By Rafiu Ajakaye
LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) – Nigeria's secessionist Nnamdi Kanu on Sunday confirmed he was alive and residing in Israel, more than a year after the local army invaded his home in southeastern Abia state and his whereabouts became unknown.
Kanu is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a movement that seeks a separate homeland for Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo who allege unfair treatment in the country's scheme of things.
Kanu’s secessionist zeal builds on a similar agitation led by the late Emeka Ojukwu, culminating in a 30-month civil war in which over a million people — mostly Igbo — died.
“I promise the zoo (his derogatory appellation for Nigeria) that I will be coming to Biafra and I came,” Kanu said in a broadcast on Sunday, two days after a video of him praying at the Wailing Wall (in Israel) went viral on social media in Nigeria.
“I owe my life to the State of Israel. The zoo called Nigeria cannot jail me. I will fight till the last day. The court failed to ask the Nigerian army why they invaded my home. Nigerian court is a kangaroo court. I did not jump bail; I left because the court failed to protect me,” he added.
In a rebuttal of the narrative that he had been killed or held incommunicado by the Nigerian government, Kanu said he was rescued by the “Biafra military intelligence” and sneaked out of the country.
“I am not a Nigerian. I already renounced Nigeria in 2015. I am a Biafra with British nationality. I cannot be tried by a court I do not recognize. I do not recognize Nigeria. I can only come to the court with the supervision of the UN,” he said.
Kanu, who has a cult following in the southeast region, also called on ethnic Igbo to boycott Nigerian elections next year — a message many opposition members said would hurt their chances to oust incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
Nigeria’s southeast is a major stronghold of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party and a vote boycott meant a large share of their support base would be missing from the tally.
Kanu was standing trial for treason in Nigeria because of his secessionist activities that included fanning ethnic tensions in a country reputed for a history of ethno-religious conflagration.
He was later granted bail with conditions that included not addressing a crowd or making political statements.
Kanu flouted all the conditions and went ahead to inaugurate a military arm — a step that provoked a military crackdown on him in September 2017.