Two days ago, the roads leading to Federal High Court in Abuja were heavily guarded by security operatives. At first view, an onlooker could mistake it for the security men guarding the route of a visiting president. Nonetheless, it was not a presidential visit but the visit of an African freedom fighter, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to Justice Binta Nyako’s court for the continuation of his trial after he abruptly left the country sequel to the alleged invasion of his hometown by people suspected to be Nigerian military on 10th September 2017. It was a special day to most Nigerians because the person charged, apart from being the most influential Igbo man living and adversary of the Nigerian government, is the leader of the proscribed freedom-fighting non-violent movement called Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which he founded in 2014.
Many cities in Igboland were summarily locked down to honour Kanu’s journey to justice. His diehard supporters, from far and near, converged in Abuja court in solidarity with their charismatic leader. Even, the rain that fell around the court premises did not deter them, after all, Igbo cosmology considers such occurrence as a mark of a blessing of the good thing about to happen. The presence of Ohaneze Ndigbo, especially, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife (Okwadike Ndigbo), showed that someone that enjoys the support of his people is greater than a wealthy man lacking his people’s support.
When Justice Binta Nyako commenced the case around 11.05 am, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu was nowhere to be found. The prosecution counsel, Mohammed B. Abubakar, blamed the nonappearance of Kanu for “logistics problems,” an excuse too hard to chew and too bitter to swallow. The argument of Abubakar for the court to commence the trial of Kanu in his absence was declined by Justice Nyako, who insisted that Defendant must be present in court, considering that the matter is a criminal case.
In the meantime, Kanu’s lawyer, Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor, informed the court of his inability to have access to Kanu for the past 8 days. He told Justice Nyako that he was afraid that his “client has been taken away, outside the jurisdiction of this court.” Agreeing with him, the judge allegedly ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) to give Kanu’s lawyers access to meet Kanu. Following that, the court adjourned the case to 21st October 2021, due to annual vacation.
Outside the courtroom, Chief Ezeife (Okwadike), who claimed that Kanu is his adopted son regretted the inability of the DSS to bring Kanu to the court after waiting for him for more than three hours in the court. On his part, Barr. Aloy Ejimakor, a seasoned lawyer, said that Kanu’s counsels have “made it clear in their applications, that the main charge, treasonable felony, is not supported by any written law in the federation of Nigeria. It’s there in section 36 sub-section 12 of the Nigerian constitution. No Nigerian can be tried for any offence that is not supported by the written law in Nigeria. And we have another law in this country; it is called the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, Ratification and Enforcement Act, Chapter A9, laws of the federation of Nigeria. Article 20 of that chapter made it clear that all citizens of Nigeria have the right to self-determination. It actually used the word “Self-determination.” I am not sure the office of the Attorney-General is aware of the existence of this law. Article 1 said that the Nigerian state must do anything possible to assist the citizens of Nigeria in expressing that right without any let or hindrance. So, the counsels are saying, ‘my lord, they don’t have a case before you,’” which will lead “to that inescapable conclusion that if there is no case before us, no case to be tried.”
It is possible that the lawyers’ tantalizing explanations gave consolation to the mammoth crowds that appeared to be Kanu’s supporters. In what seemed like a demonstration of their high spirit, the multitude was seen here and there gamboling joyously with a soul-healing song that “Nnamdi Kanu is another saviour.” The energy put in the song reminds someone of the struggle of the black South Africans before the shackle of apartheid was broken. But in this case, it is not against apartheid but a song for referendum, self-determination, and freedom, which should be inalienable rights. As this was playing out, a human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, was seen clad in a blue suit with a red Igbo titled cap to reflect his deep solidarity with the Igbo people in the trial of Nnamdi Kanu. Basklifenews.com learnt that Nigeria is practicing western democracy, in which the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. As it stands, Kanu is still innocent until otherwise.
