The Nnamdi Kanu phenomenon By Reuben Abati | Welcome to Linda Ikeji's Blog

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Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The Nnamdi Kanu phenomenon By Reuben Abati

Read his piece below....
The most discussed subject in Nigeria today is what is called “restructuring” and indeed so popular is this subject that it has attracted the attention of roadside commentators, the bright, the not-so-bright, the mischievous and the outrightly unintelligent all united by the singular claim that Nigeria belongs to all of us and we all have a right to determine its future.

The last person who brought up this subject with me is a mechanic in Abeokuta! He had heard about Biafra, the Arewa youths, the President’s absence, Professor Osinbajo, Nnamdi Kanu, what Igbo leaders, Northern leaders and Yoruba leaders have said about restructuring and he wanted a conversation. That’s how democracy works, not so?  The inclusiveness is actually very good for us…

But the point I have always made stands proven: that Nigeria remains an unanswered question, more than a century after the amalgamation of 1914. Before and after independence, virtually every government has had to deal with this same question, viz, the national question. Brought together in an unwieldy, unequal and uneven union by the British, Nigeria’s about 400 ethnic nationalities have been unable to transform into one nation, one union, a community of people and communities driven by a common purpose - to create a united, progressive nation, under the umbrella of patriotism and the common good.

We have fought each other since 1950 to date, we did not even all agree on independence, and since that happened, we have been at each other’s throats. We ended up fighting a civil war, and from all indications we are at this moment, seemingly preparing for another one. The laziest excuse is that the British caused all our problems, but more than 50 years after independence it should be clear enough that we are the source of our collective agony.

Other countries who were at the same level with us in 1960 have since moved on and developed into better nations despite their own internal contradictions. Nigerian leaders have perpetually lived in denial. Every step forward has resulted in our country taking two steps backwards. A combination of the big-man-syndrome, the too-know syndrome, the us-before-others-mentality, ethnic politics, sectarian politics, greed, cronyism and a terrible leadership recruitment process has turned our process of nationhood into an unending struggle. Today, fewer Nigerians believe in the idea of Nigeria.

In 1977/78, the Constituent Assembly whose deliberations resulted in the 1979 Constitution almost ended with fisticuffs. The 2005 National Political Reforms  Conference did not fare better either, as the Niger Delta conferees staged a walk-out and the politics of Third Term or no Third Term sabotaged the entire process. In 2014, the outcomes of yet another National Conference could not be followed through because a succeeding administration declared it would not even look at the report.  At every stage when it looks as if this country is faced with an opportunity to address the national question, certain interest groups erect the roadblocks of denial and wishful thinking. No country can live perpetually in denial.  This is the message of former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union and their disintegration. As for the military, they merely worsened Nigerian politics.

Fifty years after the outbreak of the civil war, we now have a man called Nnamdi Kanu. He may well end up as Nigeria’s nemesis. He is the most frightening product of our many years and acts of denial and he may well throw the country into a nightmare worse than Boko Haram, if care is not taken. He started out as the leader of a group called the Indigenous People of Biafra and as director of Radio Biafra.  He and those who bought into his rhetoric of secession and the renewal of the Biafra dream organized protests across the world, and they looked, from afar, like a group of disgruntled Nigerians in diaspora. In the foreign lands where most of the members lived, they looked like persons over-enjoying the freedom of speech from a safe distance. They didn’t appear to have the force of MASSOB, which is locally based and seemingly more malleable.  The renewed struggle for Biafra that Kanu and his crowd talked about could have been nothing more than an internet and television revolution. But everything went wrong the moment Nnamdi Kanu chose to visit home and he was arrested, detained and taken through a court trial.

Whoever ordered Nnamdi Kanu’s arrest and prosecution did this country a bad turn. Kanu is a character that could have been better ignored. His trial and travails have turned him into a hero and a living martyr among Igbos. And the young man so far, understands the game. Since he was released on bail, he has been taunting the Nigerian state and government. Daily, he dares those who granted him bail and he laughs at the conditions they gave him. He associates with more than 10 persons. He moves about Igboland freely, like a spirit. He addresses rallies and grants interviews.  He has been busy issuing statements. On May 30, he ordered a shut-down of the entire South Eastern region and that order was obeyed not only in the South East but also in parts of the South-South, and Abuja.  

