As the October 17 return date to court of leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu to answer to alleged treason offences brought against him by the Federal Government draws nearer, worries still persist over his whereabouts. Confusion and unanswered questions have continued to trail the landscape over where he could be, alive or dead and whether the court would proceed to hear the charges in his absence.
Kanu was arrested last year following his secessionist proclamations and clamped into prison custody until April 25 when Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja granted him bail on stringent conditions. He had enjoyed his bail, until September 14 when troops on military exercise, Operation Python Dance 11 allegedly invaded his Afaraukwu, Ibeku Umuahia country home.
Since then, those close to him, including his family members had claimed that they had neither seen nor discussed with him. The military authorities on the other hand have also denied arresting or having him in their custody, thus raising posers on where he could be.
However, while suspicions, allegations and counter allegations, continued to trail his “disappearance,” a former governor of Abia state, Dr Orji Kalu raised a pointer to his possible location when he told a national newspaper in an interview that he (Kanu) had escaped to London through Malaysia.
According to him, “Kanu was not taken away by the military. Kanu went to Malaysia from where he traveled to the United Kingdom. Nnamdi Kanu is in London right now as we speak. He was not arrested by anybody. He left the country on his own.
“One of his relations has spoken to me and explained everything because I wanted to see and talk to him wherever he was and see how I could meet some Federal Government officials on his issue. I also wanted to see ways of talking to the President about him, and find common ground but his family told me that he has left the country, unless they are lying to me.
“I believe, whether he had left the country or not, he is not with the military because I asked the Commander of the 14 Brigade, Brig.-Gen. A.K Ibrahim, who is a very fine and good soldier, well educated and dedicated, and he told me that they don’t know his whereabouts and I am sure, the Department of State Services have the same information. I also visited the Commissioner of Police and he said he didn’t know his whereabouts and that they are also looking for him.”
The centre has been let loose since the revelation of the former governor as so much venom has been poured on him by not only the IPOB members and their lawyers but other segments of the Southeast zone.
Emma Powerful, the IPOB spokesperson in his initial reaction to Kalu’s statement on Sunday classified him (Kalu) as “beholden to the Fulani caliphate interest, to the extent that he has almost lost his senses.”
He said Kalu’s claim “is an indication that he will do anything to escape his ongoing corruption scandal. It is not unexpected of a man who has spent his entire life lying, deceiving and running errands for his Hausa Fulani Islamic caliphate masters to make this laughable outburst.”
Powerful had indicated that members of IPOB would drag Kalu alongside the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Tukuk Burutai, to court to explain what they knew about their “missing leader,” stressing that there was no justification for the invasion of Kanu’s home.
Also, Head of IPOB legal team, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, described the ex-governor as “a drowning man,” adding that Kalu was “desperately in search of relevance from the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government.
The question on the lips of many is whether Kalu is actually seeking political relevance by the way and manner he had reacted to the issue of IPOB and Kanu.
The former governor is not new to IPOB and their struggle. He was in fact among the first set of Igbo leaders that visited Kanu at Kuje prison, where a meeting was brokered with some top relevant security agencies on the possible release of the IPOB leader.
One of the lawyers who initially handled the IPOB matter, Mr Vincent Obetta, who claimed he facilitated the meeting had expressed shock and disappointment over the breakdown in relationship between Kalu and IPOB that degenerated to the level of banters over his contrary view on the IPOB leader’s whereabouts.
Prior to the September 14 invasion, Kalu had summoned a press conference at his Igbere residence, Bende local government, Abia State, where he did not only condemn the activities of the secessionist group; he also viewed as “unrealistic” their agitation and blamed politicians in the Southeast zone for the rise in the activities of the group.
Although he lauded the governors of the zone for proscribing the group, he however observed that such action was belated saying, “I had earlier warned that they should discontinue in the act but nobody listened to me. The governors ignored me, believing that IPOB will help them win elections.”
He had told the agitators that what the country required was restructuring and not Biafra, insisting that fanning embers of dismemberment of Southeast from the rest of the country would not advance the course of the zone anywhere.
Drawing allusion to the fact that the supposed non-compliance of Kanu with his bail terms had escalated tension in the land, he stressed the need for reconsideration of the 2014 National Conference reports and creation of additional state in the zone as a way to contain rising agitations.
On September 29, the former Abia governor who was the guest lecturer of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Calabar, where he spoke on the topic, “Devolution of powers and the future of Nigeria,” further stoutly opposed agitation for Biafra.
Speaking on the imbroglio, a political commentator, Chief Dennis Umerem told The Guardian that: “as much as I don’t condemn the IPOB for rising to defend their own, I will add that our people are always a willing tool to achieve a desired end, apparently to help launder their dim image.
“Otherwise, how will you substantiate the fact of this ex-governor who went into oblivion after meeting Kanu in prison but suddenly reemerged in defence of the Federal Government. I want to agree on the allegation that he may have taken the position against IPOB following his case at the EFCC.
“I want to agree that he has decided to be used apparently for some mouthwatering offers in the future. It is unfortunate though, how he will accept to dance on the blood of the innocent for juicy political patronage.”
But Obetta disagreed with the allegations that Kalu is actually exploiting the ordeal of the IPOB to feather his political nest or escape prosecution in the alleged monumental corruption charge leveled against him by the EFCC.
According to him, “As far as I know Dr Orji Kalu’s intervention was to ameliorate the hardship this agitation may foist on his kinsmen living in the north. He has never hidden his knack for one big united Nigeria. In fact, he once told me that if he had his way, he would annex other smaller neighbouring countries to form one big Nigeria federation.”
It is not certain whether Kanu will resurface before the October 17 date in court and what could be the position of the court in the event of his absence. Also uncertain is the fate of those who signed his bail bond. Senator Enyinna Abaribe, one of the sureties and who represents Abia South voiced what looked like his frustration at the weekend, when he disclosed that “those who signed the bail for the release of Kanu are now in trouble because we do not know where he is and how to contact him. Those that support Kanu’s agitation should think twice.”
But Kanu’s Special Counsel, Chief Aloy Ejimakor told The Guardian, that the Army should be held responsible for the development stressing, “The state of affairs before the invasion was that Nnamdi Kanu was free on bail on subsisting court order; his bail was not on personal recognizance but on a bond posted by a third party obligor/surety; and Kanu was neither judicially ordered to be re-arrested for breaching his bail, nor on account of new charges filed.
“It is beyond argument that the invasion achieved complete routing of Nnamdi Kanu’s home and caused fatalities and injuries to a yet to be determined number of people, including Nnamdi, who were present and trapped at the premises throughout the attacks.”