The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has announced that it is ready to negotiate with the Federal Government of Nigeria over a peaceful separation from the Republic of Nigeria. The group is asking for a United Nations supervised referendum to extricate Biafra from Nigeria. Its spokesperson, Emma Powerful, revealed this development in a statement on October 6, 2023. Powerful said the agitation for a Biafra nation under the group began in 2012 without violence or criminality.
According to him, the movement has lost over 5,000 members and property worth over $1 billion as a result of the extreme use of force by Nigerian security agencies. “We the global family and movement of IPOB wish to reiterate once again that IPOB remains peaceful and open for negotiations and dialogue on the peaceful exit of Biafra from Nigeria through a UN-supervised Referendum,” part of the statement reads. He said that the Federal Government, through its security forces, has levied war against them despite their wanting peace.
Members never retaliated even when provoked, says the group.
Further, he said that members of the group have been brutally attacked while on a peaceful protest by the Nigeria security forces at many locations in Biafra. As a result of these unwarranted attacks, many IPOB members have been murdered in cold blood, some permanently handicapped, some forcefully taken away by security forces, whereas some are still illegally detained in various detention facilities across Nigeria. He said that many IPOB members and sympathizers have had their houses and businesses burnt by the Nigeria security forces.
He reiterated that irrespective of all the provocations, members of the group had never retaliated nor had they taken up arms against the Nigerian state. Powerful noted that the group has always advocated for a peaceful separation through dialogue. “IPOB stands for peace. We stand for dialogue, and we stand for discussions”. The cardinal rule under which IPOB was formed is to lead the way to a peaceful separation of Biafra from Nigeria,” the statement continued.
Both nations cannot peacefully co-exist as one entity, statement claims.
One of the reasons that the secessionist group gives is that Biafra and Nigeria are two different nations. The statement stated that the events from 1948 to 2023 have shown that it is practically impossible for Biafra and Nigeria to coexist as one nation. It said that the group has been calling on the Nigeria State for discussions on a peaceful referendum date, but the Nigeria State always returns the peaceful call with violent suppression. “We have always maintained that self-determination is our inalienable right according to the UN laws,” it said.
However, it is worthy of consideration how weighty the statement of the group is in light of recent events. It is a fact that not all south easterners agreed with the decision of the Governor of the then Eastern Region of Nigeria, Odumegwu Ojukwu, to secede from Nigeria in 1967. Similarly, not every indigene of the region supports the activities and clamouring of the group especially as it has been accused of sponsoring or supporting non-state actors known as “Unknown Gunmen” who have continued to terrorize the region.
Who stands to lose in the secessionist rabbit hole?
Finally, with the multiple coup d’etats and its attempts that have been executed in sub-Saharan Africa in the last couple of months, the confidence that the group can succeed has been heightened. But even if the agitators succeed, the common people, similar to the one million civilians who died during the Nigerian Civil War, will be the casualties if the Federal Government decides to invade the territory. Also, the entire south eastern region is landlocked, which can limit their access to the sea. Overall, the requested referendum that the group advocates is nowhere in sight for changes anytime soon.