The Stream

#Biafra50YearsOn: Is Nigeria’s secessionist movement re-emerging?

A look at the Biafra movement, five decades after the civil war.

It has been fifty years since the Biafra War, but the scars have yet to heal.

In 1967, Igbo military officer Odumegwu Ojukwu declared an independent nation, the Republic of Biafra, in a southeastern part of Nigeria. Biafra, he said, was going to be the homeland of the Igbo people. The government, though, responded with a heavy hand and a bloody civil war ensued. Pro-Biafrans say the authorities then starved the region, cutting off aid and access. There was no official death toll, but estimates range from one to six million.

The war ended with the surrender of Biafra in January 1970 with then head of state Yakubu Gowon famously declaring there was “no victor, no vanquished”. Biafrans returned to Nigeria and the country once known as Biafra, ceased to exist. Separatist sentiment, though, continued to simmer and in recent years the pro-Biafra movement has resurged.

Today, Nnamdi Kanu is perhaps the most visible face of the pro-Biafra movement. He’s the leader and founder of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and was recently jailed for treasonable felony charges. But his star is rising among pro-Biafrans who say they have been economically and socially marginalised by the government for years. Clashes in the last year between Nigerian security and pro-Biafra activists have killed more than 100 people. And there have been calls for a referendum on independence, which Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has ruled out.

In part one of this special episode of The Stream, we’ll speak to two war veterans about their experiences, and what their feelings are on the Biafra issue now. We’ll also delve into the legacy of the Nigerian civil war and what the Biafra issue means to people today.

Joining us:

Igwe Christopher Ejiofor
Aide-de-camp to head of Republic of Biafra

Olusegun Obasanjo
Former president of Nigeria

Rudolf Okonkwo @drdamages
Columnist, Sahara Reporters

Uche Mefor
Deputy Leader, Indigenous People of Biafra

Dr. Oguchi Nkwocha
Biafra activist

Jaafar Jaafar @Jafsmohd
Journalist, Daily Nigerian

Peter Obi
Former Governor of Anambra State

How did the war for independent Biafra impact Nigeria? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.