The end of Biafra and the game over the release of Nnamdi Kanu — By Emeka Ugwuonye6 min read
The truth about human history shows that history repeats itself more often that we are willing to admit. The sudden and dramatic acquittal of Nnamdi Kanu and his impending release from detention is a chilling repeat of history. It exposes in the purest form the personal political motivations behind the agitation for Biafra and the very core of human nature.
President Buhari, like President Shagari, as typical politician would make any deal to ensure that his party wins the majority of Igbo votes even against all odds. In 1982, President Shagari’s NPN party needed to win in Igboland in the 1983 elections. But that was impossible because a veteran politician and man with strong appeal to the Igbos, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik), and his NPP party dominated the Eastern part of Nigeria. The only way for NPN to achieve the inroad it desired into the Igboland was to find any Igbo man who could rival Zik in popularity among the Igbo voters.
It happened that the only Igbo man with the kind of popularity that would beat Zik in the East was Emeka Ojukwu, who had been in exile in Ivory Coast for 13 years, and who was eager and desperate to be allowed back to his home country. Ojukwu was then very pained by the fact, as he perceived it then, that he fought and suffered in the war where he believed that he was fighting for the Igbos, only for other Igbos who didn’t suffer as much to have become great as Igbo politicians during the second republic. How could the “true leader” of the Igbos be suffering in exile, while the “fake leaders” of the Igbos would become successful politicians. And, according to Ojukwu, these Igbo politicians were not even seeking his return. So, you had in Ojukwu a popular Igbo leader eager to make a deal to come home, and you had Shagari-led NPN ready to trade on the opportunity so-created.
The stage was then set for NPN to pardon Ojukwu and permit him to return to Nigeria, but on one condition, which was that Ojukwu would join NPN and turn the Igbos into NPN states. That meant that Ojukwu understood that he was coming back to Nigeria to dislodge Zik’s (NPP) control over the Igbo political space. After all, Zik did not support him during the time he fought for Biafra. And Ojukwu did a fine job. The first thing he did upon returning to Nigeria, with the support of NPN government in the center, was to set up the IKEMBA FRONT, a semi-militant political group, to fight for him and for NPN for the political heart and soul of Igboland. That was the first time since the war that the Nigerian Government sanctioned a violent thuggery group in the East. It doesn’t matter that Shagari did not actually trust Ojukwu and would rig elections against Ojukwu and cause Ojukwu to lose the senatorial election to a relatively unknown medical doctor from Onitsha (Dr. Edwin Onwudiwe). (Ojukwu was assured that if Shagari won the 1983 election and Ojukwu his senatorial seat, Ojukwu would become the President of the Senate, which would have made his number three in the hierarchy of political leadership of Nigeria. But in fact, nobody near Shagari actually intended Ojukwu to be that close to power. So, they rigged the elections against Ojukwu, causing him to lose a Senatorial seat and indirectly suggesting to him that he was not as relevant or as popular as he thought).
Fast-forward forty years later; President Buhari’s ACP has little chances of winning the votes of the people of the Eastern part of Nigeria. As Shagari saw Zik as an insurmountable opponent in the East, Buhari and Tinubu see Peter Obi as too strong to defeat in the East. And without the East, the APC candidate will not win the election in 2023. Again, the votes of the Biafrans will make all the difference in the outcome of 2023 presidential election. Before his rendition, Nnamdi Kanu normally compared his agitation for Biafra with the civil war and he referred to Ojukwu-led movement as the “Class of 1967”, while referring to the IPOB-led movement as the “Class of 2020/21”. As eerie as that might have sounded, he was right in some ways. The pardon of Ojukwu could be called the Release/Pardon of 1982, while the judgment of the Court of Appeal yesterday is the equivalent Event of 2022. What a difference forty years has made!
APC sees that with the rise of Peter Obi nationwide, Obi could take the vote of 80% of the Igbo youths, which is Nnamdi Kanu’s constituency. That spells a defeat for APC. The only way out for APC is to find an Igbo man who is presumed more popular in the East than Obi. And no man could foot that bill better than the man who could cause millions of the hardworking tireless Igbo people to sit at home on a working day, and to repeat it for more than a year. The popularity of Nnamdi Kanu is believed to be the golden bullet that would change the game for APC come 2023. If APC could field a Muslem-Muslem ticket as a tactical calculation to win votes, APC will have no hesitation to engineer the end of prosecution for Nnamdi Kanu if that would help the APC in the 2023 elections. Such calculation would be a small thing, in fact a smart thing, for APC.
Ojukwu was not pardoned unconditionally, and Nnamdi Kanu is not being released unconditionally. Each of them came as a heavy political asset to the party in power that wants to retain power at all cost. Somebody can rightly argue that with the popularity of Nnamdi Kanu among the Igbos, it would have been a terrible mistake for APC government to have him in detention and hope to win elections in the East. Tinubu must have been screaming against that. He would have no chance of impressing the Igbo voters if their new Ojukwu had remained in detention during election. But either way, the whole thing would make sense for APC only if Nnamdi Kanu would undertake to at least not oppose them if released. So, again, his release must have been laden with all manner of conditionalities.
Someone may be quick to argue that the pardoning of Ojukwu was an act of the Nigerian Executive, while the acquittal of Nnamdi Kanu is an act of judicial decision. But that makes no difference, except that it makes the politically engineered acquittal more sinister in that it amounted to involving the courts in politics. Also, one must stand reminded that Nigeria is still a country where the President could remove a sitting Chief Justice without losing anything. It implies that the Nigerian courts are really mailable by political forces. Clearly, there is every reason to believe that the sudden acquittal of Nnamdi Kanu is a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob. It is the executive acting through the courts, which is dangerous irrespective of the euphoria over the release of Kanu.
Also, it is clear that Nnamdi Kanu sees the rise of Peter Obi as “baboon de work, monkey de chop” metaphor. Arguably, Kanu thinks that his IPOB raised awareness of the Igbo exclusion from Nigeria, which Peter Obi is now riding on to fame. Again, as Ojukwu saw Zik ripping the benefit of his fight for the Igbos, Kanu sees Obi as ripping the benefits of his IPOB’s agitation for Igbo emancipating, not minding the fact that IPOB wanted secession of the Igbos, not their inclusion in Nigerian politics. In fact, IPOB opposed what Obi standards for. Yet, Nnamdi Kanu entertains the belief that Obi is ripping the fruits of the crop sowed by the IPOB.
Whichever way we look at it, if Nnamdi Kanu joins or supports the APC in the coming election; in fact, if he keeps quiet after his release, it confirms that his release came with heavy political conditionalities. It also means that Biafra has been traded off again for the political benefits of individuals. It finally confirms the truth about all these agitations, which truth has been known to me all along. Anybody losing his life for Biafran agitation is merely being used as a pun in another man’s political chess game. Adieu Biafra, see you again in in the next forty years.