ADMIRAL KANU STOOD IN THE GAP FOR IGBO DIGNITY – PROF CHIDI OSUAGWU
A Speech delivered by Prof Chidi Osuagwu at the Enugu Day of Tributes for Late Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu held at the Enugu Sports Club on Tuesday 12th October, 2021
To pay tribute to a great man to whom the admiring world is paying tribute at the same time is no easy job. Admiral Kanu was a great man to whom informed Nigerians is paying due tribute as he exits from Earth on the eternal journey to join ancestors. Admiral was a great soldier-statesman who, when it was most dangerous to do so, under the Abacha regime, stood up for democracy in Nigeria as a NADECO chieftain. For that, tribute pours from across Nigeria mourning his death. Today, I stand up to salute his Spirit, for standing up for Igbo dignity when it could cost his life.
I left for studies in America shortly, 1971, after the Nigeria-Biafra war. Coming back and settling in the Igbo heartland town of Owerri, I did not appreciate right away the post-war rules of co-existence between the Igbo and their compatriots. An experience about 1986 gave me an insight. A case that turned out to be a minor issue of miscommunication took me to the Office of the then National Security Organization, NSO, in Owerri.
As I entered the Office, the Officer to interview me started throwing tantrums. I sat down and asked, “What’s going on?” Then he blew-up, shouting, “hand-cuffs, leg-chains”, and stuff like that. I asked him “What do you think you are doing? Do you think here is apartheid South Africa or what? You are supposed to be looking for information; do you think this is how you will get it?” He paused and, suddenly, calmed down. He, calmly, interviewed me and I left.
The next day the NSO officer showed up in my Office and introduced himself as Mallam. After pleasantries, he said, “I came to see you! For the first time since I came to Imo State, I met an Igbo man who could not be intimidated!” I listened and wondered! Had intimidation become the normal way of effectively interviewing Igbo men in ‘One Nigeria’, then something was very wrong.
To those, like Mallam, who fought the Nigeria-Biafra war on the Nigerian side the Igbo had, apparently, become ‘Shaven, blinded, Sampson at Gaza’. An object of eternal intimidation and humiliation. A subject of eternal terrorism. The most unfortunate aspect of this practice is that this cult of Igbo intimidation and humiliation has become conventional in the Nigerian Security Services. We saw General Ibrahim Babangida use it against Ebitu Ukiwe who, objected to his arbitrary dragging of Nigeria into Islamist OIC. We see it in the extortive ‘check-points’ mounted all-over Igboland.
One should go listen to the YouTube video interview of Femi Fani-Kayode, in which he claims President Muhammadu Buhari told him the source of his abiding hatred for the Igbo. This hatred for Igbo is so toxic that late Professor Chimere Ikoku said the worst experience of his whole life was working with Buhari in the Petroleum Trust Fund. A long-term political associate and lawyer to Buhari discovered this Igbo hatred and ran away from the then Presidential aspirant to conserve his self-respect and dignity. Of course, in office, as implicit in the Fani-Kayode interview, his attitude towards Igbo and Igboland has been adversarial. Again, he is not alone in this, just extreme. Others manifest less toxic aspects. It is within this context that Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu said no to those who delight; post-war, in intimidating and humiliating the Igbo.
I met Admiral Kanu, first, within Ohanaeze Ndigbo circles. At a point, during the Obasanjo Presidency, the Ohanaeze President started acting, intermittently during meetings, in uncharacteristic ways. He would be coherent; as the distinguished man, he is, until certain issues involving the Federal Government in relation to Igbo came up. A naturally honest and honorable person cannot easily play games with Truth, as natural crooks would. That something was amiss was apparent to regular Ohanaeze figures. Ohanaeze was in distress. In stepped Admiral Kanu as Caretaker Committee Chairman. The best time in Ohanaze governance I have witnessed came about. However, I still kept wondering about what went wrong with the regular President.
One day, I drove to Admiral Kanu’s Isu-Ikwuato home. In the course of discussion, I asked him what he thought was wrong with the man from whom he took over. The abnormal way he behaved on certain issues affecting Nigeria. With no hesitation, he answered, “The President had a gun on his head!” The man was being pressurized, using the security services, to compromise Igbo interest, to please the President. I now asked him whether they stopped the harassment after he took over. “No, they kept threatening me. I ignored them. You cannot because of one man, or death, compromise Igbo interest and dignity!”
History; Eurocentric History, is misguiding ill-informed Black Africans to join alien adversaries in mocking their Sampson. If they knew what happened from 1791 when the Black race gathered, in Haiti, declared Igbo as Ibo Granmoun; Great Igbo Nation, that marshalled them to victories over slave empires of Spain, France and Britain. If they knew that, the war they ‘own’ and anchor their rights to Igbo intimidation on was, by Britain, planned much earlier than 1966 to deny the Black Race true independence. One day Afrocentric History of the way we are will tell the true story. I hope that not before Sampson and all are under the rubble.
Today, a man that stood in the Gap for Igbo dignity, meritedly, steps forth to join the ancestors. A son of Isumisu, whose grandmothers were there in 1929, goes to report to them how he lived and acted their true son. Today, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu sails out on the longest of voyages…to the realm of the Spirits and Ancestors. I salute the Commander-at-sea for standing in the Gap, when it mattered most, for Igbo Dignity.
Chidi G Osuagwu
(Enugu; 12 October 2021)