Events after events have shown that the continued detention of the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, by the Federal Government of Nigeria needs a serious rethink. The matter is not only plaguing the country socially and politically, but its toll on the national economy is not difficult to fathom. The unfortunate irony yet is that while the two principal actors, President Muhammadu Buhari and Kanu, may have good intentions, they are fighting the wrong enemies.
Please hold your thoughts till the later part of this essay on the flaming issue of secession for which Nnamdi Kanu is now better known. For it may not occur to many that before Kanu became a recurring decimal of Buhari’s presidency, a major aim of Radio Biafra, in Kanu’s own words, was to uproot “all looters, embezzlers, kidnappers, sponsors of terrorism, child traffickers, corrupt judges, crooked university lecturers, murderous Nigerian security forces and all thieving individuals masquerading as public officials who steal public funds thereby preventing developmental projects from impacting positively on the lives of the ordinary people.”
Any read of the statement above readily shows that such aspect of Kanu’s advocacy is in tandem with Buhari’s standing vow for a corrupt-free Nigeria. If the rationale is inadequate, then consider that just about every group or leader who has pleaded for Kanu’s release suggested that lack of development provoked his advocacy. This goes without saying that the president and Kanu have common
foes in the corrupt leaders who plundered our common wealth during the last 16 years of the astronomical oil boom–that is, even before Buhari assumed democratic power.
Therefore, in case President Buhari and Mazi Kanu are yet to get it, which appears to be the case, their real enemies in this context ought to be the corrupt leaders from the Southeast (SE) and South-South (SS) zones of Nigeria who combined to hinder the provision of efficient public amenities as well as job opportunities in the Biafra land that drew the ire of Kanu in the first place.
More specifically, the enemies are the very politicians and contractors that connived to embezzle the funds budgeted for projects vital to the region, some of which include but are not limited to: The 2nd River Niger Bridge; East-West Highway; Enugu-Onitsha/Enugu-PH Expressways; Akanu Ibiam and PH International Airports; Calabar and PH Seaports; Dredging of River Niger; Eastern Gas Pipeline network (CAP); Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC); Legislative Constituency Projects; National Conference convened by President Jonathan that adopted, among other things, the restructuring of the country; the Constitutional Amendment, initiated under President Umaru Yar’Adua, and funded to the brim to address the concerns for equitable distribution of states and local governments.
A simple scan of these projects and their attendant ministries reveals that politicians from the South-East or South-South played one dubious role or the other in sabotaging the desired implementation or development. Needless to say, none of the states or local governments in the SE/SS zones is run by the Hausa or Fulani people–that Nnamdi Kanu has commonly blamed–but wholly by the natives themselves. Yet, there is no commensurate development in the area for their share of federal statutory allocations.
This outright rebuke of the SS/SE politicians must not be misconstrued as exalting those from other regions as saints. Far from that! The emphasis on SS/SE is because of the topic of Biafra. Besides, the very zones under review produced the then president (Goodluck Jonathan), then de facto Prime Minister (Ngozi Iweala), and the then Minister of Petroleum Resources (Diezani Madueke)—the specious trio who superintended the national treasury during the period their kinfolks were looting the project funds in the area.
In a normal clime, this sort of exposé would be sufficient to unmask the culprits linked with the money-spinners cited herein. But in the event that more specific details are needed, my identity has always been an open book. Moreover, this case will not require the state to dole out from its meager purse to fulfill the new policy on whistle-blowing. For quid pro quo is beneath my personal code of ethics in matters of public interest.
Change does not come easy, understood, but containing the situation in the east must not be a rocket science. Make no mistake about it; President Buhari deserves commendation for quietly undertaking some of the projects in the region that were funded but looted during previous administrations. Yet, to continue to punish the primary whistle-blower in Nnamdi Kanu while condoning the corrupt politicians–who return a portion of their loot–is sadly an oxymoron. In view of this irony, instead of the futile detention of Kanu, the masses prefer a leader that can summon the courage to expose the real enemies who had corralled the project funds into private bank accounts.
Any call for the release of Nnamdi Kanu easily stirs emotions, and that is understandable. The style of his advocacy alone is jarringly hostile and can constitute a problem by itself. But the manner of the man’s detention, including the state’s refusal to obey court orders, does not serve any good purpose. The only beneficiaries are the real enemies, the corrupt vortex of the opposition, who have nothing concrete to show for their time in office, but who are today having a field day, grandstanding as the champion for the oppressed, claiming the passionate desire to liberate Kanu while stoking a view of General Buhari as an unrepentant dictator determined to abridge freedom of speech in the land. Their ultimate goal, of course, is to capitalize on the Kanu saga to con the mass support needed to derail the president’s war against corruption.
Fifth columnists are sure to hide behind the urgency of Kanu’s threat of secession to continue to sidetrack Buhari from the right path to justice. But fighting the right causes through the wrong courses usually creates more problems than solutions. Moreover, the president does not need to be reminded that, similar to other multi-ethnic nations, for example, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom, there has always been, and will always be, threats for secession in Nigeria, regardless of who is in power. The manner of the approach is where leadership begins and ends.
SKC Ogbonnia writes from Houston, Texas.