Hope rises for Kanu as more stakeholders push for his release

From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

The renewed moves by different groups and interest groups for the unconditional release of detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, have become a major issue of public discourse. From several political leaders, statesmen, National Assembly members and recently, the forum of South East State governors, the pressure has increased for the release of  unarguably the most popular Nigerian freedom fighter in recent time.

The Federal Government had arrested and been prosecuting the secessionist agitator, for several years now at different levels of courts of law over sundry charges, particularly treasonable felony and attempted disruption of public order allegations.

The entreaties for his release, which obviously dated back to the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari, were not as loud and persistent as the current ongoing appeals from both familiar and unfamiliar sources, urging President Bola Tinubu to do the needful and apply a political solution to his incarceration.

To underscore the readiness of the political leaders and major stakeholders from the South East geopolitical zone to secure Kanu’s release, there have been renewed requests and petitions for the Federal Government, particularly President Tinubu, to temper justice with mercy and free him.

Apparently motivated by the reality that Kanu’s political detention has been responsible for the social unrest, agitation and threatening insecurity in the South East, many prominent Nigerians have opined that his freedom will help calm down the situation, reduce violent agitations, and contribute to the overall economic and political stability, particularly in the zone and the country at large.

In the long queue of eminent stakeholders and politically exposed personalities that recently joined the jostling to secure Kanu’s freedom include members of both chambers of the National Assembly, Elder statesman, Pa Edwin Clark, diplomats like Emeka Anyoku, business moguls and President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, governors, Catholic Bishops, youths and women of South East extradition and many other Nigerians.

The appeals came to the head when, in a spate of one week, both the South East Governors Forum and some members of both chambers of the National Assembly, pleaded with President Tinubu for the urgent expedited action to save the crumbling economic fortune of Ndigbo following the Monday sit-at-home order by the IPOB.

For many of them, his continued, longer than necessary incarceration at one of the facilities of the Department of State Services (DSS) has obviously become political, especially when one takes into consideration that the Federal Government has unconditionally freed other separatist agitators tried over the same offence.

Defending the renewed appeal of clemency for Kanu, former Abia State Deputy Governor and Senate caucus spokesperson, Enyinnaya Abaribe, told newsmen, after visiting the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice,  Lateef Fagbemi, that his detention has become disruptive and destructive to economic activities in the South East zone.

Abaribe argued that; “all the criminals and people going around causing mayhem in the South East have all said that it is because Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is being held. We know that this is not the truth; it is just that we have gotten to the point where people are now hijacking a legitimate call for his release and turning it into something that has led to the deaths and destruction of properties and so many other indescribable mayhems happening in the South East.

“So we came to meet with the Attorney-General because we know that everything that happens in the legal system will eventually come to his office. So, we came to appeal to him to let Mr President know that all leaders of the South East feel that the release of Kanu will help in dousing all the tension on everything that is going on in the South East.

“We are very certain that his duty as the Attorney-General also gives him the powers to not only prosecute but also make sure that litigation doesn’t continue and the sufferings of the people do not continue.”

While the senators were at that front, more than 50 members of their counterparts in the House of Representatives, across party lines, had petitioned President Tinubu, seeking the same release of the incarcerated IPOB leader.

The group, according to its spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, hinged their request for Kanu’s release on Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution, which gives the Attorney General of the Federation the power to discontinue cases based on “public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process.”

Part of the petition read: “We resolutely believe that this singular act can serve as a pivotal gesture towards national unity as it would address some of the political, security, and economic concerns in the region. It would encourage stakeholders from the South-East to engage more actively in national discussions on the Renewed Hope agenda, thereby promoting inclusivity and addressing long-standing grievances.

“We believe that it will also help in dismantling the apparatus of violence and restiveness that has plagued the region, allowing for a focus on economic growth and development. Also, it is coming at a time when the nation-state is under enormous pressure, including unemployment, insecurity, hunger, and poverty, thereby de-escalating tension from all sides.

“Moreover, we, as key actors in your Renewed Hope agenda, are not unmindful of the fact that you have extended this gesture, through the office of the Attorney General, in the charge involving Omoyele Sowore wherein he was charged with treasonable felony in Charge No. FHC/ABJ CR/235/2019, Sunday Igboho, etc.

