True to prophecy, the mere shadow of armored tanks approaching River Niger bridge last week was enough to dismantle the rather imposing castle of conceit Nnamdi Kanu had erected across the South-east in recent times, like straws under a Category 5 hurricane. The little braggart who had romanticized rebellion so vigorously, who had threatened fire and brimstone so darkly, suddenly went into hiding when war arrived his doorstep.
Today, how pathetic that lieutenants of the absconding coward who yesterday spoke the language of thunder, evoking the imagery of bloodshed and Armageddon, are suddenly defending that "IPOB is non-violent".
For clarity, keen followers of this column will attest yours sincerely has consistently been a vigorous advocate of a Nigeria that guarantees accommodation for all, irrespective of size, tongue or creed. One, therefore, has no inhibitions whatsoever in conceding that Igbo are entitled to their grievances over feelings of alienation under the Buhari administration. The renewed cry of Biafra would sound quite legitimate against that backcloth.
But uncouth Kanu, half British citizen, adulterated the idea. He seemed unprepared for the fame he was thrust into by President Buhari's goof in jailing him in the first place. With insecure Igbo governors and shameless political leaders swooning over him for photo ops outside Kuje Prisons, he began to see himself as larger-than-life. Sensible ones were afraid to speak out lest they were branded sellout. Then, he graduated into a con-man.
While observing the galaxy of world leaders gathered at the Vatican for the funeral of Pope John Paul II during the Cold War, a bemused Joseph Stalin, communist Russia's lawgiver, had famously asked an adviser, "How many divisions does the Pope have?" It was obvious the blood-thirsty tyrant never realized the good Pope possesses something mightier - moral authority.
Notwithstanding his latter-day pretensions to some Jewish genealogy, no such moral authority could by any stretch of imagination be attributed to Kanu, nor has his conduct reflected any common sense, especially lately. In seeking to actualize Biafra, his toxic rhetoric against non-Igbo would only be tolerated by those without any ounce of self-respect. The man bemoaning injustice ironically appeared to find pleasure in speaking lowly of others who themselves are mostly victims of the same perverted order.
To achieve liberty, this political illiterate did not realize he first needed the solidarity of fellow captives to push against a common enemy. Disaffection with the Nigerian state is not enough justification to call your ethnic neighbors unprintable names. Myopic Kanu apparently only thought of returns from merchandising Biafra and did not seem to realize the big danger posed to fellow Igbo living elsewhere by his incendiary rantings.
He claimed the same DNA as Ojukwu. But the Ikemba Nnewi was certainly not foolish like him. As emperor of the Eastern region half a century ago, Ojukwu controlled battle-ready battalions before he dared Gowon. But Kanu's lack of common intelligence became obvious when he started circulating video recordings of himself reviewing "guard of honor" mounted by nothing but a phantom guerrilla army. He was living a lie. He gave them different funny names - Biafran Secret Service, Biafran National Guard, the Lion Squad etc.
With that, he only succeeded in playing into the hands of the enemy. So, his fake army became easy meat for the Nigerian Army too eager to utilize them for target practice. Anyone who watched last week the videos of troops brutalizing the young "Biafran fighters" armed with nothing more than Biafran memorabilia cannot but see an obscene picture of the disproportionate balance of power. As a parent, I wept seeing young boys being dehumanized needlessly. But you don't begrudge the swooping hawk for the violence to the chick; you blame mother hen careless enough to expose her sucklings to danger.
In a way, the shallowness of the thinking in Abuja was also inadvertently exposed last week while Abia burned. While defending PMB against the charge of "marginalizing" the Igbo, a presidential spokesman had the temerity to, among others, insinuate that the headship of the nation's two main "cash cows" - CBN and NNPC - have been left in the hands of South-East indigenes. Seriously? But verifiable public records only indicate that both Ibe Kachikwu, the junior oil minister, and Godwin Emefiele, the CBN czar, hail from Delta State located unmistakably in the South-South. (That is assuming Kachikwu still today has "real powers" after the NNPC was "excised" from his portfolio and a northerner made the head.)
But it all seems expedient this hour for the emergency cartographers in Abuja to casually gerrymander Delta into Igboland in the new geography of political perfidy.
Assuming such fallacy was not actually bred by mischief, there can only be a much more abominable possibility: poor understanding of the ethnic identities of the citizens who populate the South-east and the South-South by those who arrogate to themselves the right to rule over us and the veto to determine our fate.
