes, Kanu overdid certain things, including using foul language on Nigerian leaders and portraying the country in bad light; but most of his complaints are true. I do not believe that he would have been pursuing the Biafra thing if the Igbo are getting what is due them in Nigeria.
“I am one of those who believe that Biafra spirit should be in us and not in territory because that is no longer feasible. If our people are treated equally with other Nigerians, Kanu would not have the kind of followership he is having among the Igbo, especially the youths.
“The annoying aspect of it is that Nigerian authorities do not even care about the way Igbo people feel and that is helping to make Kanu more popular and a hero. But if the Federal Government directs the court to free Kanu and follow it up with bringing the Igbo into the scheme of things, the issue of physical Biafra will die a natural death.”
A trader, Mr. Sabinus Obika, in his opinion, said it would be better for the Federal Government to drop all the charges against Kanu and ensure that he does not leave Nigeria again for any reason so as not to create more problems for the country.”
For the former Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Mrs. Stella Odife, the Federal Government should stop using force in resolving national issues. She said that re-arresting the leader of IPOB would not solve the problem in Nigeria. Odife who spoke in Enugu said that there cannot be peace in Nigeria without first dealing with underlying issues afflicting the nation.
Odife urged the Federal Government to listen to the agitations of the youths, which she said were thrown up by poor governance, militarisation, and marginalization of the South-East zone by the Buhari administration.
“We cannot talk of peace in the South-East without thinking of Nigeria as a whole because the major problem we have down here is as a result of activities at the national level. And the greatest mistake the President and the leaders are making is not being able to know that it is a disease and we have to look for the cause. We have been applying medicine at the periphery and left out the core issue. Find out what is the real problem.
“The reason why we have been in this mess for a long time is that we thought we are in a democracy and yet militarised. If you go back from the day we had democracy, those who emerged as the leaders are mainly Major-Generals in civilian uniform. Their orientation is military, that is why when we have any problem from any sector, they will use force instead of dialogue. The problem we have is like cancer.
“The same thing happens to those in the North. They use force on them without finding a solution to their problem. The same thing is happening in the South-East but that of the South- East is the worst because it started since the war and we parents are overlooking it. The same problem that we parents saw during the war which we couldn’t even understand is happening again.
“If you hold Kanu today, you are not holding his speech. His speech is still there unattended to. Can we for once quickly look into the issue and forget applying force.
Force will lead us to nowhere. We are all parents and all have children. If you neglect any of them, he will be out to give you trouble and to solve it needs a round table. It is absolutely necessary for the Federal Government to listen to the cry of younger ones. It is not with force that we are going to achieve peace. The problem in the East is too peculiar.”
For Enachioken Abiriba, the paramount ruler of Abiriba Ancient Kingdom, Eze Kalu Kalu Ogbu, the Federal Government should engage Kanu in dialogue. According to him, contrary to misconceptions in some quarters, Kanu is not Nigeria’s problem but a solution to Nigeria’s woes.
“I don’t think Kanu is Nigeria’s problem. Rather, he is coming with a solution to the problems that have existed in Nigeria since the civil war,” the monarch noted.
“What gave rise to the emergence of the likes of Ralph Uwazurike and Nnamdi Kanu is the treatment of Ndigbo as second-class citizens by the Nigerian Government.
Arresting Kanu won’t bring any solution. What the Federal Government should do is to engage him for dialogue. This is time for national dialogue on how to carry everybody along and move the country forward,” Eze Ogbu said.
The Enachioken Abiriba cautioned against giving Kanu the treatment of Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram who was allegedly killed by the police, saying that such development could plunge Nigeria into unrest. He urged the government to observe the rule of law in Kanu’s trial.
Former Secretary to Abia State Government and Commissioner for Information, Elder Ralph Egbu, called for constructive engagement with the necessary stakeholders as the best way to handle Kanu’s case, saying that only political solution and constructive engagement could bring peace.
He advised government to stop giving prominence to what should not be an issue, and rather give room for dialogue in the overall interest of the country. He said with compromises from all sides, the rising tension in the country would fizzle out and Nigeria become a stronger country.
“There will always be pockets of disagreements and agitations. America fought a civil war but after that, they came together and sat on a round table and made concessions.
It is called political re-engineering. So, I expect government to constructively engage all the sides, make some compromises, and with time all the agitations will go down,” Egbu said.
He advised against the continuation of legal proceedings against the IPOB leader, insisting that political solution remains the best option.
The traditional ruler of Oriendu autonomous community, Eze Philip Ajomuiwe, advised the Federal Government to tread with caution in handling the matter, warning that “arresting, killing or jailing Kanu would bring no solution but worsen the agitations in the land.”
Eze Ajomuiwe advised government to rather engage Kanu in dialogue with a view to addressing the issues he is raising instead of clamping him into prison or killing him.
“Government has to dialogue with Nnamdi Kanu and other agitators of self-determination. If you kill all the people, who are you going to govern? Where there is a problem, there must be a solution. Government should treat the foundation of the problem through dialogue.
