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Nnamdi Kanu, Nigeria, and Wasted Opportunities By Charles Odimgbe

September 16, 2017

What is going on in Nigeria today is beyond comprehension. I have no clue what the young man called Nnamdi Kalu wants from the Igbo, or how he came to such huge fame so quickly. However, his rise strikes me as indicative of the state of the Igbo in the current dispensation.

What is going on in Nigeria today is beyond comprehension. I have no clue what the young man called Nnamdi Kalu wants from the Igbo, or how he came to such huge fame so quickly. However, his rise strikes me as indicative of the state of the Igbo in the current dispensation. It goes to say that the Igbo, especially those at home, have no faith in their leaders—hence the blind adoration and celebration of Nnamdi Kanu, a man whose academic and professional biography is as shrouded in mystery as his political antecedents are unknown.

I have said on several occasions that Nnamdi Kanu was dancing with the devil. The court granted him bail on certain conditions, but he arrogantly violated all the conditions in the name of Biafra. My position is simply that the federal government and the judiciary, so far, have shown significant restraint in dealing with him. They could have rightly picked him up on the first violation. However, in the interest of political expediency, they looked the other way while Mr. Kanu flapped his wings.

An Igbo proverb states that a fly with no advisers always gets buried with the corpse. Mr. Kanu lacks political savvy. Rather than antagonize the federal government, that already set a trap for him, he should have focused on using his newfound position to galvanize the entire Igbo land against their current corrupt and unruly elite.

Charity, it is said, begins at home. This young man had the opportunity to change the political landscape of the entire Igbo land, but chose to squander it all in this battle with his “chi”. He could have mobilized the throngs of Igbo youth who have been charmed by him, using their numbers to vote out all the Igbo leeches we call our representatives who have been sucking the life out of the Igbo collectivity, both at the federal and state levels. He could have used his just-acquired charisma with the teeming Igbo youth to set a new standard for any Igbo man or woman presenting themselves for election.

Instead of his childish rants, Kanu could have lent his voice in support of restructuring, a much better deal for Igbo people. He could have forced our so-called Igbo leaders to work on drafting a restructuring agenda for us while speaking with one voice. He could have used his position to begin to influence and reinvigorate the Igbo mentality of “live and let die.” He could have helped persuade the Igbo elite to get serious about investing in their homeland even as they prosper in regions outside. How about using his newfound status to demand accountability and answers regarding the state of infrastructural development in the Southeast?

He certainly had the platform, he had the voice, he had the channels, but he decided to embark upon this dead agenda called secession. These opportunities beckoned, but he decided that he had eaten to his fill, ready to challenge his “chi” to a battle.

Mr. Kanu should understand that he is now the target and no longer the leader of IPOB. His agitation for a sovereign Biafra has just come to screeching halt. Any and everything he does today will be subject to close scrutiny by the military and the world.

I have friends who have been agitating for an independent Biafra since the war ended. A few years ago, that mantle was taken up by MASSOB ever so subtly. However, Kanu came assuming he knew more than those agitating for Biafra before him. He has now become the proverbial nwanza, and has overstepped his bounds. He got so enamored of the crowd that followed him every day that he coveted his own army or militia, demonstrating the folly of the weak human mind and the seduction of absolute power.

His decision to form a militia is enough to bring on charges of treason against him.  Those of us in the US well remember Ruby Ridge, the Black Panther Party, Waco Texas, etc. In the US, as in Nigeria, any threat to the sovereignty of the nation is often met with overwhelming force. Why, then, are some surprised that the military suddenly showed up at Kanu’s doorsteps with guns blazing? Mr. Kanu was toying with the tail of the Lion. He should be bold enough to deal with the consequences. My hope is that he does not become the meal of the day.

Now, this matter of Operation Python Dance II. What an ill-conceived notion. When you think that our leaders will show no more stupidity they often will surprise you with worse. I would have loved to be a fly on that wall where this plan was conceived. To think that someone looked our president in the eye and said, “Mr. President, I think we should move our arms and ammunition to the Southeast to make a ‘show of force,’ to tell this Nnamdi Kanu guy that we mean business.

The Buhari administration lost the confidence of many supporters in the Southeast when it allowed Nnamdi Kanu to violate the conditions of his bail. This action, “Operation Python Dance II”, highlights the effects of “brain drain” on the Nigerian psyche. It is clear that our current leaders lack advisers with common sense. What is even more appalling was the speech by the operations’ commander. Ok, let’s assume that all the intelligence gathered by our intelligence agencies indicated that the federal government needed to take this action. Did the military not understand that using a commander who was not of Igbo extraction would raise suspicion? Are they so oblivious of all the cries of marginalization, lopsided appointments and the fact that the Igbo hardly trust the other ethnic groups? Wow!

