Monday 4 January 2016

Nnamdi Kanu, my Man of the Year By Uche Ezechukwu.

Nnamdi Kanu, my Man of the Year
Since in 1927, when the famous American newsmagazine, TIME, invented the concept of the Man or Woman of the Year which it later started calling the Person of the year since in 1999, the concept has become adopted the world over by publications and individual writers. Towards the end of every year, the publication features the profile of a person, group or idea, or even an object, which in the view of its editors, which “for better or for worse”, has done most to influence news reportage or events during the course of the ending year.

The choice is not about the good or saintly person, idea or object of the year and hence, there is nothing qualitative about the choice. That is why TIME had picked Adolf Hitler as it Man of the Year for 1938 and Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, not because of their suave and palatable personalities, but rather because of their news value. If the choice were to be about good and saintly people, most of the popes and Mother Theresa would have won it but that was not the case. Only a few US presidents have equally been so elected.
In our circumstances, I have chosen Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, the detained director of Radio Biafra and the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, as my man of the year. And many who do not fully grasp this concept are likely to cringe in a surge of emotions.
Ask any editor today in Nigeria, he would confess that one of the best ways to increase the circulation figure of his publication is to report the different angles of the Biafran agitation. Experience in the media has shown that the Biafran agitation and its key object, Nnamdi Kanu, have become the greatest news makers of 2015, and, therefore, the greatest revenue earners from newspaper sales. In other words, in some newspapers, if there is no new aspect of the Kanu story to highlight, many editors would conveniently allow one to be invented.
Unknown to most people, this Biafran agitation is not a new phenomenon, nor has Kanu really anything to do with its origin. It has been there right from the days when the Indian trained lawyer, Ralph Uwazurike, around 1985 or so, set up the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), which started the recruitment of youths from the former Eastern Nigeria into what looked like a fan club of the defunct Biafra secessionist idea. While it had started during the military days of Babangida, it was at the inception of democracy in 1999 that it gathered steam and started spreading all over Igbo land and in the cities where Igbo people live.
While the movement and the incoherent message it preached continued to spread and take root among the youths, it enjoyed very little support and/ or sponsorship of organised groups in Igboland or among any of the state administrations. The best that happened to MASSOB was that it later started getting the sympathy and moral – perhaps financial – support of some well to do Igbo people, but unlike many enemies of Igbo people would want to believe, MASSOB or the Biafra movement never had any real establishment support among the opinion, at that stage.
Yet, and undaunted, Uwazurike stubbornly continued to build his organisation that preached and practiced non-violence, perhaps, drawing inspiration from the non-violence method of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of Indian nationalism. Remember Uwazurike went to school in India. The MASSOB founder rebuffed most offers or suggestions of state governors and other people who were concerned about his reference to Biafran secession, a phenomenon that most people had not fully recovered from. Uwazurike and his lieutenants had creative ways of raising funds, especially through contributions from its members, made up of okada riders and other lowly employed youths and artisans. MASSOB became wealthy and self-sustaining.
As Uwazurike got wealthy and powerful, he became more daring and started getting himself into troubles with the authorities at different levels, as MASSOB started to usurp the functions of state, like law enforcement and even organising activities which disrupted legitimate activities of people that did not belong to them. They started to hoist Biafran flags and claiming territories even though they have remained unarmed till date. They even made moves to disrupt the last census exercise in states of the south east, claiming that the area was Biafran, and not Nigerian territory.
Uwazurike has been arrested and detained several times and has been accused of treasonable offences for running a banned organisation and so on. But MASSOB turned out to be its own worst enemy when some of its members, including the leader, started romancing with Nigerian political parties, APGA, amidst interest in Jonathan’s re-election. That became a huge mistake for him. Many pro-Biafra elements who had started questioning the probity of the struggle under MASSOB started fragmenting the organisation. That was when they had the Biafra-Zionist Movement (BZM) whose members, out of sheer foolhardiness, tried to storm the Enugu Government House, were arrested and are still being tried for sundry offences. There is also the Lower Niger Congress (LNC) which is mostly made up of Diaspora-based intellectuals campaigning for a confederate arrangement for Nigeria.
It was out of the ashes of what was being generally seen as the loss of direction and steam by MASSOB that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) emerged, almost from nowhere, waxing very strong and suddenly overwhelmed the entire environment. Communications experts have always recognized the radio and its low running cost as the most pervasive and most effective way of communication and mobilization. Nnamdi Kanu with his pirate Radio Biafra has proved that hypothesis beyond any strand of doubt.
Even though Radio Biafra which is believed to be broadcast from somewhere in Europe, probably in United Kingdom, first started as a joke about two years ago, now before anybody knew what was happening, its message had permeated every cranny, every creek and every hamlet of the South East and South South. It was first ignored and later listened to only by a few and up till this moment, a huge percentage of the elite members from the area to which it is targeted – including this writer – have never listened to it.
However, to those who have listened to its messages, which are said to be hateful and spiteful of other Nigerian groups, their leaders and icons, they have become more important than the messages preached in the churches in the area. Nnamdi Kanu has suddenly become the new pope and the new Ikemba rolled into one. His antecedents, origin and background matter a little to a people who are not used to having kings, but who recognize that what any child needs to be elevated to the table of leaders, is to wash his hands clean, and do what others had not done before. People believe Kanu has done that.
Nnamdi Kanu’s radio and antics could have been conveniently contained had the government of the day not given a large dose of oxygen to them by its acts of omission and commission, when President Buhari described the people Kanu was targeting as the “five per-centers”, who should not look forward to full accommodation in his government.
The glaring cut-out of the South East from the scheme of things in Buhari’s booty sharing was like pouring petrol into the fire of the rage of the people that Kanu was trying to convert to his uncouth message, which started to resonate more formidably and could no longer be ignored. Even Buhari’s spokesman started responding to them. That was how and when Kanu became Nigeria’s largest crowd puller, and more so after he was arrested by the Nigerian security agents, as he sneaked into Nigeria, last October.
There is no doubt that by largely mismanaging the Kanu issue, the Buhari administration has unwittingly made him the biggest hero or villain today in Nigeria. Depending on which side you are, the hero or the villain is a newsmaker anywhere, anytime. And from what is on the ground, Kanu is not about to suddenly disappear from the affairs or purview of Nigerians or even the world.
In fact, he has become what Ndigbo would describe as a leach that got stuck to the scrotum; if you hit it hard to kill it, you crush the scrotum, and if you let it be, it sucks your blood and more. In other words, Nnamdi Kanu will for some time in the future remain prominent on the radar of news watchers.
That is why, for influencing most of news reports in 2015, and with the potential do so for some time to come, Nnamdi Kanu, the director of Radio Biafra and the leader of IPOB, is my man of the year, for 2015.
Happy New Year!

Source: The Authority. 

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