Onoh faults Southeast leaders for Kanu’s continuous stay in detention
calls for engagement with IPOB victims first
Following requests by different stakeholders in the Southeast, asking for the release of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu from the detention facility, the former spokesman of President Bola Tinubu in the region, Dr Josef Onoh has asked the Governors in the South East, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other groups and individuals making the request to first engage with the families of the victims who suffered one casualty or the other from violence associate with IPOB.
Onoh said that the Southeast leaders have continually suffered from willful amnesia by denying the dangers posed by IPOB activities in their region.
He compared the Igbo leaders’ position to J. Edgar Hoover of the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) who refused to believe that there was such a thing as ‘organised crime’ in America, until the 1957 Apalachin summit that finally motivated him to take a public position.
Onoh said it was preposterous for the Igbo leaders to continually make requests to President Tinubu for the release of Kanu without first of all expressing concerns for the victims of Kanu’s lethal force by setting up a commission of enquiry into the matters involved with the criminal elements associated with IPOB.
He noted that President Tinubu is a freedom fighter who engaged in conventional methods to negotiate democracy in Nigeria and would not be less concerned in any freedom negotiation that upholds the tenants of the rule of law and engagement.
Onoh was reacting to different pleas to President Tinubu by governors in the southeast, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and others to release the IPOB leader without any condition attached.
Those who had made the requests include, Governors Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State, Peter Mbah of Enugu State; the new President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, among other politicians.
Onoh stated that to his knowledge, the persons and groups making such requests have never engaged with the victims such as the families of the police officers who lost their lives in the hands of criminal elements purporting to be fighting for Biafra restoration.
“Even IPOB had come out to claim their non-involvement in some of these dastardly acts and have volunteered to work with the government and security agencies to fish out the criminal elements that have hijacked their organization, but the immediate past governors of the Southeast refused to engage them.
“In fact, they were enjoying the mayhem and sit-at-home. They played the role of victims more than the affected, showed no support for the security agencies nor the safety of the indigenes, visitors and residents of their states, rather they protected themselves in their respective Government houses while others were killed by the criminal elements, including men and women of our security agencies.
“What did we say to the family of Dr. Chike Akunyili who was savagely murdered in the open street, Joe Igbokwe whose house was burnt, attack on Senator Ifeanyi Ubah that resulted in the death of his security aides; attack on Former Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State, Staff of the America Embassy who were recently murdered in Anambra State, just to mention but a few.”
He, therefore, said that it was unconscionable, inhuman and an exacerbation of injury, for the Igbo leaders to be making demands for the release of Kanu, towing their lines without recourse to the damages already done to the psyche of the victims and their relatives simply because they were not sincere with their requests but rather playing politics with Nnamdi Kanu’s release.
Onoh said that even countries whose leaders engaged in the slave trade and horrors of colonization in Africa have in the recent time made apologies to their colonies, and wondered why Igbo leaders have failed to see the injustice their own wards have meted on others.
He said that what the southeast leaders are doing is playing politics with Nnamdi Kanu and have failed to resolve the matter squarely, adding that apart from engaging with the families of the victims of IPOB violence, Ndigbo should collectively tender an apology for the atrocities of the criminal elements in IPOB.
“I’m not against the release of Nnamdi Kanu, after all, I’ve said it before that the release of Kanu is more important than senate presidency is zoned to the southeast, but our southeast leaders and Governors must take responsibility of some actions and not just Nnamdi Kanu and members of IPOB.
“When we wrong someone we know, even unintentionally, we are generally expected to apologize. The person we hurt feels entitled to an admission of error and an expression of regret. We, in turn, try to ameliorate the situation by saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ and perhaps make restitution. Till date, no restitution has been made to surviving families of IPOB victims.
“But when we’re acting as leaders, it’s not just to use the release of Nnamdi Kanu to play politics or publicise it in media by asking Mr President to release him, the circumstances are different. Leaders are responsible not only for their own behaviour but also for that of their followers, who might number in the hundreds, thousands, or even millions as the case of IPOB.
“The first question then is, who exactly is the guilty party? The degree of damage is an issue as well. When a leader feels obliged to apologize, especially for a trespass in which followers were involved, the harm inflicted was likely serious, grievous widespread, and enduring.
