By Elizabeth Chukwuma
President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General, appears to have disappointed the south east Leaders, acting under the aegis of ‘’Highly Respected Igbo Greats’’ who had paid him a Courtesy call on Friday, November 18, 2021 at the Presidential Villa to plead for the release of Nnamdi Kanu, the Leader of the separatist Court Proscribed Independent People of Biafra, IPOB, fighting for the Biafra nation.
The Igbo Leaders may have been encouraged to make a case for the release of Kanu, as the State Security Service, SSS, had released two associates of the Yoruba nation agitator, Sunday Igboho, who is still in detention. Note that Kanu, the IPOB, Leader, was forcefully arrested in the East African country of Kenya and extradited last July ‘’to face trial of Treason’’ but had been in the SSS, custody since then, from where he is taken to Court .
The anxious Igbo people had expected that with Mbazulike Amaechi, a Parliamentarian and First Republic minister of Aviation, leading the Igbo delegation comprising Chukwemeka Ezeife, a former governor of Anambra state, Bishop Sunday Onuoha of the Methodist Church, Tagbo Amaechi, a former President of Igbo Socio-cultural Group, Aka Ikenga, among others, it would encourage the Katsina state born Nigerian President to release Kanu by Executive fiat.
The First Republic Aviation minister, who had the mandate of the people to speak had made the retired army General to understand that he can ‘’control the IPOB Leader, not because he has anything to do with the Organisation but because he is a’’ highly respected in Igbo land today’’. He was said to have given instances how he had interfaced with him in the past to rescind orders given on civil disobedience in the south east. ‘’I believe in one big, united Nigeria, a force in Africa’’, he had said. The implication of the Statement shows that he does not believe in Kanu’s separatist agenda.
The Old Eastern region Politician speech may sound convincing for Buhari to release Kanu by Executive Fiat the and to give the Igbos confidence that he listens to them. But the retired army who does play to the gallery had told the Igbo delegation that Kanu must undergo the legal process which is currently ongoing. ‘’Let him make his case in Court, instead of giving wrong impressions of the country from outside’’, the President had said. This means that Kanu’s fate still hangs on the ruling of the Court and not the Presidency as the Igbo Leaders may have thought.
Although, Chris Ngige, a one-time governor of Anambra state and minister of Labour and Employment, Geofrey Onyema, minister of Foreign Affairs, Ogbonnaya Onu, minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, and Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba minister of state for Education, were not part of the Igbo delegations on the visit to the President to discuss Kanu’s release, but they were there on the invitation of the President. Ibrahim Gambari, a Professor and Chief of Staff to the President was also at the top level meeting of the President with the Igbo Leaders as a member of the government Team.
The Igbo Leaders may have expected the south east ministers in the Buhari Administration to throw their weight on their demand for the IPOB Leader’s release but got it wrong. They not heave read the body Language of the ministers who believe in the retired army General who has an issue to settle with the IPOB Leader, who had been described in security circles as great risk to the country. Indeed, the Nigerian President had looked forward for an opportunity of meeting Kanu, the IPOB Leader, who is giving his administration a cause for concern. The opportunity came with his forceful arrest in Kenya and detention by the SSS.
H The retired army General who may have seen the ‘’Highly respected Igbo Greats’’ request for the release of Kanu as a difficult one to be fulfilled by his government, was said to have made it categorically clear that ‘’it runs contrary to the doctrine of Separation of Powers between the Parliament, Executive and the Judiciary, insisting that the case is already in Court and nothing can be done about it.
Recall that he had repeatedly said when the IPOB Leader who had ‘’ jumped bail’’ and wasarrested in Kenya and brought back to the country that ‘’the best thing to do was to subject him to the system’’. An angry Buhari was said to have told the Igbo Leaders to forget about the demand for the release of Kanu when he said ‘’in the last six years, since I became Nigerian President,nobody would say I have confronted or interfered in the work of the Judiciary’’, meaning that Kanu , must go through the Legal process and if he is set free, so be it.
. He may have alluded to Mabazulike when he said ‘’God has spared you, and given you a clear head at this age, with very sharp memory to know everything that is still happening in the country now’’, . A lot of people are confused already, he had said.
Notwithstanding the efforts by the Igbo Leaders to secure the release of Kanu, from the SSS Custody, the South East Caucus in the National Assembly, were said to have been working behind the scene to ensure that he was released. Ike Ekweremadu, a former Deputy Senate President who was not happy that he was forcefully arrested from Kenya, had said that efforts were ongoing ‘’to ensure the release of the IPOB Leader’’ caucus. But that was how far the south east National Assembly Lawmakers cacus, could go.
Many believe that Kanu may have played into the hands of Buhari because of his conduct when he was arrested in 2015 on ’’charges bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, managing unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of arms and improper importation of goods’’.
He may have made his case worse when he ‘’fled the country in 2017 after he was granted bail on Medical grounds’’, forcing the Nigerian President to give a matching order to the security and intelligence agencies to get him wherever he may be hiding both within and outside the country.
This may have encouraged the security and intelligence Chiefs to reach out to their Counterparts in other parts of the world, particular, the friendly nations, to assist in getting him in order to continue his trial in Nigeria. This may have facilitated his arrest in Kenya and extradition to Nigeria to face his treason trial.