Nnamdi Kanu who probably barely struggled to survive as a black man in Europe, has been turned by the Nigerian Government into a credible apostle of a resurgent Biafran revolution. The other day when he held a meeting in Umuahia, over 5,000 persons trooped to his compound.  Kanu is a master of symbolism. He is exploiting the Jewish symbol: to signal to the world that Igbos are being persecuted. He visits symbolic sites of the civil war to prick the injured part of the Igbo consciousness and mobilise the people. His pre-eminence is a comment on the quality of the state and its strategic intelligence system. If he succeeds with his threats, we should know those to blame. A few days ago, someone on social media further compared him to Jesus Christ and described him as the true saviour. Every revolutionary in history graduates from ordinariness to being messianic, propelled by opiumized endorsement.

Nnamdi Kanu is certainly capable of doing more damage to the system than the MASSOB, OPC, and such other groups, and should he push things further, he could ignite a crisis worse than Boko Haram. My gut feeling is that some people in certain places are beginning to realize this and that is why Nnamdi Kanu out of detention appears untouchable; it is the reason he is able to dare the state, and ridicule his bail conditions. The lesson here is obvious enough: the brazen use of force and intimidation to deal with certain situations could create really bad unintended consequences.

The Federal Government under Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has been holding meetings with key stakeholders within the Federation. The consultations are in order, but the Acting President is yet to talk to the right people.  He is talking to people who carry their international passports in their pockets because they don’t know what tomorrow promises in Nigeria. He is consulting persons whose family members are mostly one-leg-in-one-leg-out Nigerians; many of them in fact have dual nationality. Nigeria is their trading post, the place where they make the money they and their children spend in Dubai, UK and wherever..

The people the Federal Government should be talking to are the angry Igbo youths who now kneel down to greet Nnamdi Kanu and call him their god, the Arewa youths who have told the Igbos to get out of Nigeria and get away, and who have called the Yoruba names while further insisting that they are not afraid of the Nigerian government arresting them. The people to talk to are the leaders of the various other groups who are taking sides. Leaders of the Middle Belt and the South South are holding talks; some Yorubas are planning to hold theirs this week in Ibadan. Draw the map of the emerging rhetoric in Nigeria today; what you have is a divided country. The scenario is so painfully reminiscent of the early 60s.

 Every Nigerian leader since the civil war has boasted that he would not preside over the dismemberment of Nigeria. Some of those leaders have suddenly started saying restructuring is the answer, how nice!- the same restructuring they never wanted and that they didn’t want as at 2015.  Crisis management is an important part of nation-building. We have failed to manage most of the crises that have befallen our nation, on a sustainable basis, and that is why every proverbial snake that is killed suddenly resurrects.

It is the reason we have produced a country where the population of the aggrieved appears to be growing daily.  It is the reason Nnamdi Kanu and his followers have become the fish-bone in the throat of government.  As things stand, there is no stronger voice in Igboland today than that of Nnamdi Kanu. The Igbo elites and the self-styled political leaders of the East know that Kanu is more influential than all of them put together. How many among them can command a willing crowd of 5, 000 to their doorsteps? The politicians hire crowds, but the crowds go to Kanu and obey him.

With the kind of influence he wields, Kanu is in a position to dictate the political future of the South East. The same political leaders who posed for photographs at the Aso Villa will go to him at night and beg him to support their candidates if future elections hold in that region.  They will condemn Kanu during the day, but lick his boots at night.

The ancillary challenge however is the worsening trend of ethnic polarization with regards to the control of power at the centre. I describe this as the conflict between the na-my-brother-dey-there syndrome and the no-be-my-brother reactive tendency. It used to be the case in this country up till the time President Olusegun Obasanjo left in 2007, that whoever held power in Abuja was openly and strongly supported by other Nigerians, regardless of ethnicity or religion. Obasanjo got more support from outside Yorubaland, and probably felt more reassured by persons from outside his own ethnic group and religion.

With the death of President Yar’Adua in office, ethnicity, a long-standing threat to Nigerian unity became more potent. The Boko Haram, with its base in the Northern part of the country gave the succeeding Jonathan administration hell.  With the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, the same Boko Haram suddenly became tame. Curiously, the militants of the South East and the South South, who had been significantly quiet during the Jonathan years, also became more vocal and calls for secession became more strident the moment their kinsman and in-law left office.

By the same token, the conflict between pastoralists and farmers, an old problem, became worse, with the former asserting themselves more arrogantly for no reason other than that they are sure of better protection under a central government controlled by the North. Our point: Nigeria’s stability should not be so dependent on the whims and caprices of ethnic gladiators. No Nigerian President should be at the mercy of ethnic or religious politics, now or in the future.