Maybe, that misrecognition of Kachikwu is why no other Igbo was considered in the recent appointment bazaar in the NNPC. Out of 15 slots, the north cornered 10, even when that region does not contribute a single barrel to the nation's crude exports. But South-east which is oil-producing on account of Imo State got absolutely nothing. Could it also be a coincidence that two out of the ten slots got by the north came from UBA where PMB's Chief of Staff once worked? Where is the equity?
As always canvassed in this column, ultimately, the historic responsibility lies with PMB to foster national unity, give every section of the country a sense of belonging, irrespective of the voting pattern in the last general election. That is the surest way to lobotomize the virus that feeds ethnic entrepreneurs like Kanu. Sure, the easy part is the rendition of Python Dance. But history teaches us that the peace that endures is one rooted in justice.
It is never late for Buhari to begin to act differently.
Apparently buoyed by the "success" of Python Dance in South-East, the Army has already served notice of also enacting Crocodile Smile II in South-South and South-West. Will the killer herdsmen - the acknowledged midnight children of impunity behind the pogrom against defenseless peasants in those territories - be targeted this time?
War of words in Rivers
Joseph Mbu - does anyone still remember that grotesque character today? Those who followed political events in Rivers between 2013 and 2015 should. He was the Police Commissioner used relentlessly by then ruling PDP to "persecute" the opposition governor in the Garden City.
But the table has since turned. PDP and APC have traded places.
From the look of things, one Akin Fakorede is the new Mbu giving incumbent Governor Nyesom Wike "hell" on behalf of the current ruling party in Abuja. Not once or twice has the Rivers governor publicly bemoaned the activities of the head of the Special Anti-Robbery (SARS) unit as undermining him. The same way Rotimi Amaechi often complained bitterly against Mbu.
In the bloody election re-runs held so far in Rivers, Wike consistently accused Fakorede and his unit of acting as though they were the armed wing of APC during the exercises.
Things took a rather dramatic turn last week with Wike leveling a weightier charge against Fakorede's SARS. A member of the squad was allegedly killed during a shoot-out with the independent police unit deployed by the Inspector General that foiled a kidnap attempt on one Ifeanyi.
Following the distress call, the IG's special forces swiftly arrived in the nick of time near the Fidelity Bank branch in Port Harcourt where the kidnappers took Ifeanyi at gun-point to withdraw N500,000 cash from ATM as ransom..
Ordinarily, the IG's special unit initiative should be commended as having thus helped rescue a citizen in distress, with the glory being ultimately IG Ibrahim Idris'. But the devil was in the details. By the time gun-fire smoke cleared, it turned out that the bullet-riddled body that lay on the ground was alleged to be that of a SARS operative!
Strangely enough, while addressing the press conference, Wike went further to identify the slain officer as the one who accompanied Fakorede to allegedly tamper with PDP's ballots at the collation center in the last election re-run in the state. That was enough for him to now conclude that Fakorede and SARS were deployed in Rivers to undermine him and project the state in negative lights by creating a facade of siege and instability.
Interestingly, Wike's claims were dismissed 24 hours later tersely as "nonsensical" by the IG. The Police PRO in River had earlier declined comment. While not denying that a cop was killed, Idris attributed it to the IPOB upheaval in Port Harcourt that day.
Curiously however, the IG was silent on the "smoking gun" already in circulation which tended to lend a strand of credulity to Wike's grave allegation as published by The Punch of last Thursday - a "police wireless message" with reference number DTO: 121030/09/2017 - suggesting how the IG's special unit got involved in the bloody rescue operation.
So, it is now a question of Wike's word against the IG's. But the Nigerian public deserves to know the whole truth given the gravity of the charge. To dispel rumor and restore public confidence, the IG surely needs more explaining to do to us, beyond the scant word already uttered. Where is Ifeanyi? Was a member of the IG unit truly injured during the shootout at Fidelity Bank? By who? If alive, where is/are the suspect(s)?
Besides, no less curious is that it was the local APC branch who started speaking for the police vigorously long before IG was "ambushed" by the press at the Presidential Villa in Abuja for comment on this puzzle. It all looked like a throwback to the absurdity we witnessed when Amaechi was at the receiving end of "federal oppression" only a few years ago. Each time Amaechi complained against Mbu's dirty tactics then, PDP's attack dogs were the first to bark - in fact louder than could be expected of the accused.
Now, we are told Wike is after Fakorede only because of the cop's refusal to accept inducement to compromise in Rivers. But whoever believed when similar stories were also told against Amaechi yesterday when Mbu was dealing him unfair tackles?
Having promised "change", let the Rivers APC be told the best way to demonstrate the superiority of value is to conduct themselves in a more civilized manner. Taking over the job of police PRO as they seemed to have done here is laughable. Otherwise, they risk being accused of breaking PDP's records in infamy.