When Saturday Sun visited the palace of the Egwukwu 11 of Afaraukwu Ibeku, HRM (Eze) Israel Okwu Kanu, father of the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu on Tuesday, there was nothing substantial in term of blissful atmosphere compared to the ecstasy elsewhere since the release of the Radio Biafra director. This is not to say that the immediate family members of the number one IPOB member are not happy over the release of their cherished son, no, the fact remains they are rejoicing, but with utmost modicum of calmness, perhaps not oblivious of the long way to the “real freedom” –actualization of Biafra.
In this interview with OKEY SAMPSON, Eze Kanu expressed joy that his son has breathed fresh air at last. While thanking those who made it possible and The Sun Newspapers for the wide publicity it has given the matter so far, he expressed disappointment over the nonchalant attitude of South East governors over his son’s plight.
The royal father also spoke of his desire to see the Federal Government drop all the charges against his son and other issues as they concern Biafra agitation.
You would have heard about the release of your son, Nnamdi Kanu from detention, how do you feel about that?
I didn’t know what to say when I heard that my son had been released, what immediately came to my mind was that God had done it the way He wished. In Igbo, it is said that ‘he who does not carry any mud pot on his head will not break anything.’ My heart was filled with great joy when the news of his release came to me and I gave and still gives God the glory. I thank everybody including The Sun Newspapers, who, in one way or the other contributed to Nnamdi’s release; God will pay everyone back abundantly.
Since Nnamdi’s release, have you been able to see him one on one?
No, we have not been able to see face to face, but he has been calling me on phone steadily. Even when he was in detention, he was calling on phone to tell me how I was too dear to him; and that I should not worry myself as nothing would happen to him and such words from him were like tonic to me.
What exactly did he tell you the first time he called after his release?
He told me mostly what he used to tell me when he was still in detention, after asking about how we were at home, he told me he was out of detention and that he would not like me to be thinking much about him, so that it would not affect my health, that God would surely do what He has in mind about him (Nnamdi). Remember I was flown to Germany last year when my health went down and he said he would not like me to suffer the same thing again. He told me that in no distant time, he would visit home to see me, his mother and siblings. He equally told me that there were certain things people were saying about him that were not true, but that he would not say them now, but that later he will tell me. That made me to remember what (President Muhammadu) Buhari said, that he would not be alive to see Biafra come to be and also free my son. I never understood what he meant by that, but at the same time, I pray that God heals him so that he will be able to discuss about Biafra’s freedom.
Your son having spent over one year in detention before his release, would you advise him to back down on the Biafra struggle?
I have been to London and to Germany also. In these countries, what I found out was that immediately your child is up to 18 years, he was man enough to stay on his own and decide for himself what he wanted. So, what I’m trying to say is that since Nnamdi, my son is above 18 years, it is left for him to decide what to do and I always support whatever decision he takes. It is natural; it is Igbo custom for a child to listen to the advice of his parents. But to tell you one thing, since Nnamdi was born, he has never for once disobeyed me, but for this issue of Biafra, I am solidly behind him till I die. I am urging him to go ahead with what he is doing, so far he has the support of his people and God will be with him, because he has told me on several occasions that even if he dies in the Biafran cause he will be happy.
Are you optimistic your son will actualize Biafra and why that optimism?
Why I am so optimistic that Biafra will be actualised under my son’s leadership is that what he is doing, many people are supporting him, not only here in Igbo land, but outside this country. For instance, when I went to Germany and saw the crowd that came in support of Nnamdi’s cause, I became afraid. I started wondering why the agitation was so hot in a place like Germany, but when you come to this part of the world, it will appear as if nothing was happening. German reporters and photojournalists queued up to take photographs of his wife and I and were interviewing us and the police had to be invited before we were given breathing space.
Could you tell us if Nnamdi’s wife had visited since his release to enable him see his son for the first time since the baby was born while he was in detention?
Well, I’m not with Nnamdi yet, but if the information I received is anything to go by, she has not visited, but I know it is not yet late, we are still expecting her to come any moment.
Some people fought for the release of your son from detention, what do you have to say to such people?
I pray God to bless those who in one way or the other contributed to the release of my son, Nnamdi. Having said that, I must also say that I am not happy the way governors from South East kept quiet over my son’s case since. Could it be they were afraid, afraid of what and who? This type of attitude is condemnable, I am not happy about that. I had hoped that they would have been together and made move for his release, but they stayed aloof. It was rather the Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose and the former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode who showed interest, God will bless them. I will not in anyway forget the former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, who when other Igbo leaders were afraid to talk about Nnmadi’s problem, visited my son in prison and also came to my palace here in Umuahia to see me, God will also bless him.
You have been calling for your son’s unconditional release, but the court gave him stringent bail conditions. What’s your reaction to this?
I have not seen this type of thing before, where a court will tell someone in Nigeria to bring a foreigner to take him on bail. The court made things difficult for my son, but we thank God for making way where there was no way. How would a court say Nnamdi will not be found in a gathering of 10 people ,which means he will not come home to see us, because I have more than 10 children? Does it mean that the day he will visit us, I will have to send some of my children away, so that he will not be found in the midst of 10 persons? This is funny enough; nobody has seen this type of bail condition before.
One of the conditions given by the court for Nnamdi’s release was that he should present a serving Senator as surety. Are you surprised it was the Senator from Abia South rather than that of Abia Central where you are from, that stood for him?
Chief T.A Orji, our senator is my friend, when he was campaigning for governorship, I personally supported him. But when the court pronounced that a senator should stand for Nnamdi as a surety, I thought he could have without waiting for anybody indicated interest to take my son on bail, but he did not do that. This has made me to start wondering if he is sick or there was something else that was wrong. This will not cause any friction between us, but I wouldn’t know who, he was afraid of that made him not to come out and stand for Nnamdi.
There are three other persons being tried alongside Nnamdi that were not granted bail, what’s your take on this?
Just like my son, Nnamdi, I am in total support that those boys should be released. Somebody came here to tell me that Nnamdi said he would not come out except those other persons were released; I love that, those other people should also be released no mater what name they will attach to the release.
Would you have preferred that the charges against your son were rather withdrawn?
Why not, did they get any gun or knife from Nnamdi? It was his mouth he used in talking and since we have freedom of speech in the country, I don’t think he has committed any crime that will warrant him being tried in court. It was because they have nothing substantial against him that they are trying to bring masked men as witnesses against him, God forbid. I am appealing to the Federal Government to set Nnamdi free by withdrawing all the charges, because he has not come to kill anybody.
In view of Buhari’s disposition to Nnamdi’s freedom in the past, how will you regard the President now that your son is out?
I wouldn’t say enemy of the family, but that of the Igbo race because I have never seen this type of hatred of a people before. Court will rule to set a person free and the president who is supposed to be the father of all will say no, making a mockery of the judiciary in the process.
You are entertaining fears that your son might be detained again?
I am not entertaining any such fear, because there is God and He will do as He has done before. If they want to detain him again, there will be no problem, we all will live to see where it will end.
Do you have any advice for Nnamdi?
Yes, my advice to my son is that he should take things easy; he should be careful on the things he will say. I am saying this, because there are people who are experts in distorting facts and what someone says, for selfish reasons. One will say something and they will turn it to another thing to curry favour.
Any advice for the Federal Government too?
I am appealing to them fervently that they should leave my son alone since he is not fighting anybody with machete or gun. He should not be made to further suffer for mere speaking out, this is not the reason for which he will be killed and I believe by God’s grace the Federal Government will leave him.