It is becoming obvious that in ‘intercepting’ Nnamdi Kanu in Kenya and forcing him back to Nigeria through the process of extraordinary rendition, the Muhammadu Buhari administration did not pay enough attention to the political and diplomatic consequences of its action. Evoking images of the failed 1984 plot to abduct and transport Umaru Dikko, ex-president Shehu Shagari’s Transport minister, back to Nigeria, the Kanu abduction is shaping up into a legal and diplomatic conundrum. Lightning never strikes the same place twice; but in the case of the rendition of Mr Kanu, the impatience and lack of reflectiveness of the Buhari administration cast doubt on that idiomatic expression. Mr Dikko was abducted in London with the help of Israeli Mossad agents, crated, and was nearly successfully transported back to Nigeria. During his exile days, and being an in-law to the deposed ex-president Shagari, he had been a remorseless critic of the Buhari military government. Until his abduction and rendition, Mr Kanu was similarly and probably the fiercest critic of President Buhari and an unrepentant exponent of secession.
This column, together with others, had warned that abducting and trying Mr Kanu in Nigeria was bound to have repercussions for the administration’s already battered image. The government should have let bad enough alone, this column counseled. Not only would Mr Kanu now exploit his trial to paint the government as irredeemably evil, even exaggerating the minute details of what the government did and did not do, he would in contrast paint himself as a hero, of course valorizing his every deed and painting them in loud colours. It would have been far better to keep Mr Kanu at arm’s length, where he was engaged in nothing better than a shouting match with the administration, while simultaneously countering his propaganda back in Abuja, the seat of government. But the administration, lured by James Bond movies and frustrated by the relentlessness of the IPOB leader’s verbiage, decided to ‘intercept’ Mr Kanu in Kenya. It must now contend with the blowback of eventually disclosing the details of how the fugitive was abducted, and who its accomplices were. If the Kenyan government was not officially involved, then the non-state actors involved in the saga would have to be identified.
This case is, however, complicated by Mr Kanu’s presumptive dual nationality. Even if Kenya displays espirit de corps with Nigeria, the United Kingdom (UK) is unlikely to follow suit. The legal system of the UK, to which Mr Kanu and his allies will probably make recourse at one point or the other, is not susceptible to the unhealthy extraneous and political influences Nigeria is conversant with and has taken for granted. Unlike Nigeria, not even the British government can exert any influence on UK courts when the case finally finds its way into the British legal system. Had the administration been careful enough, had it subjected the abduction to a thorough debate among key advisers, up to the point of even appointing a devil’s advocate in case of unanimity among advisers, someone among them would have counseled against moving against a target that would evoke the 1984 Dikko affair. And with President Buhari still receiving medical attention from Britain, what it stands to gain from having Mr Kanu controversially and dubiously ferried back to Nigeria, possibly receiving help from Kenyan security agents, pales into insignificance with the healthcare services he stands to continue receiving from that country of laws.
The Kanu Affair could still turn out to damage the Buhari administration beyond repair. Mr Kanu is a fugitive; but there are laws governing extraditions, especially between countries that have extradition treaties among themselves. There are no…