Umuahia and Awka — The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, has challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to defeat the agitation for secession by his group with superior argument rather than the barrel of the gun.
He threw down the gauntlet on the issue during a chat with journalists at his country home in Afaraukwu Ibeku, Umuahia in Abia State, following the order by Buhari to the service chiefs on Tuesday to deal decisively with Boko Haram terrorists, IPOB agitators, marauding herdsmen and other criminal elements, saying that they constitute a security threat to the country and its unity.
In his reaction, however, the Biafra leader faulted the president, saying that the penchant by Buhari for recourse to brute force to solving burning national problems would never work, adding that he (Kanu) would not succumb to intimidation.
"In this debate for freedom everybody has to be heard. Buhari should defeat me with the superiority of his argument, not AK47," he said, adding that "those that quickly resort to violence, hate and intimidation do so because they have lost the force of argument".
Kanu argued that it was very wrong for the president to compare and lump IPOB, a peaceful mass movement, with Boko Haram, an internationally recognised terrorist organisation.
He pointed out that the decision by Buhari to unleash Nigeria's security forces on IPOB had further demonstrated his dictatorial traits and his determination to enforce national unity on his own terms and those of his people.
"It is the continuation of the Buhari regime's dictatorial and unwholesomely undemocratic approach to governance. I find it unacceptable, abhorrent and insulting that somebody elected by the people can turn around and dictate to them how he wants them to behave," the IPOB leader said.
Kanu reminded Buhari that he was elected to govern Nigeria and he should therefore face the business of governance "and not to instigate another war".
He advised the Nigerian president to borrow a leaf from former US President Dwight Eisenhower who was an army commander, fought in a war and later became president because he was a democrat at heart.
Nonetheless, Kanu insisted that no matter how menacingly Buhari intends to bare his fangs, his action would in no way diminish the quest for Biafra's self-determination, saying: "We are not afraid because IPOB is a peaceful mass movement, not a violent armed group."
Kanu stated that no matter how anybody intends to characterise IPOB, there must be a distinction between a non-violent, peaceful mass movement as represented by IPOB and any other group whose activities pose a threat to national security.
According to him, "Most Nigerians live in denial, they know the truth but have chosen to ignore it," adding that the records are there to prove that IPOB has remained a peaceful, non-violent organisation since its formation.
He said: "There is no record of injury being sustained, people fighting or having any altercation in any of the numerous IPOB gatherings where people converged in their millions to listen to this gospel of the restoration of Biafra. Not one single incident.
"We are the most disciplined, most well behaved mass movement anywhere on the face of this planet.
"Despite the genocidal killings, despite the arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions without trial, we can never be provoked into any armed conflict.
"We have refused to be provoked to armed rebellion; that is what Buhari is looking for. Buhari wants a war but we won't oblige him because we are civilised people."
On the formation of the Biafra Security Service (BSS), the IPOB leader explained that it was set up to prevent the menace of Fulani herdsmen, which he erroneously said Buhari avoided mentioning during his address because they are his kinsmen.
Kanu further explained that the BSS, which according to him, enjoys the full support of the people in the South-east and South-south became necessary following the threat by the coalition of Arewa youth groups to expel Igbos from the northern states.
"No army was set up. We have a Biafra Security Service to give us intelligence regarding the October 1 quit notice," he said, adding that there was no reason the establishment of the BSS should raise any eyebrows since the Sharia police or Hisbah exists in states in the north.
"The majority of our people across the length and breath of the South-east and South-south support what IPOB is doing. They also support the formation of the Biafra Secret Service that will take care of this land in terms of its security needs.
"The rampaging Hausa-Fulani herdsmen will be a thing of the past, we can no longer allow it to go on," Kanu said.
In a related development, Emeka Ojukwu Jnr, the son of ex-Biafra warlord, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Wednesday shamed the critics of the president over the latter's disclosure of the discussion he had with the late Ojukwu on the unity and indivisibility of the Nigerian nation.
Ojukwu Jnr, in a statement issued Wednesday in Awka, Anambra State, said the news making the rounds on the social media that his father never visited Buhari in his hometown in Daura, Katsina State, was a lie.
Ojukwu Jnr said his late father actually held the said meeting with Buhari before his demise, adding that everything that the president said in his nationwide broadcast was true.
The statement said: "It has been brought to my attention that there is an article making the rounds on the social media attributed to me refuting the remarks of Mr. President concerning his relationship and discussions with my late father.
"Let me state the following categorically: firstly, that I made no such comments to anybody, and secondly that I am aware that His Excellency's comments were indeed factual.
"I have noticed a disturbing trend recently of fake news being attributed to me on the social media. I don't know who is behind it or what their motivation might be but let me assure you that any time I feel the need to comment publicly on any matter, I will not do so via some anonymous email or anything of the like, rather be rest assured that there will be no ambiguity whatsoever as to whether the comments came from me."
Ojukwu Jnr, who joined other Nigerians in welcoming Buhari back home from his stay in the
United Kingdom for medical reasons, urged members of the public to discountenance the stories on the social media or any media platform whatsoever credited to him that he accused Buhari of telling lies, warning that such malicious and damaging publications would not be taken lightly if repeated.
He also asked the president not to take such comments serious, as they smacked of "gutter and yellow media reportage" aimed at overheating the polity.