The struggles, anxieties, and despair of Southeast residents and Ndigbo are far from ending, if the Nigerian government’s present stance toward the call for Nnamdi Kanu’s release, the IPOB’s founder and leader, is anything to go by.
This is due to the administration, which is led by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, appearing to have taken a passive and unresponsive attitude in the face of persistent calls for Kanu’s release and violent protests in the Southeast. Kanu has been held as a prisoner of conscience since June 2021.
After his amazing rendition from Kenya, Kanu was imprisoned. After that, he was placed in a DSS cell during the previous Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The then-Buhari administration claimed that Kanu was detained abroad and returned to face 15 counts of terrorism-related crimes. And while many, particularly critics, praised the government’s action, claiming that Kanu’s rhetoric inflames ethnic tensions and imperils national cohesion, others contended that the IPOB leader was merely defending the rights of the marginalized Igbo people and drawing attention to the perceived injustices they face within Nigeria.
A protracted legal dispute developed between Nnamdi Kanu’s legal team and the Nigerian federal government during the divisive discussion surrounding his detention.
The Abuja Division of the Appeal Court discharged and ordered the release of Kanu in October 2022, saying that the government lacked the authority to prosecute the IPOB leader as a result of an error in the extradition procedure.
However, the administration blatantly disregarded the decision and forced the Appeal Court to reconsider its decision by ordering a stay of execution.
Since Nnamdi Kanu has been incarcerated for two years, the FG doesn’t seem devoted to hastening the resolution of the IPOB founder’s legal matter.
Foreign organizations and prominent Igbo leaders had begged the government to release Kanu, but their appeals went ignored.
The then-Buhari administration’s policies of segregation against the Igbos were further exacerbated by this circumstance. And this put innocent inhabitants of the Southeast in danger twice as armed gangs wreaked havoc on public servants and established panic among them by enforcing regular sit-at-home orders.
According to OHAFIATV News, these heinous murders have put a halt to regional social, political, and economic activities.
The inauguration of the Tinubu administration on May 29, 2023, has revived calls and pressure for Nnamdi Kanu’s release in addition to igniting hope that the Igbos will be treated properly by his administration.
Just one month into his presidency, Tinubu has already spoken with a number of groups about the release of Nnamdi Kanu, including the governors of the states of Anambra and Enugu, Charles Soludo and Peter Mbah, as well as the president-general of the top Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohaneze Ndigbo.
Following a private meeting with the President last week in Abuja, Governor Mbah revealed that he had encouraged President Tinubu to give the release of Kanu first priority in order to offer a hand of friendship to the people of the South-East.
Mbah asserted that the South East related to President Tinubu’s pledge to foster national reconciliation and lead the nation with compassion.
The Governor replied, “So, basically, we’ve told him that this would point to his administration’s extension of hands of fellowship.
In the same spirit, security expert and retired army commander Hassan Stan-Labo joined the clamoring calls on President Tinubu to release Kanu to stop the escalating insecurity in the southeast on Wednesday.
In an interview, Stan-Labo forewarned that Kanu’s protracted arrest will turn him into a hero.
He claimed that keeping Kanu behind bars would only increase his notoriety and the level of hero worship directed toward him.
Additionally, Tinubu was encouraged not to act in the same way as his predecessor, who saw cries for self-determination as part of personal vengeance against Kanu, by Aloy Ejimakor, Special Counsel to Nnamdi Kanu.
In a tweet posted on Wednesday, Ejimakor said that Tinubu was not the target of Kanu’s self-determination, but rather the Nigerian State.
“Self-determination is not a personal desire. It is a demand of the Nigerian State rather than the President of that country. Buhari was the one who took it personally to the point of murder and kidnapping in retaliation. President Tinubu ought to be astute enough to avoid making the same error twice. RONU.
“Raise your voice for the prompt release of MAZI NNAMDI KANU and all political prisoners that President Tinubu (@officialABAT) inherited from Buhari if you are offended by injustice, regardless of your tribal allegiance. Your reticence is not priceless. Just say something! Thank you,” Ejimakor wrote in her post.
