By Okolo Chimennma
Caveat: I hold Mazi Nnamdi Kanu leader of IPOB in deep respect. Anyone who has achieved what he has achieved in the struggle against our evil oppressors deserves as a matter of right deep respect and veneration.
I have severally restrained myself from getting too embroiled in the online battle between people of the Niger Delta and my South Eastern cousins on the emotive issue of Biafran agitation and the leader of IPOB, the irrepressible Mazi Nnmadi Kanu.
My self caution was actually based on the high emotions between people from both sides and I actually didn’t want to be caught in the middle especially as it is my firm and unshakable belief that the two sides would need to form a united front if they ever hope to overcome the powers arrayed against them. It was as a result of that belief that anything that will cause division and therefore give our oppressors an upper hand is to be avoided.
Again I had hoped that the evil wind will blow away in the not too distant time (I still hold that belief).
I had in most of by posts before now on this issue called for caution and decorum on both sides.
I was therefore unprepared for the angst that trailed my post questioning the rationale behind the pronouncements of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu that Port Harcourt/Rivers state will be the capital territory of the new nation – Biafra.
My question was simply to call our attention and that of MNK to the fact that such a momentous decision ought to be a collective one and not a unilateral one.
We needed to make sure that the different peoples of Port Harcourt/Rivers state are in agreement with the decision especially in the light of what such would entail.
Most of the comments I saw were purely emotional reactions and not logical. I was called names and insulted (that is in no way sufficient to deter me though) but i was well taken aback at the vituperations of some persons. It is on the above background that I am constrained to make this post.
I am aware that in making this post there are those who will still not get the import but hopefully there will be some who will.
The struggle for Biafra from my little knowledge of history predates MNK and would if not achieved in the immediate future postdate him.
Any serious struggle is not hinged on one man though there is need for struggles to be led by charismatic and we’ll grounded persons (the category of which I believe MNK falls.)
However, no matter how charismatic the leader is, the ideals of the struggle must be collectively imbibed by everybody.
History of successful struggles would show that where the struggle is about the man who leads it, it doesn’t help the final and full actualization of the struggle.
Let me ask a hypothetical question: assuming for example that for health reasons (God forbid!!) MNK decides to resign from the leadership of IPOB and the struggle what happens?
Would we continue in the struggle or that brings the struggle to an abrupt end whilst we wait for another charismatic leader?
Look to history, Dr. Martin Luther King led a revolution but it wasn’t about him (though he was the leader), the ideal was sold to the black folks and all men of goodwill. He never encouraged the bullying of those who didn’t agree with him, he sought to bring them on board. The struggle outlived him and now those things he didn’t enjoy and for which he fought are today gained by ALL Americans.
Nelson Mandela was one of the leaders of the anti- apartheid struggle but the struggle was beyond him and he understood that. And despite his vantage position he sought rapprochement with those who opposed him. He didn’t condemn them rather he sought to bring them into the struggle via the power of persuasion. He didn’t exert an emperoric power neither did he encourage the ANC to attack them. He was always decorous and differential.
At home here, the Ogoni struggle remains a classical case in this regard. It’s a historic struggle we all are aware of. Recall that in 1995 almost the entire leadership of the MOSOP were gruesomely murdered by the wicked and evil Nigerian state, this would have ended most struggles but till date the struggle still waxes strong and SHELL has not resumed operations as a result of the firm resolve of the people themselves. They internalised the struggle and, in fact forced the UN to engage in a serious research resulting in the now famous Ogoni cleanup report and they continue to do that. In fact to my knowledge Ogoni is the only ethnic group that has successfully stopped the rampaging Nigerian Military might and their evil IOC collaborators from exploiting oil from their land.
Thus whilst I support the veneration of MNK as he has done a great work in raising the consciousness of our people, it’s my humble suggestion that we eschew deification.
We must see all men in the struggle as dispensable and therefore not the sole custodian of the struggle.
We must put our emotional attachment to the person of MNK aside. Let’s stop seeing any dissenting voices to him as a hater or an enemy, instead let’s use decorum and civil conversation to win them or explain things to them.
Our only emotional attachments should be to the ideal of freedom, that way we can never go wrong.
We must know that MNK is human and fallible with all the weakness that being human brings but that the ideal of freedom is infallible and without weakness.
We must individually internalise the ideal of the struggle such that with or without MNK the struggle for our freedom from an oppressive and restrictive system shall continue until we win. We must sleep it, wake it, eat it at all times.
Let the struggle continue until we are free from our oppressors!
Rt. Hon. Speaker of the Masses Assembly
Okolo Chimennma is a lawyer, equal rights campaigner, environmental rights activist and public affairs commentator.