Until Friday, last week, when she returned from London, Uchechi, wife of the recently released leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu, never saw her husband for the past 18 months as a result of his incarceration by the Federal Government.
While at Afaraukwu Ibeku, Umuahia, the country home of the Kanus, Saturday Sun ran into the better-half of the IPOB leader and she spoke on issues surrounding her husband and the struggle for Biafra, which landed him into detention. She spoke with OKEY SAMPSON.
How did you feel when you heard about your husband’s release?
I was elated, I was highly elated, it’s something I have always looked forward to, I was expecting it, I was optimistic that it will happen, even though I was cautious about it. In fact, it is an understatement, because I was so elated, I couldn’t say anything, I was just mute and I know that is the beginning of better things.
How has it been for the over one year your husband has been in detention?
As a woman whose husband was taken away from her while she was pregnant, you know the feeling. It’s just like you losing your husband when you are pregnant. So, that sort of feeling is very hard, very difficult, but because it’s a war, it was something to fight for. I was living stronger everyday, knowing that there is something ahead of me to fight, which is the release of my husband and that kept me going, that was my strength and kept on groing, knowing there is always the light at the end of the tunnel.
While your husband was in detention, was there a day you remembered him and felt like crying?
Of course, I cried everyday when he was in detention. You know how it feels having a baby and your husband is not present. If somebody had actually gone through not having her husband by her side when she had a baby, the person will understand where I’m coming from. Also being where not all your family members are around, as you would want them to be around you, that was how it was, quite difficult. I always remembered him everyday and I do cry, because the house was empty everyday without him.
There was an air of confusion when you directed that your husband’s former lawyers be changed and this appeared not to have gone down well with people, could you tell us what happened?
Yes, I gave an interview regarding that sometime ago, but I wasn’t quite extensive, I didn’t give the interview comprehensively, or go into details, just for the sake of legal profession. Yes, I had to; I changed the legal team, because I knew something was not right, so, I had to change him. Actually, that issue was resolved particularly with my in-laws who felt I did not do the right thing. When situations arise, it is not fair that you ask for something without giving facts to why you really want something to happen. I had my reason why I wanted the legal team changed and a few people were not quite really grasping the real straw of the matter as at that time. But, I knew what was going on and I stood my ground and asked for him to be changed, because he wasn’t fighting for my husband. I think my husband also realised that I was right and sacked him.
Going by what your husband has gone through this period, would you ask him to back out of the struggle?
No, no way, I can’t ask him to back out. I want him to move ahead, because there was a reason he started it in the first place, so, it is only fair he finishes it.
How would you feel if he is sent back into detention?
I’m not praying for that because I will not feel as happy as I am at present. I will feel the same way I have been feeling in the past one year and six months.
What advice do you have for your husband with regard to the struggle?
Well, as my husband, what I will have to say to him is that everyone knows the conditions of the court bail, so, because we are asking the Nigerian government to obey the rule of law, we are also going to obey the conditions given and hope that justice will take its place. That is the advice I have for him.
Some people are saying the bail conditions are harsh, what’s your reaction?
Yes, those people are right, they are harsh, the conditions are tantamount to still being in prison, it’s an infringement on his human rights, based on communication, because we are more than 10 in the family. So, with that aspect of the bail condition, it means he will not meet with his family members. We are going to ask that the court look into these conditions.
How were you able to cope with family expenses all this while?
I work, though I was on maternity leave. England is where when you are pregnant you also get your maternity grants and other things. I also got few help from people; that was how I coped during the period.
What’s your advice to the Nigerian government?
Oh yes, like I have always said, for us to work according to civilization or to behave like civilized people; we need to work in line with the law and order. If you look at what is happening, there is barbarism everywhere, there are inhuman actions meted to people who don’t deserve it. But, because there is law in place to be followed, to guide people, this is where you see some countries are much more civilized than others, because they go by the law. So, all I’m asking the Nigerian government is to go by the rule of law. If you say someone has offended the government and you take the person to court, you’ve only brought that person to court for the law to take its course, so, do not interfere in whatever way, just let the court give its ruling.
And also in regard to that, it is also in line with one having the right to self determination. So, if they are looking at the law, they can see that someone is right for asking for self determination. It is not a crime, if you don’t like it you look at the reasons why the person is asking for that.
Before Nnamdi proposed to marry you, were you aware of the activism in him. If no, would you have rejected the proposal?
When I first met him, I didn’t see him as an activist, although I wouldn’t have rejected the proposal if I knew he was one. Way back then, he has always had this pain of our people’s suffering, but he was not fully into activism. Like I said earlier, if I knew he was, I would not have rejected his proposal neither am I regretting marrying him.
Since your husband came back, people have been coming to see him, although in most cases they are restricted, what can you make out of that?
Well, what I make out of it is that people are showing appreciation, because this is something nobody thought that such a man can still emerge from this geographical zone. So, people are appreciative of this very strength that he is exhibiting, not just here, all over the world; people are appreciating and praying that this very cause will be actualized. That’s what I make out of it, that people are behind him, people are showing appreciation and everyone is happy that at least he’s on bail.
What do you love most in your husband?
What I love most is his strength, his steadfastness and courage. He is very consistent; it is that very consistency that I love much. It was a sort of love at first sight and over time I started to know much more about him. But I think it was love first and then every other thing followed.