As I watched civilian trucks roll through the southeast loaded with all these armored vehicles, what went through my mind was, “My God, the Nigerian military in all its pomp and pageantry could not afford armor and personnel carriers?” Really are those civilian trucks being used to transport our military gear to a war zone? Then my thoughts shifted and I wondered if all these armored vehicles were meant for Mr. Kanu and his rag tag militia—a militia whose members on social media looked like what they needed most was some good home meal? This is overkill! What a waste of millions of naira to accomplish something the police could have handled in no time. Ah my brothers, Nigeria is jaga-jaga!

President Buhari’s advisers got it wrong with this purported “Operation Python Dance II.” You do not need to waste your bullets and millions of naira on innocent youth trying to get some attention. That’s what young people do. You should focus on Boko Haram, the very group that is threatening your downfall and that of Nigeria—and they are in your backyard. President Buhari ought to ask why many groups clamor to leave Nigeria. The answers may surprise him. It’s all about equity and fairness. A show of force in the Southeast will not revive your war on corruption—a war we seem to be losing. That war was the core of your agenda as you campaigned for election. “Operation Python Dance” will not change the facts that your own cabinet is in disarray. We may not be at Aso Rock, but we can see Aso Rock through the actions of your own staff. If Kanu violated the terms of his bail, pick him up and lock him up, and then, let the legal processes take their course. Looking the other way for fear of offending the Igbo only served to make the situation worse.

One question. Through all the military buildup, where were the governors of these southeast states? Why were they so silent? Why had they not spoken out either for or against this military action in their states? Did they know something that we didn’t? Was the military operation a prelude to declaring a state of emergency in the Southeast? Were they so afraid of Nnamdi Kanu that they did not care what and how the federal government shut him down? Were they even made aware; and were they fine with this military action in their states?

We need answers to these questions to help us understand the actions of our erratic leaders. Now I am beginning to wonder if our president did not cut his medical treatment short to come home and deal with Nnamdi Kanu. My frustration is that Nnamdi Kanu does not warrant the kind of attention he is getting from the Igbo and the federal government. If the federal government wants to train their army, an excellent training ground would be in the Sambisa forest against Boko Haram and not in the Southeast. Another area would be protecting our farmers from the marauding cattlemen and not a bunch of hungry looking youth seeking whatever opportunity to make a dime—a condition that we created due to bad governance.

If Nigeria’s intelligence agencies were worth anything, they would have known by now that most of the Igbo people do not support seceding from the Union. All the Igbo desire is fair treatment and a piece of the national pie, a “pie” that has eluded us since the Nigerian Union was formed—and history tells us so. So: why all the hoopla? What has the federal government done to reach out to the silent majority who go about their businesses everyday contributing to the progress of Nigeria? Why has the government not tried to use those that believe in our nationhood to counter the bombastic behavior of Nnamdi Kanu? Why, why, why?

Bloody clashes occurred between the army and the Igbo youth. Now what? Do we understand that these incidences, currently trending on social media, will do nothing but widen the gap of distrust between the Igbo and our federal and state governments? How is that helpful to anyone? And there’s the audacity of the military to call this a “show of force”? Force against whom?


We are truly a weird country full of wacky leaders, ideas and ideals. For those of our youth who did not get killed or injured, I will echo one advice I saw on social media: ”Go home and be safe”

I wish Nnamdi Kanu did not lead some young men and women to their early graves—their blood forever on his head. The military has now categorized IPOB as a terrorist organization. The southeast governors have proscribed it. It all points to Kanu’s wasted opportunities. He could have used his influence to reshape the political landscape and strengthen our position in Nigeria. He could have deployed his charisma (which he was counting on to mobilize two million youths he promised to take to Abuja if arrested) to get the same youth to vote the current inept and corrupt political officials out of office. If he had done this, we would have seen and cheered his power. He should have fought to set the stage for a new era in politics in the Southeast as this chop-I-chop mentality is killing us and needs to go.

The Igbo have always been some of the originators of great ideas and ideals in Nigeria, and it should not stop now. With the wide recognition he currently enjoys among the Igbo, he could have helped create jobs for youth, his largest followers and the greatest assets of our people. We must be mindful that any country in which the federal government is the largest employer is doomed. Yes, think globally but act locally.

I urge the silent majority of the Igbo to disavow silence. Unless they speak, they run the risk of finding themselves behind a war zone. This is no time to sleep or be sheepish. This is the time to make your opinion known through whichever medium you use. Let’s remember it was partly our gullibility that led to the last civil war and the loss of more than one million lives. Forget your history and you are bound to relive the grave mistakes of the past!

My fellow Nigerians, regardless of your position on the tense and unfolding situation in our country, please exercise restraint and display commonsense. Remember: a child who says his or her parents will not sleep, will not sleep either. Nigeria should be “one nation, with one destiny.”