Nnamdi Kanu's mysterious disappearance poses troubling questions
The IPOB leader's disappearance is shrouded in too much mystery that the possibilities are alarming.
The events that led to the disappearance of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are just as interesting as the disappearance itself.
Mere weeks after he was released on bail in April 2017, the IPOB leader started violating his bail conditions like it was a Christmas checklist he had to get out of the way.
Kanu's antics between April and September served to pick at the nation's old ethnic wounds that had refused to go away as he incited his IPOB following with separatist sentiments.
Kanu appeared in videos posted online where he emerged as the leading voice in a fairly successful stay-at-home order to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the defunct Republic of Biafra that kicked off the 1967 Civil War.
During the same 5-month period, he made repeated public calls for the Federal Government to organise a referendum to decide the fate of a free Biafran Republic and threatened a boycott of the November gubernatorial election in Anambra State.
While Kanu's actions divided opinions across the nation during this period, the events of September threatened the core of its much-vaunted unity.
IPOB vs Nigerian Army
After his return from his second overstayed medical leave in London, President Muhammadu Buharireiterated the uncompromising nature of Nigeria's unity and subtly promised a clampdown against any troublemakers.
The announcement by the Nigerian Army to commence Operation Python Dance II in the southeast region raised suspicions of a targeted campaign against Kanu and his IPOB cohorts, and all hell was let loose.
On September 10, 2017, reports started floating around that soldiers tried to gain access into Kanu's father's compound in Afaraukwu, Umuahia and shot at IPOB members who formed a human shield to keep them out.
The army countered the claims and said the soldiers had been attacked with stones by IPOB members while on a routine parade exercise in the Abia State capital.
What ensued that week was a series of claims and counterclaims from both sides in a full-scale conflict that resulted in the death of a handful of people or dozens, depending on who you asked.
A day after the first clash on September 10, Kanu had said that the government was trying to provoke his group to war.
He said, "They want us to become armed so that the world can say that Nnamdi Kanu is leading a violent armed group, which is not the case. They're provoking us to war."
A war did play out on the streets of Umuahia, and Aba; and when the dust settled at the end of that eventful week, Nnamdi Kanu disappeared into thin air.
Where is Nnamdi Kanu?
Before Kanu's complete disappearance from the public eye, his lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, had raised an alarm that soldiers had invaded his father's palace, shooting up the place and killing people.
The group has blamed that invasion for Kanu's disappearance, saying that the army grabbed him and has been holding him since then.
At the resumption of his treason trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja on October 17, 2017, Kanu was notably absent.
During the hearing, Ejiofor announced the appearance of the IPOB leader in court by alleging that he is in custody of the government.
"The Nigerian Army invaded his house and killed 28 people. I do not even know if he is alive or dead. The soldiers are in a better position to tell us," he said.
The allegation was refuted by the prosecution team who maintained that Kanu must have gone into hiding to avoid facing trial.
A couple more court dates since October, and the once invincible Kanu remains invisible.
Government custody or self-imposed exile?
After Kanu's disappearance, former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, claimed that he had fled to London through , a claim that led to protests at the British embassy in Abuja demanding Kanu's extradition back to the country to face trial.
The theory about Kanu escaping abroad has gained a lot of traction as he has a British passport and had kicked off his Biafran agitations from the shores of London before his initial arrest by the Department of State Services (DSS) in 2015.
As someone that's been perceived by outsiders as a cowardly charlatan, it makes sense to believe that Kanu has run into hiding to avoid his day in court which could potentially lead to him being remanded in custody due to his bail violations.
However, a more probable and disturbing theory persists and sticks to the back of the skull like a terrible migraine.
Regardless of what you think about Nnamdi Kanu, it is foolhardy to discard the possibility that he is indeed in the secret custody of the government.
The 64-year-old cleric has been in custody since the Nigerian Army raided his residence in Zaria and killed hundreds of his followers, including three of his sons in December 2015.
This was a direct consequence of his followers' clash with the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai.
Despite the court order of Justice Gabriel Kolawole calling for his release on December 2, 2016, after he ruled that the government's justification of "holding him for his own protection" was insufficient, El-Zakzaky is still in government custody with his wife.
If El-Zakzaky's case proves anything, it's that this Federal Government does not fully possess the patience to deal with dissenters, and Kanu is as troublesome as they come.
Even if the claims that he's hiding from the law have any truth to them, his deafening silence makes no sense especially in light of the events that have trailed his absence.
A day after Kanu disappeared, the army branded IPOB a terrorist organisation and had its activities proscribed.
Kanu is a 'coward', and a 'charlatan', but he's also a loudmouth.
It's hard to fathom that he can stay silent throughout several 'ripe' moments for him to titillate his cult following into feverish resentment of the Nigerian state even while engaging in something as 'cowardly' as running from the law.
Kanu is so silver-tongued that it wouldn't take much of an effort to spin running from the law to his band of followers whose regard of him would most likely remain unchanged.
So, it makes no sense that a runaway Kanu is feeling shame for hiding so much that he's not let a single word slip out in three months.
A pivotal factor that's been largely ignored in Kanu's disappearance is his parents.
When he disappeared in September, his father, HRH Eze Israel Kanu, and his mother, Lolo Sally, disappeared under the same circumstances.
While it's easier to believe that Kanu could disappear for his own selfish reasons, his parents disappearing with him makes it a little harder to swallow.
And again, based on the precedent set by the treatment of El-Zakzaky, it wouldn't be much of a surprise to find out that the government has had Kanu and his family in custody this whole time.
Crucially, there's no evidence to back up any of these, but the endless possibilities here each pose disturbing questions.
What does it all mean?
If the Nigerian government is indeed secretly holding Kanu and his family, then it should be a source of genuine concern for Nigerians as it simply means the government has no temperament to allow the laws of the land take its due course.
Making problems disappear with underhanded tactics might make them go away for a while, but it doesn't guarantee that the problems are solved.
Even though there's also really no guarantee that doing it the way of the law would present a different, more amenable outcome, circumventing it at will only serves to undermine the whole process.
On the other hand, if Kanu is really hiding from the nation's legal institution, then he has sacrificed the lives of dozens of Nigerian youths on the altar of a pissing contest he doesn't have the courage to see through.
Believe what you will, but all the permutations here make for truly sad reading for the country.
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