What have the Ijaws got to do with it?
The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, is not having the best of times with his supposed struggle for the restoration of the independent state of Biafra. This is as his relationship with former Niger Delta militant leader, Alhaji Asari Dokubo – representing the only strong support base he has in the South-south region – has hit the rocks.
Dokubo, an influential force in the entire Niger Delta, has in the past been in support of Kanu’s Biafra struggle. “I’m a Biafran! Yes, in 1967, Biafra was declared and my people were part of the declaration of Biafra. The man who gave the name Biafra to Biafra was an Ijaw man, Chief Frank Opigbo. The man who first plaid the Biafran national anthem was Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson…1967 declaration, I am part of the agitation for the realization of the sovereign state of Biafra,” Dokubo once said in an interview.
However, from the recent allegations and threats he has issued the IPOB leader, in his recent Facebook videos, it appears his lovefest with IPOB is over. This may represent a huge setback for IPOB and its leader, Kanu.
Nnamdi Kanu, who is he?
Kanu was born on September 25, 1967, the year the Nigeria-Biafra war broke out. Thus, he only got knowledge of the war through books, stories-told and videos. Claiming dissatisfaction in the way the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), formed in 1999 by Ralph Uwazuruike, pursued the agitation for the restoration of Biafra and the continued marginalization of the Igbo nation, he, in 2014, formed the IPOB.
IPOB became a strong platform on which Kanu made the agitation for the Biafra strong and well-pronounced in Nigeria. With the use of a pirate radio, Radio Biafra, based in London, which was created in 2009, he became popular and garnered serious followership for himself especially in the South-east geopolitical zone and different parts of the world.
Radio Biafra spreading hate the Kanu way
As the Director of Radio Biafra which broadcasts on 102.1FM and also accessible online, Kanu reaches out at irregular intervals; venting monumental tirades and frustration on the Nigerian government, ethnic groups, South-east leaders and the like. He calls Nigeria the damnable “Zoological Republic.” It is his opinion that Nigeria is fraught with uncivilized elements who know nothing about how to do anything right.
Radio Biafra, which is easily accessible, with a simple radio set, to people in the South-east and South-south regions and to people from different parts of the world, has continually been used by Kanu to dish out all forms of hate speech targeted at creating confusion and discord, along ethno-religious lines, in the polity, while calling for Biafran independence. For example, since last year when President Muhammadu Buhari came back from his long London medical trip, Kanu had consistently held the opinion that the person in Aso Rock is not President Buhari. According to him, the person piloting the affairs of the nation is one Jubril Aminu Al-Sudani from Sudan; masquerading himself as the President. This is a thought ardent members of the IPOB have held sway.
Prior to the presidential election, Kanu had declared that the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is not a Nigerian. He said that he was a Cameroonian and that it was the plebiscite of February 1961 that made him a Nigerian. The notion that Atiku is a Cameroonian has now being used by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to attack him (Atiku) at the Presidential Tribunal.
Amidst his ferocious style of broadcast, people from different parts of the world call in to express their opinions on any issue(s) under discourse. In one of his broadcasts, he called for the Igbos to quit attending churches owned by the Yorubas.
The broadcasts of the IPOB leader awakened the consciousness of some people of the South-east which saw great street agitations and protests to create awareness for the restoration of Biafra. It was at the height of the IPOB’s street agitations, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), in August 2017 met in Kaduna and issued a “quit notice” to Igbo people living in the North, though they eventually withdrew it.
The height of hate speech Kanu reeled out drew the attention of the Director General of Igbo Mandate Congress, Rev. Obinna Akukwe who said: “abusing the Hausa, the Fulani and the Yoruba in the course of pursuing Biafra is anti-Christian. Christianity cannot support the dissemination of hate messages against fellow living beings created by God, and Igbos are predominantly Christians, rather anybody or group that wants Biafra should pursue it within the ambits of reasonable processes and international conventions.”
Having mobilized some committed followers, Kanu set forth to return to Nigeria. However, he was unaware that misfortune awaits him.
