With the Biafra protests gathering pace the international media is beginning to analyse the crisis, what it means for Nigerians and their country. the British periodical. The Economist has recently published an article on Biafra, now the BBC’s reported on the worries over Biafian secession.
Renewed agitation for Biafra
Over the last few weeks thousands of young people have marched down the streets of southern Nigeria to protest the arrest of Biafra activist Nnamdi Kanu. There are many reports on renewed agitation for the short-lived Biafran republic.
The Nigerian military’s has warned of dire consequences for anyone who tries to commit what it says are treasonable acts. Many Nigerians wonder why now, what does it all mean?
The latest protests were triggered by the detention of Mr Kanu, the UK-based leader of the IPOB. He came to Nigeria last month and was arrested by the authorities for treason.
Mr Kanu has been in the custody of the National Intelligence Agency for more than four weeks. Security sources say he was arrested for broadcasting hate speech on the internet and through the banned London-based radio station called Radio Biafra. He has already appeared in court but is still under detention as his trial is yet to start.
“We need guns and bullets…”
Mr Kanu can be seen on Youtube asking for weapons at a meeting of the World Igbo Congress in Los Angeles in September.
He said to his audience: “We need guns and bullets from you people in America…”
With rising calls Mr Kanu’s release, the security services are getting even more concerned.
A military chief said: “The Nigerian army would like to send an unequivocal warning to all and sundry, more specifically to all those threatening and agitating for the dismemberment of the country, committing treasonable felony and arson as well as wanton destruction of lives and property.”
“Agitators don’t understand history of Biafra”
Many Nigerians cannot understand the rise in support for Biafra. Even at the conference where Mr Kanu made his call for arms, there were sceptics who pointed to Sudan to say why secession was a bad idea.
Vanguard newspaper columnist Ochereome Nnanna said: “I see the agitators as people who do not understand the history of the defunct Biafra.”
This appears to be the position of most educated middle-class Igbos and other Nigerians who are hoping that common sense will prevail. Community leaders in the Niger Delta have already disassociated themselves from the agitation, warning the protesters to stay away, as have most political leaders.
Igboland state governors met for the second time last weekend to agree a common approach to the matter.
But their effort was hampered by the refusal of some members of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to attend the meeting.
However, they did set up a committee of elders to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari to ask for help to fix the region’s development and infrastructure problems.
Lack of opportunity driving protesters
President Buhari will be watching the Igbo leaders’ response to the issue with concern.
He has less than a month to go to meet his own deadline to end the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency.
Many would argue that the conflict was not born out of religion, but by those disaffected by lack of opportunities and unemployment – precisely the issues that commentators believe are driving the young pro-Biafra protesters.
Members of the Igbo establishment now face the tricky task of trying to rein in the youthful protesters, none of whom experienced the trauma of the original Biafra, but who are convinced that it represents their best hope.