Written by: Patrick Brogan
There are fears of a fresh wave of unrest in Nigeria as Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IpoB), was arrested and deported to Nigeria. Details of his detainment are still vague but Nigerian authorities are claiming it was an operation that involved Interpol.
There are conflicting reports as to how and where Kanu was arrested with some sources claiming it was in the Netherlands, while others say it was in Ethiopia or Kenya. Regardless of the location, news of this will not go down well with his many supporters both at home, particularly in Eastern Nigeria, and abroad.
Kanu is a wanted man by the Nigerian Government as he is a figurehead of a movement that undermines their power in a historically contested region. He is seen as a terrorist by those in Abuja with the military wing of the IpoB, the Eastern Security Network (ESN) being blamed by the State for a number of arson attacks and murders in the region.
The leader of the IpoB is no stranger to Nigerian prisons as he was previously arrested in October of 2015, but fled the country while on bail in 2017. He had since moved to Britain where he runs Radio Biafra from Peckham in London. This has given him a platform to urge the resistance of the Nigeria Government. His legal team said his incarceration is unconstitutional as he had no legal representation.
Needless to say, there is no love lost between Kanu and Muhammadu Buhari, the current President of Nigeria. Buhari has inflamed the issue with incenterary tweets about Biafra recently, which were later removed by the social media channel. The Government then took steps to ban Twitter in the country. They later said this was not because of Twitter’s decision but because Kanu and his allies were using the site to incite violence. Buhari is no stranger to Biafra as he fought in the Biafran War. Ironically, he was later involved in a military coup against Yakabu Gowan, the leader of Nigeria during that war. He was educated in the UK, India and the United States.
The Biafran War, or Nigeria Civil War, was fought between 1967 and 1970 when the Biafran region seceded from Nigeria and the 33-year-old military officer Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu declared the Biafran Republic, but its origin occurred well before that though and it’s another disastrous British colonial legacy. Due to Britain’s strategy of divide and conquer, the Igbo People, the most predominant people in Biafra, were cut-off from the brothers and sisters along the rest of the Niger River. Today, the rest of the Igbo People live in the modern nations of Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Tensions had always existed between the Igbo and the rest of Nigeria, with riots in 1945 that killed hundreds of people. This spilled over into the fledgling state when Nigeria won independence from Britain in 1960. The war lasted 30 months and left over one million people dead, many of those were children that starved to death during the Nigerian blockade of the region.
The legacy of that war continues to this day with many in Eastern Nigeria feeling the revenue from the oil-rich region does not filter down to them with only a few people creaming the funds. Nigeria has the 10th largest crude-oil reserve in the world and accounts for as much as 90% of export profits. In fact, oil was a big part of the reason Britain backed Nigeria in the Biafran War as Shell and BP had control of oil in the region and didn’t want to lose that. Nigeria is also dealing with Boko Haram in the Northeast of the country.
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