By Tony Eluemunor
It is a pity that the call for Nigeria’s restructuring (in all ramifications) has given rise to a Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and his arrest. I fear we may not learn the right lessons from this sordid episode.
In the preface to his first collection of essays, Morning yet on Creation Day, Chinua Achebe decried the fact that Nigerians have often refused to learn the needed lessons. He said that when many Nigerians were asked about the lessons the Nigerian Civil War taught them, their answers were often “puerile:” war does not pay. Achebe wrote the preface in 1975, five years after that war.
Achebe said that many preferred not to even broach the topic—in a self-defeatist self-censorship. And the real Achebe spirit came to the fore when he said: “I will prefer to be accused of nastiness than join in the national pastime of consigning events of just a few years ago into prehistory.” It was also in that Preface that Achebe said that
experience is not whatever event that might happened to man. He said that much could happen to a stone without making the stone any wiser and so experience comes from the lessons learnt from an event. And Barbara Tuchman added in her much-praised book: The March of Folly;The Mistakes of Governments from Troy to Vietnam, that if wisdom is the application of intelligence on experience to make astute,
proficient and wholesome judgment, then many leaders have frustrated wisdom.
Did the Federal Government frustrate wisdom when it first arrested Kanu? Many swear it did because an inconsequential man who was actually dwelling on the fringes of serious talks was thrust onto centre-stage. Before him one Chudi Uwazurike spear-headed an Igbo agitation. Most importantly, Uwazuruike was wedded to non-violence.
That was before the military operation this and operation that,including operation Egwueke (Python Dance),and it was even said that the military visited Kalu’s residence in a show of force. That was totally unnecessary for by then Kanu’s army was nothing but the words spewing from his loquacious mouth.
Then Kalu himself refused to grow up. The more he disgorged unreasoned inanities from his mouth, the more I came to appreciate the respect the Igbo society paid to elders. This would be immediately within the grasp of anyone who has read Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God.
A sagacious elder would trace a road map with his words, drop bits of profound proverbs here and there for effect, and then arrive finally at a deliberately chosen end that should have the required effect. Words, in the real Igbo society were not ill-considered things to be wasted. They were carefully chosen, and carefully chosen in a prudently decided cadence to yield the required result. But what did we get with Kanu?
I know that Nnamdi Kanu cannot be any reason be called an elder in the Igbo society. But he, whether we like it or not, is now seen as a leader in Igboland by millions. That is a surprise.
Here is a man who offered no road map worth that name to his followers but they adored him. That should have been a warning to the government that the talk of Igbo marginalization was taking a terrible turn and that it was more ingrained in people’s hearts like never before.
It should have sent a troubling message to those in government that youths who knew little about the Nigerian polity, and whose sense of the wider world was the English Premier League football club they supported, suddenly claimed to have become politically knowledgeable. And Nnamdi Kalu was
the sole source of that knowledge they hold on to as the gospel truth.
Unfortunately, once Kanu came onto his centre-stage, mounted a rostrum that was too momentous for him, he began to act in an almost crazed manner. But the more surprising and deplorable his antics, his name calling, and the abuses he hurled against the Igbo elders and leaders plus even the Igbo state governors, the more he was hailed as a supreme leader. That was totally insensitive. Insults upon insults
spewed out from his lips. He just kept scattering them abroad as a farmer sowed seeds upon which his livelihood depended on.
Now, does anybody expect Ohanezi Ndigbo to say a word on Kanu’s behalf? What about the state governors? It will now be clear that no one can be greater than his people. Yet, if Kanu was born in 1967, he is no longer a young man. His age mates have been state governors and even presidents. They have, of course, led revolutions. But the summation of Kalu’s exertions so far is that he has put a knife across
Igboland and divided it; on one side is the pro-Kanu group, and those opposing him square up the other side. The real issue; Igbo marginlisation and the quest for an Igbo president, have taken back stage.
Yet, how come a supreme leader was arrested, put on an air-craft,flown to Nigeria and his followers knew nothing about his predicament?Even his family members appeared unaware of his ordeal until the government announced it. This is shocking.
That having been said, the Federal Government should not sow a terrible seed by making Kalu a martyr. There is a genuine cause which he may have championed unimaginatively. There are wise ways to lessen a wound, satisfy a yearning, calm nerves. This is the time to find such ways and assure the Igbos that they are bona fide Nigerians.
If not, the Biafran agitation will not just continue but increase. Acts that prove that Nigeria belongs to all make greater impacts than threats that Nigeria is indissoluble for many once indissoluble countries have been recently dissolved. With this case,Nigeria should snatch peace and unity from the jaws of chaos, if wisdom prevails.