As The World Turns: Nnamdi Kalu, Buhari And The Rest Of The World — Vitus Ozoke

By Ikenga Chronicles January 11, 2017

If anyone had told me that one of the major public relations nightmares of the Buhari government in 2017 would be Nnamdi Kanu and the other IPOB prisoners of conscience, I would have easily waved off such a person. Yet, here we are in the early days of January 2017, and this is Buhari’s New Year gift to a major national ethnic bloc. However anyone looks at this issue, whatever principled position anyone decides to take, and many such positions have already been taken, it offers no sustainable positives for the Buhari government.

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Clearly, this is a badly managed situation. This is a self-inflicted black eye for the Buhari government. Governmental activity watchers would have been having fun following this drama, except that it is becoming too dangerous, and fraught with enormous high-stake risks, to be entertaining. Because the government has badly bungled this matter, Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB crusaders will feature prominently, and embarrassingly for the Buhari government, as the world transitions into a new order in 2017.

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This year, and a few more following it, will witness an odd coalition of legitimacy-driven populist forces. When that happens, the jailers of popular prisoners will find themselves in the crosshairs of both personal and institutional legitimacy campaigns.

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Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom, who stood in the way of the BREXIT tidal currents of 2016, still has to gain the trust of a BREXIT nation that she can commit to the liberating ideals of the movement. Her honeymoon with BREXIT stakeholders is over; it ended with 2016. Theresa May has 2017 to prove her bona fide.

Across the Atlantic, Donald Trump will in a week cheerlead the crowning of the ultimate unorthodoxy ever witnessed in American presidential politics. With everything about him in serious question – his person, family, business ties, mental competency, and intellectual acuity – Trump will be looking to close a huge legitimacy gap, a gap that morphs into a gulf when you throw into the mix the fact that he lost the popular vote by more than two million ballots. And because so much is up in the air, and he is an erratic and impulse-driven fella, Trump will engage the task of legitimacy building with a sense of both urgency and emergency. He will get to work in 2017.

A couple of hundred miles from Washington DC, the newly minted United Nation’s Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, will be looking to reposition the world body from his Manhattan office in New York. With its founding charter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a buy-in from the United Nations into this odd coalition for the effectuation of peoples’ rights and liberty is an easy sell. And if there is one institution that is best primed to lead the charge, it is the United Nations. Secretary Guterres only needs to decide who stands to his left and who to his right in a populist photo-up with Theresa May and Donald Trump in this legitimacy solidarity kumbaya.

That is the 2017 calendar picture of a segment of the world with real interest in Nigeria. The interests are non-pecuniary, they are driven by profounder values than bottom lines. So, even though China is all over Nigeria, chasing joint venture and foreign direct investment opportunities, don’t expect China in that picture. China is not interested in any peoples’ human rights and liberty, including those of the Chinese. That is the face of the world that the Buhari government will be dealing with in a very short order. It is going to be a world driven by self-interest, the interest of an eclectic amalgam of legitimacy-challenged leaders who are out to meet that challenge from wherever the opportunity presents itself. Buhari’s senseless continued incarceration of Nnamdi Kanu and his co-traveling Biafranists presents that opportunity.

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On the local scene, I suspect a renewed agitation for the unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu and his friends. Chief John Nnia Nwodo has just been elected the new president of the Ohaneze – the self-acclaimed torch bearers of the Igbo nation. Like the legitimacy-driven individual actors on the world stage, Ohaneze as a group is bereft of legitimacy. Ohaneze has since become a coterie of survival-driven economic contractors and political jobbers. It is my view, and this is a personal view, that a vast majority of the Igbo have since tuned off on Ohaneze. So, Ohaneze is a fast atrophying group in urgent need of redemption. Ohaneze needs to restore some semblance of legitimacy for itself among the Igbo.

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Truth be told, if Nnamdi Kanu and the Biafranists had been Yoruba, fighting what they believed, right or wrong, to be a collective Yoruba cause, Afenifere would never have gone to sleep until they were released – promptly too. If they had been northerners, engaged in similar struggles for the north, the Northern Arewa Elders Forum would have pulled all stops to ensure their immediate release. Sadly, Ohaneze Ndi Igbo would not go to serious bat for the IPOB, and that’s a big shame! And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that some of its members might have even profited from the continued incarceration of their brothers. So, Ohaneze, in the informed assessment of majority of Ndi Igbo is critically damaged. Chief Nnia Nwodo has his job cut out for him.

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If Nnia Nwodo is determined to reposition Ohaneze as a group that should be taken seriously again, his first task is to demand the immediate and unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu and his fellow prisoners of conscience. He must commit everything in Ohaneze’s arsenal to rid the Igbo of what has become an international embarrassment. No stone should be left unturned; no gate should be left unpushed; and no face should be left unyelled at. By all legitimate means necessary, Ohaneze must secure the immediate and unconditional release of Kanu and his friends.

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Nnia Nwodo must demonstrate seriousness, not superciliousness. He must not engage in the sort of abominable political photo-up theatricals recently exhibited by Orji Uzor Kalu as part of his APC grand bargain. If Nnia Nwodo must visit Nnamdi Kanu and his friends in prison, he must do it without the fanfare of TV cameras and Facebook selfies. Better still, he should avoid any such visit. Nnia Nwodo should direct his energy at Abuja where the jailers hold court and the keys are kept. If Nnia Nwodo and the new Ohaneze leadership do not place the immediate and unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu and his friends at the very top of their priorities, whatever is left of Ohaneze’s relic should be boxed up and buried – for good.

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However, should Nnia Nwodo demonstrate unquestionable bona fide in rebuilding Ohaneze from its ruins, he should be able to rally the Igbo rank and file. It bothers me that in this age of the social media, oppressed groups still don’t know how to reach the greater world in a dramatic way. If Nnamdi Kanu and other IPOB leaders are being unjustly imprisoned, why is the judicial system in Igbo states still functioning? What are Igbo lawyers doing about their brothers who are being held for expressions of conscience? Shut down the entire court system in Igbo land. There can be no justice while innocent Igbo men are being unjustly imprisoned. Lawyers in Igbo land and across the country should protest this injustice. Let the world see thousands of lawyers, fully robed, with scotch tapes across their mouths, matching the streets of Enugu, Awka, Abakaliki, Owerri, Umuahia, and elsewhere. Let’s be very clear: for as long as Nnamdi Kanu and his friends are unjustly imprisoned for expressions of conscience, every Igbo man and woman and child is imprisoned.

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Look, 2017 brings the world to a crossroad. We have never lived in such a strange and hysterical moment. As the world turns in 2017, it is not clear what will become of it in the next couple of years. What is predictable is that the world has, perhaps, inadvertently, thrown up an odd coalition of leaders who must close serious legitimacy gaps. And they must do it with a sense of urgency. Caught in the crosshairs of that coalition is Nigeria. Buhari must decide what he wants to do with Nnamdi Kanu and his Biafran brothers. It is either he releases them or he makes his government a staging ground for others’ legitimacy quest. But whatever he chooses to do, Buhari must ensure that Nnamdi Kanu does not die in his care and custody; otherwise, the country may never recover from it. So, as the world turns in 2017, so must Buhari’s thinking.

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