Today, on Nnamdi Kanu’s release he has become “cause celebre” supreme in Nigeria. He visits and is visited by an impressive list of the ‘high and mighty’ in the land. Despite his oppressive bail conditions which prevent him from undertaking any activism or agitation activities, Kanu’s persona is flourishing. Kanu has become an unlikely but genuine national icon of the “Igbo struggle”. Igbo leaders who shunned Kanu when his troubles began must now embrace him, expediency would not permit otherwise. Otherwise, Igbos and other Nigerians who saw him a mere nuisance cannot deny his current moment of greatness. Yet, Kanu’s greatness was a far too visible and predictable product of an unwitting incarceration by the government of Muhammadu Buhari; Buhari made Kanu [great] as foreseen in The Government Has Jumped Up Biafra (see http://wp.me/p1bOKH-pt).
There are many brilliant or intractable agitators / activists in Nigeria that can skillfully influence the opinions and preferences of various sections of the masses. Interestingly, it is only when the Government of Nigeria (GON) arrests, imprisons, intimidates or murders them that they become the icons they want to be or that they deserve to be. Whether, Kanu deserves to be the icon he has become is a matter of opinion; that the government transformed him from a small-time operator into a major national icon is a matter of fact.
Furthermore, the ‘unconventional opposition’ always start out on the fringes with defiance and sometimes malevolence or violence in words or actions until they ‘score’ i.e. find popularity and legitimacy. Once they have scored they turn into affable, virtuous, if not charismatic personalities. The man who used to shout at any opportunity, “we shall fight our cause to the bitter end” suddenly starts to preach “we can only work out our concerns with peace” but only after scoring. Some call such “assimilation” others call it victory.
Many books and manuals on governance deal with the issue of authorities handling the unconventional opposition. Rebels, revolutionaries, outlaws, resistors, renegades, freedom fighters and the like are as a rule ‘particularly’ ignored by governments unless their tactics are causing the nation much tangible harm. This is because the human mind is socialised to perceive nation-state governments as great and sometimes all powerful entities. Thus, if a person or group can put a government on either the offensive or defensive, he or she must be great too. A recipe for creating influential heroes.
Since every Nigerian politician has read or has a copy of the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene on his bookshelf it is worth mentioning that Law 36 “Disdain Things You Cannot Have: Ignoring Them Is the Best Revenge”. In a political sense, this is because in many instances, the unconventional opposition have ‘universal truth’ on their side such as oppression and injustice, not like the warped truths many terrorists and nationalists behold, and this wins the support and sympathy of too many, eventually. In the battles between government and unconventional opposition it often ends up being actual or moral victories for the latter, especially the “martyrs” and “prisoners of conscience”, making the government look very incompetent, vindictive, heavy-handed and even petty. How is the GON and its intransigent violations of the Rule of Law looking now? Not too good.
Boko Haram and the Niger Delta Avenger, for two very different reasons – Islamic supremacy and oil holocaust, respectively, have caused Nigeria much harm and embarrassment through violence. The GON could understandably not rationally ignore such serious insurrections and had to act. Nnamdi Kanu, except for the use of highly skilful and sometimes malevolent rhetoric posed no such threat to Nigeria. Kanu is an outspoken and effective ideologue of Igbo separatism but capabilities ended there; he was never a practical threat to Nigeria whatsoever. After his long and unnecessary incarceration, no one knows how much of a threat to Nigeria’s unity he has become. We must not forget the GON has irreversibly confirmed, though their bail conditions pronounced upon Kanu, that he is a man of true influence and a competent organiser. History can go either way now. Only time will tell.
One thing for sure is that President Buhari characteristically lost out to Kanu.