Nnamdi Kanu: The burdens of a freedom fighter

Kanu and his lawyers

Kanu and his lawyers

By Richard Elesho
Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, this Thursday pleaded not guilty to  charges of treason, terrorism and others brought against him by the Federal Government before Justice  Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court Abuja. The judge after taking his plea left him in custody of the Department of State Services, DSS and adjourned further proceedings till 10th of November.
Kanu is a big suspect. Journalists were not given free access for the coverage. Security was beefed up around the court to the extent that many staff of the judiciary were not allowed to drive into the court premises. The  suspect was reportedly brought into the court in a convoy of six vehicles, amidst tight security.
Had anyone told the embattled activist of the grim possibility of his arrest and a long spell of incarceration that Friday, 18th June in a foreign land, he would have snubbed the purveyor as a fake soothsayer. He was only wanted in Nigeria, so being a fugitive anywhere else was safer than home.
Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, however learnt his lesson the hard way, in far away Kenya. After being under the radar of an international ring of Law enforcement agencies for an indeterminable time, he was nabbed at the Kenya International Airport, Nairobi by that East African country’s Special Police Force.
Within a week or thereabouts, the diplomatic finesse were sorted and Kanu, was extradited to Nigeria, to begin a long dreary date with the law.
The Nigerian government did not give details of his arrest. Abubakar Malami, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, announced his arrest and deportation by Interpol on 27th June. As it turned out, he spent a gloomy 54th birthday, in the custody of his enemies on 25th September. That day was far from being for Champaign pumping.
Kanu’s handlers have held him with iron hands and carefully shielded him from public view. He had once jumped bail in which a Senator was among his three sureties, (at 100 million Naira each) and violated every condition attached to his freedom.
Kanu, who has been in active confrontation with the law, jumped bail in 2017 and ran abroad after armed men invaded his house. He accused the military of plotting the attack, insisting that their target was his assassination.
Thus, upon repatriation, the authorities arraigned him on 29th June, before Justice Nyako on harsh charges, bordering on terrorism and treasonable felony. The judge had earlier revoked his bail and issued a warrant for his arrest. The media was not allowed to cover the proceedings.
Since the arraignment his tormentors have shown an ever declining zeal to his fight for freedom. Nyako who promised an accelerated hearing directed that the accused be remanded in custody of the DSS. She adjourned sitting till 26th July. That day, the trial could not hold, as the DSS failed to bring the accused to court. The judge then adjourned the matter to 21st October, insisting the DSS must bring the suspect as she would not try him in absentia.
An attempt by the separatist to enforce his fundamental human rights at an Abia High Court, has also thus far met with a brick wall. In September, he slammed a N5 billion suit on the Federal government before Justice KCJ Okereke demanding his deportation first to Kenya, where he was arrested and subsequently Britain, his country of abode. The respondent has been break-dancing around technicalities on the lawsuit.
Few days to the resumption of Kanu’s trial before Nyako, the Federal Government amended or rather expanded the charges against him. The charges were amended to seven but all still border on treason, public incitement and terrorism.
Kanu’s trial has attracted significant interest from the human rights community and his Igbo kinsman. Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Apex Igbo social cultural and political group have made several calls for his release. A former Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife led a delegation of Ohanaeze to the resumed hearing today.
Similarly, as the new date for continuation of his trial drew close, traditional rulers in the south east demanded that Kanu be released jointly to them and religious leaders in the region. Rising from a meeting under the umbrella of Southeast Council of Traditional Rulers, the monarchs urged all parties to sheath their swords. They then appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari “to show sagacity, pragmatism, statesmanship and release Nnamdi Kanu into the hands of Igbo traditional and religious leaders.”
Kanu was born in a royal family. In a manner of speaking, he has been labouring hard for the collapse of the the Nigeria House, built by the country’s founding fathers. He seeks liberation for the Igbo from a dysfunctional Nigerian ship and the creation of an independent state of Biafra. He has become a household name in many parts of the country, even far beyond his ethnic Biafra.
He has been carrying the burden of the fame. Only he who feels it, knows it.