Those whose palm-kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble”
– Chinua Achebe
Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reports and Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, factional leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, have a lot in common. Apart from advocating for radical and unconstitutional changes in Nigeria for which they were both arrested and detained by the State at different times, their bail conditions are some of the most stringent in the nation’s judicial history.
Omoyele Sowore is a Nigerian human rights activist, pro-democracy campaigner, former presidential candidate, and founder of online news agency Sahara Reporters, who on August 3, 2019 Sowore was arrested by Nigeria Department of Security Services for treason allegation after calling for a protest tagged RevolutionNow.
Weeks earlier before his arrest, Sowore had met with Nnamdi Kanu abroad ostensibly to share ideas in public glare and the essence of that ominous meeting was not lost on the Nigeria state. Sowore while declaring revolution now had promised that the Buhari government would be swept away sooner and DSS would be a thing of the past.
Like Nnamdi Kanu, Sowore was picked up in a hotel in Lagos where surprisingly, he was holed in with only his driver. A revolutionary is known for human shield and one had expected the masses would be with him, and would put in a little struggle before surrendering him. But no; Sowore was isolated from the people who ought to have received him in a tumultuous welcome right from the Nigeria borders or airport in a sort of triumphal entry.
Flashback, Nnamdi Kanu before he was arrested in Lagos in 2015, after some campaigns for Biafra abroad, had declared he was returning to Nigeria and that he would bring hell with him. He was predictably picked up and processed to Kuje prison for the long sojourn. Several events followed culminating in Operation Python Dance II, which provided the smokescreen in which Nnamdi Kanu disappeared from Nigeria until he resurfaced in Israel one year after.
Following his first public appearance in Jerusalem since September 14, 2017, Nnamdi Kanu declared again: “I am coming back to Biafra land soon and I will bring hell with me, the way it has never been seen before”. The burial of his mother coming would test that resolve and response of government.
Kanu is actually echoing or mimicking a historical western, may be because it reverberates in the tone of victory. It was a line delivered by Kurt Russell in the film Tombstone when he played frontiersman Wyatt Earp. Wyatt warned the western gang, The Cowboys, that he was going after them and “hell’s coming with me.” But has Nnamdi Kanu any plan or capacity to bring hell with him to Nigeria? Or, is Biafra struggle anywhere near uhuru?
Fast-forward, Omoloye Sowore, shortly after his tutorials with Nnamdi Kanu, declared revolution for Nigeria abroad and fixed a date against all known canons of revolutionary struggle. Sowore would have entered the Guinness books as one who fixed a date for a revolution and it came to pass. Revolutions have always been spontaneous.
It does appear all that have been validated so far by Kanu’s declaration of bringing hell with him and Sowore’s revolution is rabblerousing – much fiasco and motion without movement.
More importantly, taking both men too seriously and responding to their loafing is nothing but a failure of intelligence. For if the nation’s intelligence community was on top of their game, they would easily discover that neither Kanu nor Sowore posed grave danger to the state and the best response would have been to ignore them. They would have fizzled out naturally. But the rash response of the state to their rather benign activism has given them wings to fly and clothed both men the robes they hardly deserved.
There is also one issue that needed to be brought to be put in perspective and that is their stringent bail conditions and how both men grappled with them meeting. In a brief ruling on Kanu’s bail, Justice Binta Nyako, said that she was convinced that Kanu was ill and needed more medical attention than the Nigerian Prisons was giving him. Her words: “Nnamdi Kanu has appealed to the court for bail based on health grounds and it is only the living that can stand trial. So I am minded to grant him bail so that he can attend to his health and face his trial alive”.
She, however, gave 12 extreme conditions, which Mr. Kanu must fulfill to be released on bail, to enjoy the temporary freedom. Some of the conditions were: Kanu must not hold rallies, he must not grant interviews, he must not be in a crowd of more than 10 people, and he must provide three sureties (a serving Senator, a Jewish Rabbi and a renowned businessman) in the sum of N100 million each, and landed property in Abuja, among others.
At the behest of Nnamdi Kanu’s lawyer, the Deputy Senate President of Nigeria Ike Ekweremadu (as he then was) convened a meeting in his residence to rescue Nnamdi Kanu. It was obvious the IPOB family could do nothing. The bail conditions were way beyond them. Ekweremadu and other Igbo political leaders who gathered in his house had reasoned it was important to remove the Igbo youths from harm’s way. The herculean conditions were met and Kanu walk out of Kuje prison. His violation of his bail conditions started from the room where the bail bond was signed by Abaribe, to the point where he was confronted by Operation Python Dance and vanished in the deathly outcome.
Omoyele Sowore is facing a similar trial and his trial has commenced and luckily, his bail was granted much sooner but he has failed to meet his bail conditions, which are much less stringent than those of Nnamdi kanu.
For the avoidance of doubt, the presiding judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, granted bail to Omoyele Sowore, in the sum of N100m with two sureties in like sum. The sureties, who must be resident in Abuja, must also have landed assets worth the bail sum in Abuja, and they are to deposit the original title documents of the assets with the court. The judge also ordered him to deposit the sum of N50m in the account of the court as security.
Like Nnamdi Kanu, Sowore was also barred them from addressing any rally pending the conclusion of his trial on charges of treasonable felony, among others. She also barred Sowore from travelling out of Abuja and the second defendant out of Osogbo, during the trial. Sowore has so far, failed to meet the bail conditions. The judge has reviewed the conditions downward and yet, Sowore is still behind bars.
One does not think that the whole Yoruba nation cannot rally to meet the bail conditions. Fact is: nobody is prepared to take the risk taken by Ike Ekweremadu and co and incur the wrath of the repressive state as they did and grievously suffered.
Ekweremadu’s Nuremberg Germany treatment by IPOB is better appreciated in the face of the Sowore experience. In his best received book, Things fall part, Chinua Achebe wrote: “Those whose palm-kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble”. This proverb means that a man who has found success and overcome obstacles with the help of divine intervention should display humility.
Nnamdi Kanu’s faction of IPOB need to read this potion over and over and in the light of the lingering Sowore bail to appreciate what could have become of the Kanu and the struggle if Ekweremadu, Abaribe, Osita Chidoka and a few others did not stick their necks out. There is every possibility that Nnamdi Kanu would still be languishing in Kuje prison. Biafra agitation alone could not have freed him.
Come to think of it, Biafra agitation is not a greater portent threat to the Nigeria state and her security more than Shi’ites’ protests but El- Zakzaki, their leader is still under lock and key.
May some men and women develop the guts to rescue Sowore as Nnamdi Kanu was! It is becoming rather too embarrassing.
• Dr. Law Mefor is an Abuja-based Forensic and Social Psychologist, Author and Journalist; e-mail: [email protected]; twitter: @LawMefor1.