The debate about restructuring and renegotiations is therefore useful and most relevant.  It is indeed urgent if we must take the wind out of the sail of the secessionists and nihilists. Those who have always blocked or hijacked the people’s conference must by now realize that we are close to “the point of no return” on a review and rephrasing of the Nigerian question, in order to make every Nigerian feel a part of the Nigerian project.

The alternative in all possible shapes appears ominous. 

41 comments:

dee boi said...

Too long... dee

hrm paul said...

This piece by abati is a master piece truth be told I see the igbos having their state like Ukraine leaving russia

Anonymous said...

I believe Prof Osibanjo should take matters and sort this thing with his church mind. Forget about the Northern cabals or those controlling Buhari. Forget about selfish interest. Prof, be brave and do the best thing. Be brave and neutral. Be statesmanlike. History and posterity will judge you and your tribe well. God bless the people of the Niger Area.

Anonymous said...

Well said bro! Biafra must come.

uncle-P said...

The damage has been done by buhari and his appointment per tern .. a problem of trust started that gave birth to the rest... if buhari..has kept aside bitterness and consider Nigeria a nation not for ethnic, religion and partisan drive..what we see today will not emanate..it self..if God has not kept this buhari..ill Nigeria will be at war by now.. God want Nigeria together so no hand can divide it everything including buhari..will soon be a past.. Nigeria has no Religious problem but few who gain from it..even bokoharam..was greedy politicians who wanted to calf budget from security in the Jonathan let Government.. those same evil people their children keep graduating from the same haram..university everyday...soon there will all die for Nigeria sake

tomstar said...

Who so ever that wrote this! Is from North. The right thing have to be Done. It either the Northerners that call them self born to rule BALANCE the Government. or will operates pure presidential System of Government like America, Switzerland and Norway. And allow each State developed at their own pace. If that fail. Then let each region go without killing a single soul. If not this will should stop fooling our self this Country will divide someday or soon..

tomstar said...

Who so ever that wrote this! Is from North. The right thing have to be Done. It either the Northerners that call them self born to rule BALANCE the Government. or will operates pure presidential System of Government like America, Switzerland and Norway. And allow each State developed at their own pace. If that fail. Then let each region go without killing a single soul. If not this... will should stop fooling our self this Country will divide someday or soon..

tomstar said...

Who so ever that wrote this! Is from North. The right thing have to be Done. It either the Northerners that call them self born to rule BALANCE the Government. or will operates pure presidential System of Government like America, Switzerland and Norway. And allow each State developed at their own pace. If that fail. Then let each region go without killing a single soul. If not this will should stop fooling our self this Country will divide someday or soon..

tomstar said...

Who so ever that wrote this! Is from North. The right thing have to be Done. It either the Northerners that call them self born to rule BALANCE the Government. or will operates pure presidential System of Government like America, Switzerland and Norway. And allow each State developed at their own pace. If that fail. Then let each region go without killing a single soul. If not this will should stop fooling our self this Country will divide someday or soon..

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading at this point "With the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, the same Boko Haram suddenly became tame" sir the bh is not tame and your former boss GEJ was playin with the crisis

xaint said...

This is an unbiased comment from a man who I thought has crossed over.he that have ears let him hear what uncle RA is saying.

Anonymous said...

"On may 30th, he ordered a shut- down of the entire South Eastern region and that order was obeyed not only in South East but also in parts of the South-South,and Abuja"
Mr Abati,this is a very misleading information. Nobody in the entire South-South obeyed the sit-home order of ipob. We in the south-south don't recognise Kanu,don't belong to ipob or masob or what they stand for. Please don't drag us into the Biafra cause. We are not part of Biafra and don't intend to.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Abati, you are indeed an intelligent man.

chidi maduka said...

Good write up. Let him who have ears listen.

amblessed said...

Well said

Alloy Chikezie said...

There ain't no such thing as one Nigeria.

Let biafra go.

Your comment will be visible after approval.

Mr. Paul said...

See, Igbos caused all their problems. They are overhearing and think every other person is stupid and foolish. I am talking from personal experience. They seems to flaunt their overfed and over bloated ego.

Ndubisi Tochukwu said...

Well said. Biafra I know. Nigeria has failed me 4d past 31yrs of my life
Signed
LibBadBoy

tomstar said...

Singapore pull out from Malaysia or what about Israeli that pull out from Egypt today ... And they have no OIL or GAS till today but look at them living more better than other countries around them. Call us anything u like or Land luck you will see under 10 years baifra wil become small china... will are not scared to face the future...

tomstar said...

Singapore pull out from Malaysia or what about Israeli that pull out from Egypt today ... And they have no OIL or GAS till today but look at them living more better than other countries around them. Call us anything u like or Land luck you will see under 10 years baifra wil become small china... will are not scared to face the future...

