I met a young Nigerian the other day at the gym dripping with passion about Biafra. Oh wait, let me take that back. I met a young Biafran. I had to rephrase that statement out of respect for my friend who would rather identify as a Biafran and liked to be addressed as such.
Few months ago, Chinedu and I met at the local gym in my neighborhood of Eagle Springs. As with most of us in the Diaspora, you could spot a Nigerian from a distance. But Chinedu’s case was different. He was working out close by me when a call came in from Nigeria. Before long, he was screaming on top of his lung, totally oblivious of anyone else. His behaviour would be textbook for the most part, if you were to ask my wife. I suspect that someone had called from Nigeria ostensibly to request for some kind of endless ‘support’.
My friend was a totally jacked up fella whose passion for fitness could only be rivaled by his commitment to the Biafran cause. Within minutes of our conversation, he delved straight into the issues of Biafra and laid out all the sins of the Nigerian state against the Igbos. Being that am one, he repeated a whole lot of things which am not unfamiliar with. As he narrated, he quickly got teary-eyed but at the same time was extremely proud of all that Nnamdi Kanu has done and represents. “We will soon have the Biafra of our dream”, he said. “God and our Supreme leader, Nnamdi Kalu will do it for us”, he repeated. He ended by inviting me to a local IPOB event which I politely declined.
You may disagree with some of the things that my friend had to say but you couldn’t deny his devotion and commitment to the cause. He exhibited a cultic reverence to the IPOB leader in a way very uncharacteristic of the Igbo. A people that believe in the dictum : “Everyman a king”.
It’s been many months after but today we met up again. This time, he had built up what he believed to be a strong case against the continued existence of the entity called Nigeria. He showed me a video of an armada of turbaned cattle rearers coming through a border check point I suspect somewhere in the desert. He told me they are in possession of intelligence showing that the president of Nigeria is rallying the Fulani nation all over the world to come and make Nigeria home in preparation to declaring a caliphate. I could neither verify the video nor confirm his claim but that’s irrelevant because my friend was not even ready to entertain any question on what he believed was irrefutable evidence. I have to admit though that it wouldn’t be the first time I heard such a claim.
To the surprise of those Igbo elite who have had issues with the way Kanu is going about the struggle including yours truly, it defies commonsense how this man is able to command such a huge and dedicated following. At first we thought he was cashing in on the ignorance of some Onitsha and Aba traders with pedestrian understanding of politics and economics. Well, not anymore. His supporters now exist across all ranks and file. The clergy, the university professor, academics, artisans, you name it. Something else has to explain his apparent success in this regard rather than simple logic.
It does appear that the easiest way to rally a people around and fire them up is to exploit a built up anger. Once you are successful at that, you can then weaponize that anger and run with it. You become unstoppable. Donald Trump exploited this theory and caused the biggest political upset in American politics. Nnamdi Kanu’s success could also be explained through the same concept. White America saw Trump as the answer to years of bottled up anger against a system they believe is working hard to make them irrelevant. Kanu positions as the freedom fighter who is ready to lay down his life to save the Igbos from the shame and third class citizenship status in the entity called Nigerian.
Whether or not these individuals are selfless or are just exploiting a bad situation for selfish reasons is open for debate. The answer you get depends on who you ask. What is not in doubt is that they were both able to read the mood of the moments and exploited it handsomely.
As my friend dreams away about the imminent birth of his dear Biafra, I saw no point in stopping him in his track. Just like I cautioned those trying to change the mind of Trump supporters that they will need all the luck in this world. For their is a serous dichotomy between reason and belief in a heart seething in anger.
Dr Agbo is the coordinator of African Center for Transparency and writes from USA. Email: [email protected]