“All these recorded tremendous successes, especially the crisis within the North-Central, North-East, and South-South regions, not forgetting the peace efforts in the Niger Delta region, which have helped in so many ways.

“It is therefore our conviction that fixing the challenges in the South-East would go a long way in changing the narrative and showcasing your commitment to upholding the principles of the rule of law, justice, and fairness, which are the bedrock of our democracy. It would also set a precedent for addressing issues through dialogue rather than prolonged political-cum-judicial persecution and a brass show of executive lawlessness.

“We, therefore, implore you to adopt this approach, save the South-East, and pave the way for a national conversation to restore, safeguard, and better the resources and economic activities in the South-East. The primary responsibility of the government is the protection of lives and property.”

Equally enumerating other numerous advantages of freeing the IPOB leader, they emphasised that; “facilitating the release of Nnamdi Kanu would demonstrate a commitment to upholding the principles of justice and fairness, which are the bedrock of our democracy.

“The benefits of such a bold and compassionate act are manifold. It would pave the way for peace initiatives, economic revitalisation, and a renewed sense of belonging among the citizens of the South-East. It would also enhance your administration’s legacy as one that prioritises national unity, peace, and progress.”

As if the torrents of appeals were not enough, for the first time, the governors of South-East extraction, unanimously joined the clamour to demand for his freedom.

In a very compact communiqué raised after several hours of its meeting held in Enugu, the forum resolved among others to interface with President Tinubu to secure Kanu’s freedom.

The communiqué read; “the Forum deliberated on the reviewed report of the South East Security and Economic Summit held in Owerri on September 28, 2023 and agreed to implement the aspects of the report about security and economic integration and affirmed its desire to put actionable plans on the key issues agreed.

“The Forum resolved to visit Mr. President to discuss pressing issues concerning the South East region. We also resolved to interface with the Federal Government to secure the release of Nnamdi Kanu.”

Expectedly, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 general elections, Peter Obi, and Elder statesman, Pa Edwin Clark, were not left out of the clamour for his freedom. Clark said: “I am now appealing to the Federal Government. I wrote an open letter to former President Buhari, telling him to free Nnamdi Kanu. We did it before for Asari Dokubo when he was being tried for the same offence.

“Recently, if not simultaneously, Sunday Igboho in the South-West said he wanted Oduduwa Nation… He had a problem in his house with the security men where people were killed, guns were seized which made him run outside Nigeria. He is back now and a free man. But he too was accused of being a terrorist.

“That is why we said Kanu should be released except they are holding him because he belongs to the Igbo tribe. The war has been over for about 50 years now, so why detain Kanu? It’s unfair. He should be freed.”

Also, Peter Obi recently said: “I don’t see any reason for his continuous detention, especially as the courts have granted him bail. The government must obey the court. The rule of law is an intricate asset that we must cherish and live with.

“I use this opportunity to plead with the Federal Government to ensure that all those who are in similar conditions are released and discussed. We are in a democracy, and we should not be doing things that are arbitrary and not within the law.”

The appeal was the same from the National Chairman of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Dan Nwanyanwu, who poignantly condemned Kanu’s continued detention even when others involved in similar activities have remained free.

“We have to interrogate why Nnamdi Kanu is still in prison,” he noted, drawing attention to the government’s apparent selective justice. He also warned that; “If you don’t want to release him, bring him to Eagle’s Square, let us use him for barbecue and let his enemies come and feast on him so that we can close his chapter.”

The appeals and petitions are fathomable considering the escalating security threats crippling economic and social activities in the South-East region due to the forced sit-at-home order enforced by the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the acclaimed military arm of IPOB.

And for those still having any shadow of doubt over the capacity of the IPOB leader to restore sanity and bring the situation under control if released from detention, the IPOB leader’s fury after Justice Nyako of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, denied him bail, will rest such doubt.

“They know me very well. I suspect that people in government are complicit. They are making money with insecurity. They know Nnamdi Kanu is outside; in two minutes, this nonsense will stop. Who is the idiot… that will speak when I am talking? Who is the fool, who is the idiot, I ask, that I will give an order in the East and any idiot will counter it? Who is the bastard I am asking you?