Running away to fight another day?
Kanu was arrested in Lagos on October 19, 2015, by the Department of State Services (DSS). His arrest sparked off protests across parts of South-east and South-south states. A Magistrate Court in Abuja, on November 23, 2015, arraigned Kanu for the first time for charges including: criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organization. They charges violate “Section 97, 97B and 397” of Nigeria’s penal code. It was a day filled with drama as Pro-Biafra protesters with placards sang and danced outside the court premises during hearing. They wore T-shirts and caps with inscriptions like “Biafra Now or Never,” “Buhari Release Kanu For Us.”
While in court, he appeared regularly wearing a Jewish prayer shawl and head covering as he did declare that he is a Jew. Kanu spent over a year in detention despite court orders to release him. “I have not seen or heard any place where a court grants bail and the person is not released. We are sliding to days of Decree 2 and 4 of 1984. This is pure Dictatorship,”Kanu’s lawyer, Vincent Obetta, said.
On April 28, 2017, however, Kanu was released on bail by Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja. The three people who stood as surety for him were: Chairman of the Senate’s South-east caucus, Enyinnaya Abaribe; a Jewish priest, Immanuel Shalom; and an accountant and Abuja resident, Tochukwu Uchendu. Kanu was given stringent conditions when he was released. He was prohibited from granting interviews, and must not be in a crowd of more than 10 people. He did violate these prohibitions as he granted interviews to various media and went on to appear in rallies in his moves for the restoration of Biafra.
Following the launch of Operation of Python Dance by the Nigerian Army, in the South-east, his house – in Umuahia, Abia State – was raided in September 2017. This made Kanu to disappear from public eyes. He was later seen in Jerusalem, after a year – 2018. In an interview with Israel TV Channel 1, Kanu claimed that he was “smuggled out” of Nigeria, with the help of his relatives. “When I came out (of prison), I continued to preach to my people. I continued to practice my Jewish religion. And one day, the Nigerian army came to my house to kill me. They killed 28 people in the attempt to kill me. My people evacuated me before they came to my bedroom. They took me away and smuggled me out of Nigeria. I needed some time to recover which I did and then, had to make my way to Israel,” he said.
Kanu is yet to return to Nigeria after his escape. He has, however, continued his Biafra agitation through his broadcasts on Radio Biafra.
The war within: Who murdered Prophet Nwoko?
The recent murder of one Prophet Anthony Nwoko, alleged spiritual consultant for the actualization of Biafra Republic, by unknown armed bandits at his apartment in the Trans-Ekulu-Abakpa axis of Enugu State, has generated discord in the IPOB fold as Kanu has been alleged to know about his assassination. The leader of Biafra Nations Youth League (BNYL), Princewill Richard said they “carried out an investigation on the killing where it discovered that the killers are not outsiders but within the Biafra community.”
Prior to his death, Prophet Nwoko held a press conference on January 8 and March 18, 2019, respectively, and accused Kanu and some other Pro-Biafra campaigners of turning the agitation into a money-making venture. To make matters worse, Dokubo, called out Kanu and accused him of being responsible for the death of the Prophet. The IPOB leader has long denied the allegations.
Prophet Nwoko’s accusation and eventual murder, coupled with Dokubo’s allegations have been a major blow on the IPOB leader. It is widely believed in some quarters that the credibility he enjoys in the secession struggle is already fading away.
Stoking the fires, ‘Igbos are slaves to Ijaws’
Dokubo bared his mind recently on different issues. From his recent videos, it is easy to tell that he has drawn a battle line with Kanu, the IPOB leader. His utterances are that of one who has gotten fed up and thus, ready for whatever. He accused Kanu of being a scammer while noting that he is an ungrateful person who is attempting to rip-off anyone. He stressed that the Igbos are slaves to the Ijaws.
