Nnamdi is a cult leader. He checks all the boxes. He is worshipped and craves it. Check. He is called Supreme Leader. Check. He is a singular figure whom every member looks up to; no structure, no deputy. Check. People kiss his feet and would drink his piss. Check. His word is law and even when he insults the same people, they say yessah! Check.

Let’s put this matter to rest.

I grew up with a fascination for thrillers, being totally absorbed with my Dad’s old Readers Digest magazines. It was from there I read about Jeffrey Dahmer, the guy who kills women and freezes their body, cuts them up and eats them (not that beef was expensive in America). I remember about Ted Bundy, whose specialty was to kidnap women who parted their hair in the middle (it was the hippie days then). He killed hundreds before he was caught. I read about Jack the Ripper, and the Una Bomber, Timothy McVeigh, the Zodiac Killer, Son of Sam (David Berkowitz) and a lot of crazies. Since then, I’ve grown up a tad suspicious, knowing that at the end, people have different motivations for doing what they do, that people see things differently (yes, where you see white, someone else sees red and you cannot convince them otherwise), and that you cannot put anything past human beings, at the end of the day. My interest in human psychology started a long time ago.

I also read a lot about cults. Especially religious cults. But let’s hang this here for a while.

Fortuitously, I traveled to Eastern Nigeria last week (I was last there more than 14 years ago, and properly around 1994) and came back with a shock; the people there have done extraordinarily well for themselves and the rest of us need to learn from them; that the sense of aesthetics, attention to details, patriotism to one’s motherland, investment in one’s homestead, establishment of high standards in everything, even the internal competition to achieve results (to a large extent), are attributes worthy of emulation. My entire thoughts were that everything must be done to ensure that the achievements of South Eastern Nigerians be preserved and not jeopardised in any way. I am an anti-war advocate. I did mount a coalition against the destruction of Libya in 2010/2011 and gathered over 12600 followers just before Gadaffi was murdered. I felt pained about Homs in Syria, and about what became of Iraq. I simply don’t want war anywhere in Nigeria, least of all, the beautiful South-East. In my view, the rhetoric, actions, threats and propaganda from IPOB could only lead to boots on ground. And so upon return from the East, I’ve been in several battles to ensure this IPOB issue does not escalate.

I saw through the ‘strategy’ of Kanu and his close supporters; that the game is to collapse the current economic structure so that they may emerge on top. This is what many ‘enlightened’ achievers who support him (mostly from the closet), don’t seem to understand. This guy wants them to abandon all they have and come back home to the ‘holy land’, which Chukwu Abiama has blessed, and the God of the Jews have ordained. The message is puritanical. It is about the exceptionalism of a particular tribe who are better than all else. Reasonability would have demanded that even when a tribe is better in many things than others, it should be humble about it, because no one has it all. This Kanu guy will hear none of that, and would usually launch into a diatribe if he is challenged.

The message from the East in general is confusing. Nnamdi Kanu and his core supporters, most of whom are street/area boys who have missed their ways, actually want Igbo achievers to abandon what they have elsewhere so that when they go back home, they start afresh. When told about Igbo investments all over Nigeria, Kanu retorts that any Igbo with houses in any part of Nigeria was an idiot and a fool. The Igbos are a driven people who have achieved a lot, even at home. But cramming back into the South-East of Nigeria will be very problematic. Even a referendum, as advocated, will be tough to administer. Will we seek the opinions of every Igbo person all over Nigeria or all over the world to know if they want to remain in the Nigerian union or form their own country? Or will the exercise be limited to the East? With the overflow of emotions, will people not be victimised and labeled ‘saboteurs’ if they choose to remain in Nigeria?

Yes, many Igbos don’t want to leave Nigeria. And even among those who want to leave, many are not too sure. Yet others want to leave but be able to stroll into Nigeria to do their businesses as usual, as if nothing happened. The last option will be great (leaving but remaining as traders), but will be seen as a defeat of the Nigerian side; that we were called a zoo, and the Igbos got their own country, only to trade in the zoo, selling to wild animals who are best put to death. This is the culmination of Nnamdi’s ideology. No one else has given us a better analogy about how this can play out amicable, but it is apparent that this charge cannot be led by a lunatic ‘leader’ and megalomaniac who insults, curses and threatens everyone else. We need reasonable people who can build proper coalitions for this to work.