But who is this captivating personality called Mazi Nnamdi Kanu? What made him attract and command the largest followers in Nigeria? Until these questions are answered many people may wallow in ignorance.
The 53-year-old Nnamdi Kanu is a native of Isiama Afara Ukwu town located in Umuahia, Abia State. His father, Eze Israel Okwu Kanu, was a king, which suggests that he could have been born with a silver spoon. After his primary education at Library Avenue Primary School, he schooled at the prestigious Government College Umuahia – a school that great minds Professor Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, Ken Saro-wiwa, Chukwuemeka Ike, Elechi Amadi, and so on. It was a school of note. As a brilliant child, he gained admission to study at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. After months of study, he got admission to London Guildhall University and studied Political Science and Economics, and graduated, missing First Class Division narrowly. He holds dual citizenship – Nigeria and British. This privileged background and glowing scholarship baked Mazi Nnamdi Kanu in the field of leadership and self-determination.
He came to the limelight when he became the Director of the Radio Biafra stationed in the United Kingdom, which was initially under Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) founded by Chief Ralph Uwazulike. Kanu’s intellectualism, eloquence, and articulateness galvanized a dedicated audience to him. In 2014, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu founded Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – another separatist group that adopted the nonviolent policy as propagated by Jesus Christ and implemented majorly by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
On 14th October 2015, Nnamdi Kanu was arrested by the DSS at the Golden Tulip Essential Hotel in Ikeja, Lagos State. The arrest triggered mass demonstrations majorly in the old Eastern region. On 23rd November 2015, Kanu was charged by the DSS in Wuse Zone 2 Senior Magistrates’ Court, Abuja Court for forming an illegal organization and engaging in criminality. Chief Magistrate Shuaibu Usman presided over the case. Later on, Justice Binta Nyako of the Abuja Federal High Court, relying on health grounds, granted Kanu bail and he was released after one of the brightest Igbo leaders, Senator Enyinnia Abaribe signed as his surety.
On 10th September 2017, Kanu went missing after his father’s palace was invaded by gunmen suspected to be Nigerian military. Many IPOB members were allegedly wounded and killed. Whereabout Mazi Nnamdi Kanu was unknown until unconfirmed photos showed him in Israel in October 2018. The thought of him as an invincible leader grew astronomically among his followers and observers. As such, many began to implore for the assistance of Chukwuokike which Kanu worshipped through Judaism. Thus, Kanu’s wand of control became spiritual and temporal. His supporters started believing his words as divinely revealed.
It is highly possible that the attack on his hometown fired up his agitation that was evident in some of his broadcasts, which were sometimes harsh, thorny, and provocative. He called for the boycott of the 2019 election, which he alleged to be “civil disobedience, passive resistance,” and “an expression of our resentment of Nigeria and what it represents.” He later lifted the boycott owing to the people’s reactions to it. This happened after the federal government, through the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami filed an ex-parte motion which made the Acting Chief Judge of the Abuja High Court, Justice Abdul Kafafati to make declaratory orders proscribing IPOB on 16th September 2017. According to the Judge’s declaration: “That an order, declaring the activities of the respondent – Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – in any part of Nigeria especially in the South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria amount to acts of terrorism and illegality, is granted.
“That an order, proscribing the existence of the respondent (IPOB) in any part of Nigeria, especially in the South-east and South-South regions of Nigeria either in groups or as individuals by whatever names they are called and publishing same in the official gazette and two national dailies, is granted.
“That an order, restraining any person or group of persons from participating in any manner whatsoever in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intention or otherwise of the respondent (IPOB) under any other name or platform however called or described, is granted.”
Meanwhile, as the herders and farmers clashes reached the apogee, coupled with the incessant killings, raping, banditry, kidnapping, and destruction of properties by the people believed to be armed herdsmen hiding in the eastern bushes, Kanu, in December 2020, declared the formation of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) to protect his people from the marauding criminals. He gave the southeastern governors fourteen days to prohibit open grazing.
