Nnamdi Kanu fled Nigeria following the attack on his home on September 10, 2017, but that did not stop his rhetorics, which the government considers inciting, writes ROBERT EGBE.
When the military and other security agencies raided Nnamdi Kanu’s home in Umuahia, Abia State on September 10, 2017, it cast doubt on the genuineness of the Federal Government’s intention to respect the bail granted him by Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) had regained temporary freedom on health grounds five months earlier after nearly two years in detention following his arraignment on November 23, 2015, over alleged “criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organisation” and subsequently “treasonable felony.”
On no fewer than seven occasions, Kanu appeared to deliberately violate some of the 12 conditions attached to his bail by granting interviews to The Sun and Deutsche Welle, and holding court in the company with crowds, far more than the 10 people allowed him by the court.
But his sympathisers, including one of his sureties Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and even many independent observers justified his decision to flee (probably unlawful) re-arrest and possible death at the hands of the soldiers.
The security forces’ action – whether justified or not – was seen by many as an attempt to take by might, what the court had granted Kanu by right.
Abaribe, seeking to escape paying the N100million bail bond, asked the court to compel then Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai to produce Kanu on the ground that the IPOB leader’s disappearance was caused by the “whimsical, capricious, subversive and extra-judicial self-help” embarked upon by the army on Buratai’s orders.
Nevertheless, whatever goodwill the attack blew Kanu’s way rapidly dissipated following Kanu’s utterances after he jumped bail.
Rhetoric of hate
The separatist leader resumed his rhetoric of what many saw as hate and incitement against the Federal Government, the Fulani and Hausa political elite, Fulani cattle herders, Igbo political leaders and elite, especially governors, some Yoruba leaders, leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) Ralph Uwazurike, co-Biafra agitator Asari Dokubo and anyone else who disagreed with or opposed his Biafra strategy.
From London, Jerusalem or wherever else he was, he dished out orders to and inspired an army of Igbo and even Southsouth youths to follow his secessionist strategy, often through incitement to violence and hate speech.
Some of his favourite insults – adopted by many of his followers on social media – were “Zoo” (Nigeria) “Zoo animals” (Nigerians or policemen) and “Efulefu” (a useless person).
Death threat against Obasanjo
For instance, sometime in 2017, a video of Kanu was released wherein he issued an open death threat to former Nigerian president Chief Obasanjo. He had told a gathering of supporters at his home that if any harm came to him, IPOB members should eliminate Obasanjo and his lineage. This was about Obasanjo’s statement at a gathering in Abuja that all must be done to stop IPOB.
In August 2019, former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu was beaten up by Biafra agitators in Nuremberg at an event organised by “Ndigbo Germany”.
IPOB claimed responsibility for the attack which it said “should serve as a warning” to Igbo leaders “that any day we find them in a public event abroad, they will be humiliated”.
IPOB’s spokesperson, Emma Powerful, who said Kanu gave the directive for the attack, named other Igbo leaders marked for similar attacks to include the governors of Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia and Anambra states. He also included Ohanaeze Ndigbo president-general Nnia Nwodo, in the list.
Last August, Bavaria state police convicted and sentenced four IPOB members for the attack.
Kanu, during last October’s #EndSARS protest, was reported to have asked protesters in the region to destroy the properties in the Southeast belonging to the Yoruba — an allegation the IPOB leader denied.
He was also reported to have asked protesters to kill policemen on Obigbo, Rivers State and soldiers, including the commander of the soldiers that were active at the Lekki Tollgate, who he believed was Igbo.
Notwithstanding his denial, the allegation drew condemnation from many Igbo, including the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council which cautioned him against inciting violence in the region.
“If the police moves, you move them. You know that’s what they used to say to us before…if the police try anything, get hold of them and kill them. That is the price they are going to pay. Anywhere they kill somebody, any police station around there should be burnt to the ground. Every police person caught in a police station should be killed. They’re zoo animals…..” Kanu was reported to have said in an audio that trended during the near nationwide protests.
“If Kanu asks us to move into Aso Rock, we are going there”
One of those inspired by Kanu is the commander of the Eastern Security Network, Ikonso Don, who was killed by soldiers in April.
In a 2019 video that surfaced in April, Ikonso said he had pledged his allegiance to Kanu, and if there was an order for them to invade Aso Rock in Abuja, they were ready to go without being afraid for their lives.
Ikonso sometime in 2019 spoke in reaction to a viral bedroom photograph of Kanu and a lady believed to be the IPOB leader’s wife.
He said: “Whoever posted that video on the internet, we don’t care. If you don’t get your death from now till one week, you will know that it is not Chukwu we are serving. The next thing is to post a picture where he posed with his wife. It is a normal thing. If Kanu asks us to move into Aso Rock, we are going there; you illiterates and arrogant people. Thunder fire your generation!”
The ESN leader was killed by the army last April
Many observers have attributed Kanu’s rhetoric to the Igbo or IPOB members being pushed to the wall by atrocities committed by security forces in the Southeast.
Army kills 17 IPOB members
For instance, Amnesty International said in June 2016 that Nigerian soldiers killed at least 17 people during a peaceful gathering of Biafran separatists Onitsha. The military denied the allegations.
Facebook removes Kanu’s page
On February 4, Facebook removed Kanu’s page for violating its rules on harm and hate speech.
Kanu’s page was removed for repeated violation of its community rules.
He had posted a video of a militia group attacking and killing cattle in a herders’ settlement.
He also used the live broadcast to accuse herders of destroying farmlands in eastern Nigeria.
ESN/Unknown gunmen controversy
In December 2020, Kanu announced the formation of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), a regional security force.
Kanu later gave all the governors of southeast Nigeria 14 days to ban open-grazing, threatening to deploy the ESN to enforce a ban if the authorities did not do so.
The Federal Government’s response to the formation of the ESN led to the Orlu Crisis, which started a week-long military confrontation in which the ESN threw back an initial Nigerian Army offensive, prompting the deployment of reinforcements.
Before another offensive was launched, Kanu ordered the ESN to withdraw to the bush, temporarily ending the confrontation. But the army and air force renewed hostilities on February 18 by launching a military offensive against the ESN; the next day, IPOB declared that as of 18 February, a state of war had existed between Nigeria and Biafra.
Violence has flared in the southeast this year, claiming the lives of at least 127 police or members of the security services.
Some 20 police stations and election commission offices were attacked. IPOB denied that it was responsible, but it suspected to be behind the attacks through its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network.
Tensions ran high on May 40 in the Southeastern as IPOB commemorated the more than one million people who died in the Biafra war and famine of the late 1960s.
IPOB ordered everyone to remain indoors for their safety, otherwise, they could become “the target of our enemies.”
Several people were however injured while a few lives were lost following attacks by suspected IPOB members.
Kanu is currently facing treason charges at the Federal High Court in Abuja.