HRM Eze Israel Okwu Kanu is the father of one of Nigeria’s controversial detainees, Nnamdi Kanu. He is the traditional ruler of Isiama Afara, a community in Umuahia, Abia state.
In an interview with Ihuoma Chiedozie of The Punch newspaper, HRM Kanu senior talks about the personality of his son, the reasons behind his involvement in the struggle for the actualization of Biafra and many more.
Below are excerpts from the exclusive chat;
As a child, was he troublesome, considering his activities with Indegenous People of Biafra and Radio Biafra?
No, he was not a troublemaker. In fact he went out of his way to avoid trouble. If anything would cause a quarrel between him and anybody, he would rather avoid such a matter. He was actually peace loving and gentle. Also, he was not a person of many words, he was reserved. But what I noticed about him, as he was growing up, was that he detested injustice. He did not like to see a fellow human being victimised. He would never be part of anything that involved the persecution, or victimisation of a fellow human being. He was very straight forward and honest to a fault. Nnamdi would never see the truth and keep quiet, he would speak out, not minding the consequences.
What do you think are the reasons behind his involvement in the struggle for the actualisation of Biafra?
He reads a lot of history, he knows so much about history and I think that is a major factor. Apart from that, he witnessed how Ralph Uwazuruike (former leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of Biafra) was running MASSOB then. He went there (MASSOB) and found out that what Uwazuruike was doing was not right. He called Uwazuruike aside and asked him: ‘The money you are collecting (in the name of Biafra), can’t you give some of it to these poor ones among your members so that they can at least feed themselves and their families?’ Uwazuruike got angry and asked who gave him (Nnamdi) the right to make such comments. That led to problems between him and Uwazuruike.
When Nnamdi came home to get married, Uwazuruike stormed the venue of the traditional wedding with his people to disrupt the wedding. Uwazuruike and his group came in 10 buses to cause disturbances at the venue. I was at home waiting for them to bring the new bride to me, as Igbo tradition demands, when I got information that Uwazuruike brought his men to cause trouble there. It got to a point that the youths from my son’s wife’s community rallied together to confront Uwazuruike’s boys, captured about 20 of them and took them to the police. But Nnamdi was beaten up seriously and he sustained injuries. When he returned home, I took him to the hospital for treatment. After he recovered, he swore to go ahead with the struggle for Biafra, but without Uwazuruike. He said the struggle could be successfully undertaken in a different way, without it being used as a means for self-enrichment, as was done by Uwazuruike. That was how he got involved in the struggle for Biafra.
As a father, how did you feel when your son formed the IPOB and started broadcasting pro-Biafra messages on Radio Biafra?
I am in support of what he is doing. I am not afraid to say it. If anybody will come out to champion fairness and justice and fight for the common good, I will definitely support the person. He is not fighting for his selfish interests and he is being straight forward; he has kept his hands clean. I am happy to know that he is not using the struggle to enrich himself. He has not hurt anybody and I am asking God to help him.
How did you feel when you learnt that he had been arrested?
No father will be happy to hear that his child has been arrested. The first time he was arrested and taken to Abuja, I left my palace and went to the DSS office in Abuja. The next day, I was able to meet the person in charge and I explained my mission that ‘I learnt my son was arrested and being held.’ Eventually they brought him out of the cell and released him to me, because he did not do anything. It was Uwazuruike that set him up. But still, he was tortured before he was released.
What do you think about his current travails, considering the fact that a court ordered his release at some point but he was not freed?
I have left everything in God’s hands, because nobody should be killed for saying the truth. He saw the truth and said it, is that why he should be killed? He has my backing, as long as he is saying the truth. If they took him to court and the court ordered that he should be released on bail and they refused to release him, is that really democracy? Why did they refuse to release him on bail? What do they want? The President should respect the laws of the land, because he is the one that should defend the laws. My son is just saying the truth — he has the right of freedom of speech; they should release him. Nobody should be killed for saying the truth.
Considering everything, are you proud of your son Nnamdi?
Why shouldn’t I be proud of him? The boy is bold, and he says the truth. He believes in truth and justice. He is just like me. Before I became the traditional ruler of this town, so many obstacles were put in my way by some people, even though the generality of the people wanted me to be their traditional ruler. A day to the coronation, some people struck out my name.
Click here to read the full interview on Punch