By David Akinadewo
The Civil War in Nigeria broke out on July 6, 1967 and ended on January 15, 1970. The war, also known as the Biafran War was spearheaded by Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who later became the General of the Biafran Army and president of the defunct State of Biafra. The war became inevitable as a result of the 1966 military coup, a counter-coup and the subsequent persecution of Nigerians of the Igbo extraction by northerners.
It however became history when Ojukwu lost the war in 1970 and left the country. The president of Nigeria at the time, General Yakubu Gowon who successfully prosecuted the war and accepted Biafra’s unconditional cease fire, declared ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’. He dedicated the successive years for reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation.
About three decades after Biafra had been laid to rest, fresh agitations began and it became pronounced when the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra was launched by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, an Indian-trained lawyer. The group was introduced as a secessionist movement in Nigeria with the aim of ensuring the recreation of an independent State of Biafra through peaceful means.
Uwazuruike and other leaders of the group stated that there are two arms of the proposed government of Biafra, which are: the Biafra Government in Exile and Biafra Shadow Government. They reiterated their commitment to ensuring that the goals are achieved peacefully. Their agitation is for a Republic of Biafra comprising of the South-East regions of Nigeria, the South-South and other areas where the Igbos are domiciled.
The headquarters of the group is in Okwe, in the Okigwe district of Imo State and they started organising rallies and peaceful protests at inception. Later, in 2005, MASSOB re-introduced the defunct Biafran currency into circulation and in 2009, the Biafran passport was launched by the group.
In response to the persistent protests and confrontational behaviours of the group against the Nigerian security agencies, the Nigerian government accused MASSOB of violence and threatening the peace of the country and the leader of the group, Ralph Uwazuruike, was arrested in 2005 and detained. He was held on treasonable charges and released in 2007.
MASSOB had consistently been accusing the government of Nigeria of mass arrests and killings of its members, while the President of Nigeria at the time, Dr Goodluck Jonathan accused MASSOB of posing a threat to the peace of the nation.
Meanwhile, as Uwazuruike was dealing with the issues he was having with the government, another separatist group emerged from the region, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), led by a United Kingdom based Nnamdi Kanu, a political activist. The group demanded at inception for a referendum to enable a number of states in the South Eastern part of Nigeria made up of people from the Igbo extraction to breakaway and form the Republic of Biafra.
The group however emphasised that it would continue to agitate until the Nigerian government listen and fix a date for the referendum. Surprisingly, this latest group and MASSOB are not in agreement on the Biafran struggle.
Since Kanu, a British-Nigerian who is the director of Radio Biafra came into the show, the entire South-East region has been experiencing violence. Uwazuruike, the MASSOB leader said in an interview that activities of IPOB negates the rule of engagement of the Biafra struggle.
He condemned the ideology of Kanu about the struggle, saying the interest of the Biafra movement was to secure the interest, lives and property of Igbo people and not to start another war. He accused Kanu and IPOB of engaging in acts that could only lead to an unplanned war.
He said, “a real freedom fighter submits to arrest, but Kanu has told his supporters to burn down the country if he is re-arrested. A true indication that he was paid to destabilise MASSOB.
“The IPOB has no agenda and I advise Igbo leaders to condemn its activities. NnamdiKanu has no agenda and he is only thriving on the relevance given to him by the government. I recruited him and I know his capacities and he is not a leader. I have 25 steps towards actualising Biafra and Kanudoes not have even one agenda”.
Shortly after he was pronounced the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu was in the United States of America on September 5, 2015, where he attended the World Igbo Congress held in Los Angeles as the guest speaker. He openly demanded for guns and bullets from the Igbos in the USA, apparently to fight the battle for secession. He however, clarified his comment at the USA congress in an interview in June 2017, that the reason why he demanded for guns and bullets from the US-based Nigerians was for self defence against the incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen on the Igbos in Nigeria.
Kanu was arrested on October, 2015, by men of the Department of State Services (DSS) and later arraigned in court for charges of criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organisation. After series of controversial issues on his detention and appearances in court, Kanu was eventually granted bail this year.
Ever since then, he has consistently violated his bail conditions which stipulated that he shouldn’t grant press interviews, he must not be in the crowd of more than 10 people, he must not hold rallies, among others.
Activities of his group in recent times have shown that they are out to threaten the fragile peace of Nigeria. IPOB has threatened not to allow the Anambra State gubernatorial election scheduled for November this year to hold. The group had burnt down police stations and assaulted security agents.
Whereas the late Biafran warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had advised his people before he died in a video footage during an interview with a foreign journalist that though he led the first Biafran war, another secession was unnecessary. “I led the first one and I can say I led proudly, the first one, but I don’t think a second one is necessary”.
In the last few days, police officers have been killed by members of IPOB and they’ve consistently dared the Nigerian Army which was in the South-East for the Operation Python Dance 11.
The Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Zaki Ahmed last week confirmed the killing of two police officers by members of IPOB. Another officer was also killed by the group over the weekend. Many atrocities have been perpetrated by the group under the guise of the agitation for secession.
In a swift response, the Nigerian Army on Friday last week declared IPOB a terrorist organisation, which means anyone seen with the Biafran flag and other things associated with it are to be treated as terrorists.
With this latest development, I hope the South-Eastern part of the country can now experience peace and the government too should engage the leaders of the region in a genuine discussion that would calm the fraying nerves permanently. We need peace in Nigeria for God sake!
Government must listen now and bring all the leaders of the country together, so that we can collectively tackle our problems and make Nigeria better. We are stronger when we are united.