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Nnamdi Kanu in the Channels TV interview

Nnamdi Kanu as a metaphor

A month ago, my boss, Kadaria and I, in a project for Channels TV, got to interview Nnamdi Kanu. It was an interesting drive from the hotel to his place in Umuahia. Two things that struck me, the organisation of his movement, and how close the Kanu compound is, to the Abia Government House. For crying out loud, there were policemen, a symbol of the Nigerian state, just chilling, and watching the whole show.

IPOB members form lines to let us through

Upon getting to the Kanu compound, we took a walk around, surveyed the crowd. There were at least twenty thousand people outside the compound, on Wednesday, 28 June, 2017. A workday.

Flag waving crowd outside Nnamdi Kanu’s house, Umuahia

For me, this is where the problem is, and I talked about it extensively for The Cable. We need to, very urgently, create jobs for our young people. These are people, at the prime of their lives, and they have nothing else to do, but wake up, dress up, and go and congregate outside of a man’s house. Make no mistakes, this is not an Igbo problem, it is a Nigerian problem. I have seen it in Kano. I have seen it in Makurdi. I have seen it in Warri. I have seen it in Ibadan. I have seen it in Lagos. Young people, who have nothing to do, and as a result, become willing to listen to whoever has whatever to say.

But there is another problem that bears noting — the cost of driving away some of our brightest young minds. On that day in Umuahia, I met a very interesting young man.

Young IPOB engineer being interviewed by Kadaria Ahmed

This young man’s story is at once tragic and infuriating. That bird he was holding in his hands, it flies. He built it. It says a lot about what is between his ears. In 2013, this young man won a scholarship, to study Mechanical Engineering at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO). Four years later, and he has never been to that institution.

Why has he not been?

His money was edited.

Herein lies the very corrosive nature of the kind of corruption that we practice in these parts. We have been naive in shouting “corruption, corruption, corruption”, without attempting to understand the nature of our corruption.

In Russia as an example, the siloviki, leave something for people lower down the food chain to feed on. That way, they are assured of some loyalty from those people. In Nigeria, our fat cats grab everything in sight.

This young man in this story, has been carrying the newspaper clipping of his scholarship award, and his award letter, since 2013. He has been carrying two pieces of paper around for four years!

Newspaper confirming young man’s scholarship award. Look towards the bottom

What does that tell you? It tells me that he is angry, and he is motivated. It matters not that the people who duped him are fellow Igbos. What matters is that his scholarship award letter has a Nigerian coat of arms. In his mind, it is Nigeria that has failed him, and he has logged out of Nigeria. Many in his shoes who have the means, simply dropped everything, and moved abroad. He does not have that option, thus, when Nnamdi Kanu came on the scene, he found fertile ground in this young man’s heart. If Kanu is “settled”, or neutralised, the young man’s problem will still remain. He is from a poor family, the kind who cannot afford even FUTO fees.

Meeting this young man, and quite a number like him, explained a lot. No, I am not afraid of Nnamdi Kanu. I am terrified of this young man, and the many like him, growing in number, whom Nigeria has failed.

By Cheta Nwanze.  This piece was first published in the Medium.

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