Ken Obaz said...

True talk sir. Nigeria is on the verge to be dismembered. Nnamadi Kanu has indeed turn to become the most very powerful and influential person in the land rite now.

AGB said...

I felt the same way as you after reading that line. I got so weak & I share your sentiments.

Jaypee Iorsue said...

Abati, I simply like your narrative and sometime, poetic rhythm. These are my concerns: 1. The Nigerian state no doubt is bedeviled by a plethora of challenges. 2. Igbo should not continue to be seen in the wrong direction given their precedent domineering and parochial tendencies as far as the history of this country and her indissolubility are often patriotically contemplated by Nigerians. 3. Almost every tribe is marginalised. Not just Igbo. Tiv people are marginalised too. In fact, every tribe in this country.

Kanu must realise that Nigeria is bigger than an individual. People like you Abati should be patriotic enough to be bold with the truth. Kanu should be told that his actions are becoming utterly treasonable. The Igbo elites' actions or inaction over his recalcitrant display and disrespect to the sovereign integrity of this country Nigeria is fanning another unprecedented dimension of a political upheaval.

I agree with you that over time, our elites, and where you too belong, have failed to handle situations:political, religious, ethnic inter alia in this country. If Kanu prides himself as a demi-god, he should realize as well that, he is not doing his people the very best. When the civil war broke out, they (Igbo) cried of genocide.

I read a stint of bias where you said, ...and Bokoharam was tamed all of a sudden..I paraphrased. The former government where you played a part, was overhelmed of what to do about Boko Haram. Abati, with all due respect, your government was fathering corruption. So, much of insecurity especially in the North-east was politically downplayed.

Very importantly, the UN is not interested in separatism as much it is cherished in the Charter under International law. Look at Sudan...

AGB said...

I don't agree with Reuben Abati on everything he said in this article, but he made some sense on a lot though.

Anonymous said...

I've always maintained that Biafra is a metaphor for restructuring. Let the Prof Ag President do the needful.

Agwuncha Chikezie said...

At the end,he still stood on re-structing which I believe is a better solution to the country's commotion and aggreviances

Segun Adegoke said...

Nigerian politicians most especially the lawmakers should suspend the constitution and call every section of the Country to rewrite another document that will cater for all tribes. PMB made the igbos feel marginalised,by ignoring them in political appointments. Hence the agitation for succession.

Pierre said...

If your hypocrisy and pseudo-superior attitude unsuccessfully masking biased and non-analytic thinking had allowed you to continue reading after that "point", you would have read this very next sentence:

"Curiously, the militants of the South East and the South South, who had been significantly quiet during the Jonathan years, also became more vocal and calls for secession became more strident the moment their kinsman and in-law left office."

Try to be part of the solution. Try. Hard.

Don said...

Hmm. @Anonymous at 08:14 4th July. "God bless the people of the Niger Area." The Niger Area. I like that. But only as a code name or sobriquet, like Naija.

Maybe it's not only restructuring we should be considering but also, renaming. If, as Africans, we understand and attach great significance and power to the names given, what is to be expected of a name given to an entire peoples by a female journalist (she only became the wife of the colonial administrator and Governor-General, Lord Lugard, five years after having coined the name in a Times newspaper article). Who names you, is equally as important as the name you are given. Does it signify any honour, any respect, any worth, any dignity, does it show any regard to be thus named? She was a journalist working in that area, reporting from that area, a special correspondent, so to speak, specialising in matters of that region. It is ironic that whilst the "Mahommedan peoples" she coined the name for (i.e. the "agglomeration of pagan and Mahommedan peoples") till date resist with all their heart and might to be ruled by a woman or have a woman as boss at any level (viz the overturned gubernatorial electoral victory in Taraba where a lady won) yet they answer to a name and citizenship, a nationality and identity given them by a woman. And, a single, unmarried, white woman at that.

Iron rose said...

Nigeria will make it and we all will be one Nigeria, #istandforrestructuring#

Online Academy said...

Wow, well written comment. Big big grammar, lol. You should be a writer/blogger bro. If you need a blog in the nearest future, we can help with one.

Anonymous said...

