There have been three distinct reactions to the sudden re-arrest of the Leader of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) Mazi Nnamdi Kanu by Interpol working in conjunction with Nigerian Intelligence outfits.
Typically, there are his die-hard and closet supporters who have gotten over the initial shock of waking up to see pictures of the ‘Supreme Leader’ clad paradoxically in Fendi with crude police cuffs linking his shackled hands, and who have now taken to social media to express their dissatisfaction with differing levels of gusto and animosity towards President Buhari and his Federal Government. This group are adamant that Mazi Kanu is a victim of Buhari’s targeted assault and ethno-religious belligerence against the Igbos. Not only do they fault the enigmatic secessionist leader’s re-arrest but query its relevance to solving the Nigerian security challenge which remain unresolved despite the government’s apparent glee in having apprehended the IPOB leader.
The second group are a curious mix of mostly northern groups and acclaimed south-eastern elites who have equally taken to social media to register their pleasure with the government’s successful apprehension of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to continue his legal trial from which he had ceremonious escaped some few years ago. This is simply stating the deductive fact from reactions that can be glimpsed online and offline.
The third group are the legalist and moralist, being those who are patently curious about the nature of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s re-arrest, especially whether said extradition met, on all fours, the requirement of international protocols for same or if this processes were circumvented in a manner that invokes the Umar Dikko abduction of the ‘80’s. Was he apprehended by his host country and handed over to the Nigerian government, or was he trailed, abducted and crated back to the shores of Nigeria? Not a few believe that unravelling the manner of his arrest will reveal the government’s latent intent; to act within the boundaries of the law in its criminal claims against Mazi Nnamdi Kanu or to prosecute with malice aforethought to a predetermined end.
What I have done above is a lose but broad categorization of the reactions that have trailed Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s re-arrest and arraignment before the court to answer to the government’s charges against his person. While it suffices to read the room, it is hardly exhaustive. There is the non-categorized group who are spinning the crystal balls and scrying for portends to demystify what the re-arrest of Mazi Kanu means for the fragile unity of Nigeria especially in light of the country’s chequered history with the region where he draws his most support. How would his loyalist react? What is the ripple effect on his strain of agitation for the State of Biafra, and how does this bear on the potential of an ideology that is at least 50 years old and which courses through the vein of even the most passive Igbo men and women? We shall see.
As a legal practitioner, and one with an earnest interest in the form of justice which isn’t just done but is manifestly seen to be done, I would like to caution the Nigerian government through its prosecutors and, respectfully also implore the Court not to lend itself to external influence nor considerations that are malicious in intent and against due process. Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, hate or like him, reserves the right to the presumption of innocence that is the bedrock of our criminal judicial processes and as such must be treated with requisite dignity while the matter against him tarries before the court.
Also, extra precautions must be taken to safeguard his life and care for his health while in prison as his death while in federal detention would be a fatal slip by the government. While his methods and utterances at certain times have been unsavoury, he indeed represents, some would say in questionable fashion, the shared ideology and ambition of one of Nigeria’s major and strategic ethnic group. The Biafran agitation, to risk a take, is indeed more than a dot on an ideological map. It is a protest against perceived non-inclusivity, targeted discrimination and oppression.
I advise the Nigerian government to proceed with wisdom and caution not just in its prosecution of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu but in dealing with the tireless agitation of secessionist south-easterners that have metastasised into a pro-national fervour with adherents with similar group ambition such as in Yorubaland (Oduduwa Republic), South-South (Ibom Republic & the Niger Delta Nation) and tentatively in the Middle-Belt region, too.
Pelumi Olajengbesi, Esq is a Legal Practitioner and the Principal Partner at LAW CORRIDOR.