The pathway that leads to the home of the Nnamdi Kanus in Afaraukwu, Umuahia, is a lonely, narrow alley of red earth, stones and rural vegetation.
It also reeks of Banga soup, starch and mango trees.
The street is named after Kanu’s dad. It is called Eze Kanu drive.
It was here that Nigerian soldiers reportedly stormed, when the army’s latest Southeast operation--codenamed ‘Operation Python Dance’--went into overdrive.
“They came in several trucks, armoured tanks; shooting sporadically as though we were at war”, said Chukwudi, mournfully.
Chukwudi had been assigned the role of taking Pulse round the building. “You can see the bullets on the windowpanes and doors. We’ve never seen anything quite like this before”.
Under a cluster of fruit trees on the front yard, plastic chairs had been overturned and smashed. It was here that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), often held his separatist meetings. It was here that Kanu swore that the man who had just returned from the UK in August, wasn’t President Muhammadu Buhari but his clone; or someone else who had been carefully taught how to speak and act like the president.
“Buhari wanted to assassinate our Director”, Chukwudi says matter-of-factly. “They were shooting indiscriminately at people and piling up dead bodies into armoured tanks.”
A young man who calls himself Destiny, told Pulse that he was shot at several times but no bullet penetrated his tough skin.
Destiny was a short 20-something-year-old who is a bit bow-legged and stout. He stuttered as he spoke. He showed off scratches of bullets and the tribal marks round his neck. He bore no gunshot wounds.
“IPOB has been peaceful and we have never borne arms”, Destiny says, picking up empty bullet shells and teargas canisters and holding them up to the camera. “Where is it a crime to believe in something? Kanu’s only crime is that he believes in Biafra. Look at how the soldiers desecrated the Eze’s palace and pumped bullets into the entire facility.”
Kanu’s bedroom was ransacked and torn to shreds. The living room and dining areas looked like there had just been visited by a tsunami. Biafra memorabilia and flags had been shredded and burnt. The window panes all over the Kanu family home were riddled with bullets.
One Kanu statue had its hand amputated for effect. Not even photo frames on the walls were spared.
picked up empty bullet shells and teargas canisters as we trod along. Most of the houses on the entire stretch of Eze Kanu drive bore bullet holes.
These days, only a lonely cat watches over what used to be home of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Pulse was told that irate soldiers took dogs and other domestic animals with them as well. The entire compound has been deserted. No one lives here since September 14, Pulse was told.
Outside, the walls were dotted with bullet holes. Three cars parked in the porch--a Sienna LE, Maxima and Isuzu Rodeo--all had their windshields and tires smashed by bullets.
Chukwuka who drives Kanu around, said he had just parked the Sienna on the day, when the gunshots started ringing round Afaraukwu; as everyone ducked for cover and ran as fast as their legs could carry them.
Chukwuka also tells Pulse that soldiers were picking up dead bodies and piling them inside trucks as they felled one person after another.
"Many people were killed", he says.
The army has since denied this charge.
Chief Chimechefulum Ododemelam said he lost his sister the day the python danced brazenly in Umuahia. was taken to her graveside.
Ododemelam also stated that he believes in Kanu’s ideology and that the IPOB leader who has since fled the compound alongside his Dad and Mum, did no wrong.
Shunning court summons
Kanu was supposed to show up in court on October 17. He didn’t.
The court adjourned his trial for charges bordering on treason and illegal possession of firearms, to November 20, 2017.
No one still knows where he is. The army and Nigerian government have denied keeping him. His lawyer has charged the government with producing his elusive client.
The blame game over who is in custody of Kanu, has only intensified as the days have worn on.
Meanwhile, here in Afaraukwu, locals tell Pulse that they really believe that soldiers took ‘their Director’ away on September 14, 2017.
As we made to leave Afaraukwu for our hotel on Macaulay way, we spotted some IPOB devotees watching furtively in the distance. We had to motion that we came in peace.
We asked the driver of our ‘Keke Marwa’ (tricycle) if he believes in Biafra and what the Igbos feel about the pursuit of a separate republic from Nigeria.
“E go happen. Even the United Nations is aware that it will happen. And the way Kanu is going about it is peaceful. He has put Biafra on the map again and we are thankful to him for that. Things are tough, my brothers. Nigeria is not working. There are no jobs for our young people. Our Southeast Governors are chopping all the money. Why won’t we agitate for our own country that will take care of our needs?” our Keke rider asked.