By Sola Ebiseni
Nigeria, and not the accused persons, is currently in the dock in the ongoing trials of Sunday Adeyemo (Igboho) and Nnamdi Kanu in Cotonou, Republic of Benin and Abuja, Nigeria respectively.
The 54-year-old Nnamdi Kanu and 49-year-old Igboho, who were little known, have suddenly become heroes of their people and of the free world, wearing garlands the Buhari administration has tactlessly adorned them with. Not the lacklustre performance of his administration, but the way Buhari has handled the fundamental issue of the security of life and property of Nigerians, which gave birth to Kanu and Igboho, will be the dominant yardstick with which this era will receive the cruel judgement of history.
The legislature, the Presidency, and even the judiciary are in the eyes of the world. In these their two exceptional sons, Buhari has put both the Yoruba and Igbo nations in detention, manacled for trial for the expression of their conscience that even if the Buhari government lacks the capacity to better their lots, he should at least let them live. For daring to even cry when unjustly chastised, two of the largest component nations of Nigeria deserve the jackboot.
The Executive fumbled in several respects. First, is the illegal and thoughtless acts of preventing some members of the public, including ridiculously barring some media organizations from covering the trial. Unknown to it, every step by the Federal Government to present Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho as criminals have made them heroes of their people in the face of government’s feigned helplessness in curbing the menace of the Fulani ethnic terrorist militia who ride roughshod and unchecked on the lives of members of other nationalities.
This is a political trial simpliciter and the Federal Government must face its consequences squarely. For Kanu, the Constitution and our criminal justice system presume him innocent and cast the burden of proving its guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on the prosecuting Federal Government. In this proceeding, the Federal Government is participes criminis or at best an agent provocateur. The non-production of Kanu, blamed on logistics problems, is suspect. The prosecution is not just only being aware of the date and importance of this trial.
Apart from the Ikemba and Eze Igbo Gburugburu, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, no other Nigerian has pulled such cult followership among the Igbo as Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. Though a Lion by university attendance as those of us who have the privilege of passing through the University of Nigeria Nsukka are proudly called, Nnamdi is not the devouring lion as the government of Nigeria seems to present him. He is an apostle of Mahatma Gandhi School of nonviolence resistance to State evil and was merely a director of London-based Radio Biafra under the leadership of Mazi Ralph Uwazuruike who also is a peaceful agitator and founder of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB.
Even when he broke out, to create the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra in 2014, little was known of Kanu as the more democratic government of President Goodluck Jonathan, was undisturbed by Kanu’s right to nonviolent ventilation of his views no matter the size of the crowd pulled in the process. At the inception of the Buhari administration, even without any evidence of violence, the government detained Kanu without trial from October 2015 for over a year despite court orders for his release. By 2017, in the bid to neutralise him, his house was attacked through unpretentious military operations which led to the deaths of scores of members of IPOB.
If Kanu had stayed in Nigeria playing folk hero, the 54-year-old Nigerian/British citizen would probably have fallen under the bullets for trying to resist arrest. Or being addressed in the language he understood by refusing to continue to allow armed terrorist herdsmen to kill his people, destroy their farms, rape their sisters and mothers. The abduction of Kanu from Kenya which the Federal Attorney General celebrated gleefully, is only an albatross. In the full eyes of the world, Kanu is now a big fishbone in the throat of the Federal Government.
In the case of Igboho, he grew up to know the Fulani in his locality where they are not in negligible population, but carry on their cattle breeding business with respect for the culture and rules of their host communities, apart from intermarriages which have altered even the Fulani tongues. In cases of conflicts between the cattle rearing Bororo and the indigenous farmers, there were local mechanisms for amicable redress.
However, since the Buhari administration, the Fulani herdsmen have gone haywire inflicting rape, torture, and murder all over the country. An illustrious son of Igangan who came from the United States to establish a mechanized and integrated agricultural business that would benefit the youths of the area was hacked to death by some unschooled Fulani boys with the bravado of their leader. Even at that, Igboho didn’t kill; he only mobilised to drive the armed criminal gangs out of Yoruba land. It is for this that the Buhari regime seeks his life. The end of this war may not be predictable from the beginning.
When the Balewa government tried Chief Obafemi Awolowo, it thought the end had come for the Action Group Leader and his followers, the only one of which the convict still alive today is the irrepressible 93-year-old Leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo. In his famous allocutus: “I is not life that Matters”, the Great Awo, born in 1909 and 53 at the time of the trial in 1962, predicted that the event would lead to monumental occurrences in the life of the nation.
Predictably, the result was a mixture of sadness and joy. The attendant crises in the Western Region snowballed into the 1966 coup and counter-coup and the 30-month civil war between May 1967 and January 1970. Yet the minorities of the present South-South, Middle Belt, and the North-East regions got the states Britain and its Willinks Commission denied them for years.
Outside our shores, Mahatma Gandhi was the apostle of nonviolent resistance and even defender of British interests in both South Africa and India. Born in 1869, he was 53 years, about the age of Kanu, when he was tried by the British colonial government in 1922; the trial, despite his non-violent campaigns for a better life for the Indians, was the turning point.
Taking advantage of the trial, Gandhi told the judge and the world that: “Non-violence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed. But I had to make my choice. I had either to submit to a system which I considered had done irreparable harm to my country, or incur the risk of the mad fury of my people bursting forth when they understood the truth from my lips. I know that my people have sometimes gone mad. I am deeply sorry for it and I am, therefore, here to submit not to a light penalty but to the highest penalty. I do not ask for mercy. I do not plead any extenuating act. I am here, therefore, to invite and cheerfully submit to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is a deliberate crime, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen”.
The British also tactlessly in 1945, subjected members of the Indian National Army, INA, to a trial the government was persuaded against. The ripples of the trial which the government thought would expose the INA soldiers as traitors, only drew sympathy in their favour leading to the uprisings that finally forced British colonial rule out of India.
The Rivonia trial of 1963 it was that unwittingly unveiled Nelson Mandela and members of the African National Congress and their South African Communist Party collaborators. It toughened them and removed the mask from the Umkhoto We Sizwe as the sword of the nation. The irreversible resolve of Mandela and his comrades is encapsulated in his address to the court, the most famous paragraph of which reads thus:
“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against White domination, and I have fought against Black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised.
But, my Lord, if it needs to be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”. Mandela, born 1918, was relatively younger at 44 during the trial, yet an age of reality of the ephemerality of life which would soon be consigned into oblivion, except spent for the purpose of humanity.
Jomo Kenyatta, born 1897 was 55 when he was arrested in 1952. Even for the Mau-mau peasant uprising for which he played only a minor role, invariably made a hero out of Kenyatta who therefrom became the first President of Independent Kenya.
Kanu and Igboho may not have political ambitions, they may not even realise their dreamed nations sooner; they will not die but live to be celebrated. When General Buhari as military Head of State in 1984, sentenced the overthrown state governors to terms of imprisonment each ranging from 50 to 100 years, in a rough trial where the accused were asked to prove their innocence, little did he know that he had only less than two years more in Dodan Barracks, about the same time now left for him in Aso Rock?
The endurance of the masquerade is directly proportional to that of the child being pursued by it. Their struggles are equal and opposite. Who knows, the President may still be born again and live on the positive side of history. One month is a long time in politics.
Nigeria, we hail thee.