By Nairalovers Nigeria
Between 2015 and 2017 when he was first arrested and tried, Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), had prodigiously worked himself into trouble with the State, trying to raise consciousness about an impending, separate Biafra Republic. The trial came to a halt when he jumped bail and fled to the United Kingdom. He holds a British passport. Between 2018 and when he was intercepted and hauled back to Nigeria last Sunday, the restless would-be revolutionary had in addition managed to talk himself hugely into trouble in his desperate and urgent bid to personify a renascent Biafra, the struggle for which was begun by MASSOBs Ralph Uwazuruike until it petered out into a phony struggle. Predictably, many analysts have scored the re-arrest of Mr Kanu as a plus for the Muhammadu Buhari presidency, and many northern commentators and politicians have gloated over the turn of event. It is also possible that in fact the administration itself feels triumphant, has rediscovered its masculinity, and developed a sense of self-pride at how adroitly it had begun to project state power after years of irresolution.
Days after Mr Kanu s interception, the Igbo, with the exception of a few of their leaders, have been subdued over the plight of the young liberator. They had always looked at him warily, and distrusted him, his methods, his goals and his extravagant and supercilious demeanour, but they also recognised that in general he was fighting a cause they did not find altogether disagreeable. Their ambivalence towards him notwithstanding, they do not forget that he is still their son to whom they feel a filial sense of obligation to protect. President Buhari may pretend as much as he wants, but in the tempestuous beginnings of Boko Haram, he not only felt a sense of loyalty to their murderous cause, he went a step further than the Southeast has done in the case of Mr Kanu, in giving public vent to his frustrations over the strong-arm manner the then president, Goodluck Jonathan, was dealing with the insurgency fathered by the northern militants in the Northeast. There wont be many south-easterners who will gloat over the interception of Mr Kanu regardless of their mistrust of the misguided revolutionary. They will leave that excess of emotions to the core North or other Kanu haters across Nigeria.
No matter how partial and injurious to rights which the first trial of Mr Kanu was, it was wrong of him to jump bail, endanger the finances and freedoms of those who stood surety for him, and take sides with the ranks of those who, like the administration itself, pick and choose which court decisions to obey and even which trial to undergo. Mr Kanu himself set the stage for his fugitive years by first flouting the terms of his bail, and then fleeing abroad when soldiers horrendously shot their way into his home. He has, however, claimed that he fled because the government wanted to murder him. But despite Mr Kanus distressing and feeble excuses, and regardless of his appalling style and behavior, not to say his incontrovertible lack of capacity and character to lead the gargantuan cause of fully reintegrating the Igbo into the countrys body politic, nothing excuses the Buhari administrations obsession with him. The young pretender is not the cause of the alienation felt by the Igbo, nor the real reason for the presidents innate distrust and dislike for the Igbo, nor his inability to run an inclusive government, nor the northern conviction that the Southeast is excessive in their demands for fairness and equality.
Mr Kanu is merely the current and probably ongoing manifestation of a much more alarming and underlying political disease that has both eroded and corroded Nigerias wobbly and untenable structure. He is not the only one angry with the exacerbated reality of a broken and so far unresponsive national political malaise. Different, strident voices are being raised in all parts of the country, provoked and aggravated by violent herdsmen and bandits against whom the administration has either vacillated or treated with kids gloves. Mr Kanu is, however, the most theatrical of all the voices, the most incomparable in appealing to the dispossessed of the Southeast, the most unusually charismatic. Before his interception, he painted the picture of a larger-than-life liberator with a divine mandate to procure freedom for the Igbo. The Igbo elite saw through his charade and dismissed his charlatanry as too feeble and brazen to hoodwink the sensible and educated. But, against all logic, the Buhari administration took fright and raised Mr Kanus noisome campaigns to the level of an apocalypse demanding urgent and frantic response. If the Igbo elite couldnt fight or resist IPOB, the administration reasoned, it must be because they were complicit, not because they lacked the means or the courage.
It is shocking and depressing that the administration expended so much time and resources to intercept a self-styled liberator who had frittered away the little goodwill he garnered in his boisterous and megalomaniacal face-off with the government, and who in recent weeks was on his way to obscurity. By bringing him in last week to resume trial, just as they inanely took him to trial in 2017, they have needlessly revived his feeling of self-importance and invested his campaign with the perfumery of revolution. Whether they try him in secret or not, concocted stories about his person and what he symbolises will waft into the media as well as into highly receptive and fertile public imagination. The administration is fixated on hearing itself only. It had been advised to ignore Mr Kanu and instead concentrate on pulling the carpet from under his puny feet by dialoguing with the south-eastern elite and addressing the issues that predispose the Igbo to resentment against the system. The heady and pugnacious administration chose to elevate what was clearly a disagreement into a major fight that has, leading to the exchange of incendiary, genocidal name calling.
Nothing useful will be gained by the resumption of trial. The IPOB leader is more charismatic under stress and mistreatment than under freedom. He will use this resumed trial to shore up his fading image and popularity, while the administration will seem contrastingly more biased, parochial, antidemocratic and evil than ever. Already Mr Kanus supporters are depicting him exaggeratedly as Nelson Mandela, asserting that his detention and trial will burnish his image and make Biafra more imminent. He will of course not be admitted to bail again, and his lawyers would probably not try to duel for one, but apocalyptic stories of how he is mistreated in detention would be smuggled out or disseminated in outbursts during his court histrionics. His trial will have zero positive impact on peace and security in the country or even on the Southeast, for, as everyone knows, what has exposed the country to brewing anarchy is not Mr Kanus hysteria, nor does he embody societal and governmental failings, but the administrations lack of inclusiveness, poor grasp of the demands of a complex and modern society, its voyeuristic look towards Niger Republic, and its jaded religious, economic and social policies that have pauperised the country and pitted the people against one another.
