I hovered around the patched precincts of the magistrate court, Zone 2, Abuja on November 23, 2015. It was tumultuous day.
A stomping and surging crowd massed around the court, just as a phalanx of gun-toting security agents planted itself in the sanctuary of justice. Why? Nnamdi Kanu was being expected!
After weeks of feeding him mute, misery and torture, the Department of State Services (DSS) eventually brought him before a court.
It was a whirling of paroxysms when the crowd saw Kanu. He looked desiccated and ruffled. But that was the beginning of the making of today’s Igbo hero.
Kanu later spent months in the DSS gulag, and after which, he was sent to prison where he chalked up bountiful goodwill and mesmeric mystery.
Having reflected on his odyssey, I say without any vacillation that Kanu is the most celebrated Igbo, after Odumegwu Ojukwu. Why? The government of President Muhammadu Buhari by naked and blistering repression made him the voice of the Igbo resistance.
Today, Kanu is worshipped and deified. This may seem unusual because he is not a politician, and he does not have money to woofer. But he did one thing which many Igbo leaders were either too afraid to do or unwilling to do because of existential concerns; he dared to speak out against the proclivities of the northern-hegemonic government!
With the inchoate means of mass communication he could muster, he roared and shrieked at the government, which obviously has consigned the Igbo to the archipelago of Siberia.
Before Kanu, and long after Ojukwu had passed away, there was no John the Baptist for the Igbo. Igbo leaders squirreled to their holes, and the flock was scattered.
But Kanu, a seemingly nobody, took up the gauntlet and waged a mind war against the government. Without compulsion, the lees of Igbo society swarmed around him. They demanded, they bled and fought for his release. Why? Because he had a message which re-spirited them, and that is, Nigeria is not for the Igbo. Biafra now dominates public discourse.
It puzzled me, really, when thousands of Igbo youth poured into the streets to protest against the incarceration of Kanu. No Igbo politician or leader has ever commanded such loyalty from his followers.
In fact, more than 150 Igbo young men – going by the figures from Amnesty International – were martyred in the struggle for the release of Kanu.
And of course, the government is not probing the murders even when international agencies have accused the Nigeria military of the crime. This is a subject for another day.
Also, Igbo citizens abroad let out ululations against the imprisonment of Kanu, and they made contributions to his legal accoutrements. It was a mass revving of the Igbo conscience.
Recently, I saw pictures of Kanu in a lordship pose taking obeisance from some men. And critics condemned him for that.
Inasmuch as I don’t sanction hero worship, I think the young man did no wrong. He has paid the “price for the prize” as Nigerian pastors would say. He is the making of a repressive regime.
And by the way, don’t Nigerians celebrate, worship and defend corrupt leaders who abuse them?
As it is, Kanu is Mandela to that toiling and disadvantaged boy at the Main Market in Onitsha; he is Nwachineke – son of God – to that deprived trader at Aba, and he is Ojukwu to that radicalised young man in Owerri waiting for an opportune time to visit his wrath on the establishment.
Let me state here that I don’t share some of the beliefs of Kanu, particularly concerning the creation of a separate state for the south-east. Why? Because I know it is not the remedy to the Igbo problem now. But I share his passion for the “Risorgimento” of the wounded ethnic group.
As a matter of fact, he has played a seminal role in freeing the Biafra spirit, decriminalising its essence, and pushing its ideology to the pantheon, crucible and afflatus of humanity.
If Nigeria insists on keeping the Igbo at its heels, many more Kanus will emerge. Yes, many; even more ferocious, and armed with intellectual grit, global connection, and of course, powered by bile. Kanu is just a spark; the Igbo youth Nigeria is radicalising now are the conflagration.
In conclusion, I had the unction to write this article because I no longer want to be silent. The dander in me has been stirred up, and I know it is so in many other Igbo citizens.
Again, I am concerned because I am a victimised Igbo. So, this may be the gestation of my own protest against injustice.
Let the Igbo exhale.
By Fredrick Nwabufo
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