Who is Afraid of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu?
As usual, a fiery writer, GOZIE IROGBOLI, has come up with another view on Nigerian question , read and agree or disagree with him, via our Facebook, comments box, etc:
The most widely discussed topics on the lips of everybody and in the news and social media in Nigeria today are: Biafra, restructuring, referendum and secession and the man at the centre of it all is one Mazi Nnamdi Kanu who before now was a relatively unknown young man that emerged from this part of world and peeved by what he thought was injustice against his people Ndi-Igbo in Nigeria, made personal and vicarious commitments, formed an organization, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and established a radio station with the aim of drawing world attention to the plight of his people.
His mission and struggle gained traction when the Federal Government arrested him by October, 2015 slammed a treasonable charge on him through a weird process that requires evidence from masked witnesses and employed many subtle ways to make him drop his agitation. By May 2017, after nearly twenty months of incarceration, he was released through another equally ridiculous bail condition and ever since it has been Kanu, IPOB and Biafra all the way.
The human history is replete with stories of and agitations, of endless struggles for supremacy, justice, relevance, freedom, peace and space. These struggles sometimes produce heroes and charismatic, situational or contingency leaders who act as the fulcrum that drive such struggles. Evidently, Kalu is one of those heroes created by the inherent contradictions in the Nigerian state that does not believe in justice, equity and fairness. The failure of the state to properly address the issue of the marginalization of the South East exacerbated by the current administration that has bedraggled the nation into a state of uncertainty made Kanu very popular especially after his arrest and djuggernaut.
So, Kanu’s rise from obscurity to prominence was the making of a government that brooks no opposition, frets over innocuous criticisms and arrested and incarcerated a hapless civil agitator.
Again, Kanu’s relevance became more pronounced due to the apparent void in civil advocacy in Nigeria in the past two years created by those who in the past have pretend to speak on behalf of the masses and who have become agents and advocates of the current authoritarian regime. The country’s once-upon-a-time renowned vociferous social critics and public policy analysts have gone to sleep and given tacit acquiescence to the mockery that is being made of our democracy at present.
The organized labour has gone into a state of permanent encystment in spite of the worsening condition of the Nigerian workers. The student union that used to be the willing tool in the hands of self-seeking individuals masquerading as human rights activist is permanently in a state of inertia; no more aluta!
The undemocratic pro-democrats no longer do pro-democracy rallies; they now speak from both sides of their mouth and organize million-man matches for the reactionary elements destabilizing the polity. The retrogressive progressives have joined forces with the ultra-conservative elements and fundamentalists to wreck the country. And the Press that prides itself as vibrant and advocate of the common man have suddenly become mute; no more scathing criticisms and screaming headlines except when it is in favour of the government of the day. It is indeed ironical that the so-called civil society organizations who were strident and caustic in condemning the immediate past regime that gave Nigerians what looked like Democracy have suddenly became tongue-tied in a period of flagrant abuse of state power and Apartheid.
Furthermore, Kanu has emerged to fill the apparent vacuum created by the Igbo intelligentsias who have become emasculated by the Nigerian system that has condemned them to second class citizens who live like pacifists and apologists meant to mollify the feelings of others so that they might be seen as patriots and detribalized Nigerians. The Igbo elite class has lost the steam and the fervour that made the Igbo man the leading voice in the colonial Nigeria. They have lost their voice and the Igbo fervour that made Zik the foremost African nationalist, Mazi Mbonu Ojike the quintessential journalist, Prof. K. O. Dike the father of African Historiography, Chinua Achebe the father of African literature, Mokwugo Okoye the great activist, K. O. Mbadiwe the political juggernaut
Unfortunately, much as Kalu’s agitations is peaceful and civil; some people have not seen his emergence as the making of the Nigerian state and have tried to disparage him without caring to listen to him. Rather than critically examining the content of his message, they are condemning him and rather than trying to find out why his message is appealing to people that are thought to be politically diffident they are spewing hate speeches – the same thing they accuse Kalu of. Many of Kalu’s critics have taken out their frustrations hypocritically on him as if he is the cause of the nation’s problems. These are the same people who for primordial reasons conspired to foist a moribund regime on Nigerians.
The same people that have continually made it impossible for the right leadership to emerge in the country. The same people that looked the other way when injustice reigned supreme in the country. Kanu phenomenon is the manifestation of the rot that is Nigeria system but his critics chose to ignore facts and highlight irrelevancies. No doubt, those opposed to Kalu are those benefitting from our present flawed system and their ignorant collaborators. That Kalu has called for secession does not mean Nigeria must necessarily be Balkanized; it is a call for restructuring and responsible governance. This is not the first time there was a call for secession. In the 1950s during the era of boom in commodity trade, the North and South-West had canvassed secession to be enshrined in our constitution. Today, oil is the in-thing and the clamour for self-determination that is a universally acclaimed civil practice is criminalized in Nigeria.
If I understand Kanu’s message clearly, he is not talking about war as erroneously insinuated by his traducers. He is talking about self-determination, referendum and dialogue which are legal, democratic and universally acclaimed methods of civil engagement. It is a fact that when the issues of injustice are not properly addressed they crystallize into a bigger conflict or crisis with time. Students of Wars and Crisis tell us that wars result when people neglect to properly resolve conflicts.
