21 October 2018
Nnamdi Kanu, the self-styled leader of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), spoke to his followers on the internet-based Radio Biafra for the first time since he was arrested by Nigerian security officials on 18 October 2015. It was typical blowhard demagoguery, short on substance and must have convinced nobody apart from his fanatical followers.
Kanu went missing after the Nigerian army raided his father’s home on 14 September last year. He was meant to be on bail pending his trial for “criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organisation”. He wasn’t seen in public after the raid until a video and pictures of him in Israel were published online last Friday. Radio Biafra, the station that made Kanu well known to the Nigerian public, then announced that their leader will speak today at 6pm local time.
There were so many questions to be answered. Where was he since the army raid? Did he escape the raid? Why has he been silent since then? What is he doing in Israel? When did he arrive there? However, the man of the hour didn’t arrive on the hour. He was perhaps fashionably late – by eight minutes. Maybe it was technical problems at the station. But he did say that he and his IPOB “family” are “civilised people”. Keeping to time is the civilised thing to do – and would surely set them apart from Nigeria that he wants Biafra to secede from.
He said he was back on Radio Biafra after four years to preach a “gospel of redemption”. “The Kingdom of Biafra” was “inevitable” and it was their mission to “restore or die restoring Biafra”. It was a slight concern that what Kanu wanted to restore was a “kingdom” and not a democratic state. He didn’t tell listeners who would be king in this kingdom.
At times, he spoke with a low voice which would then rise to almost shouting levels. It appeared he was trying very hard to sound like Emeka Ojukwu, who led the doomed attempt at secession by then Eastern Nigeria from the rest of the country that resulted in a deadly civil war lasting between 1967 and 1970. Ojukwu was a brilliant orator, privately educated in England and had a Masters in history from Oxford. Kanu, perhaps a poor man’s version, never quite managed to pull off the Ojukwu oratorical flourish and ended up sounding like a cross between Ojukwu and former First Lady Patience Jonathan, especially when saying stuff like “diaris nothing that can stop Biafra”.
His confidence came from his belief that he is doing God’s (“Chukwu Okike Abiama”) work on earth. He said that just like Jews suffered for the state of Israel to become reality, Biafrans had to suffer for Biafra to be restored. God was going to use Biafra to bring light to the “dark continent” of Africa. He claimed that there was no difference between a black man and a wild animal in the forest. This may be music to the ears of many Israeli racists that continue to discriminate against African Jews like the Falashas from Ethiopia. But deep thought seemed not to be Kanu’s thing as he seemed so obsessed by the righteousness of his cause. How could he be wrong when the entire Biafran liberation business was a “covenant between me and the Most High”?
Listeners had to endure this messianic complex through out. It would have been a price worth paying if he revealed what really happened during the raid of his father’s home. But much of what he said was already known. He left prison on bail on 14 September last year. The army, in his view, were sent to kill him and destroy his hometown Afaraukwu, where his father is the traditional ruler.
Kanu, who before his arrest lived in London, some reports claimed it was in social housing known as “council flats” in the UK, was staying in his father’s house while on bail. Aisha Buhari, President Muhammadu Buhari’s wife, would later mock him for being a man in his 40s and still living in his parents’ house. Perhaps, mindful of that criticism, Kanu said a few times in his broadcast that “my home” was attacked. He said he sustained “severe injuries” during the attack, 28 people died in what the army called “Operation Python Dance”. For the IPOB leader, there was no justification for the firepower used, which he said included two aircraft hovering overhead. He said he had planned to attend his next court date in Abuja with 2m people. That was probably why they decided he needed to be stopped by all means.
He then promised that “I will come back to Biafra Land”. He didn’t say when. He also informed those killing Biafrans that “when we decide to retaliate, the world will know that they provoked us”. By this time, he was in full rant mode and gave thanks to “IPOB security and intelligence that ensured I was evacuated from my compound”. He warned his enemies that “they can run but they can’t hide”, alluding to how Israeli intelligence agency Mossad deals with Israel’s enemies and hoped for the day that the “efficiency of Mossad will be replicated by Biafran intelligence”. This was all well and good, but there was little intelligence coming from the man himself.
He name-checked people who stood by him in times of distress – Ben Nwabueze, Maria Okwo, Mbazulike Amaechi, Archbishop Anthony Obinna and others. He said that he and his followers “stand with” former Ekiti State governor Ayo Fayose, who is currently in detention awaiting trial on corruption charges. Kanu didn’t seem bothered whether Fayose had a case to answer. He also recognised Asari Dokubo, the Niger Delta “militant” and called him a “brother” whom “we will see Biafra together”. Apparently, all these people are on Kanu’s side in his battle with the “axis of evil”. Oddly, Femi Fani-Kayode, the former aviation minister, who is fond of claiming on Twitter that Kanu is his “brother” wasn’t seen as worthy of recognition. Fani-Kayode claimed in a tweet yesterday that Kanu called him and agreed to work to vote out Buhari. Kanu didn’t seem to back this claim.
I just received a call from my brother Nnamdi Kanu. I am delighted that he is alive and well. I commend his strength and courage even as I marvel at the loyalty, resilience and commitment of his lawyer Ifeanyi Ejiofor and IPOB. We have agreed to work together to VOTE Buhari out.
— Femi Fani-Kayode (@realFFK) October 20, 2018
Kanu also thanked Ayo Adebanjo, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, whom he called “a brave man”. Others worthy of Kanu’s praises were Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu, Kanu’s British MP Harriet Harman, who represents the deprived London constituency of Camberwell and Peckham. Kanu reminded listeners that he had denounced his Nigerian citizenship and was now a Biafran but held a British passport. He thanked Israel, the Jewish community worldwide, who contributed to “assuring my physical safety and well being”.
He added that the Nigerian army killed “our dog Jack” during the raid. They also killed his cousin. Killing the dog may end up being the worst thing the army did in the eyes of the animal-loving British.
Kanu said his only weapon was a microphone and “courage from Chukwu Okike Abiama” and a referendum on secession is “our red line” and this was “non negotiable”. He said they wouldn’t participate in any Nigerian elections that were a “charade”. IPOB will not participate because “we are civilised people”. He seemed to have forgotten the earlier claim about black people being like wild animals in the forest.
He then started waxing grandiloquent: “Our destiny is before us”. “The southeast and south-south [Niger Delta] are one, there is nothing like Niger Delta. There is nothing like southeast. All we have is Biafra”. He added that IPOB was “the largest mass movement in the world, created by Chukwu Okike Abiama”. This could well be true, but Kanu didn’t provide any numbers. Like everything about him, if he said it, it must be true since he had a “covenant” with God. If you don’t like it, go and argue with God.
He said he had “cried to Elohim in distress” and he had a “revelation” the first time he was in Jerusalem. And he warned his enemies before signing off that “I will bring hell with me”.
What he brought to this broadcast must have been music to the ears of his supporters, but it was hard to listen to both literally and figuratively. You had to adjust the volume when the shouting brought a ringing pain to the ear and it was difficult to apply logic to someone with such a messianic complex and has succeeded in convincing himself that he was on a divine mission. He said those opposing him are insane, but it was him that looked to have a few screws loose. An awful lot may be wrong with Nigeria, which is driving many to want out, but there seems to be a lot wrong with Kanu upstairs.