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Thursday, 10 December 2015

My Encounter With Nnamdi Kanu - Reporter

My Encounter With Nnamdi Kanu - Reporter

Nnamdi Kanu

A reporter, Onuoha Ukeh, has shared his face-to-face encounter with Nnamdi Kenny Okwu Kanu, a political activist based in the United Kingdom. He is a leading member of separatist organization Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and the director of London-based radio station Radio Biafra.

The Abia state born activist was arrested on October 18 in Lagos state by the Department of State Services (DSS). He was picked up in his Golden Tulip Essential hotel room in Ikeja. The news of the arrest of Kanu generated mass protests across the country.

On October 19, it was reported that Kanu had been granted bail after a secret arraignment at Magistrate Court, Wuse 11. However, the bail seemed controversial and there were claims the DSS announced the bail only “to calm the angry people of Biafra”.

Read the detailed face-t0-face encounter of Onuoha Ukeh with Nnamdi Kanu as first published on The Sun below:

Until last month when Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, direc­tor, Radio Biafra, was arrested in Lagos, only a few people knew about the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a group interested in the actual­isation of a separate home state for the Igbo. Today, that hitherto obscured group has come to national limelight, with the “release Nnamdi Kanu” protests across the South East and South South.

Indeed, since Kanu was arrested in a Lagos hotel, a few hours after he arrived the country, members of the IPOB have marched in the streets of Port Harcourt, Aba, Asaba, Enugu, Awka and other cities, to register their anger over his detention. With what is happen­ing, you could wonder how Kanu, who lives in London, was able to have such followership, which is becoming a movement.

When the news of Kanu’s arrest broke, I remembered the first time I met him in London, three years ago. It was a chanced meeting made possible by a man I knew in the course of my job and who, incidentally, knows Kanu. He also lives in London as Kanu. I had travelled to Britain on vacation and called Chukwuma to tell him I was in London. He promised to make out time and see me. The meeting did not hold until about one week. It was a cold Sunday afternoon in September 2012. Chukwuma had called me on phone to announce that he was coming to where I lodged. Since I had a shopping programme that day, I told him I would not be in. I had scheduled that Sunday to go to the famous Liverpool “Sunday Mar­ket,” in London to do some shopping. He volunteered to meet me there in the afternoon, after I would have finished my business.

As promised, my friend was at Liverpool Station, in Central Lon­don, our agreed rendezvous. When we met, the first time actually as we had been speaking on phone, he told me he was going to intro­duce me to somebody I may have heard of, who was in a car parked some metres away. We trekked from the Liverpool Station to the car in that freezing weather. In the car was this young man, handsome, smartly dressed and soft-spoken.

My friend had introduced him as Nnamdi Kanu, director of Ra­dio Biafra. It was a pleasant surprise that I was face-to-face, on a platter of gold, with the man behind Radio Biafra, a station, which, at that time, was becoming popular among Igbo across the world. As a journalist and Editor, Saturday Sun at that time, I saw a big news and considered myself lucky. I had instantly asked for an inter­view, which Kanu approved, but said it would hold in Nigeria when he visited. He eventually visited at about March/April in 2013 and Saturday Sun, which I edited, interviewed him in Lagos.

On that Sunday, in London, Kanu had offered to give me lunch, in a place where we would sit down and have an informal chat. He drove around Central London, to find a restaurant. It took us some time, owing to parking, which is a problem in Central London. Eventually, we ended at a Spanish restaurant, in a street we were lucky to get parking space. Chukwuma had recommended Paola, a Spanish delicacy, which I could not eat eventually. In the Paola, there is rice and half cooked seafood in shells, which I did not find funny. As I pretended to be eating the Paola, we talked, I had sized Kanu up. He’s a smart youngman, well-schooled, likeable and pas­sionate about what he was doing. From the way he spoke, one could see his passion to see that Igbo are better treated and recognised. He spoke of deprivation and marginalisation of Igbo. He was angry with many Nigerians, including Igbo bigwigs, who he said had sold out.

Kanu told me about his relationship with the late Ikemba Nne­wi, who led the defunct Republic of Biafra, during the civil war. He spoke of a meeting he and others had with Ojukwu in London, where the late Biafra leader talked about a successor. He boasted how he and his group members made it possible for Ojukwu to ap­pear on BBC’s Hard Talk.

I remember him asking no one in particular: “Who has ever or­ganised Ojukwu to appear on BBC’s Hard Talk? We did it. Nobody has done that for him before. We in London did it. The fact that we don’t shout and come to newspaper all the time doesn’t mean we don’t know what we are doing.”

I must say that before then, the talk about Biafra was synonymous with MASSOB (Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra). Nothing much was heard of IPOB. The other group, which reared its head was Biafran Zionist Movement. However, from what Kanu told me at the meeting, IPOB was getting more global interest than the other groups. He talked about his trips across the world, to meet with Igbo who loved Radio Biafra and wanted to meet one of the men behind it. This had taken him to United States, Canada, Sweden, France, Germany and other nations. He talked about the case IPOB instituted in Owerri against “Nigeria.”

The Radio Biafra director made it clear that he was not just angry with the leadership in Nigeria, which he said had neglected the Igbo people and the South East, as bad roads and decrepit infrastructure dot the landscape, but also with Igbo elite, who he said had compro­mised and, therefore, do not fight for the interest of the Igbo. He said that was why he always attacked them on Radio Biafra…”

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