This is how an educated and unbiased mind reasons and writes. People like Reno are learning how to write. Big ups Reuben! Everything you said is true and sound. The govt should do the needful, nobody is calling for war. A peaceful referendum is not war. Reno does not support the referendum and he likes the marginalization metted on ndigbo, it makes him feel good about himself. He was fast to condemn the whole of ndigbo because of what Kanu said about GEJ, which is just a one man opinion, but refuse to mention that ndigbo gave GEJ the highest vote that he made him President. People like Stella Oduah went door to door to campaign for GEJ which helped him win. Reno the more you try to write down the struggle of ndigbo, the more you hurt your tribe. This same struggle will benefit everybody, once there is a referendum, every body gets settled and inequality disappears. Reno Omokri, your Niger delta is being marginalized also, but you feel you are okay on your own, because you and your family are abroad, so you don't care about what the average person in Uhrobo is going through or Ogba Egbema where oil pollution is doing more harm than good is going through. Where you are based today is peaceful and habitable and also acceptable to you today because People like Martin Luther King fought for the freedom you are enjoying there today. There were the Reno Omokris that were writing and talking down on Martin Luther's struggle then, but he ignored your likes and continued, and this is the outcome, America is now the land of the free! People like you are not the people Nnamdi Kanu is fighting for in Igboland, so you will not understand. If you are among the down throdden, the poor and the struggling traders, then you'll know what we are talking about. They call Nnamdi Kanu all sorts of names, call his followers all sorts of names, but he and the people following him are determined and focused. The Reno Omokris will be put to shame when every body in Nigeria will be equal and treated equally. When the gap between the rich and the poor will be the middle class. When every tribe will have the opportunity to rule Nigeria without the 'boko harams' making it difficult for him because he is not 'born to rule'. When the resources in Nigeria will be shared equally and not to the privileged few and the sacred cows. When appointments will be given based on merit, but not based on tribe and religion. When infrastructural developments will be made equally, and not based on northern agenda. Nnamdi Kanu fight on, your day will break and your Sun will rise. May God almighty hear our cry, like he heard the cries of the Isrealites

Anonymous said...

This is how an educated and unbiased mind reasons and writes. People like Reno are learning how to write. Big ups Reuben! Everything you said is true and sound. The govt should do the needful, nobody is calling for war. A peaceful referendum is not war. Reno does not support the referendum and he likes the marginalization metted on ndigbo, it makes him feel good about himself. He was fast to condemn the whole of ndigbo because of what Kanu said about GEJ, which is just a one man opinion, but refuse to mention that ndigbo gave GEJ the highest vote that he made him President. People like Stella Oduah went door to door to campaign for GEJ which helped him win. Reno the more you try to write down the struggle of ndigbo, the more you hurt your tribe. This same struggle will benefit everybody, once there is a referendum, every body gets settled and inequality disappears. Reno Omokri, your Niger delta is being marginalized also, but you feel you are okay on your own, because you and your family are abroad, so you don't care about what the average person in Uhrobo is going through or Ogba Egbema where oil pollution is doing more harm than good is going through. Where you are based today is peaceful and habitable and also acceptable to you today because People like Martin Luther King fought for the freedom you are enjoying there today. There were the Reno Omokris that were writing and talking down on Martin Luther's struggle then, but he ignored your likes and continued, and this is the outcome, America is now the land of the free! People like you are not the people Nnamdi Kanu is fighting for in Igboland, so you will not understand. If you are among the down throdden, the poor and the struggling traders, then you'll know what we are talking about. They call Nnamdi Kanu all sorts of names, call his followers all sorts of names, but he and the people following him are determined and focused. The Reno Omokris will be put to shame when every body in Nigeria will be equal and treated equally. When the gap between the rich and the poor will be the middle class. When every tribe will have the opportunity to rule Nigeria without the 'boko harams' making it difficult for him because he is not 'born to rule'. When the resources in Nigeria will be shared equally and not to the privileged few and the sacred cows. When appointments will be given based on merit, but not based on tribe and religion. When infrastructural developments will be made equally, and not based on northern agenda. Nnamdi Kanu fight on, your day will break and your Sun will rise. May God almighty hear our cry, like he heard the cries of the Isrealites

Anonymous said...

Good write up, let the govt do the needful.

Anonymous said...

And we know that already, no need shouting it. Okay bye!

Anonymous said...

Kk

Anonymous said...

In other news, we are not land lock, at least not my own part. And we have oil, yes in Imo and Abia.

Anonymous said...

You know the truth and it will set you free.

AGB said...

Lol....Nnamdi Kanu,the 'most powerful & influential person'? LMAO. You must belong to a cult or something. Nnamdi Kanu can only be an 'influential' or 'powerful' person probably amongst cultists, militants & terrorists.

Anonymous said...

Some facts here are misleading. Nobody in the entire South-South obeyed the sit-home order of ipob.

Kelvinbigg said...

Good write up. Well said Reuben

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