“Since leaders speak for, as well as to, their followers, their apologies have broad implications. The act of apology is carried out not merely at the level of the individual but also at the level of the institution. It is not only personal but also political. It is a performance in which every expression matters and every word becomes part of the public record as shown in the way they call for Nnamdi Kanu’s release is now made public record by various actors in the southeast.
“So the Igbo leaders including Nnamdi Kanu and all IPOB agitators should first engage the families of the victims of criminal elements within IPOB, show remorse, apologise to them even though it will not bring back their loved ones, yet it will surely go a long way; but not to come haphazardly to score cheap political goals and make it look as if Asiwaju does not want to release Nnamdi Kanu.
“Sometime in June 2018, the Oluwo of Iwo, Abdulrosheed Adewale Akanbi described the slave trade on African soil as a very costly mistake on the part of the ancient monarchs to whom the people looked up to for their security and decent living. Oba Akanbi said that apologizing for wrongs of the past is an affirmation of readiness to make progress and move away from the evils and things that still tie us to the bizarre past.”
Onoh stated that according to Oba Akanbi, tendering apologies on behalf of the ancient kings and the traditional rulers and telling the children about their roles during the slave trade era would go a long way in assuaging the pains and removing the low esteem of the victims.
“So why can’t our southeast leaders own up to our collective failures and not just Nnamdi Kanu? Let’s first apologise, give little succour to the families of the victim of IPOB atrocities.”
He recalled that on May 29, 2002, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo apologised to Nigerians for years of rights abuses by previous governments, on the occasion of Nigeria’s third anniversary of establishing democracy; just like on July 22, 1924, the Persian government apologised for the death of U.S. Vice Consul Major Robert Imbrie, who was beaten to death by a mob in Teheran.
Onoh further cited that on August 18, 1955, the Indian Prime Minister Nehru apologized and expressed deep regret to foreign missions and consulates in New Delhi that were attacked by Indian demonstrators and offered to pay full compensation for damages; same as on December 30, 2002 when Leaders of a rebel group in Ivory Coast apologized for firing on French troops near Duekoke.
“Now, this Nnamdi Kanu’s matter is already in court, hence any interference by the President Tinubu in the judicial process has far reaching and damaging consequences. Some will argue that the court has already ordered his release but the same court gave him freedom with the right hand also held him with the left because our apex court had cause to adopt a position on the issue of Rule of law versus national security and it is now a matter of judicial interpretation that; where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place in favour of the greater good of society.
“Clearly, President Tinubu isn’t the one responsibile for his incarceration. We must not also deny that Nnamdi Kanu has also felt personal hurt too, arising from his utterances, he lost his parents and was not by their side during their last hours. May their souls continue to rest in peace.
“Igbo leaders should put their house in order, they should collectively visit Nnamdi Kanu in detention, send a team to go to Finland and visit Simon Ekpa. There must be end to every agitation through proper engagement and dialogue with the principal actors to enable them weed out the criminal elements in IPOB because no sit-at-home can release Nnamdi Kanu nor stop Simon Ekpa from making his utterances from Finland.
“There is a lack of trust between IPOB and the government including most southeast leaders with exception of Senator Abaribe who showed a sincere sense of purpose to mediate between IPOB and the previous government, but was sabotaged by his fellow southeast leaders.
“Finally, to reinforce the difference a simple apology can make even in more sensitive issues like religion, on October 14, 2002: The Rev. Jerry Falwell apologised for calling the Prophet Muhammad a terrorist during a recent television interview. Astonishingly, muslim leaders welcomed and accepted his apology.
“It’s only after doing all these can we sit down to lobby for the release of Nnamdi Kanu and not to put the whole burden on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We can go on as we have been going and continue suffering from willful amnesia or we can stop and say enough is enough.
“Let us as a region work towards a new and better future for ourselves, people, children and unborn children. Let us resolve to heal the wounds of many affected by the atrocious activities of the criminal elements that have now hijacked IPOB. And let that act of healing and apology be the prelude to a lasting victory of common sense over senseless unproductive agitations aggravated by shortsightedness and inability to tell ourselves the truth,”Onoh counselled.