Elder statesman, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, has described the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, as a ‘great Igbo man’.
Nwabueze spoke when Kanu visited him at his Enugu residence on Tuesday.
Kanu visited Nwabueze with other leaders of a pan-Igbo group, the Eastern Consultative Assembly, including Chief Mrs. Maria Okwor, Evang. Elliot Ukoh and Rev. Fr. John Odey.
Speaking during the courtesy visit, Nwabueze said he was happy to meet Kanu, noting that the occasion was one of the ‘greatest days’ of his life.
“I must say, today is one of the greatest days in my life – meeting you.
“Whatever anybody may say, you are a great Igbo man,” the elder statesman said.
He commended Kanu for ‘fighting’ for the Igbos.
“How many of us are prepared to fight for Ndigbo? You are sticking out your neck for Ndigbo.
“We (Igbos) are supposed to be one of the leading ethnic groups in Nigeria but today we are in the minority – we have been so marginalized,” Nwabueze added.
Nwabueze, who heads a pan-Igbo group, Igbo Leaders of Thought, noted that Kanu’s case has demonstrated that repression was not the best approach to address agitations and complaints in the polity.
He said, “The case of Nnamdi Kanu is a lesson in good governance and good leadership.
“Nnamdi Kanu’s case teaches that repression is seldom the right response to complaints and agitations for amelioration in the conditions of things in the society.
“Repression seldom settles grievances. If anything, it forces them underground.”
Nwabueze, a renowned constitutional lawyer, observed that Kanu’s arrest, and long incarceration, escalated the agitation for Biafra, contrary to the expectations of the Federal Government.
“In this case, the long imprisonment of Nnamdi Kanu and his mates for demanding self determination has caused the spirit of the agitation to come to live in countless number of people of Igbo extraction.
“It is a mistake to think of self determination for which Nnamdi and others are agitating as meaning secession,” he pointed out.
But the elder statesman also admonished Kanu, and other pro-Biafra activists to see restructuring as the beginning of their quest for self determination.
Nwabueze said, “Another lesson to learn from Nnamdi Kanu’s case is directed to him and the other agitators.
“It is this – self determination should be a graduated process. It should begin with regional autonomy.
“The country should be restructured into six more or less self-governing zones or regions, with the powers of the central government drastically reduced, so as to minimize the fierce contest for its control.”
Kanu, in his response, said he had always hoped to meet Nwabueze.
According to him, Nwabueze has over the years displayed “so much focus and determination towards championing the cause of Ndigbo”.
The IPOB leader said he would always consult the elder statesman.
“I will continue to consult you. I plead that you make your words of wisdom available to us at all times.
“We shall do everything possible to uphold the honour and dignity of our people,” Kanu told Nwabueze.
It would be recalled that the Eastern Consultative Assembly had elected Kanu as it’s leader while he was still in detention, a gesture with the IPOB leader accepted.
Since his release on bail, Kanu had held series of meetings with the ECA, and the group had also accompanied him to consult some Igbo leaders.