Having just seen the South-East, I can confirm that if it seceded today – peacefully – it will be justified. That region can be self-sufficient and will most likely show quick signs of real progress ahead of any other part of Nigeria. The region, from my informed eyes, is intrinsically ahead of the rest. With my Samsung phone, I took pictures of monuments I never knew existed in Nigeria; dozens of them. I saw infrastructure and sights that don’t exist anywhere in the South-West of Nigeria where I am from. The Igbos may leave the union in order to continue that trajectory of achievement that they have established. But the problem again is that they really don’t want to leave. Or do they? The matter leaves one confused.

Buhari’s Appointments

When I engaged a number of friends about what that region had achieved and how marveled I was with what I saw, they insisted that President Buhari had not appointed Igbo people into government, that what I saw in the South-East were personal/community achievements. I agreed, but I wonder if that is enough reason for them to want to leave the union in anger. I thought a better strategy was to bid your time, worm your ways into everybody’s hearts and then if the goal is political office, you coast into the top office in the land with one of your brightest. Buhari has eight years to spend in leadership at the maximum. Time conquers us all. I recall even proposing in 2013 for an Igbo person (Rochas Okorocha – for he was the most prominent and most vocal ‘Easterner’ in APC then) to run for president in 2015 because I saw an opportunity to somehow bring the whole saga to a close.

Then it occurred to me that what we have in Kanu is a religious cult leader. And that the problem is so deep already, with thousands, possibly millions of little children in Nigeria and all over the world already recruited into the hate cult. When children are raised with hate and disdain against other people then that is some sort of social and mental terrorism and abuse.

Many told me Rochas was not what he made out to be. Well, I know little about the local politics there but I think they are often too hard on themselves. Some of the best governors in the country are indeed from the South-East, simple. Results on ground show that. I did an update recently on my Facebook page that governors from other regions in Nigeria should head East to see what they had achieved there. If the East of Nigeria disgusts Easterners so much, then the rest of the country will indeed be a crying shame for them and hence the anger and eagerness by many, to break away entirely. Also, part of the psychology is that the average South-Eastern Nigerian is today well-traveled and has seen how other countries look. This may have affected their expectations from this country, and the impatience that is boiling over.

If it’s about infrastructural neglect in the South-East, I am pained, because they have better infrastructure – including roads – than most places in Nigeria. I watched Clement Nwankwo, the NGO guru, complain bitterly about the road between Enugu and Awka on Channels TV recently and I wondered if it is not the same road I passed. Yes, about 20 percent of the road is bad. I also have high standards and I’m not here to justify mediocrity, but I believe that if one’s standards are too high in a country such as ours, it will leave someone in a state of permanent anger that will ruin other good things in one’s life. I have seen much more terrible roads all over Nigeria than what exist in the East. I have however not been to Abia in a while and I hear the roads are awful. Still, I believe the state of the roads or infrastructure – as a result of Nigeria’s general incompetence – is not enough reason to get into this trouble.

My visit to the East has actually left me very angry with my own people. We cannot even commission good workmen to do standard jobs for our public spaces! We cannot do a neat roundabout with a good artwork and keep it so. Our monuments are hidden and unremarkable. We have not shown pride in our spaces. We have not beautified the way the Easterners have. We even run away from each other and from our ancestral homes because of the fear of ‘witches’. Because of that most of our towns and villages have become symbols of poverty and decay. Yet we complain about what Nigeria has done to us. What about what we have done to ourselves? Let’s start from there. I personally hate to farm out my inadequacies as someone else’s fault.

A Rehash of the “June 12” Strategy?

A few friends suggested that this is a replay of the Yoruba agitation in the 1990s that made the military establishment concede power to the West, or as alleged also, the Niger Delta insurgency that led to Jonathan’s ascension. But there is a problem with that strategy. That it happened to others doesn’t mean it’ll happen to you; and also, times have changed.

What was expedient and fashionable yesterday may have become archaic today. We are also not in a military era; we are in a democracy. The power of the people is what matters now. And I’m not too sure that human beings in a democracy respond well to blackmail of that sort. Democracy can be rather pigheaded. The military corralled in Obasanjo in 1999 because they could; and because we had lost faith then, in democracy. Even at that, the idea of Obasanjo was certainly not a Yoruba agenda. Neither was the idea of Olu Falae. The Yorubas of South-West Nigeria – alongside millions from all over Nigeria – simply protested the travesty that was June 12 Annulment. The fight was based strictly on principles, and it couldn’t be said to be tribal for its universality.

