Nnamdi Kanu And The Cry For Biafra, By Femi Fani-Kayode

Editor’s note: Femi Fani-Kayode, Nigeria’s former aviation
minister and influential opinion-maker, weighs in on Nnamdi
Kanu, the Radio Biafra director’s, precedent, and President
Muhammadu Buhari’s stance on the matter.
Nnamdi Kanu
I am not a Biafran and neither am I Igbo. I do however
believe that it is the inalienable right of any human being or
ethnic nationality to aspire to be free and to be able to
determine their own destiny. The right of self-determination
is enshrined in international law and it is guaranteed by every
moral stricture known to man.
It is a right that has been exercised successfully over and
over again in world history and it has led to the creation of
new nations which were carved out of older ones. The denial
of that right and the suppression and persecution of those
who attempt to exercise it leads to nothing but defiance,
dissent and resistance and, if not properly managed, it
eventually spills over into war and carnage.
This has been the primary cause of most of history’s most
brutal civil wars, including the American, Russian, French,
English, Indian, Sri Lankan, Sudanese, Nigerian, Angolan,
Congolese, Zimbabwean, Yugoslavian, Ukrainian,
Nicaraguan, Cuban, Irish, Syrian, Libyan, Indonesian, Korean,
Vietnamese, Spanish, Iraqi, Italian, Lebanese ones and
countless others. I do not believe in violent change and
neither do I believe in war, revolution, terror or the use of
arms in the pursuance of even the most noble causes.
I do however believe in the power of ideas and the right of
any man, woman or people to yearn to be free from
bondage and to peacefully and freely express that yearning.
It is in this context that I situate my belief in and support for
those that view the Nigerian Federation as an oppressive
entity which has effectively enslaved its people in an attempt
to create what is essentially an artificial and unworkable state.
Those that believe in Nigeria have every right to continue to
do so and to voice their resolve to keep Nigeria one. What
they do not have the right to do is to refuse to offer the same
degree of freedom of expression to those that do not believe
in a united Nigeria and who instead believe in the peaceful
dissolution of our nation to speak their minds and voice their
views. What is good for the goose is surely good for the
gander. You cannot grant one side of the divide freedom of
expression whilst you deny it to the other.
This is all the more so because freedom of expression is the
lifeblood of any democracy. It must be accorded in equal
measure to those that believe in Nigeria and to those that do
not. It is in this light that we must consider the plight of Mr.
Nnamdi Kanu, the director of Radio Biafra and the man that
has been described by the Igbo World Assembly as
“Buhari’s first political prisoner”.
We may not like his style, we may not like his radio station,
we may not share his views or approve of his methods but
one thing that we cannot take from Mr. Kanu is his right to
hold such views and to express them in a peaceful and
lawful manner no matter how distasteful those views may
be to some. To deny him this most basic human right is not
only an act of intellectual terrorism but it is also the most
grave and barbaric manifestation of what is essentially an
evolving police state where different or contrary views
cannot be accommodated by those in power.
When Mr. Alex Salmon and his Scottish Nationalist Party
began the agitation for the dissolution of the United Kingdom
and for the establishment of Scottish independence many
years ago they were not charged to court, locked up
indefinitely or murdered by the British authorities but instead
they were eventually given the opportunity to participate in a
referendum and test their ideas. The same thing happened in
the Catalan region of Spain where the agitation for the
establishment of a new nation is compelling and very
popular.
The same thing happened a number of years ago in the
Quebec region of Canada. It also happened in a region called
East Timor which opted to leave Indonesia, and in Singapore
which opted to leave Malaysia. The same process was
adopted when Georgia, Ukraine and all the other former
Soviet states opted to leave Russia, and when the Czech
Republic opted to break off from Slovakia. The utility and
importance of conducting a referendum on such matters in
order to determine the true will of the people and to honor
the findings of that referendum cannot be underestimated
and it remains the only path for peace.
President Buhari who, like most in his generation, is still stuck
in the mindset of a civil war general, has refused to learn
from this. The biggest mistake and miscalculation of his
administration so far is not the ruthless implementation of its
patently and monstrously unapologetic northern and Islamic
agenda but rather its absurd resolve to lock up Mr. Kanu
indefinitely and to effectively throw the key away simply
because he dared to call for the establishment of Biafra.
