It was a grievous mistake on the part of the Government of Nigeria (GON) to arrest the Biafran secessionist activist, Nnamdi Kanu (See; The Government Has Jumped Up “Biafra” http://wp.me/p1bOKH-pt). Apart from Kanu’s new status of cause celebre due to his arrest and the risk of his martyrdom, the GON has continued to escalate the problem for itself. Many said Kanu’s arrest was a “non-event”. Now a peaceful protester has been shot dead by the police in Port Harcourt. As Ghandi famously proclaimed “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. Kanu was ignored, laughed at and now he is being fought by the GON. The question is, will Kanu eventually win?
Strong secession movements exist today in the USA, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Secession becomes necessary as a movement when a people within a nation are no longer happy coexisting within it. Self-determination is conclusively deemed as only possible solution by way of exit from the state. It takes “hyper-coordinated institutional capabilities” to do it successfully in a peaceful way. That is why strong acts of secession are bloody affairs in Africa. Secession mostly causes much instability within African nations before separation; is Nigeria ready for such?
Many prominent Igbos have and will publicly distance themselves completely from Kanu but they do not speak for all their people. There are also many Igbos who do not want to hear anything about secession. However, coordination mechanisms if properly triggered will render their voices “voiceless” and their most likely step is to search for safety. Political integration has not worked well in Igbo-Nigerian relations. Social integration has not worked well either and economic integration of the Igbos has given them a bad name. That is a shocking in a country where the entire population worships money devoutly.
As things stand Kanu lacks the resources and the ‘coordination mechanisms’ of ethnic support of the Igbos to win anything. Kanu’s strengths lies in the small (active) overt and broad-based (dormant) tacit support among his people. It is this small active group that carries out the growing protests calling for the release and safety of Kanu. The GON should not have gotten itself into this situation in the first place. The Igbos have tasted the “pain” of losing a war a one-sided war and are in no hurry to wage another one. Scholars of war would certainly know that if the Igbos have very good reason to do it all over again they will. And much better next time.
Anyone who understands ‘coordination mechanisms’ will understand how mistaken the GON is in handling the Kanu matter. Coordination? Imagine a Kanuri man in New York who is best friends with an Urhobo man who also lives there. The initial basis or their friendship is that there are thousands of Kanuris living in Warri and these two men by coincidence know some of them. Eight years down the line the people of Warri exact a heinous massacre on the Kanuri people living there. Would the Kanuri man start seeing his Urhobo friend as an enemy? That is how racial hatreds that lead to conflict ignite or become desperately active. There is nothing logical or decent about it.
The recent London Riots took the death of just one man, Mark Duggan, to trigger. Recent riots have occurred in the USA because of the police killings of unarmed innocent individual black males in certain cities. The Arab Spring was triggered by the self-immolation of a Tunisian, Mohammed Bouazizi in protest against the government. But No! No! No! Nigeria is an exceptional place. The killing by the police of one Igbo man in a peaceful protest for the release of Kanu in Port Harcourt, and others, is not enough to cause any form of anger or retaliation even though the protest wass a response to “ethnic oppression”. Insensitivity has always been the major unspoken problem with Nigeria.
Well, what I feared most about the arrest of Kanu is already happening. Kanu’s arrest and continued detention of Kanu has necessitated protests and enhanced his image of considerably Kanu among his people and the international community. Coordination mechanisms are making the small active supporters grow in numbers mostly by sensitising or converting the ample numbers of dormant tacit supporters into becoming active. Kanu is becoming “the Man” because of unnecessary government attention. The overwhelming question will be, what has Nnamdi Kanu done wrong? Treason in a democracy is decided in court. The courts release Kanu the GON says No.
What happens if Kanu is released without indictment? His status as cause celebre will remain; his audiences will become so much larger and keener; his real support based will expand; and he will use the release to its maximum for propaganda purposes. Nnamdi Kanu is in a win-win situation but only by the making of the GON. If the Nnmadi Kanu issue turns into something too big to handle by the GON, it certainly would have itself to blame.
Finally, it is interesting to see the Nigerian police shoot unarmed peaceful protesters in cold blood after having seen infantry officers run like men who had just seen a ghost from Boko Haram fighters. Both are acts of cowardice in Nigerian uniform.