The Religious/Tribal Cult

Then it occurred to me that what we have in Kanu is a religious cult leader. And that the problem is so deep already, with thousands, possibly millions of little children in Nigeria and all over the world already recruited into the hate cult. When children are raised with hate and disdain against other people then that is some sort of social and mental terrorism and abuse. There is also economic terrorism here because the majority of Kanu’s followers are poor. Not everyone will ‘make it’ financially in any society, but what this guy has done, in spite of the averagely higher financial successes of Easterners – is to gather together the disgruntled and the unsuccessful into a band of very angry people who are now ready to die for him because they have been adequately brainwashed, and to destroy others who don’t think like them where necessary. The leaders of Nigeria have been unfair to us all without question. We have to be clear and truthful to ourselves. All this talk of ‘they didn’t appoint my brother’ doesn’t cut it. Those who are appointed usually never do much for their people. For me, I seek to be like the Igbo man – successful on my own and as independent as an Eagle.

Nnamdi is a cult leader. He checks all the boxes. He is worshipped and craves it. Check. He is called Supreme Leader. Check. He is a singular figure whom every member looks up to; no structure, no deputy. Check. People kiss his feet and would drink his piss. Check. His word is law and even when he insults the same people, they say yessah! Check. Even those who are older than him and have more resources, address him with much respect, almost calling him Daddy. Check. Many call him Messiah. Check. He has brought religion into it with this Jewish persecution rhetoric. Check. He believes he and his people are superior, perhaps to everyone else in the world. Check. People will probably not mind ceding their wives to him at least for a while, so that he can be replicated hundred times over. Check. People spread their clothes on the ground so that he can walk on it like Jesus Christ walked on palm leaves. Check. He has great, compelling oratorical skills and is quite intelligent. Check. He has the ability to manipulate his subjects, concoct lies and make them go after his foes at the expense of their own lives. Check. Check. Check. He ticks all the boxes. This is the correct diagnoses if you observe him from afar with an unbiased mind. He is more a cult leader than a terrorist. But cults do unleash their own terror from time to time, as we shall see from a few examples below.

He is slightly worse though. He combines tribal sentiments and persecution mentality. And so, whoever does not buy the Jewish persecution angle will buy the Chukwu Abiama angle or at least the ‘we have been oppressed as a people’ angle. Now this is classic and unique. This is a well-packaged and deadly product that we would be wrong to ignore.

Now this is where the problem is. Let us see what happened with two famous cult cases in the world’s most famous democracy, so that we can appreciate how crazy these things can be and how government should respond. All the talk of legalism and due process is probably due to non-exposure to these kinds of issues, and therefore a terribly ignorant misdiagnosis of what we have on hand. Even the USA has learnt to keep a very close eye on religious cults in order to minimise the number of body-bags. That is why we hear fewer of such cases. This is not about inviting Kanu to Abuja to discuss with government. Religious cult leaders are often unbalanced upstairs, even if they sound uber-intelligent. In his own case, he has shown tremendous arrogance, acted and spoken of his superiority to everyone else. He would probably grab some more attention by insulting the president to his face on live TV. I wouldn’t want to meet with him.

For me the real issue is not whether IPOB was tagged a terrorist group. What matters is that our intelligence forces are moving quickly on the issue. What matters is that by this quick action, we may yet be saved from a full blown war, and the destruction that comes with it.

To show he is not balanced, he has openly solicited for guns and bullets against Nigeria (no one should act like this is of no consequence even though it’s there on YouTube. Even his audience were flabbergasted that day), he has promised to overrun Sokoto within two weeks of declaring a war on Nigeria, and he has instructed his people more than 50 times to ‘burn down’ Nigeria if he is ever arrested. We have a cult bigger than what even the Americans have ever handled on our hands. They are in every state of Nigeria ready to deploy for their master. This is why I support the DISPLAY (not the use) of whatever forces Nigeria has at her disposal. That is the only way countries solve this problem. In Nigeria, because of our long-running tribal issues, plus the fact that we are deeply religious people, this tribal-religious combo has already caught on like wildfire. Only an irresponsible government will ignore it.

How IPOB Is Similar To Jim Jones and David Koresh

Like Jim Jones (1931-1978), Nnamdi Kanu has been severally called a Messiah. Like David Koresh (1959-1993) of The Branch Davidians, he has gravitated towards the Jewish persona. The Jews are also a persecuted people, even though some say they have mastered the art of propaganda. The Jews are equally very industrious and have achieved great personal successes. Like Kanu, David Koresh adopted the Jewish six-point star as his ‘church’ logo. Koresh changed his name from Vernon Howell to David (because he wanted to establish the lost Kingdom of David in the Bible), and Koresh (which is the Jewish pronunciation of the great King Cyrus). Jim Jones was a communist who believed that Communism was ordained of God as the only way for man to organise himself. These men often refered to themselves in the third person; like Nnamdi Kanu, usually says “Nnamdi Kanu did not cause anybody trouble”. Jones led what he called a ‘Rainbow Family”, just as Nnamdi has an “IPOB family”. Jones identified strongly with black people in a period of immense persecution. More than 80 percent of those who perished with him, were blacks. Nnamdi identifies with the Igbo whom the ‘persecution’ has made stronger. Jones has a ‘Red Brigade’, a personal army, just as Kanu has a Biafra Secret Service and a Biafran National Guard

