It all started like a game of revolving doors. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) held one end of the stick. The other was held by the Nigerian Army. Each tried to outmanoeuvre the other. The issue at stake was the invasion of the residence of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, by the Nigerian Army. The sting operation saw many dead. But the army would not admit killing anybody. The drama that ensued was like the Russian roulette. Each of the parties concerned strove hard to carry the day. Several weeks into the drama of wits, the game is still on. Neither party has been able to extricate itself from what is turning out to be a hydra-headed situation.
The sticky point of the entire scenario is the whereabouts of Nnamdi Kanu. The young man has been missing since the military invasion of his residence. He has not been heard from or seen, and this has fueled a lot of speculations. IPOB was the first to raise the alarm. It told the world that its leader, Kanu, was missing. IPOB said Kanu was in the custody of the military. It asked the Nigerian Army to produce him, dead or alive. But the army was not quick in its response. It allowed the IPOB narrative to take roots before it came up with a rebuttal. It said that Kanu was not in its custody.
Where then is Nnamdi Kanu? Members of his group say they do not know where he is. They are alleging that he may have been killed on the day of the military invasion. Some others are saying that he survived the attack on that fateful day but was arrested by the army outside Umuahia as he tried to escape the manhunt launched for his arrest. IPOB says it does not know what may have happened to him in the process. It is sill insisting that the military knows about Kanu’s whereabouts. It has asked the army to drop its pretensious posturing and produce Nnamdi Kanu, alive or dead.
Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, has equally raised a similar alarm. He is insisting that Kanu is in the custody of the army. So far, the response from the army remains feeble. Its denial of the charge is, at best lame. This has left many wondering what the true situation could be. The matter has remained in the realm of conjecture especially in the light of the fact that there is no official release on the number and identity of the casualties of the military operation.
But there is a way out. It should be noted that while announcing the ban on the activities of IPOB in the heat of the military invasion and killing of many IPOB members, the chairman of South East Governors Forum and governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, said that the forum would investigate the alleged killings and make its findings known. Nothing has been heard from the forum since then. It probably has decided to sweep the matter under the carpet. But matters arising from the invasion have refused to go away. The most challenging and most urgent remains Kanu’s whereabouts. This is particularly so considering the fact that he is standing trial on charges bordering on treasonable felony before Federal High Court in Abuja. Kanu was supposed to be in court two days ago in continuation of his trial. His conspicuous absence, as should be expected, threw up the nagging question again: where is Nnamdi Kanu? So far, no one has been able to answer this question to the satisfaction of anybody.
The matter, probably, would have remained at the level of claims and counter claims for a long time to come but for the fate of those who stood as sureties for Kanu. The court has asked them to produce the IPOB leader so that his trial will resume in earnest. The sureties are in the eye of the storm. One of them, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, has said that he does not know the whereabouts of Kanu. And the court is compelling him and the other sureties to produce Kanu. This is the crux of the matter. What then should the sureties do? That is the most urgent of questions. As we try to find an answer to the question, Abaribe and others concerned have asked the court to give them more time to produce Kanu. Everybody is waiting for the extra time. But as we wait, concrete steps must be taken to resolve the logjam.
To do so, we must return to the basics. What really happened on the day of the invasion? This is a question for South East Governors Forum. The forum banned the activities of IPOB after the ugly incident and promised to investigate the alleged killings. Someone needs to remind the forum that it has a job to do here. It has the responsibility to tell us the number of people that died as a result of the invasion. It should also tell us the identity of those affected. If it undertakes this investigation diligently, it will be able to tell us what happened to Nnamdi Kanu. Was he among those that were felled by the bullets on the day his residence was invaded? If he was not, what happened to him thereafter? If he escaped, how did he do so and where, possibly, can he be now? The assignment is quite straightforward. It should be simple enough for these governors who are the chief security officers of their states.
If the south east governors can get to the root of the matter as they ought to, and promised to do, Abaribe and the other sureties will have little or nothing to worry about. If they establish that Kanu is dead, then the sureties can go home and have a good sleep, leaving the Nigerian authorities and IPOB to sort out the rest. If they establish that Kanu escaped, the onus will be on the government to work towards his extradition. That, again, will not be the responsibility of the sureties. We must, at this stage, take proper note of the fact that the situation has changed. When Abaribe and others signed the bail bond for Kanu, the situation was not what it is today. Kanu was a free citizen then. He is no longer one now. He was not being hunted then. But the Nigerian authorities are after him now. All this, present us with a different scenario. They sureties are therefore not to blame if they are unable to produce Kanu. The matter has since gone beyond them and putting them under pressure will be sheer blackmail.
The point that we must appreciate in this drama is that government has the responsibility to produce Kanu if he is still alive. If Kanu is in hiding anywhere, it is because the authorities are after his life. Several months after his release from detention, Kanu freely walked the streets of Nigeria. But the army invasion and killings changed all that. He may have disappeared from the public scene to save his life. He will not go into hiding if his safety is guaranteed. This should be an acceptable alibi for the sureties.
Meanwhile, the South-east governors led by Umahi should solve this puzzle. They should work closely with the Nigerian authorities with a view to establishing where Kanu is or what may have happened to him. They have the capacity to so. We are waiting for them to throw light on this puzzle.