I remember tweeting about him, and how dangerous “Director” is, in November 2014 after listening to one of his broadcasts. I also remember Chinedu Ekeke talking about Nnamdi Kanu during the same period.
In typical Nigerian fashion, we were ignored, and now the situation is out of hand.
The same way, I remember telling no less a person than the man who will be our Minister of Information, just a few weeks ago, about the problem in the Middle Belt. It is being ignored. Then when it gets out of hand, we will wonder what went wrong.
For those of you that live in Lagos, as of this time last year, we used to have four deliveries of tomatoes a week in Lagos. Today, we have one. Why do we keep pretending?
I get mildly irritated when people who ought to know better, label my call for caution as ‘supporting Biafra” despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Be that as it may, I do not subscribe to the Nigerian habit of shutting down any opposing argument by ascribing labels to people. Like it or not, a debate means listening to all views, including those which vex you, analysing all the positions, and charting a way forward from there.
This is why this latest attempt to politicise the Biafra marchers by labelling them TAN is a slippery slope. It dilutes the conversation. We need to separate IPOB from TAN. The two organisations are different. It’s hard work mentally, but we need to decouple the TANites, and IPOB and treat them as separate movements.
Unlike those motivated by stipends to get involved in conversations, many of the people behind IPOB are motivated not by money, but by an idea. The way to defeat an idea is by superior argument, not by brute force.
For those who want to listen, we can, for the sake of argument, classify all Igbo people into three groups. Those who live in Igboland are, in general, the poorest. Most of the marchers come from among their number. Those who live outside Igboland, but in Nigeria, 45% of Igbos, tend to believe in Nigeria, and are not interested in, or support IPOB. IPOB’s main financial backing comes from those outside of Nigeria.
These are the facts: Kanu’s movement started around 2012, with money raised from Igbos in the Nigerian diaspora. Kanu has been, for at least two years, abusing the Nigerian establishment, including former President Jonathan. Kanu’s people were the inspiration behind the Biafra Zionist Movement who attacked the Enugu Government House in 2014. After the elections, and we all saw it, things quietened down, then Kanu came to Nigeria.
You know the reason he came to Nigeria? Because things had gone quiet. He had to justify the money he had raised, and our security services, as I’ve said before, gave him what he was looking for.
Now, that Nnamdi Kanu is in detention, HE MUST NEVER BE RELEASED.
But, it is important that such a process must be done within the ambit of the law. His incarceration must be legal, not like that of Ben Onwuka who led the attack on EGH, and is still in detention without trial. That actually gives these guys a justification. We must follow due process and not waste time.
Now while there is the possibility that some elements of the defeated PDP in the region are taking advantage of the current disaffection, we need to CORRECTLY identify the problem in order to isolate and destroy it. We have been doing the same thing for 45 years without results. What is so hard in changing approach?
Now about Nigeria’s nationhood, because this is what we are debating – get this straight, Nigeria is not sacrosanct. A nation is an idea. To keep it going, it must be the superior idea in its geographical space.
Just this week, I spoke with some chap who believes that Louisiana will do better if it is separate from the United States. Some states in the US still fly Confederate Flags 150 years after the end of their Civil War. But in America, such people are on the fringes.
You WILL ALWAYS have the man who believes that separatism is best. In other countries, they defeat such people with better ideas, in Nigeria we keep trying to use brute force. The problem with brute force is this: we never get to the root of the problem, and a few years down the line, the problem will resurface.
The root cause of the issue is this: Nigeria is not working, whether we care to admit it or not. If Nigeria starts working, most people will default to their normal cares, and the demagogues will be pushed to the fringes.
I believe in the indivisibility of Nigeria, I have said so over the years so many times. However, I also believe that Nigeria has to take a different path from the one she currently is on, because the path we have been on since 1966 is clearly not working. Charting a different course requires taking a pause, and asking hard questions, no matter how uncomfortable the answers may be.
Cheta Nwanze is journalist and information technology professional. He is a political activist and social affairs commentator. He tweets from @Chxta.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.