Let me begin by stating a couple of things that are obvious.
I am a proud daughter of Nigeria’s South Eastern region. Flowing from that, I am a proud Igbo daughter. Before you say I have no choice, my answer is: I have.
Both are not to be taken for granted. I have encountered a number of people who are neither proud of their ethnic group or their country.
I am immensely proud of all three. A South Easterner. An Igbo. A Nigerian.
I am a stakeholder. And, it doesn’t matter what life throws at us as Nigerians. I can confirm that it has, several times, thrown raw hell at us – especially, in recent times.
But, I will never regret my origins. And I will never be ashamed of them.
It is because I am a stakeholder that, today, I put on record my anger at the tension and fear being deliberately created in, and inflicted on Igboland – Afaraukwu, Abia State – by the Army and the Police.
Afaraukwu is the birth place of Nnamdi Kanu, the Leader of the Nigerian-government proscribed Indigenous Peoples Of Biafra, IPOB.
Again, for the records, I am not a great fan of a couple of actions taken by IPOB.
I abhore Kanu’s foul-mouthedness and disrespect for a number of Igbo leaders, including those who worked night and day to save him from the stranglehold of the Federal Government. And, I cannot, in all honesty, support the disgrace and humiliation IPOB members abroad, on his orders, publicly mete out on Igbo sons, in government, when they visit, even on the invitation of their compatriots.
No other ethnic group in Nigeria humiliates its own that way outside the country. And their leaders are no saints. Only the Igbo, through IPOB, does. My opinion is: That has done the Igbo no good.
Yet, I am outraged by the tensed and over-heated polity in Afaraukwu, since the days leading to the funeral of Kanu’s parents,
Their Royal Highnesses Eze Isreal Okwu Kanu, and Ugoeze Sally Kanu, whose bodies are billed to be buried on Friday, the 14th of February, 2020.
Soldiers and the Police, have been bearing their fangs in a show of unnecessary show of power in the sleepy town.
For days, according to Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, soldiers have been parading Kanu’s Community, fledging their muscles. And the Commissioner of Police, Abia State Command, Ene Okon, has been in a talking and threatening competition with IPOB members.
He says heaven would fall if they dare show face at the funeral of the parents of their leader. He says they are barred from attending. “We will scatter the funeral if IPOB members attend, if they show up.”
Before I dismiss Commissioner Okon’s pronouncements for what it is – provocative – permit me to, briefly, give you the background to this situation.
On arrival to the country a couple of years ago, from London, Kanu was arrested by the Nigerian authorities, detained for some time, arraigned in court and, charged along with some others, over his activities. One of the charges against him was treason.
On a number of times, the court refused to give him bail. He was dumped at the Kuje prisons. Every pressure to get him out on bail was rebuffed. A political situation, it seemed, was going to be explored. A number of Igbo sons, including former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who, on Kanu’s orders, was assaulted in Nuremberg, Germany, and Senate Minority Leader, Enyi Abaribe, finally negotiated Kanu’s bail.
On release, Kanu went round in a thank you visit. He even held a meeting with South-east governors. Finally, he went back home and settled in his father’s palace. Naturally, the palace turned into a pilgrimage centre, almost. Several youths who had adopted Kanu as their hero, usually converged there, just to hero-worship him.
He was on bail. He was billed to appear in court for the continuation of the case against him. He knew the date. He had no plans to jump bail.
Then, soldiers struck. In a show of power during their much criticised military exercise, code-named, Operation Crocodile Smile, they inexplicably invaded the Palace where Kanu was holding court with his IPOB members. Confusion ensued. A number of people were, allegedly, killed. Even the family’s dog was not spared. Till date, nobody can quite say what provoked the soldiers. But Kanu, who alleged he was the target of an assassination, escaped into thin air. And so did his parents, Their Royal Highnesses. For over a year, nobody saw him. Then, suddenly, he surfaced in Israel.
There is no prize for guessing that he never appeared in court again. He has been forced into exile, and forced to jump bail. The whereabouts of his parents were unknown. The King and his Queen were forced into exile. They were forced to abandon their palace. They returned in caskets.
The Queen died in exile. Before the preparation of her funeral could be completed, the King died too. Both of them died in exile, in another man’s country.
Again, for the records, both the King and his wife were healthy before the soldiers struck. The shock of the invasion was probably too much for them. Not a few people think that the events of that day contributed to their death. In more civilized climes, the Kanus would have sued the invaders for everything they have got.
Now, it is not enough that Kanu, the first son, would definitely not be at the funeral of his parents, but, to, excuse this cliché, add insult to injury, Commissioner Okon, wants to, in his words “scatter the funeral if he sees IPOB members there.
My opinion: Commissioner Okon seems to have been carried away when he spoke. He spoke carelessly. It is like beating a child, and telling the child not to cry. That’s unkind.
Perhaps, Okon’s reason would be: IPOB is proscribed. So?
Would their presence there de-proscribe it? Perhaps, he fears they may wear their uniform. What does it matter? Indulging them at the funeral does no harm.
They are not going there to overthrow the Abia government, not to talk of the FG. Their presence will not create the Republic of Biafra. It does not amount to that. They are going there to mourn their own, the parents if their leader. They are not going to fight. Or recruit people into IPOB.
They can only dance and make merry and, perhaps, smoke and drink. It removes nothing from the FRN. Looking the other way while the funeral lasts does not make the military or the Police weak. They should only intervene if there is a breakdown of the law. The members say there will be no such thing. They say they only want to pay respects to the parents of their leader. Why not watch and see?
The taking over of the community by soldiers only helps to over-heat the polity. The threat by the Police, adds more tension and anxiety and fear.
Now, having said all that, let me say how disappointed I am with both the government and the traditional institution in Abia State. Why has nothing been heard from them? Why has the Abia State Government not issued a statement to appeal for calm, and assuage frayed nerves. How is the leadership of the Abia traditional institution mourning their own? I never read any statement from them, condemning the death, in exile, of their colleague and his wife. Are they proud of the untidy situation?
They have not even taking exception to the threat by CP Okon to scatter their funeral. Will such a threat be issued elsewhere? Such cowardice! I bow!!
Finally, I sincerely appeal to all concerned to let the bodies of Their Royal Highnesses be laid to rest in peace. Nobody gains anything from all these “gra-gra”.