How Jim Jones and David Koresh Expriments Ended

Jim Jones’ people moved to Guyana to finally get away from the ‘madness’ that was USA. They lived a communal life even as Jim impregnated many women, did drugs and also involved in homosexuality. His people got very militant and once shot and killed a US Congressman who had been asked to officially confirm reports of abuse going on in the Jonestown camp. Jones directed his men to shoot the government team just as they boarded the aircraft. Three others members of the delegation were killed alongside Congressman Ryan. Later that day, Jones commanded all his followers to drink cyanide mixed with KoolAid and die because according to his ‘intelligence’ sources, having killed a US congressman, men will “parachute in here on us”, “shoot some of our innocent babies” and “they’ll torture our children, they’ll torture some of our people here, they’ll torture our seniors”.

920 people died that day; all US citizens. We have seen IPOB members stand in front of armoured tanks, confront police with guns and show that they are ready to die for the cause. Again I think we all have suffered under Nigeria’s rudderless governments. But should be all die for the cause or try and make things better?

As for David Koresh, his men too were already armed and when his camp in Waco, Texas was to be raided for weapons violation, child abuse, and drug trafficking, they resisted with gunfire. This led to a siege by a combination of men from the FBI, ATF (Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and the Texas Army National Guard (which is part of the US Army). The government side lost four men, but Koresh ensured 82 men, women and children from his side perished through mass suicide.

As We Argue the Law

The tiring issue about arguing the law, is that the argument never ends. When the Senate president declared that ‘due process was not followed’ because the IPOB was declared as terrorists, he only added more legitimacy to an already illegitimate and incendiary gathering. And he did it for the politics? For these types of problems, governments have learnt all over the world that it’s better to act fast. For those who say ‘they never hurt anyone’, all we need to see are the members on the streets of Aba looking for ‘onye Hausa’. Who knows how many they would have caught that day? And where do we think the illegal arms coming into this country end up daily? A son of the East who should know, tells me most men in that area now possess their own automatic weapons. Nigeria has never been a secure place anyway. And there are people who would delight in setting the country on fire while they make money from arms and ammunition. I always remember Nicholas Cage in Lord of War. He asked rhetorically; “Who will inherit the Earth?” and answered himself “Weapons Dealers of course… Because the rest are too busy killing each other”. Do we want to be the victims?

Comparisons With Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen

It is important to address the snide remarks of people who ask why have Fulani herdsmen not been designated as terrorists. The question is not very intelligent. I think that there are Fulani armed robbers and I hear they are some of the craziest around. There are even those who migrate from other countries. A few friends have encountered them and the experiences were not funny. They can be designated as terrorists but not every herdsman or herdsboy that we see on the road is such. There could also be a terrorist wing which terrorises farmers in Benue, Enugu and other states. The problem with those ones are that they have not presented themselves as a group. They have never stepped up to claim any terrorist act. But if we have better intelligence, and we can establish a pattern, and put names and faces to their actions, then ‘terrorist’ will be a fitting moniker.

Some say Buhari has not done enough with Boko Haram, and that the army – who are already on our streets anyway, and have been deployed for election and other purposes – should be in Sambisa Forest chasing Boko Haram. Now we should remember how long it took the world to designate Boko Haram a terrorist group. I recall being horrified as the USA – led by the then secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, dithered, hemmed and hawed before the dastardly Boko Haram group was eventually classified as terrorist. At least those one have some mad clown called Shekau as their purported leader; a man who has been killed more than four times!

For me the real issue is not whether IPOB was tagged a terrorist group. What matters is that our intelligence forces are moving quickly on the issue. What matters is that by this quick action, we may yet be saved from a full blown war, and the destruction that comes with it. If some aggrieved person with a cult followership, who has a deep, implacable grouse with the country, and has promised to burn down the country several times, plus solicited weapons in more places than one, were living in Abuja where I stay, I would be glad to see Nigerian Army at checkpoints, in addition to the Police. LAWS ARE NOT FOR THE DEAD.

‘Tope Fasua, an Economist, author, blogger and entrepreneur, can be reached through topsyfash@yahoo.com.