“Killing or jailing Kanu won’t bring any solution but create more problems. Government should be careful how it handles this matter. Government should call everyone for dialogue now. Let us have a round table and discuss how to move our beloved country forward,” the monarch posited, and cautioned against harming or killing the IPOB leader to avoid plunging Nigeria into needless endless crisis.
In his reaction, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN Abia State chapter, Apostle Emmanuel Agomuo, urged the Federal Government to handle Kanu’s matter with extreme care.We will not like to hear that he has died. They should not harm him,” the CAN chairman warned, saying that the idea of political solution is the best option.
For Chief Ozoh Anaekwe, arresting Nnamdi Kanu will not solve the problem of insecurity in Nigeria because he is not the cause of it, it will also not stop the agitation for the Sovereign State of Biafra, because he is not the only person working for the realisation of an independent Biafra State.
He said that Nnamdi Kanu is just one out of the millions of people working openly and behind the scene for the actualization of Biafra State, insisting that the reason for the renewed agitation for actualization of Biafra is because of the high level of injustice and unfairness, marginalization and exclusion going on in the country under the present Buhari administration.
“In fact, if this administration under Buhari and his party is serious about one Nigeria, the re-arrest of Mazi Kanu, is a very ample opportunity to work and achieve that one Nigeria.
“With the continued arrest and detention of the IPOB leader, the Federal Government is creating millions of Nnamdi Kanu in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. The danger is that if the Federal Government harms him, the millions of militant young men the government will create will not augur well for Nigeria.
“You cannot stay in a country where you are treated like a slave; second class citizen, where presidents and leaders have come and gone and you were not maltreated, marginalized or excluded and now you are receiving such ill-treatments and you will not complain, like IPOB, Kanu and Ndigbo are doing bitterly.
“Now Kanu is in their custody, it is easy to dialogue with him and IPOB leadership. They can now dialogue with him and his members and other groups, now he is with them, instead of wasting time to prosecute him and at the end of the day the problems are there and more hatred created,” Anaekwe said.
In his opinion, the founder of the Customary Government for the Indigenous People of Biafra, Emeka Emekesiri said the way forward for IPOB now is to stick to its original legal and political frameworks. He said that whereas his own IPOB is pursuing restructuring in the present time, it looks forward to a Biafra that could still be part of Nigeria until a referendum is conducted among the Biafrans on whether to remain in Nigeria or pull out as an independent nation.
Emekesiri said that the original IPOB which he propels is following up its submission at the just-concluded constitutional amendment review for devolution of powers and restructuring of Nigeria back to regional governments, which in the present time will compose of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. He said that getting the regional government will be getting closer to Biafra, which he said is the ultimate determination of the Indigenous People of Biafra.
He also said Asari Dokubu and Ralph Uwazurike have equally bought into IPOB’s customary government project even though both of them goofed on the process, and regretted that people tend to listen more to Nnamdi Kanu’s version of IPOB than the original philosophy for creation of IPOB.
He said that the present agitation of Biafra is self-assertion of the remnants of the people of Biafra who were not wiped out by the Nigeria genocide against Biafra between 1967 and 1970.
On the way forward for IPOB after Kanu’s re-arrest, Emekesiri said: “We are still on, our future has never been in argument, we are still moving forward, we are the ones who are before the Nigerian government, we are the ones who presented our Biafra bills before the National Assembly, are we not the ones who are in court with Nigeria even the court of Appeal right now? The original IPOB is still going on and nothing has happened to us, it’s just that those of you guys in the media, you promote the Nnamdi Kanu faction because he makes a lot of noise and you don’t want to promote the one that is before the Nigerian government.
“You can take a telephone now and call Aso Rock, call the Senate President and ask about us, they have our documents, they have our case and our papers are before the Nigeria authorities. So we are moving forward and nothing has stopped us from moving forward. So Nnamdi Kanu’s arrest concerns his own faction, his cult, he built a cult of gangsters and so he is not speaking for us. Let it be known that Nnamdi Kanu does not speak for the Igbo nation.
“The Igbo nation made our point clear in 1995, we held a meeting, the Biafra elders held a meeting in 1994 at Nzuko Igbo conference in Enugu and drew the map on the way forward, both for Biafra and for Nigeria and we brought this proposal before the national conference organised by General Abacha in 1995 and it was approved. We want Nigeria to be restructured into six nations in one; that is our stand, the stand of elders of Biafra land.
“That is the stand of Igbo elders, that we want Nigeria to be restructured into six nations in one and that was why we created the six regions. The Igbo elders created these six geopolitical zones you are hearing about today and we want these six geopolitical zones now to become six nations in one Nigeria, for now. Our stand is clear, Nnamdi Kanu is not speaking for us, and he doesn’t speak for the Igbo nation.”
In his contribution, Chief Jerry Obasi tasked the Federal Government to pursue a political solution to resolve the Biafran question and the agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
“I advise for a political solution to solve this problem by attending to the issues raised by Nnamdi Kanu. Let us take the message and ignore the messenger. But the issue is whether the Federal Government actually wants total peace in the South-East. Most persons in the Presidency have carried on as if they have scores to settle with the Igbo race at home and in Diaspora. Taking Nnamdi Kanu into custody or even jailing him won’t solve the problem. Nobody knew that another Igbo would rise after Ralph Uwazuruike and his MASSOB.
