Nnamdi Kanu, leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Director of Radio Biafra, did not start his Biafra independence struggle today. In fact, he started it more than 19 years ago, which has made him to garner a lot of experience that today – in words and deeds – he exudes unparalleled optimism about the struggle.
His optimism comes as a result of the many challenges he had had to face in the struggle and came out successful. Today, which is three days to his appearance in court; we recount some of those challenges. We recall them because overcoming them has produced in him that unparalleled optimism that make him declare so very often that “In the end we win, we always win”.
Arrest and Detention
When the Department of State Security (DSS) arrested him on December 14, and dumped him in detention, many people thought he was new to arrests and detentions. But he was not. Several times in the past, he has experienced it.
Coming into the country during his earlier days in the struggle, he was apprehended at the airport in Lagos for coming in with many Biafran artifacts. On discovering that he had association with Ralph Uwazuruike the leader of Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), he was instantly flown into Abuja, Nigerian capital, under heavy security. There, he was detained in solitary confinement for more than three months.
Paucity of funds
The challenge of how to get funds to run Radio Biafra, Biafra Television, and the Biafran struggle has always been a critically one before Nnamdi Kanu and his colleagues. Even today that challenge persists.
Many people would not understand this; neither would they understand that his last November 23 court appearance presented the latest development of a story that started long before 2009 when Radio Biafra was established.
Kanu established the Radio Station in collaboration with Uwazuruike, MASSOB. Then the station was broadcasting two hours daily on shortwave frequency. MASSOB provided up to 60 per cent of the funding for the airtime, while the funds for the studio and the equipment within it, was from Kanu’s savings. He was an Economic Consultant, a graduate of Political Economics from what is known today as London Metropolitan University. He is a British citizen.
Radio Biafra then was more of a talk-show with panel of discussants. After discussing issues of the day, which usually had relationship with Biafra, Biafrans, and their travails, they would then proceed to receive uncensored calls from people (especially Biafrans) from all over the world.
Unfortunately, things later got awry when Uwazuruike fell out with Kanu and his Radio Biafra crew members who did not want such an arrangement. Uwazuruike had already pledged his support to some politicians in Nigeria, and was predisposed to using the radio station to campaign for them. But Kanu and members of the crew who would not want such an arrangement, and who were hardcore Biafrans and would not want to have anything to do with Nigeria and its politics, refused. They reasoned that it would pose a very big distraction for the struggle.
Before Uwazuruike could do anything about it, they had gone on to start campaigning that Biafrans should boycott the elections of 2011. As a result of this, Uwazuruike declined honouring MASSOB’s own side of the bargain, which is to forward funds for the station’s airtime. This was the reason Radio Biafra ceased transmission in 2009.
However, in 2013, Kanu, Uche Mefor, and Emma Nmezu, were able to resurrect Radio Biafra again, this time broadcasting online.
Kanu did not only have challenges because he was associated with MASSOB, he has also had challenges even with MASSOB itself that at a time he fell out with the leadership.
Part of the reasons Kanu fell out with MASSOB leadership, headed by Ralph Uwazuruike, was because he (Uwazuruike) compromised the struggle by mixing it with Nigerian politics. Uwazuruike also turned the group to a criminal organisation that was terrorizing his own people rather than fight the enemies of his people.
Kanu once told his own side of the story when some MASSOB members confronted him on air, accusing him of selling out on the struggle. Part of his explanation was, “Uwazuruike, your master, came to see me in London in the summer of 2009 and asked me to print Biafran Passport for sale. I told him no. I introduced him to Coleman Asomba in South Africa to coordinate our agitation but when he (Uwazuruike) got there they concentrated on printing passports
“People started calling Radio Biafra to enquire if the new Biafran passport was a legal tender as BBC Africa had carried the news. I gave
them an honest opinion that Biafran Passport printed could not get them into the mythical 99 countries that recognized MASSOB.”
He said also that “Uwazuruike rejected the involvement of Igbo intelligentsia and failed to allow consultation to happen between us and Igbo elders.”
It was at this point that the whole relationship turned sour. Uwazuruike first declared Kanu wanted, and then called on the Nigerian Police to arrest him and his colleagues at Radio Biafra when they gave out the information that they were coming home to consult with him and other MASSOB members. Uwazuruike described them as trouble makers who were on a mission to disrupt the elections.
That was why on December 19, Uwazuruike’s boys came in 10 buses, kidnapped Kanu from his father’s compound in Afara, Ibeku in Umuahia, Abia State. They took him to Okwe in Okigwe, Imo State, which is MASSOB headquarters (Uwazuruike’s home-town).
Kanu narrated his ordeal: “You hungry fellas stole my clothes, wrist watch and money. Some of you spat at me, some poured urine on me. You fooled them into believing I was a traitor to cover the fact that you people are the traitors. You tried to humiliate me in the hope that I will be silenced forever but you failed. In your stupidity you made a video tape of the whole torture and kidnapping in the hope of using it to blackmail me into silence. You threatened to release the video if I criticized MASSOB criminal activities again. Little did you know the video was the proof that the world needed to confirm that MASSOB was a full time crime empire.
“The worst mistake MASSOB made was to let me leave their Okwe torture chamber alive. If they had the intention of continuing in their criminality they should have killed me. Biafra is the only reason why I live; that was something none of you knew.”
In the final analyses, Kanu has no disagreement with MASSOB members, but with its leadership and those who follow the leadership foolishly.