From the beginning of 2021, there were confrontations alleged to be between the military and ESN. Later on, some armed men christened “unknown gunmen” attacked security personnel and burnt some government facilities, especially, police stations and offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Palpable fear gripped Igboland. Tension fattened up in the eastern part of Nigeria. The high watermark was the alleged order of Kanu for a total lockdown to honour the easterners that died during the Nigerian civil war. The compliance of the sit-at-home was so successful that Kanu’s name gathered momentum in the globe and became an embarrassment to the Nigerian government.
The camel’s back was broken when the Twitter firm removed a tweet purported to be President Buhari‘s tweet relating to the instability in the Southeast. Although Twitter gave reason for the removal of the post, it has already marched on the sleeping Lion’s tail, and it was suspended indefinitely – an action that has affected so many online businesses in Nigeria – an action government needs to give urgent consideration to boast back economy, especially among the unemployed youths. Nobody knew the next step Kanu would take. He had told his followers to start reading the Book of Psalms as instructed. Uncertainty grew with many wings, which no one could predict where it would fly.
Like a bolt from the blue came the news that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu was arrested and returned to Nigeria. Typical of Nigerians, many conflicting accounts of Kanu’s arrest hovered until the authentic version, which linked it to the authorities in Kenya came to the surface. It was alleged that Kanu came to Kenya for heart-related checkups and treatment. According to the interview Kanu’s lawyer, Aloy Ejimakor, granted to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Kanu was arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s car park by security men armed to teeth, alleged to be working for the Kenya government. He alleged that they took him to an undisclosed apartment and maltreated him severely and cruelly for some days. On 27th June 2021, Kenya security allegedly handed Kanu to Nigerian security agents that flew with him back to Nigeria. Confirming it, the Attorney General of Nigeria, Abubakar Malami, noted Kanu was caught “through the collaborative efforts of Nigerian intelligence and security services.” He was silent on where and Kanu was intercepted.
At first, Kenya High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Wilfred Machage, denied Kenya’s involvement stating that the “allegations are fictional, imaginary, and deliberately concerted to fuel antagonistic feelings among a certain section of the Nigerian people.” In his defense of President Uhuru Kenyatta, he said that “the Government of Kenya is particularly appalled by the spurious, derogatory and libelous mention of our President.” But shreds of evidence are too many to sweep Kenya’s involvement under the carpet. Many supporters of Nnamdi Kanu saw the alleged involvement of the Kenyan government in Kanu’s ordeal as a betrayal and treachery, considering that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was the Premier of Eastern Nigeria used part of Eastern regional government money to support the legal fee for the defense of Jomo Kenyatta for his alleged participation in Mau Mau revolt. Kanu’s sympathizers noted that the Easterners revered Kenyans so much so that they honoured and immortalized Jomo Kenyatta (the father of President Uhuru Kenyatta), naming a market and a street in his name in Enugu town – a significant town in Igboland.
Be that as it may, Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor, Kanu’s Counsel, has fiercely stated that the alleged forceful taken away of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu from Kenya was a “gross violation of Geneva convention protocol, which agreement Nigeria entered into in 2001. It is very fundamental. Because, as far as we are concern today, Nigeria’s image in the international community has been damaged, has been bastardized by the virtue of what has taken place. You don’t go to a foreign land and kidnap somebody. If the person has committed offence known to law, you subject him through what they called extradition proceedings. Then, the person will pass through extradition proceedings instead of smuggling him in what they called extraordinary rendition. That’s the very fundamental issue we are discussing before the International Court and International community.”
According to Ejiofor, “as I speak to you, we are aware that International community is following up the proceedings before this court, and they are aware that Nnamdi Kanu is in the detention facility of the DSS. If anything happen to Nnamdi Kanu today, the Federal Government, DSS, and all the authorities concern should be held responsible by the international community. Because, UK, USA, are in effective communication with our legal team as to what is happening in the case. I can confirm that to you today.”