As Nnamdi Kanu turns into a fugitive, on the run from the Nigerian military who raided his home in Afaraukwu, Abia State last week, a fierce debate is raging among those who supported his separatist cause.
Kanu is the self-appointed leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), advocating the secession of southeast Nigeria, who are majority Igbos, from the rest of the country. He seemed to have grown into almost mythical status following his arrest in October 2015, long detention and release on bail in April this year.
Since he came out from Kuje Prison, Kanu has drawn massive crowds at pro-Biafran rallies and many so-called Igbo leaders and politicians have been falling over themselves to pay homage, hoping some of Kanu’s stardust would rub off on them.
The army’s attack on Kanu’s home, his apparent escape and subsequent declaration by the military that IPOB is a “militant terrorist organisation”, seem to be game changers. No one is quite sure about the number of casualties from the raid. But several people, who are sympathetic to the Biafran cause, have started questioning whether IPOB supporters killed by the army have died in vain.
One such person is a Biafran activist, who spoke to Naijiant.com yesterday evening. He was very bitter about Kanu’s “stubbornness”, which the activist believes has “set the Biafran cause back several years”. He claimed he sent a memo to Kanu, after the IPOB leader was released from prison. The memo articulated a “way forward” for Igbos in Nigeria, involving “intellectuals” and “respected elders”. The activist advised Kanu to “carry everyone along”.
He claimed in the memo that 60% of Igbos supported Biafra, but 40% didn’t. Therefore it was necessary for the Biafran dream to be parked until all dissenters were brought on-board. Instead of campaigning for separation, he advised Kanu to work with Igbo “intellectuals” and “respected elders” such as former vice president Alex Ekwueme, constitutional lawyer and professor Ben Nwabueze and others to articulate a “restructuring” programme for Nigeria that would lead to the “development” of the southeast region.
The activist was disappointed when Kanu ignored his advice. He said the adulation from supporters got to Kanu’s head and he started acting like a demigod. The activist was disgusted with Kanu and the IPOB followers that genuflected before him. He went on to say “I believe in Biafra. I’m Biafra through and through. But Kanu was the wrong man to lead the movement.”
To buttress this point he claimed that Kanu lacked the intellect, character and disposition for leadership. He said “this was a guy that didn’t amount to much before he became involved in Radio Biafra”. Radio Biafra was an online station from where Kanu, then based in London, rose to infamy as a shock jock before his arrest during a visit to Nigeria. The pro-Biafran activist said Kanu had worked in Dublin, Ireland as a cleaner before getting the Radio Biafra gig.
It is not quite clear how the events of the past few days will pan out, with IPOB labelled a terrorist group and their leader on the run. But the activist, once one of Kanu’s strongest allies, now believes that the movement is on the ropes and it would be a struggle to recover.