At the demonstration on Monday this week by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) at the Nigerian High Commission in London, demanding the freedom of their “leader” Nnamdi Kanu, who was arrested on 17 October in Nigeria, a sympathiser told me: “Older and wiser Igbos are watching the pro-Biafra protests and they tacitly support it. They are just waiting for the right time to come out openly in favour”.
So I naturally asked him how he knew this. Had he spoken to many older and wiser Igbos? Had he conducted a survey? Any evidence of this tacit support? The response was: “I just know”.
Today, I watched a recording of Kanu’s address to the World Igbo Congress in Los Angeles, and it demonstrated why he would alienate many Igbos that are capable of critical thought.
Watch the presentation here:
Viewers can make up their minds about the character Kanu, but these are what stood out for me.
He seemed to be a big fan of the Jewish struggle for the establishment of Israel. He referenced Golda Meir and how she appealed to US Jews to support the creation of Israel. He also seemed sure that Israel would support Biafra. He did not produce any evidence to support this claim. The evidence available shows that Israel has strong relations with Nigeria. Israelis were recruited by the military regime of Muhammadu Buhari to kidnap Umaru Dikko in London in the 1980s. Israel is also a close ally of the US, who are very likely to side with Nigeria against Biafra – like they did during the civil war. Israel also had close links with the apartheid regime in South Africa at a time Nigeria was at the forefront of supporting the liberation struggle in that country. Israel also has a very ugly history of discrimination against its black citizens such as the Falashas from Ethiopia, who are black Jews. Many have argued that Zionism is a form of racism. But Kanu seems to have ignored this evidence in trying to force an affinity with Israel.
Kanu appears to fail to understand the role Christianity plays in Igbo lives. He said if those people he was addressing did not act to bring Biafra to fruition they risked the wrath of “Chukwu Abiama”. The god of vengeance and damnation is unlikely to resonate with Igbo followers of Christ, with his message of love and forgiveness.
The Radio Biafra “director” came across as demagogue and a fascist. His Igbo supremacist talk about Igbos alone being the children of God is contrary to the message of Christ, which the majority of Igbos accept. Kanu is clearly also no democrat – which puts him at odds with Igbo traditional village democracy. He stated that if he could lay his hands on a gun, he would shoot any Igbo that voted for Buhari. Needless to say that many Igbos would find such extremist posturing troubling, even if they rejected everything Buhari stood for.
Kanu’s dabbling into spirituality with claims about Biafra being the “last miracle” and how “life as we know it will come to an end” with Biafran independence, as if Biafra was some sort of Zion, is unlikely to find him many followers among Igbo Christians.
One such Igbo critical thinker (around 30 minutes into the video) asked Kanu some killer questions about how just a “change in name” would change anything for Igbo people. He suggested Igbos should agitate to make things better in their state. And he illustrated his point with the critical reality about what has happened with South Sudan. All the euphoria at independence has all but died down as the country has descended into chaos and infighting.
Kanu didn’t really address that question.
He came up with an interesting theory about how you are Igbo if your mother “tied a two piece wrapper”. He further claimed that Ijaw, Idoma, Ibibio, Igala people were Igbo. He didn’t say if anyone from those groups was willing to become Biafran.
His understanding of history was a bit dodgy as well. He claimed the Igbo never conquered anyone and “nobody conquered us”. I would have thought that the fact Igbos are now in Nigeria made it clear that they were conquered by the British.
If Kanu’s aim was to secure the backing of “older and wiser” Igbos by addressing this gathering, it looks like he took that gun that he intended to use against Buhari’s supporters and shot himself in the foot.