by Alexander O. Onukwue
If you have not noticed, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has attained the status of a worshipped being.
Pictures of his visit to a historic site in Anambra State where he supposedly prayed to a tree have raised more awareness of his continued attempt to grow his political and spiritual influence. There have been reports online that people go to him in Umuahia to pray and bless them and their children, on the belief that he is a prophet leading the people of Biafra to a promised land.
Nnamdi Kanu sees himself like Moses, a divinely appointed figure to lead an oppressed people out of the captivity of unfair masters. Being born in Nigeria and dropping out of the University of Nigeria Nsukka to relocate to the United Kingdom probably bears some similarity to Moses being born by his parents and shipped out in a basket to be drawn out of the water by Pharoah’s daughter. Now of age, Mazi wants to right the wrongs of the colonial masters when they amalgamated the North and South, putting his people under Slavery.
Kanu sees himself as a liberator, and given that his businesses are securely away from Nigeria (yielding him profits while others are closing shops to rally around him), he may believe that his kingdom is “not of this world”. He stands against the Ohanaeze, academics and pundits who do not agree with him, as proverbial Scribes and Pharisees who are afraid to speak the truth because they are blinded by what they earn from their allegiances. He has been put in Prison and, after 18 months, has resurrected, his status more glorified and revered than ever.
But why actually has the cult of Kanu become a thing? Why have many Igbo youthful persons, who usually are more concerned with their wares at Upper Iweka and Ariria, taken up flags and spent time for the cause of this one man? When did he multiply the loaves and fish that fed them well enough to proclaim his glory?
Kanu has not come with a unique message – Igbo separation from Nigeria has been on since 1960. But he has got himself a large following of people ready to do anything for him. Certainly, neither Boris Johnson nor Nigel Farage – who led Brexit in 2016 – was privileged to have a personal cult. That could be attributed to civilization and, for some, a reflection of the gap in leadership and authority that has become the fate of the South East since the exit of the Ziks and Okparas.
His influence has become strong to the extent of potentially jeopardising the gubernatorial polls in Anambra state this November. Plans are in place by the Nigeria Police to forestall any disorder by IPOB, and by all means they should be checked and matched.
But, as the Facebook post which raised him to the status of a messiah shows, Kanu’s fanbase are not going to relent. With cursing on social media a waste of time and State violence certainly not an option, how do you spread a counter-narrative that convinces these new converts of Kanu’s to recant?