As far as I am aware, Mr. Kanu has not used or advocated
the use of violence whilst expressing himself and neither
have any of his supporters. One therefore wonders what
has panicked the Federal Government to such a point that
they not only have to lock him up but that they also have to
violate the law of the land by not allowing him to see his
lawyer and by not presenting him before a court of law and
charging him within the constitutionally-prescribed three
days.
State-sponsored violence and intimidation, the violation of
human rights, illegal incarceration, the murder of innocents
and the vicious suppression of legitimate ideas leads to
nothing but hardened hearts, greater defiance and the spread
of anger and dissent. The principle is simple and clear: the
more you fan the flame of tyranny and repression the more
the passion and fire of liberty spreads.
It follows that the biggest favor that President Buhari’s
security agencies could have done for the Biafran cause was
to lock up Mr. Kanu and thereby transform him from being a
little-known secessionist into the living symbol of the Biafran
struggle, a respected freedom fighter, a champion of the
Igbo people and an internationally-acclaimed political
prisoner.
It is no wonder that leading politicians from all over the
world, including the former Home Secretary and former
leader of the Labor Party in the United Kingdom, Mrs. Harriet
Harman QC, have called for his release. The Russian and
Israeli governments have also expressed concern and done
the same.
Their call was the right and proper thing to do and I add my
voice to that call. I have never met or spoken to Mr. Kanu but
I am moved by his passion and courage. I am also
persuaded by the logic and force of his public assertions. He
has made a compelling case for the establishment of Biafra
and millions of young Igbos from all over the world have
bought into it.
It is left for those that do not agree with him to make a better
case and to stem the Biafran tide. That is the monumental
challenge that those that do not agree with Mr. Kanu’s views
or his methods have. I have not always been on the same
page with our Igbo brothers yet despite that one thing is
clear: only the callous would deny the fact that they have
suffered immeasurably in the Nigerian Federation over the
last 50 years.
Only the uninformed would deny the fact that they have
been butchered, murdered, persecuted, broken, humiliated,
insulted, cheated and treated with contempt and disdain
more than any other ethnic group in the country since July
1966.
What the Nigerian state is confronted with in the new
generation of Igbos who refuse to be cowed is a time-bomb.
Unlike their fathers they cannot be appeased or intimidated.
They are not fearful of the prospect of a second civil war.
They are not prepared to settle for crumbs and neither do
they fear death, conflict, defeat, incarceration, butchery or
persecution.
They are imbued with a spirit that cannot be suppressed,
and the more they cry “Biafra,” the more the spirits of the
millions that were slaughtered on the Biafran side during the
civil war are invoked. The more they cry “Biafra,” the more
the souls of the hundreds of thousands of their people that
were butchered during the barbaric pogroms in the north in
the mid-60’s and thereafter are remembered.
The more they cry “Biafra,” the more they remember how
their fathers were stripped of everything after the civil war
and how they have been denied the opportunity to rise to
the highest office in the land. The more they cry “Biafra,” the
more they acknowledge and recognise the bitter fact that the
Buhari administration regard their kith and kin as nothing
more than third class citizens and pitiable prisoners of war.
The worst thing that the Nigerian authorities can do is to treat
them with levity or contempt.
They are angry, they are fed up, they refuse to be enslaved,
they want a brighter future and they have come to realise
that they have nothing to lose. The most inappropriate thing
that President Buhari can do is to continue to underestimate
the power of their resolve or the clarity of their intent. The
worst thing that they can do is to begin to jail them, to shed
their blood and to take their lives.
The more you lock up the Biafrans, the more they will rise
up. The more you mock them, the more they will shout.
The more you kill them, the more their anger will be kindled.
The more you deny them, the more they will wax stronger.
The more you treat them with disdain, the more they will
defy you. The more you treat them like slaves, the more
they will aspire to break off and take their destiny into their
own hands. You cannot resist an idea whose time has come.
This is a fact that we must all accept, and it is with this in
mind that I urge President Buhari and the federal
government to not only release Mr. Nnamdi Kanu but also to
tread with the utmost restraint and caution when dealing
with those that are agitating for Biafra.
Femi Fani-Kayode
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely
those of the original author. These views and opinions do
not necessarily represent those of Naij.com, its editors or
other contributors.

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