The Government Has Jumped Up ‘Biafra’
The news of the arrest of the man behind Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, by the Nigerian government has turned him into a major international “cause célèbre” with major world leaders and influential human rights NGOs openly supporting him or condemning the government for it.
It is easy to brand such proclamations as “imperial interference” or the “undermining of Nigerian sovereignty” but non-Nigerians see Nigeria through their own cultural lenses, which may please or displease Nigerians. It is the case that Nigerians should sympathise with their government and forget all outside influences, but can they?
Because of modern internet and mobile technology, especially Google and YouTube, the graphic story of Biafra as told by non-Nigerians is easily accessible to millions around the world. While Nigerians, especially non-Igbos, see the Igbos as an aggressive ‘materialistically obsessed’ ethnic group, Igbos do not see themselves and non-
Nigerians mostly see them as a people with an overwhelmingly traumatised ‘social memory’ stacked with genocide. Coupled with dispossession, starvation and endless marginalisation. Most non-Igbo Nigerians will disagree with such a dark perspective, but the objective evidence as ‘presented’ goes a long way in favouring it and the recent arrest of Kanu is unwittingly one more confirmatory example. Who will support from outside go to?
Nigeria is a nation in perennial need of much direct foreign investment and multi-lateral loans; this is a monumental reason the opinion of the international community counts a lot. Unwittingly, the Nigerian government has increased the already high country risk to investors with the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu. Is that where the Nigerian government wants Nigeria to be?
Nigeria is a high country risk to investors is because several factors. High levels of corruption, poor governance, the dormant Niger Delta crisis, Boko Haram violence. Besides poor security, poor infrastructure and pollution in its most lucrative environments.
In the criminal code, the crimes of sedition and treason where proven are serious in virtually every nation. One wonders if Nnamdi Kanu and his Biafra Radio posed substantive threats to the existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
There is a long history of revolutionary, dissident, and separatist figures. They rise from obscurity with nothing and became irresistible international heroes and ‘cause célèbres.’ Yes, attracting strong, enduring sympathy and support at the expense of the persecuting nation seen with hindsight to have acted in error. The widespread protests for Kanu’s release in Nigeria are evidence of unexpected support.
Was Nnamdi Kanu a big time figure before his arrest? He is now. Unlikely personalities like Mexican peasant rebel Pancho Villa; everyday Irish guy Bobby Sands; dock worker organiser Lech Walesa and the list goes on. In each case, the expedition against Villa. Or the jailing and hunger strike death of Sands. And the arrest and proscription of union activities by Walesa. respectively, all led to massive surges in internal and international support for them and their activities.
Within Nigeria, look at the ‘jumped up status’ of Dokubo Asari and Gani Adams. Or the martyrdom of Dele Giwa and Ugonna Omereonye. One can only wonder what the Nigerian government stands to gain. Gain from arresting Nnamdi Kanu and proscribing Radio Biafra. Considering Nigeria’s global potential and importance.
Separatists exist all over the world have learned how to take care of themselves in the face of adversity. And governments have also learned how to handle and frustrate them. Nigeria has security experts competent in non-violent solutions to threats. They should do just that.
Revolutionaries and separatists only succeed when there is a real need for such action, a strong leader who the people trust to champion it, the action itself is free of ulterior motives, and execute their actions in a thorough and proper manner. Nnamdi Kanu and Radio Biafra do not have those endowments.
The elevation of insults by Radio Biafra for calling Nigeria a “zoo” and Nigerians “animals” to treason is interesting. It is not too difficult to find non-Nigerian politicians and personalities that have called Africans or Nigerians ‘apes.’ But there are hardly ever any public outcries when we hear them. Insults are bad, can be nasty to some or painful to others. But not those two.
The Nigerian government has acted as it has deemed fit and should handle the problem with a thoroughly rational response. Or is it just another distraction? From where most stand ‘One Nigeria’ remains by far the strongest geopolitical reality Nigeria has unless something ‘changes’.
The Government Has Jumped Up ‘Biafra,’ and will have lots of problem in future handling him as he has become so big a figure..