I am not trying to write an apotheosis of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu but take it or leave it Kalu is the man of the moment, man of the year and the man of the decade in Nigeria. I must say that he is a phenomenon that cannot be wished away. He has given ndi Igbo a voice and a platform to negotiate his future in Nigeria. He has also given Nigerians once again a vista of opportunity to negotiate: to x-ray the past, evaluate the present situation and the future. And I earnestly wish this administration will latch in on this to restructure the nation, effect the desired positive change and salvage whatever is left of its mottled reputation.
Interestingly, among Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s critics too are some Igbo elites. This is not unusual given that ndi Igbo by nature and orientation are free minded people who do not show blind solidarity. An Igbo man does not support a cause simply because it is championed by his father, his brother or his kinsmen. I have read puerile and ridiculous comments about Kalu ostensibly from some Igbo elites. I am not saying that Igbo should show blind solidarity. No. But I believe that it is a mark of honesty, humility and responsibility to identify with those who have shown rare courage and commitment to a course.
I am also not saying that Kalu is the expected messiah but it is incontrovertible that he has established himself as a leader of note in Igbo land. Leaders are known for courage, commitment and vicarious service to their people and Kanu has demonstrated that and hence his large followership. Leaders are men of ideas that identify a vacuum and occupy them. Kanu is a contingency/situational leader who has emerged to occupy the apparent leadership vacuum created by the aloofness of Igbo intelligentsia who had taken the back seat and allowed others to take the initiative and misdirect their thinking on national affairs. Whether you like Kalu or not, he has made his mark by doing what no Igbo leader has done by filling the apparent leadership vacuum and giving the harassed and oppressed Igbo man hope of liberation from oppression. Little wonder that his call for sit-at-home on the 30th of May, 2012 was obeyed like a law in Igbo land.
By and large, there are different categories of Igbo elites that are not comfortable with the emergence and agitations of Kalu. Among the first category are the proud and the hypocritical. This group is not interested in Kalu’s sacrifice, personal commitment to his course or his mission. Their primary concern is Kanu’s pedigree. They are the ones suffering from the who-is-he? syndrome. These are the group rhapsodizing about ideal leader with lofty background and impeccable qualities that will have the combined attributes of Ojukwu, Okpara, Okadigbo etceteras just like the Jews who are still expecting the ideal Messiah but did not acknowledge him even after 2000 years. They are complaining that Kalu should have taken permission from them before embarking on his mission. Among this group are those of Igbo politicians and elected representatives who feel that the emergence of Kalu has threatened their positions.
When they are not complaining about his background, they are fusing about his modus operandi. And I ask them do you need a kingly background to be a leader? And what about his method! Is he violent? It is indeed ironical that they are not comfortable with the educated “clown” like Kanu as some of them choose to describe him, but they have no problem being subjugated by the uneducated alimajiris.
The second group is the pretenders: those who have been brow beaten into submission by many years of oppression and regimentation in the Nigerian state. This group of Igbo elites lives their lives as if they are meant to appease others. They indulge in debilitating self-criticism of anything Igbo just for others to acclaim them as patriots and detribalized Nigerians. They are cynical. They are like Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart who committed a grievous moral error by killing the boy that called him father for fear of being thought weak. They are the fault finders pointing out Kanu’s weaknesses as if leaders are people without human inadequacies.
The third group is made up of the pessimists and the fearful. These people have assets and businesses across the nation and the fear of losing them to others is driving them mad. They are not against Kanu per se. They are the pacifists; they want peace, so that business can continue as usual. There is also the fourth group: the unaligned group. This people are skeptical. This people have maintained their aloofness, sitting on the fence watching to see where the pendulum is swinging.
But, the brutal truth is that although these groups of elites that are opposed to the emergence of Kanu may be vocal but they constitute an insignificant proportion of the entire Igbo population at home and in the Diaspora yearning for Kanu. To the average Igbo man, Kanu represent the hope of a new beginning. To the Igbo youths that are scattered over the Nigerian landscape: who receive the butt of the frustration in land; who suffer the menace of alimajiris in the North and the harassment of area-boys in the South-West, Kalu’s voice represent hope of liberation from operation. To them, Kanu’s voice is loud, clear, bold, confident, unambiguous and reassuring. It represents hope.
It is different from the hollow voice of a discriminatory government that cannot keep its mandate, the timid voice of Ohaneze Ndigbo and the compromising voices of the South-East politicians and their elected representatives. It is completely different from the mocking voices of the Lagos-Ibadan Press and the hypocritical voices of charlatans who speak from both sides of their mouth pretending to speak for the masses.
Thus, when viewed dispassionately, the emergence of Kanu is the result of collective culpable negligence as over the years, the Nigerian state has treated the Igbo nation with disdain and the matter becomes more aggravated in the current regime. And for those planning to stop Kalu as is recently reported in the press, it is a good idea! If you must stop Kalu, you must follow due process. You must dialogue with him.
From my part of the world, it is against moral ethics to beat a child and force him not to cry. For the oppressors and “suppressionists”, you must know that the truth as a weapon is more potent than the gun. “Let us then admit that force does not create right and that we are obliged to obey only legitimate powers” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau).
Irogboli, Economist, Public Policy Analyst writes from Lagos. firstname.lastname@example.org