You made a statement sometimes ago that Nnamdi Kanu would not be tried in any Nigerian court. What do you mean by that?
Yes, I did. But let me put it another way. Even though Kanu was undoubtedly amenable to prosecution or trial based on the charges pending against him from 2015, his subsequent extraordinary rendition from Kenya has changed all that. That’s why I commenced the constitutional suit that is now pending before the High Court of Abia State. But because this question is now subjudice, I cannot comment on its merits but I can give you an excerpt of the case-in-chief that I adduced in the originating processes I filed in court. My case-in- chief is this: That it is fundamentally wrong for the Nigerian State to levy a lethal military attack on Nnamdi Kanu at his home in Abia State while he was free on bond and having failed to kill him, to then pursue him to Kenya and abduct him without due pro- cess of law. The abduction, the torture that followed and the unlawful imprisonment in Kenya, plus his consequent expulsion from Kenya to Nigeria, are manifestly unconstitutional and amount to infringement of his fundamental rights. There’s an unbroken chain of notorious violations that started in Afara-Ukwu, Abia State in late 2017 and culminated in Kenya in June 2021. It is trite that when a state forcibly takes a fugitive suspect from a foreign country to its territory without giving the person the benefit of the extradition process, it amounts to an act of extraordinary rendition that, without more, triggers insurmountable legal barriers to prosecution. Under applicable laws, a renditioned fugitive is entitled to a body of remedies known as collectively reparations, which includes restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition. One such law provides that ‘restitution should restore the victim to the original situation before the gross violations of international human rights law. Restitution includes restoration of liberty and return to one’s place of residence.’ In many nations, extraordinary rendition has been held by the courts to be a legal barrier to prosecution. I will give one example with the United Kingdom where the House of Lords held in such a case that “Where a defendant in a criminal matter had been brought back to the United Kingdom in disregard of available extradition process and in breach of international law and the laws of the state where the defendant had been found, the courts in the United Kingdom should take cognisance of those circumstances and refuse to try the defendant.” I know that Kanu’s case is unique, novel and presents matters of first impression. Yet, it presents a golden opportunity for a Nigerian court to determine whether it’s lawful for the Nigerian state to make an extrajudicial attempt on his life in 2017 and having failed, to then pursue him to Kenya, abduct him, torture him and rendition him to Nigeria without due process of law, all because he is engaged in self- determination, which is a protected political opinion but one which the government of the day is seeking to suppress by means of punishment of some sort. If what they did to Kanu is legal, why did they resort to the extradition processes of Benin Republic and why is America equally applying to extradite Abba Kyari instead of simply levying extraordinary rendition on him? That’s the crux of the matter.Do you see his non-production in court by the DSS, in recent legal appearances, as a vindication of your statement, or prophecy, as it were?
Let me put it this way: Democratic Nigeria has never had a successful treason trial. Since 1960, democratic Nigeria has had many treason trials without any – except for that of Obafemi Awolowo – netting a conviction or even coming close. No other person has ever been convicted of treason or its garden varieties like treasonable felony or sedition throughout all the democratic dispensations in Nigeria. Even when that of Awolowo resulted in conviction, it immediately brought many issues that still dog Nigeria to this day. Plus, Awo’s conviction most probably would not have happened had he not overconfidently opted for summary trial when he could have tarried awhile. What’s more? His trial was later found to have been tainted with pro- found judicial bias. And in quick time, his conviction and sentence were commuted. Most remarkably, his conviction convulsed Nigeria to no end, especially Western Nigeria. And it ultimately contributed to the
1966 coups that directly led to the Civil War and its horrendous aftermaths. The lessons from this are not hard to see, and they are: First, treason is a regime-specific political offence. So, unless the trial is dubiously concluded during the life of the extant regime, it sunsets with the coming of a new regime. Second, treason trial – if pushed too aggressively – can bring more problems than it initially set out to contain. In some climes, it led to overthrow of the very government in power, such as in the case of Jerry Rawlings who went from being in jail for treason to overthrowing the very government that jailed him. So, Nigeria needs to tread with caution and a keen reference to history as it ramps up on this overly aggressive treason trial of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. When an alpha patriot like Kanu gets so upset with the system that he begins to seek solutions in separation or self-determination, you talk to him; you don’t subject him to trials and tribulations. Simple!As Kanu’s lawyer, how do you see his on-going trial? Any hope of him ever getting freed at the end of the day?
