Editor’s note: HRM Eze Israel Okwu Kanu is the father of one of Nigeria’s controversial detainees, Nnamdi Kanu. He is the traditional ruler of Isiama Afara, a community in Umuahia, Abia state. In an interview with Ihuoma Chiedozie of The Punch Newspapers, Kanu senior talks about the personality of his son, the conflict with Ralph Uwazuruike, a former leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of Biafra (MASSOB), pleads that the government sets his son free.
Read the abstracts below:
About Nnamdi Kanu and his character
While growing up, he was a very bright boy, very intelligent and brilliant and he was very serious with his studies. He was quite serious-minded for his age, which obviously informed his decision to leave the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he was studying as an undergraduate, for Europe, in order to finish his studies, following delays occasioned by incessant strikes by the university’s academic and non-academic staff.
When he got to Europe, the authorities there were impressed with him and took him up; they gave him admission, noting that he was very brilliant. It was determination that propelled him to move to Europe to complete his studies.
I used to observe him with his peers, whenever they were arguing or debating one thing or the other, he would usually enlighten them, telling the others what was the real fact. He was very knowledgeable and sometimes his mates would wonder how he knew more than them. They would ask him, ‘How come you know all these? Where did you get the information?’ With time, I discovered he was talented, especially in current affairs and history. He was really versatile and had vast knowledge on most subjects. Beyond that, he was a well-behaved boy who always did what was expected of him.
No, he was not a troublemaker. In fact he went out of his way to avoid trouble. If anything would cause a quarrel between him and anybody, he would rather avoid such a matter. He was actually peace-loving and gentle. Also, he was not a person of many words, he was reserved. But what I noticed about him, as he was growing up, was that he detested injustice. He did not like to see a fellow human being victimised. He would never be part of anything that involved the persecution, or victimisation of a fellow human being. He was very straight forward and honest to a fault. Nnamdi would never see the truth and keep quiet, he would speak out, not minding the consequences.
About Kanu / Uwazuruike rift
Nnamdi witnessed how Ralph Uwazuruike, a former leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of Biafra (MASSOB) was running MASSOB then. He went there (MASSOB) and found out that what Uwazuruike was doing was not right. He called Uwazuruike aside and asked him: ‘The money you are collecting (in the name of Biafra), can’t you give some of it to these poor ones among your members so that they can at least feed themselves and their families?’ Uwazuruike got angry and asked who gave him (Nnamdi) the right to make such comments. That led to problems between him and Uwazuruike.
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When Nnamdi came home to get married, Uwazuruike stormed the venue of the traditional wedding with his people to disrupt the wedding. Uwazuruike and his group came in 10 buses to cause disturbances at the venue. I was at home waiting for them to bring the new bride to me, as Igbo tradition demands, when I got information that Uwazuruike brought his men to cause trouble there. It got to a point that the youths from my son’s wife’s community rallied together to confront Uwazuruike’s boys, captured about 20 of them and took them to the police. But Nnamdi was beaten up seriously and he sustained injuries. When he returned home, I took him to the hospital for treatment. After he recovered, he swore to go ahead with the struggle for Biafra, but without Uwazuruike. He said the struggle could be successfully undertaken in a different way, without it being used as a means for self-enrichment, as was done by Uwazuruike. That was how he got involved in the struggle for Biafra.
MASSOB nearly killed my son!
When Nnamdi went there (MASSOB) and found out what Uwazuruike was actually doing, Nnamdi challenged him and they began to have problems. They nearly killed Nnamdi at that time. Initially, Nnamdi opened a radio house in Enugu, but Uwazuruike and his group went there to destroy it. There were so many other cases.
The problem was that Uwazuruike was allegedly using the money he was getting in the name of the pro-Biafra struggle to enrich himself and develop his estate, but not helping his members and followers, most of whom were very poor. Nnamdi did not like that and spoke out but Uwazuruike felt he was challenging him and decided to fight him. But he (Uwazuruike) did not know that the more he fought Nnamdi and tried to destroy him, the more God lifted him (Nnamdi) up.
Father’s feelings and message to the Buhari administration
No father will be happy to hear that his child has been arrested. The first time he was arrested and taken to Abuja, I left my palace and went to the DSS office in Abuja. I think it was in 2008 or thereabout. The next day, I was able to meet the person in charge and I explained my mission that ‘I learnt my son was arrested and being held.’ Eventually they brought him out of the cell and released him to me, because he did not do anything. It was Uwazuruike that set him up. But still, he was tortured before he was released.
He has been visiting Nigeria. He visits home and goes back.
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When I read some accounts between Nnamdi and the prosecution, I see it as when one is fighting with an enemy. They will do or say anything to put one down. What one can do is try one’s best to overcome. The day he refused to remove the handcuffs in court until his lawyer told him to mellow down, I got the information from the newspapers. My children who were in the court also told me about it.
I have left everything in God’s hands, because nobody should be killed for saying the truth. He saw the truth and said it, is that why he should be killed? He has my backing, as long as he is saying the truth. If they took him to court and the court ordered that he should be released on bail and they refused to release him, is that really democracy? Why did they refuse to release him on bail? What do they want? The president should respect the laws of the land, because he is the one that should defend the laws. My son is just saying the truth – he has the right of freedom of speech; they should release him. Nobody should be killed for saying the truth.
I am pleading that the government should free him, he did not commit any crime. Maybe the federal government should come to this area and conduct a plebiscite, and know the feelings of the people.
I can’t advise them (on the Biafra question), but I plead with them to please free my son.
Details on Punch.
Post from Naij.com