Separatist leader, if he can be genuinely called that, Nnamdi Kanu is finally begging for negotiations when he has, with the other elements he successfully brainwashed, failed in the sustained efforts at inflicting immeasurable damage to the country. Kanu’s Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has been at the forefront of destroying the country, which must not be confused with their false claim of seeking independence for the Ibo speaking states in the southeast of Nigeria.
Reputable media organisations quoted Kanu’s lawyers, Ifeanyi Ejiofor and Amobi Nzelu, as saying at a press briefing that their client was not opposed to negotiation to secure his freedom from detention, where he has been since being arrested when he sneaked into the country to hatch what security agencies had described as a destabilisation plot.
He is of course continuing with his comical stance with a proviso that he would not renounce his ideology. For those who are not familiar with Kanu’s ideology it consists of the belief that: Nigeria is a zoo; all other non-Igbo Nigerians are animals living in the zoo called Nigeria; the zoo and the animals in it must be bombed into oblivion to make way for the emergence of a Biafra Republic. Bombing the rest of us into oblivion was given voice at the 2015 Igbo World Congress where Kanu openly solicited for arms and bullets, which should give us a sense of what the ideology he won’t give up is.
Despite his denial, the ideology of IPOB that he canvases include teaming up with the terrorists that are destroying economic infrastructure in the Niger Delta. It extends to brainwashing mostly unemployed youths and semi-literate traders and artisans who were sent on the suicide missions like barricading national infrastructure and murdering security operatives. The ideology involves murdering Nigerians of other nationalities and burying them in shallow graves for security operatives to find. The ideology has proven not to be against blockading the economy with shut-ins even when it means loss of income to separatists businessmen.
What must not be lost on Nigerians is that this ideology, typified by Kanu, is actively pursued by a minority, albeit a vocal one that cares nothing that the real Igbo sons and daughters with enterprising spirit would rather maintain the economic prosperity they have found in the united Nigeria. Unfortunately, the so called ideology criminalise these hardworking Nigerians for not endorsing criminality for the sake of ethnic sentiments. The spiral of silence that ensures the vocal minority can continue to mislead the world while deluding themselves is a deliberate goal of those behind IPOB.
But for the well documented historical, ethnic and geographical disparities one would be forgiven for concluding Nnamdi Kanu and Boko Haram’s Abubakar Shekau share the same DNA. That would have suggested that the IPOB leader derived his name from a shortening of Shekau’s Kanuri ethnicity. Both have displayed corresponding level of schizophrenic-manic depressive manifestation that the government must be wary of. He is ready to negotiate but not willing to give up a destructive ideology, so what is the negotiation about?
Before accepting Kanu’s offer of negotiation, the Federal Government must establish his true intentions because of the duplicity of his position. It would be disastrous if he is let of without trial only for him to return into the trenches and start brainwashing misguided elements to take up arms against the country. Part of what Kanu must clarify before any negotiations is why his movement lied dormant all through the life of the previous administration.
Should things progress to a point where the government negotiate with people charged with treason, it must draw the line on what concessions to make. The fact that the unholy alliance of the IPOB and militant groups in the Niger Delta is creating economic chaos is not enough to legitimize the criminality being promoted by their likes. No nation willingly hands over its sovereignty to criminals.
Furthermore, any condition for dialogue with Kanu and IPOB must be underwritten by genuine Igbo leaders. Whatever agitation the southeast has must be legitimately tabled and not concluded with only insurrectionists since the authentic Igbo leaders could reject any decisions arising from such talks. The leaders must undertake that their ethnic nationality can pursue its ambition within the contemporary Nigeria without provoking or threatening other ethnic nationalities. They must also commit to a disavowal of all hate speech and they must prove that the destructive prescriptions of IPOB does not enjoy bloc support of southeast states or their people.
These need for such assurances is underscored that many so called Igbo leaders attended the 2015 Igbo World Congress where Kanu made threats against the Nigeria state and canvassed funds for buying weapons without any of them disowning the preparation for violence. What this means is the government must be extra cautious.
In addition to being cautious about the content of negotiations and who to have them with, we must also be careful about what precedents are set in the process. There is already proof that the government might have placed orders for goods it cannot pay for with its offer of dialogue with recalcitrant militant groups in the south-south. Instead of reassuring the region it has only gingered more criminals to form new groups to qualify for the goodies that they expect would come as sweeteners to negotiations.
The domino effect will spread beyond the southeast and the south-south: some Boko Haram terrorists want negotiation, Ombatse cultists are likely on a comeback in addition to several extremist or militia groups are simmering and could unleash violence in order to qualify for the coming negotiation bonanza.
The seeming positive indication of willingness to negotiate by Kanu and his IPOB is a positive news that must therefore be treated with caution.
Whatever the government is offering him in exchange for escaping trial must be something that can be offered to others clamouring to climb on the negotiation train. Negotiation must also not be construed as creating a precedence that allow people commit heinous crimes and get away because they have perfected how to blackmail the government.
Abiodun a public affairs commentator contributed this article from the United Arab Emirates.