According to him: “you betrayed your people to be arrested. And when we are talking, you are running your mouth. You called me a coward but you put your defense in my hand. You sent more than 100 people to stay with me for months. You called me and told me that the way things are, we have reached a critical stage that you want me to handle your security. Am I a member of IPOB?
When I’m talking, you will talk or your minions will talk? Who are you when I’m talking? Nnamdi Kanu! What a shit of name. Taa, can an Igbo man cook for an Ijaw man. You no learn history? Go and read history and know the relationship between the Igbos and the Ijaws and know who was the master. Our relationship was master and slave relationship. We are the master and you were our slaves. How dare you talk in front of me?”
‘Asari, hear me now!’
On Radio Biafra, Kanu reacted to the allegations leveled against him by the Niger Delta former militant. “Our dear compatriot Alhaji Asari Dokubo whom we know had made his contributions to the restoration of the sovereignty of the Biafran people had raised issues worth addressing and in order to avoid an unnecessary distraction and keep the struggle focused on the goals we set out to accomplish, I thought it wise to address the issues raised.”
The issues Kanu addressed include: the murder of Prophet Nwoko, collecting money from Atiku, Master – slave relationship between diverse Biafran ethnic groups, scam and fraud of the Biafran struggle. He denied all the allegations and dared Dokunbo to provide evidence against him if he has any. “You said I am a scam and fraud. I will be grateful if you provide evidence of me diverting the contributions of fellow Biafrans for my personal use” he concluded.
The bad blood runs deep
As ethnically provocative as Dokubo’s statements are, they are assumed capable of ruining the slim chance Kanu has in having the Niger Delta fully join him in the Biafra struggle as he has always claimed that the region is fully a Biafraland. More so, his statement on Kanu being fraudulent with the Biafra struggle, as mentioned also by late Prophet Nwoko, may further signal end of the road. With vanishing goodwill and integrity which he enjoys from most IPOB members who contribute money for the sustenance of the struggle, it is believed that the face-off with Dokubo could only spell doom for Kanu’s agitation.
Indeed, Dokubo, via a video, on his Facebook page, on May 1, 2019, had threatened to kill Kanu. “Our fellow Biafrans, in this period of darkness, a few people have decided to thrash our struggle in the blood of our own people. So that they will become Supreme leaders, saviours and messiahs. We didn’t see the red flag, the signals were always there but some people saw it before us. But because we believed that Biafra must be achieved with any means possible, we did not see these dangerous signals early enough.
“Nnamdi Kanu, I will kill you, mark my words, because in this killing business o, I am a professional o. I’ll smoke you out. I’m not boasting. I’ll smoke you out from every hole, every corner. They know me. If one idiot threatens to attack me and makes good his words to attack me, I’ll kill him,” he said.
So, does a second death await Biafra?
Dokubo’s threat to deal with Kanu was an unexpected thunderbolt. This is assumed to be a knockout for Kanu and the IPOB. Should Kanu and Dokubo engage in a fight, it will further damage what he has already been working for since he began the struggle. Already, the death threat is assumed to have sent a cold chill down the spines of IPOB members who have now become apprehensive of recent developments.
By issuing a death threat to Kanu, it may be safe to conclude that Dokubo has withdrawn the support he offers towards the actualization of the Biafran State. Dokubo has always been the one loud supporting voice of Kanu in the Niger Delta area. He has always counted on his support while talking about how the entire Niger Delta is solidly behind the struggle. However, the tune of the music has changed. Several questions come to mind: Does this mean the end of the road for Kanu’s agitation? Will Kanu still have the confidence to brag on Radio Biafra that the Niger Delta are part of Biafra? Can he ever regain the support of Dokubo again?
On April 26, 2019, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, at the Niger Delta Peace and Security Summit held in Koko, Warri North LGA, said: “Nigeria will divide the very day the South-south agrees to join Biafra” This tells how much important the region is in making Kanu’s Biafra dream come to reality. Therefore, losing the only reliable force he has in the region is strongly perceived in some quarters as a signal to the second death of Biafra.
By John Chukwu…