The conspicuous silence from Ndigbo generally regarding the predicament of Nnamdi Kanu is now amplifying to an untenable magnitude. The veneer of complacency adopted by the Ndigbo, Ohanaeze, the South East, and all Igbo groups in the face of this unsettling situation is no longer defensible as safe, fair, or just. It’s untenable for these entities to maintain a façade of tranquillity, feigning normalcy, when in truth, the current circumstances bespeak anything but well-being.
Kanu, who is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), might have his shortcomings, but regardless of the prism from which one decides to view it, the challenge he undertook, which landed him in the net of the Department of State Services (DSS), had the collective good of Ndigbo in mind. He wasn’t fighting for himself. He was ostensibly fighting for the emancipation of Biafra, which is predominantly made up of Ndigbo.
He might have made several mistakes as the imperfect mortal that he is, but the truth, which anyone who values the truth will agree with, is that his kidnapping in Kenya in 2021 was part of a well-orchestrated plot against Ndigbo. It wouldn’t be so difficult for anyone who does not believe this to cast their mind back to the events that took place shortly after his brutal and extraordinary rendition from the lawless East African country. At that time, there was huge jubilation among Northerners, and Nigeria’s former Attorney-General and quota system-produced Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had to openly appear on National television to gloat over it when he addressed a press statement to the country in Hausa!
The Nigerian state has absolutely zero respect for Igbo people, and this is a fact that cannot be denied by any conscientious individual. They have continued to plot ways to undermine and degrade them to the lowest of places and standards. What is now confusing is why Ndigbo, who are on the receiving end of these evil plots, have opted for a grave silence in the face of injustice.
For over two years, Kanu has been left at the mercy of fate in the custody of the DSS, who have perfected plans to allow him to die slowly. They have resisted calls for independent medical evaluation and critical medical attention to enable him to regain his health. They blatantly flouted court orders, and intentionally frustrated judicial proceedings, leaving everyone without any iota of doubt that they are not interested in allowing Kanu to regain his freedom for any reason, no matter how morally just and legal.
It will be recalled that in October 2022, Kanu was discharged and acquitted by the court of appeal in Nigeria. A three-man panel of judges of the Appeal Court had, in its unanimous judgment, quashed the remaining seven-count charges preferred against Kanu by the federal government and consequently discharged him, only for the lawless federal government to choose to act otherwise. This all happened in full view of the public.
The court, in its ruling, which came as a rude shock to the then President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, held that the IPOB leader was ‘extraordinarily’ renditioned to Nigeria and that the action was a flagrant violation of the country’s extradition treaty, also a breach of his fundamental human rights. In a style for which it was known, it disobeyed that court judgement and continued to hold unto Kanu.
By not releasing him unconditionally as ordered by its own courts, the federal government violated his rights to personal liberty as stipulated under section 35 of its own constitution. The Buhari government ignored the fact that the personal liberty of a citizen cannot be taken under any guise, and they went on to appeal the case at the Supreme Court while holding on to him.
The truth of the matter remains that Kanu’s arrest, detention, acquittal, and subsequent continued stay in the DSS dungeon have raised concerns about the preservation of fundamental human rights and the need for justice and fairness within the Nigerian legal system. It has proven to the world without any doubt that Nigeria is a very lawless country.
It is actions like this that have contributed in no small measure to earning Nigeria an unflattering reputation as the graveyard of injustice. Anyone who has monitored the situation in Nigeria will not need to be told that the country is a place where the rule of law is almost non-existent and citizens more often than not have to resort to self-help to assert themselves whenever there is a need to seek redress. The government, whose duty it is to uphold and enforce the rule of law, has continued to selectively smash and break it, leaving its citizens disoriented, disenchanted, and disappointed.
Amid this madness, Ndigbo cannot and must not keep quiet. It has become imperative for Ohanaeze and all Ndigbo to harness their collective strength and voice to exert pressure on the President of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to secure Kanu’s release, which will then pave the way for Nigeria to be re-discussed and perhaps renegotiated.
If truly Ohanaeze Ndigbo represents the collective aspirations and interests of the Igbo people, the time has come for them to show it by making the push for the release of Kanu a priority that cannot be negotiated on the altar of pecuniary politics.
Ndigbo have long sought recognition, respect, and equal opportunities within Nigeria and on many occasions, they have been denied by the oppressive Fulani Oligarchy that runs the country. By uniting under a common cause—ensuring justice for Nnamdi Kanu—Ndigbo will once again, be presented with an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of their unity and the power of their collective voice. The message of this unity is one that they cannot afford to gamble with because they need it to assert themselves.
Regardless of one’s political stance or which end of the divide one belongs to, it has become very pertinent to recognise that every individual in the country deserves a fair and unbiased legal process. In the case of Kanu, that has not in any way been the case. Ohanaeze and indeed, all Ndigbo must now speak up to emphasise that the case of Kanu has not been treated with the utmost transparency, and given the undeniable fact that due process is not being followed, the only way out is his unconditional release.
Ohanaeze and all governance of South-East extraction must at this point begin serious engagement with Tinubu and other influential individuals in Nigeria, urging them to use their positions to advocate for justice and the release of Kanu. To do this effectively, all they will need to do is highlight the importance of upholding human rights and the rule of law, which have so far been thrown to the dogs.
The detention of Nnamdi Kanu has reignited conversations about the need for a national dialogue on issues of marginalization, secessionist movements, and the restructuring of Nigeria. Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the South-East Governors Forum must at this point unite and seize this opportunity to foster meaningful conversations that address the root causes of these grievances. These conversations must be held, and to make that happen, all hands must be on deck.
Ndigbo must come to the realisation that securing the release of Kanu will have far-reaching implications beyond the immediate concern of all freedom. It will send a powerful message of justice across the land. It will foster a sense of belonging among the Igbo people while making them see the reason to prioritise the development of Igbo land. While on this noble mission, Ohanaeze Ndigbo must not fail to lay emphasis on the fact that their pursuit of justice for Kanu is about doing the right things and about restoring much-needed peace to the South East.
In conclusion, Ndigbo must understand that it is not Kanu that is on trial but the entire Igbo race, hence, they must now begin to make concerted efforts to pile up serious pressure on Tinubu to immediately release him. Injustice to one is certainly injustice to all.