Before anybody forms an opinion on whether Kanu should’ve been charged in the first place, not to talk of being actually tried, you need to first understand the position of the law on what he does. A lot of people may not be aware but the truth is that the enterprise upon which Kanu is en- gaged and which grounds his prosecution is known as self-determination which is legal, not criminal; not even unlawful under Nigerian law. One such law, at CAP A9, Laws of Federation of Nigeria states that all peoples shall have the “unquestionable and inalienable right to self-determination”; and that “oppressed people shall have the right to free themselves from the bonds of domination by resorting to any means recognised by the international community”. One of such means is referendum. So, as you can see – when you express an intention to break away from your country, you’ve done nothing wrong that should warrant your prosecution for treason.Men are known to be stoic as they would not openly cry or shed tears. In your pursuit of Nnamdi Kanu’s case, has there been any time you had cause to cry, even if in secret?
The truth is this: Defending the right of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB to self-de- termination is tough in any society or with- in a regime that believes that espousing self-determination is a criminal offence, or that those you’re defending are terrorists. For this reason, I have had two horrendous situations with the authorities where I had to also defend myself for merely being a lawyer to Kanu/IPOB. Nnamdi Kanu him- self is personally aware of this. Because of the exigencies of the moment, I can’t say any more on this other than to add that a lot of times, it feels like being marooned between a rock and a hard place.A lot of people are talking about finding a political solution to this impasse so that we can move on as a nation, and, from what we learnt, there are talks going on in that area. If your client is offered amnesty or freedom on the basis that he renounces his political stance, why won’t he accept the offer?
You will recall that back in early September 2017, Mazi Kanu was in talks with the Southe-East governors, with the tacit blessings of the Federal Government. Then, all of a sudden, the dialogue was terminated and Python Dance was brought to bear.
It was not Kanu that terminated the dialogue. When someone demands self-determination through referendum, he has shown sufficient consideration to the state, such that should warrant some reciprocity that can begin with a dialogue. Kanu has never ruled out dialogue. So, what’s stopping the authorities?Presently, the legal team is Nnamdi Kanu’s only link with the outside world. One of the complaints some factions in IPOB allegedly have against you is that it is difficult to know when Kanu is talking and when you are injecting your own thoughts and calling them Kanu’s. Could you react to this allegation?
don’t know of any factions in IPOB, not to talk of any factions having complaints against me or questioning the veracity of what I might’ve discussed with Kanu in private, which, by the way, borders on legal strategies for his defence. I’ve clarified this matter previously that any time you see any of Kanu’s lawyers being attacked publicly, it should be attributed to fifth columnists whose sole intention is to complicate my legal defence for Kanu. In other words, one of the ways you can easily identify the true enemies of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB or those that don’t wish them well is to listen to the words of those attacking his lawyers, his deputies and family members at a precarious moment like this.
As for me personally, it seems that those against me are threatened by the merits of the legal manoeuvres I’m currently undertaking in defence of Kanu. A few of them hide under claims of being IPOB members but their words and actions will show that they are not bonafide members of IPOB. I cannot be distracted by such insane antics.Despite the reported directive from Kanu to IPOB to call off the sit-at-home strike, the exercise has continued to hold in several parts of Igboland. What do you have to say to this, and how does that make Kanu feel?
It means that the sit-at-home has turned a new corner where it is now possessed of the toga of voluntarism that underscores the widespread discontent in the land. In other words, the sit-at-home speaks for itself. So, instead of criticizing or fighting it, the authorities should see it as a pre-referendum on what is at stake and an opportunity to change course and address the issue constructively.Many people see Nnamdi Kanu as an angry man, always cursing people, always abusing and insulting people. In your interactions with him, has he ever laughed?
Mazi Kanu is a rare gem. He’s possessed of many superlative qualities. He has charisma and high intelligence quotient, plus a good heart. He’s emotionally stable, and yes – he has a lot of laughter in him, and despite his rhetoric, he hates nobody. He hates no tribe. He hates no religion. What he hates is systemic injustice of man against man. That’s what drives his rhetoric.Are you in touch with his wife? What was your last discussion with her? Does Kanu miss them?
Yes, I’m in touch with his wife and from what I know, she is a young woman of extraordinary strength, character and intelligence. Like the wife of someone fighting for the freedom of his people, she understands the sacrifices and tribulations that may come. In summary, she is very upbeat and stable. As for Mazi Kanu, yes – it’s natural that he will miss his family. He loves his wife and his children deeply. There’s no doubt about it. He’s a great family man, a great husband and a great father.