The father of the embattled Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, HRM Eze Israel Okwu Kanu, the traditional ruler of Isiama Afara, a community in Umuahia, Abia State, who spoke with IHUOMA CHIEDOZIE about his son and his present predicament has said he is proud of him and cause he is fighting for. He spoke about how Kanu grew up and much more. Enjoy!
Who is Nnamdi Kanu?
Nnamdi Kanu is my son. While growing up, he was a very bright boy, very intelligent and brilliant and he was very serious with his studies. He was quite serious-minded for his age, which obviously informed his decision to leave the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he was studying as an undergraduate, for Europe, in order to finish his studies, following delays occasioned by incessant strikes by the university’s academic and non-academic staff.
Before he left for Europe, he complained to me about the constant strikes. He was worried that, sometimes, the school would be shut for more than three months due to one strike or the other, and he wondered when he would have time to learn, not to talk of graduating. At that point, he told me that he wanted to travel abroad to continue his studies. I was worried; I asked him, ‘Who will you stay with? Do you know anybody there?’ He said I should not worry, that there was somebody from our town there in Europe, who would help him. Incidentally, the said person knew me and was willing to help Nnamdi because of the relationship we had. He (the man who helped Nnamdi in Europe) said as long as the boy was my son, he would be glad to be of help. He said he would help Nnamdi unconditionally, because, according to him, there was something I did for him in the past which he would never forget.
When he got to Europe, the authorities there were impressed with him and took him up; they gave him admission, noting that he was very brilliant. It was determination that propelled him to move to Europe to complete his studies.
Do you have other children apart from Nnamdi?
I have three sons and two daughters but he (Nnamdi) is the first. The second son is in Germany while the third is in London. But I told him (third son) to come back home because my wife and I are the only ones here with their sisters. He (the third son) is the one we call ‘Fine boy.’
Did Nnamdi show any sign that he would grow up to lead the type of movement he is leading today?
I used to observe him with his peers, whenever they were arguing or debating one thing or the other, he would usually enlighten them, telling the others what was the real fact. He was very knowledgeable and sometimes his mates would wonder how he knew more than them. They would ask him, ‘How come you know all these? Where did you get the information?’ With time, I discovered he was talented, especially in current affairs and history. He was really versatile and had vast knowledge on most subjects. Beyond that, he was a well-behaved boy who always did what was expected of him.
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.
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.
Does it mean Nnamdi had been arrested in the past before his current incarceration?
When was that?
I think it was in 2008 or thereabout.
What was he arrested for then?
His arrest was engineered. Nnamdi was enlightening the others involved in the pro-Biafra struggle and Uwazuruike was not happy about that. After that, he (Nnamdi) returned to London to continue the struggle from there.
Since he formed IPOB and started Radio Biafra, did he visit Nigeria before his latest arrest and detention?
He has been visiting Nigeria. He visits home and goes back.
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.
Nnamdi was accused of running an illegal organisation, among other charges. What are your thoughts on the charges brought against him by the Federal Government?
I don’t know about the charges levelled against him, they were just formulated by the government to trap him.
Have you been to the prison or court to see him recently?
I have not been feeling well. I have been going to the hospital hence, I have not been able to go to see him. But my other children have been going to see him; two of them are in Abuja now because of him.
Do you receive messages from him? Do they give you reports about his condition?
When he was in the custody of the DSS, we had no access to him but now that he is in the prison yard, it is easier to reach him. My primary concern is his health, and as long as he is in good health, I am happy. He usually tells them to greet me, and inform me that he is in good health.
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.
What do you want at the end of the day?
I am pleading that the government should free him, he did not commit any crime. Maybe the Federal Government should come to this area and conduct a plebiscite, and know the feelings of the people.
Are you saying the Federal Government should conduct a plebiscite on the Biafra question?
It is left for them, I can’t advise the Federal Government but I plead with them to please free my son.