After almost two years in detention, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, yesterday breathed the air of freedom as he was released from Kuje prison, Abuja. He was brought from Kuje prison to the Federal High Court at 6:30pm in a black Mercedes GL 550 4Matic Jeep with registration number ABC 46 MUL to sign the necessary bail papers.
Nnamdi Kanu’s Road to Freedom
Some 15 months ago, before his visit to Nigeria and his arrest by operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) at a hotel in Lagos, the name, Nnamdi Kanu hardly rings a bell. The acclaimed leader of IPOB and director of Radio Biafra was ignored by the outside world. Nobody really took him serious.
But the Nigerian government took him serious, and arrested him on October 14, 2015 when he visited Nigeria and charged with a treasonable felony. He was not to regain his freedom until April 28, 2017.
The Kuje Prison where he was incarcerated became a Mecca of sort for political leaders. The most prominent of the early visitors was former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu who on December 16, 2016, visited him and had a lengthy discussion with the IPOB leader. After the visit, Kalu declared, “It is, therefore, my utmost concern to see him regain his freedom,” and announced he was spearheading of a planned talk with the government.
Thereafter, visits to Kuje Prison gained momentum. It was the turn of Igbo leaders under the umbrella of Alaig-bo Development Founda-tion (ADF) in the first week of February 2017. The ADF group affirmed they were contemplating a political resolution of the matter with the federal authorities. Its president, Professor Uzodinma Nwala, led the group.
By the end of the month, a more respectable delegate knocked on the prison door at Kuje. Men of timber and caliber, like former Central Bank Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo and renowned economist, Dr. Pat Utomi, led the visit under the umbrella of Nzuko Umuna, a coalition of Igbo group that cuts across all the major groups in the South-east including those in diaspora.
On April 4, it was the turn of Nigerian music artistes and Nollywood actors under the umbrella of United Nigerian Artists for Peace and Justice (UNAPJ). Chinaka Greatson, who led the group he described as “a collaboration of artists from the movie and music industry” hailed the visit as an homage to Nnamdi Kanu and a show of solidarity to his cause.
The historic importance of the incarceration of the IPOB leader was not lost to former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode while he was also an inmate of the Kuje Prison for 21 days. Fani-Kayode, detained in November 2016, did not let the opportunity pass him by to visit a man he described as “great and brilliant freedom fighter,” and “easily the most courageous, powerful and credible Igbo leader in Nigeria today.”
British government too played a part. An email originating from Joe Abuku, spokesman for the British High Commission, affirmed: “We have provided assistance to Mr. Kanu since his arrest in October last year, including visiting him regularly in prison and attending court appearances in an observation capacity.”
Eventually, freedom came when Justice Binta Nyako, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on April 25, granted Nnamdi Kanu bail on health grounds, which took three more days to be perfected.
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, and former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, put up appearance at the court to show solidarity with Kanu.
After over 500 days in detention, the little-known South London Jockey who used to run the Radio Biafra walked out and breathed free air. By then he has become a man of the people and a totem of a struggle.
The way to freedom began early morning and progressed till about 3:44pm, when his lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, accompanied by Kanu ‘s younger brother, Prince Kanu, former Aviation Minister, Chief Chidoka Osita and other relations, left the Federal High Court complex together with an official of the Nigerian Prison Service (NPS), Inspector Idris M.S for Kuje prison to effect his release.
This was after meeting the conditions attached to his bail by Justice Binta Nyako of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court.
Those who stood as sureties for the pro-Biafra agitator were the Chairman, South East Senate caucus and former Deputy Governor of Abia State, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, a Jewish High Chief Priest, Immanuu-El Shalom and a Chartered Accountant residing in Abuja, Tochukwu Uchendu.