NIGERIANS two leading political parties are taking the country on an emotional and political rollercoaster. They are riddled with restless defectors who spare no consideration for visionary politics or morality. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), whose illustrious and precocious background should have led it to moderation and reason, is having the upper hand today in the defection gale. With three governors and many national lawmakers snatched from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in controversial circumstances in recent weeks, it hopes to sustain its own brand of political travesty longer than the opposition party did in its tumultuous years in power. Nigerians remember with dismay decades ago that when the PDP took office in 1999, rather than refine its governance ethics, expand and consolidate its ideological platform, and take a futuristic and remedial view of the defective constitution that brought it into office, it wasted no time in priding itself as the biggest party in Africa, casting wary glances at the rest of the world, and wondering if as a party it was not really unmatched in most countries save China, Russia and the United States.
Its spectacular collapse 16 years after it took office, many defections into the party later, and just a few years after it made its offensive and arbitrary boast of ruling Nigeria for some 60 years unchallenged, offer enough lesson for a reflective successor. Alas, the APC was just a strapping lad unable to match its precocity and bulging muscles with intellectual or emotional girth. A few years after it gained office in an unprecedented leap in 2015, a controversial re-election victory in 2019, and many crucial defections later, it has begun to act, govern and speak with the fascistic hubris that destroyed many statesmen and ruined kingdoms and empires. Today, the party enjoys overwhelming control of the executive, legislature and judiciary, and with its octopal grip being extended to the media, not to talk of the slow poison of a surreptitious hegemonic agenda, Nigeria seems truly on the road to fascism. But that fascism will probably begin innocuously as a one-party, China-like democracy midwifed by compliant and sycophantic lawmakers.
The PDP is being disembowelled through controlled and deliberate bleeding of its famished ranks, while the ruling party itself, purged of reason and dissent, is set to become a tool in the hands of executive and party apparatchiks to foist a stratified political, ethnic and religious structure upon the country. Ignore the presidents unsubtle and misleading analysis on ethnicity and religion. It may seem far-fetched, but since 2015, everyone who has underestimated the hawks who seized control of the ruling party has done so at their collective peril. There is nothing anybody can say now or do to dissuade the APC from executing its hidden agenda. That agenda first saw the diminution of the ANPP and APGA legacy components of the party, then the castration of the ACN component because its young and fiery leaders in State Houses and national legislature became unruly and ambitious, and now the least capable and least ideological component of the APC, the presidents CPC, has seized the commanding heights of the party and is putting the country to the torch.
The defections will continue apace; it is part of the grand agenda to make the 2023 polls a foregone conclusion. And since the APC is sold on winning elections by defections, it will let nothing stand in its way, be it ideology, morality or common sense. The whole defection brouhaha may in the end culminate in a one-party state, for the PDP is even more shell-shocked now than it was in 2015, hence its futile recourse to street protests. The PDP had the opportunity to erect a solid foundation for the country in 1999, but it chose to bluff and bluster its way to dominance. The APC is following suit, perhaps too young to know the difference or too foolish to care about being entrapped by the same snares that undid the former ruling party. Sadly, PDP leaders are unable to respond adequately to the defections and other attacks inspired by the APC. Before the next elections, the two parties may finally achieve indistinguishability. They both subscribe to the same realpolitik, the same amorality, the same subterfuges, the same lack of principles and character, the same fascination for autocracy. Neither takes precedence over the other in promoting monstrous political values. So, how can the PDP supplant or best APC using the same ammunition and tactics? As a party, the PDP may not believe in God; but now they may find themselves hoping for a miracle, for only God can generate the tsunami capable of unseating the tenacious and rapacious APC.
Recourse to legal options will also not avail the PDP much. Contrary to what opposition party leaders suggest, the defecting governors have constitutional and legal backing to play ducks and drakes with the electorates emotions as well as to frolic as much as they want with the political and existential questions of the moment. The defectors know that Sections 68 (1) (g) and 109 (1) (g) as well as Sections 135 and 180 of the 1999 Constitution back them either by adumbration or silence. In any case, the 2007 suit between the Attorney General of the Federation and Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president, virtually settles everything and legitimises the crass and amoral defections that have riddled the polity. The PDP will be tilting at windmills to think it can upturn the defections and restore the status quo. It had its chance to do right by the country for 16 years; it chose to trifle with the law and constitution. It had the chance to undergird Nigerian politics with requisite sound principles and structures; it instead played amoral politics, thereby setting a bad example for the APC to imitate. And since the APC is too immature to think of tomorrow, it will happily repeat the mistakes of the PDP and bungle its own future.
Clearly, Nigeria is heading for outright disaster. The PDP is too weakened, demoralised and mentally occluded to be of any help in providing a strong alternative to the marauding APC. The only option left is for nationalists and progressives from the North and South, indeed anyone who still believes in Nigeria and their number is shrinking rapidly to unite and save the APC from itself, or to create a third force to save Nigeria. No one should expect a miracle from a party that renamed its party headquarters after a sitting president, or a president whose dismissive characterization of party leaders as controlling and grasping does not inhibit him from sitting in the presidency and controlling and grasping the party as well as extending the tenure of its convention planning caretaker committee indefinitely. As this column warned last week, institutions are being vanquished, dictatorship is being promoted, divisions are being accentuated, and the security and law enforcement agencies are being deployed selectively against unarmed agitators and in favour of armed nihilists. The soul of Nigeria has never been so grieved, no not even during the civil war.