“Nobody can, I am Nnamdi Kanu, who is the idiot. Let me come out of this nonsense, this mess, two minutes only. Only two minutes I guarantee you and there will be peace in the East. Everywhere in the South East if not the entire South,” he boasted.

Believe the man in the eyes of the storm or not, he has always repeatedly boasted that he has the capacity and magic wand to ensure total restoration of peace in the troubled zone and that he will achieve that a few minutes after his release from incarceration.

In retrospect, the vigour in the demands for his release did not start today, as similar voices were heard even though not loudly in the past years during the Buhari-led administration.

However, the recent renewed clamour could be associated with several factors, ranging from the apparent grounding of economic activities in the South East to the bias in the Federal Government releasing other separatist agitators like Bello Bodejo, the leader of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Yoruba Nation activist, Sunday Adeyemo, and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore.

While Kanu is still in detention, Bodejo was arrested by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) for allegedly establishing an ethnic militia organisation, Kungiya Zaman Lafiya, to promote terrorism of Miyetti Allah, Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, who fled the country after DSS declared him wanted over his activism for creation of Yoruba nation and Sowore equally facing treasonable felony charge, are all walking as free men.

Despite granting the trio restricted and unrestricted release, Kanu, accused of leading a secessionist campaign for Biafra Republic, has been in the custody of the secret police, undergoing several legal trials at both the Federal High Court and the Supreme Court.

The benefits of freeing Kanu, according to many concerned Nigerians, are immeasurable to both the South East region and the country at large. For many, his release will ensure political stability, legal and judicial fairness, dousing of human rights concerns, public sentiment, pressure, and reference points for peaceful resolution of such issues.

The development must have angered Igbo youths to issue repeated threats to the political leaders, accusing them of not doing enough to secure Kanu’s release.

In a statement recently to warn them to stop working against his release, the youth through the Secretary, Media and Publicity, Comrade Emma Powerful warned that, “the continuous illegal detention of Mazi Kanu is discrimination against Ndigbo. The Nigerian government has dropped cases and charges against political prisoners from other ethnic groups but kept only Mazi Kanu in their detention because he is an Igbo man. Does that not mean that Ndigbo mean nothing in Nigeria?

“The unscrupulous politicians from the South Eastern region sabotaging the release of our leader, Kanu are not only working against him, but also sabotaging Ndigbo as a whole.”

Beyond the sanctimonious claims of the government and enumerated advantages of his freedom, there have been unending speculations about the readiness of the present administration to use Kanu’s release to curry cheap political favour ahead of the 2027 presidential election.

But, regardless of the impression anybody holds about PresidentTinubu using the release as a hidden political bet to win over the geopolitical zone, an All Progressives Congress (APC) Igbo chieftain who spoke to Daily Sun in confidence doubted the workability of such a bet.

“I also feel so strongly that President Tinubu may want to use Kanu’s release to blackmail South East into voting for him but it is a conspiracy that will not work. I am very sure that not even Kanu’s directive to the Igbo electorate to vote for Tinubu in 2027 will produce any desired result.

“Over time, it has been proven beyond doubt that the Igbo electorate will never accept the APC fully and I am certain that even if President Tinubu did not contest with any candidate, many Igbo would rather play football or engage in other activities to come out to vote that day.

“I am sure that it may be part of the reason President Tinubu has been very reluctant to act on it. Kanu must tame his caustic utterances against everybody, individuals and government and stoop to conquer.

“If eventually, Tinubu frees Kanu, it may be just to cosmetically prove that he has nothing against the Igbos as widely acclaimed in many quarters. But, if you ask me, I will say that I am not happy with the political trial Kanu is going through.

“It is also painful that many Igbo political leaders have been victimised because of the IPOB leader due to one casual comment or the other, but truth be told, he has not also helped matters in managing his revolutionary actions. The mistake we will however make is to think that Kanu will solve the marginalisation of Ndigbo by the Nigeria government.

“Nevertheless, I will be part of those pressing for his release, if for nothing, the security situation and the crumbling economy in the South East zone. His release will also be for equity and justice because what has Kanu said or done that Igboho, Bodejo and other separatist agitators didn’t say or do worse thing? So, if the Federal Government has freed others, why should Kanu’s case be different,” the APC chieftain argued.

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