The struggles, anxieties, and despair of Southeast residents and Ndigbo are far from ended, if the Nigerian government’s present stance toward the call for Nnamdi Kanu’s release, the IPOB’s founder and leader, is anything to go by.
This is due to the administration, which is led by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, appearing to have taken a passive and unresponsive attitude in the face of persistent calls for Kanu’s release and violent protests in the Southeast. Kanu has been held as a prisoner of conscience since June 2021.
After his amazing rendition from Kenya, Kanu was imprisoned. After that, he was placed in a DSS cell during the previous Muhammadu Buhari administration.
According to the then Buhari government, Kanu was arrested abroad and brought back to answer for a 15-count terrorism-related charges. And while many, especially critics applauded the government’s move, claiming that Kanu’s rhetoric exacerbates ethnic tensions and threatens national unity, some others argued that the IPOB leader was only championing the rights of the marginalised Igbo people and calling attention to the perceived injustices they face within Nigeria.
Amid the polarised debate on the detention of Nnamdi Kanu, a long-drawn legal tussle ensued between the IPOB leader’s legal team and the federal government of Nigeria.
And in October 2022, the Abuja Division of the Appeal Court discharged and ordered the release of Kanu, citing that the government lacked jurisdiction to prosecute the IPOB due to a faulty extradition process.
However, the government brazenly rejected the ruling and got the Appeal Court to reverse itself by issuing a stay-of-execution order on its judgement.
Nnamdi Kanu has been detained for two years, and the FG appears uncommitted to bringing the IPOB founder’s case to a swift conclusion.
Prominent Igbo leaders and foreign organisations had pleaded with the government to free Kanu, but their cries went unanswered.
This situation further fueled cries and beliefs of segregation against the Igbos under the then Buhari-administration. And this brought double jeopardy in the southeast, as armed gangs unleashed mayhem on government officials and enthroned terror upon innocent residents through enforced routine sit-at-home orders.
DAILY POST reports that these wanton carnages have grounded economic, political and social activities in the region.
However, the advent of the Tinubu government on May 29, 2023, has not only ignited hope that the Igbos would be treated fairly by his government, but also renewed calls and pressures for Nnamdi Kanu’s release.
Barely one month into his administration, Tinubu has had conversions with several concerned groups such as Governors Charles Soludo of Anambra State and Peter Mbah of Enugu State, plus the President-General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo on the release of Nnamdi Kanu.
Last week, Governor Mbah after a closed-door meeting with the President in Abuja, disclosed that he urged President Tinubu to give utmost consideration towards extending a hand of fellowship to the South-East people through the release of Kanu.
Mbah said that the South East identified with President Tinubu’s promise that he’ll engender national healing and serve the country with compassion.
“So, we’ve basically informed him that this would serve as a pointer to his administration’s extension of hands of fellowship,” the Governor said.
In the same vein, retired army officer Hassan Stan-Labo, a security expert, on Wednesday, joined the raging calls on President Tinubu to release Kanu to end rising insecurity in the southeast.
Stan-Labo during an interview warned that the continued detention of Kanu will make him a hero.
“Frankly speaking, further incarceration of Kanu will only make him more and more relevant, only heightens the hero worship over him,” he said.
Also, Aloy Ejimakor, Special Counsel to Nnamdi Kanu, urged Tinubu not to behave like his predecessor who took calls for self-determination as a personal vendetta against Kanu.
Ejimakor in a tweet he made on Wednesday, said Kanu’s self-determination was against the Nigerian State and not Tinubu.
“The demand for self-determination is not personal. It is a demand on the Nigerian State, not against its President. It was Buhari that took it personally to the point that he killed & renditioned for it. President Tinubu should be smart enough not to repeat the same mistake. RONU.
“If you are offended by INJUSTICE, regardless of your tribal affiliation, raise your voice for the immediate release of MAZI NNAMDI KANU and all prisoners of conscience President Tinubu (@officialABAT) inherited from Buhari. Your silence is not golden. Please speak up! Thank you,” Ejimakor’s tweet read.
Amidst the influx of appeals on Tinubu, tough-talking Finland-based Biafra agitator, and self-acclaimed disciple of Kanu, Simon Ekpa dismissed moves by southeast governors to end the routine Monday sit-at-home and ordered a one-week lockdown of the southeast region to protest the IPOB leader’s continued detention.
And even with the harsh consequence of these lockdowns on residents, Ekpa and his supporters insist on it and would go on a warpath with anyone that dissuades people from obeying the sit-at-home order.
The seven-day lockdown which entered Day-4 on Thursday is generating apprehension in the entire southeast. On Tuesday, communities in Ebonyi State were thrown into turmoil as armed hoodlums who were reportedly enforcing the sit-at-home order, set ablaze a police van at Ukwagba village and shot sporadically to scare citizens away from ever coming out.
The hoodlums stormed the Ukwagba police checkpoint and told officers to vacate, and thereafter burnt the police van. They also stormed the Ishieke police checkpoint and shot sporadically which made police officers in the area scamper for their lives.
Furthermore, the hoodlums allegedly raided the Afiaohu market located along Abakaliki/Enugu Express and allegedly shot into the air to force business owners in the market to flee, leaving their wares behind.
Again on Wednesday in Enugu state, the residents were thrown into serious tension and fear as unknown gunmen reportedly moved around many parts of the State to enforce the one-week sit-at-home declared by Ekpa.
It was reported that the gunmen, who had their faces covered with masks, drove in a Siena vehicle, as well as tricycles, shooting sporadically at the New Market axis of the State, Artisan, Emene, New Haven, Abakpa, Agbani Road and NOWAS.
Imo State has not been left out, with the gunmen also storming several places to force the people back to their homes.
With all the carnage, protests in the southeast, plus passionate appeals for Kanu’s release, the Nigerian government’s body language appears unperturbed, as President Tinubu has maintained sealed lips to the ranging clamours. And this has left Nigerians proffering more reasons why the MNK should be released.
For Monday Ubani, Chairman, Section of Public Interest and Development (SPIDEL) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the continued detention of MNK is not only worrisome but a clear indication that judges are no longer interested in the issues of liberty of citizens.