“Tomorrow, there may emerge another agitator bigger than Kanu. The best solution to solve the Biafran and IPOB question is to treat the Igbo as co-owners of Nigeria. The Igbo are not asking for too much, what the Igbo need is justice and equity, but the Buhari Presidency has confirmed through its utterances that the Igbo are not welcomed in Nigeria.
“There is nothing wrong if the Federal Government sets up a team to negotiate with IPOB and listen to their grievances. The Federal Government has been negotiating with insurgents; the same treatment could be extended to IPOB to achieve peace in the South-East. Military clampdown on IPOB won’t solve the problem. There are strong evidences that the Igbo are being marginalised in Nigeria.
“Since Buhari came in, no Igbo can be found in the security hierarchy of Nigeria. The Igbo have been excluded from rising to certain positions as if they are slaves in Nigeria. I disagree with Nnamdi Kanu’s approach but most of the issues he has raised are too valid to be ignored. What the Igbo are saying is that the President must treat every ethnic group equally. There must be no discrimination where some get 97% and others 5%. If an Igbo man and a Fulani commit the same offence, give them the same punishment; not pampering the Fulani because he is your kinsman and jailing the Igbo because you don’t like his face.
“I further advise the Federal Government to be cautious in the trial of the IPOB leader. No harm must come to him. Everyone, including human rights organizations and the international community, are watching. The situation must be handled with care because there is already aggravated tension in the country following his arrest. It is clear that peace is gradually returning to the South- East. The Federal Government must consolidate on this prevailing peace because if the South-East burns, Nigeria boils,” Obasi said.
Also, the National Coordinator, Concerned Advocates for Good Governance, CAGG, Olusegun Bamgbose, advised the Federal Government to use the opportunity of the arrest of Kanu to end the agitation for an independent state of Biafra in Nigeria.
He explained that President Buhari would gain nothing by keeping Kanu in jail; stressing that the Federal Government should start addressing the relevant issues raised by the IPOB leader.
“Nnamdi Kanu’s arrest should not be seen as an achievement on the part of the Buhari administration. The arrest and detention of Nnamdi Kanu cannot end agitation as long as those issues that led to the agitation are not properly addressed. The government cannot successfully put an end to agitations without satisfactorily addressing the issues that birth the agitations. I expect Igbo leaders to commence negotiation with the Federal Government towards ensuring that Kanu regains his freedom and stay put in Nigeria. I believe Buhari may grant their request.
“I think this is a very good opportunity for the Federal Government to end the agitation for Biafra. They should start addressing the relevant issues raised by the IPOB leader. This is never a time for the government to throw a tea party or pop champagne because Nnamdi Kanu has been arrested. The Federal Government must as a matter of urgency, use this opportunity to practically show that the South-East will be carried along in the scheme of things.
“No government in the world can stop a legitimate agitation without addressing those issues that led to the agitations. The issue of marginalisation should be looked into. The Igbo should never be treated as second-class citizens of this country as it is presently the case. What the Igbo want in reality is a better life and not the Biafra Republic. Agitation for Biafra is just an option when the ruling government has decided to treat them as second-class citizens of the country. I believe that most Igbo would prefer to remain as citizens of Nigeria as long as the government will give them reasons to believe that they are part and parcel of this country.
“I believe Nnamdi Kanu would be prepared to drop his agitations for the Biafra
Republic if the issue of marginalisation is properly addressed. President Buhari should not see Nnamdi Kanu as a criminal, but as someone who wants a better life for his people, even though his approach could be wrong”, Bamgbose said.
On his own, Anglican Bishop of Aguata Diocese, Rt. Rev. Samuel Ezeofor cautioned the Federal Government to be sensible enough in handling the case of Nnamdi Kanu.
Bishop Ezeofor urged the Federal Government to use the opportunity of Kanu’s arrest to engage him and other agitators in the country in a mutual dialogue and to give him fair trial while the dialogue goes on.
“Everybody knows that there are tensions and agitations in the country. So, government should be sensible enough to use this opportunity to dialogue with Kanu and his followers in the interest of peace and tranquility”, Bishop Ezeofor said.
A renowned lawyer, Okey Muo Aroh, said “much as I despise Kanu’s excessive vituperations, I cannot imagine the level of importance the Nigerian government attaches to Kanu to the extent of compelling the federal government to become a gangster nation by abducting the young man.
“I sincerely hope that this singular action will not trigger a chain of reactions that will exacerbate the already horrible security situation in the country. Federal government will do itself a word of good if they do not by omission or commission, give the impression that they are working towards a predetermined decision in the prosecution of Kanu.
“Every available constitutional guarantee accrued to him must be given to him. His stewards and medical officers must be allowed access to him. His trial must be open, free, fair, and credible. His followers should remain calm and await the outcome of his trial”, Aroh urged.