Simon Ekpa, the tough-talking Biafra agitator based in Finland who calls himself a disciple of Kanu, ignored calls from southeast governors to end the customary Monday sit-at-home protest and instead imposed a one-week lockdown on the southeast region in protest of the IPOB leader’s ongoing detention.
Ekpa and his supporters insist on it despite the negative effects these lockdowns have on locals, and they would engage in violent conflict with anyone who tries to persuade them not to follow the sit-at-home command.
The entire Southeast is experiencing anxiety as a result of the seven-day lockdown, which started on Day 4 on Thursday. Communities in Ebonyi State were rocked on Tuesday when armed thugs allegedly implementing the sit-at-home order set fire to a police van in Ukwagba village and opened fire randomly to prevent residents from ever leaving.
The police van was burned when the thugs attacked the Ukwagba police checkpoint and ordered the policemen to leave. They also barged into the Ishieke police roadblock and opened fire randomly, sending nearby police officers running for their safety.
In addition, it is said that the thugs broke into the Afiaohu market, which is near the Abakaliki/Enugu Express, and fired into the air to compel shopkeepers to run with their goods.
Residents of Enugu state experienced severe anxiety and terror on Wednesday as unidentified gunmen reportedly traveled across numerous areas of the state to implement the one-week sit-at-home order issued by Ekpa.
According to OHAFIATV News, the gunmen occasionally fired at the New Market axis of the State, Artisan, Emene, New Haven, Abakpa, Agbani Road, and NOWAS while driving a Siena vehicle and riding tricycles.
The gunmen have also stormed many locations in Imo State in order to drive residents back to their homes.
The Nigerian government’s body language appears unconcerned despite the bloodshed, protests in the southeast, and fervent calls for Kanu’s release because President Tinubu has kept his mouth shut in response to the wide range of cries. Nigerians are now proposing even more justifications for the release of the MNK as a result of this.
The ongoing detention of MNK worries Monday Ubani, Chairman, Section of Public Interest and Development (SPIDEL) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), but it also shows that courts are no longer concerned with problems pertaining to citizen liberty.
“The issue of an individual’s independence is crucial. I would suggest that some of our justices serve a month in jail and forfeit their freedom so they can understand why fundamental rights are so important.
“There was a time when you could file a basic human rights lawsuit and receive a prompt hearing,” he continued. But now that you’ve filed a fundamental rights complaint or even a bail application, the person has been detained for months but hasn’t been found guilty. Additionally, judges are not interested in freeing someone who has not been found guilty.
“Nnamdi Kanu has been incarcerated for over two years at this point. In addition, courts are not in a rush to decide how to resolve this issue.
So I join in urging the President to find a political solution and turn over Nnamdi Kanu to Igbo leaders and Southeast stakeholders with the understanding that Kanu should remain in office.
“We need to restore sanity to the southeast because certain criminals are taking advantage of Nnamdi Kanu’s detention to wreak havoc in the eastern part of the country, blaming Kanu’s detention for their crimes.
“Releasing Kanu will enable us to apprehend the culprits responsible for the chaos in the southeast, which is one method to resolve this issue. I believe that the President should free MNK in order to find a political solution to this issue and help Nigeria mend its wounds rather than allowing the young guy to remain in jail even if he has not been found guilty. Therefore, the judiciary must live up to expectations, according to Ubani.
Additionally, Sonnie Ekwowusi, a lawyer and the head of the African Bar Association’s human rights committee urged President Tinubu to put an end to calls for secession from any part of Nigeria with an effective government.
“Due to injustices, individuals and organizations call for Nigeria to be divided. As demonstrated by MNK, who demanded self-determination for the southeast area but was imprisoned by the Buhari administration, injustice enrages people and makes them want to break away. The African Charter recognizes self-determination. MNK did not engage in any criminal activity that was more egregious than what the Fulani herders have been doing across the nation. However, the Fulani have not been charged.
“People are urging the Tinubu government to release Kanu first in order to demonstrate inclusivity, balance, and a no-victory-no-vanquish posture.
“The President should also guarantee Nigeria’s true federalism. He needs to make each area seem like it belongs. And with this, more Nigerians will be content with his administration, said Ekwowusi.