Nnamdi Okwu Kanu is a British-Biafran political activist. He is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). IPOB is agitating for the “Independence and Restoration of the defunct state of Biafra”. Nnamdi Kanu is the director of a UK registered radio station named Radio Biafra. Nnamdi Kanu was arrested on treason charges in Lagos Nigeria on 14 October 2015 and was detained for more than a year, despite various court orders that ruled for his release. When in court, Kanu appeared regularly wearing a Jewish prayer shawl and head covering. He said in court, that he “believes in Judaism” and considers himself a Jew. On 28 April 2017 Kanu was released from prison on bail.
Kanu was born in Isiama Afara Ukwu, Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria. His father goes by the name HRM Eze Israel Okwu Kanu (JP) and his mother, Ugoeze Nnenne Kanu. He attended Library Avenue Primary School and went to Government College Umuahia for his secondary education. He gained admission and studied Political Economics at London Guildhall University (renovated).
On 5 September 2015, Nnamdi Kanu was a guest speaker at the World Igbo Congress which was held in Los Angeles, where he told his audience that “we need guns and we need bullets”. Kanu in an interview in June 2017 explained his comment, saying that he demanded for bullets and guns from a group of US-based Nigerians for self-defense against the incessant attacks on Igbos by Fulani herdsmen which is currently reoccurring in Biafralands.
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Nnamdi Kanu’s pronounced strategy has been the application of civil disobedience in pressing home his demand for the freedom of his people. In various air broadcasts, Nnamdi Kanu stated how his adoption of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi’s forms of civil disobedience will lead to the “restoration of Biafra”. In an interview granted to Newsweek, Nnamdi Kanu opined his believe in Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, “I hope that what we are looking for can be accomplished peacefully. I am an advocate of passive resistance. Gandhi and Martin Luther King tried it to very good effects, so why should it not work in our case?”
Prior to the 2019 presidential election, IPOB had put up a threat of boycotting the election. According to the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, “It [the boycott] is a multi-faceted approach. It is civil disobedience, passive resistance, it is an expression of our resentment of Nigeria and what it represents”. His position on election boycotts was widely criticised by local Nigerian politicians who argued to the contrary. On the eve of the election, Nnamdi Kanu lifted the boycott position and urged Biafrans to participate in the election after which he described as his condition as “signed, sealed and delivered”. His shift was received in different quarters as being open to appeal and opinions of others.
On 18 October 2015, it was reported that Kanu had been arrested in Lagos State by Nigeria’s secret police, the Department of State Services (DSS). Kanu had told his solicitors that on 14 October 2015, he was arrested by the agents of the Federal Government of Nigeria, the State Security Service (SSS), in his hotel room at the Golden Tulip Essential Hotel Ikeja, Lagos State. The solicitors in a press briefing said, between 14 and 17 October 2015 their client’s whereabouts were unknown until 18 October 2015, when the Press Media broke the news of his arrest and detention by the SSS in Abuja. The news of the arrest of Kanu generated protests across Delta State, Enugu State, Rivers State, Cross River State, Abia State, Imo State,Akwa Ibom Sate, Bayelsa State and Anambra State.
On 19 October 2015, it was reported that Nnamdi Kanu had been granted bail after a secret arraignment at Magistrate Court, Wuse 11. However, the bail seemed “controversial” and there were claims the DSS announced the bail only “to calm the angry people of Biafra”.
The Magistrate Court 1 sitting in Abuja on 18 November 2015 ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) to produce Kanu at the court on 23 November 2015. However, it was reported the Department of State Services (DSS) obtained a “secret court order to detain Nnamdi Kanu”. Kanu’s lawyer, Obetta, in an interview said whilst in court, the prosecutor gave him a document containing a court order permitting the Department of State Services (DSS) to detain Kanu for the next three months to “conclude what they said was an investigation of terrorism and terrorism financing”.
Kanu was finally arraigned on 23 November 2015 in an Abuja Magistrate Court for the first time for charges of “criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organisation by Nigeria’s Department of State Services (DSS). The charges violate “Section 97, 97B and 397” of Nigeria’s penal code. Chief Magistrate S. Usman had at the last adjourned date, berated the Department of State Services (DSS) over its failure to produce Kanu in court on two consecutive times the matter came up before the court. Meanwhile, Kanu’s supporters stormed Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja in luxury buses on a peaceful protest for their leader who was arraigned by the Federal Government before the Wuse Zone 2 Magistrate Court, Abuja on 23 November 2015. Pro-Biafra protesters with placards sang and danced outside the court premises whilst the hearing proceeded. Protesters wore T-shirts and caps with inscriptions like “Biafra Now or Never”, “Buhari Release Kanu For Us”, “On Biafra We Stand”. More protests by IPOB members numbering over 15,000 grounded vehicular movements in the southeastern key economic city of Onitsha concurrently. It was the same with over 20,000 protesters in Aba, Abia State on the same day.
Kanu, through his counsel, filed an application asking the federal authorities to transfer him from the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) to prison. His lawyer, Obetta, insisted that transferring his client to prison would enable him have easy access to his legal team.
Whilst in court, the Department of State Services (DSS) requested the Wuse Zone 2 Senior Magistrates’ Court, to discontinue the trial of Nnamdi Kanu under section 108(1) of administration of criminal justice act 2015. Idakwo further said the Department of State Services (DSS) had obtained an order from the Federal High Court, Abuja, dated 10 November, to detain the accused in its custody for 90 days. However, Kanu’s lawyer Obetta objected the continued detention of his client. Obetta prayed the court not to discontinue the case because the prosecution did not present any information from the Attorney-General of Nigeria Federation who had the authority to approve such. Obetta also told the court that “the DSS violated the order of the court which granted bail that was perfected but not granted, adding that the accused had been in Department of State Services (DSS) custody since he was arrested.” The court’s magistrate, Usman Shuaibu, after listening to both counsels, adjourned the matter until 1 December 2015 for ruling. He is still wanted by the Nigerian authority after committing treason causing the death of so many eastern youths.
On 20 October 2015, Vanguard announced that Kanu had been released on bail. However, media sources supporting the objectives of IPOB called the bail “controversial” and claimed the DSS announced the bail only “to calm the angry people of Biafra”. Kanu has finally been released on bail by justice Binta Nyako for health reasons.
Kanu disappeared from public view after his home was raided by the Nigerian military in September 2017.