There is a popular belief that Nigeria is a combination of people with different cultures, ethnicities (about 450 groups) and languages (almost 350 with three major ones; Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba) – and since the country gained her independence in 1960, the issue of ethnicity has always been a controversial factor in the polity.
A popular sage and doyen of the Nigerian politics, Chief Obafemi Awolowo known for bringing civilisation to Nigeria Western Region in the fifties, by ensuring free education for the citizens under his jurisdiction and establishing first radio and television stations to get his people informed in the entire Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe, and for building a university for knowledge advancement in the Nigeria Western region in the Sixties.
He, Obafemi Awolowo, stated in his popular speech about the entity called Nigeria that, “Nigeria is not a nation; it is a mere geographical expression. There are no Nigerians in the same sense as there are English, Welsh, or French. The word Nigerian is merely distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.”
Nigeria, a sovereign country, almost disintegrated six years after her independence when the country experienced her first military coup-de-tat and later went to war that lasted for more than three years, resulting in the death of majority of Easterners, who called themselves the Biafrans between 1967 and 1970.
Just like glowing coals covered with ashes, clamour for freedom from the entity called Nigeria is on the rise, and the agitators are of the tribes and ethnics that thought they are being marginalised by a certain part of the country and that resulted in the emergence of various groups such as Oduduwa Republic, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People MOSOP, Arewa Consultative Forum, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and several others.
Oduduwa Republic agitators comprise mostly the self-acclaimed freedom fighters of Yoruba origin involving prominent Nigerians at home and abroad such as Professor Adebanji Akintoye and activist, Sunday Adeyemo (aka Igboho) who is currently detained in Republic of Benin for an international diplomatic misconduct.
Sunday Igboho was born on the 10th of October 1972 at Igboho town in Oke-Ogun, Oyo State, Nigeria. He is a Yoruba self-determined activist, and philanthropist who rose to prominence following his role in the Modakeke-Ife communal crisis in 1997. It was majorly believed that Igboho has metaphysical abilities which make him a formidable opponent in battle.
As Akoni Oodua of Yoruba, he once gave an ultimatum to Fulani herdsmen in Ibarapa to vacate the land after the killing of one Dr. Aborode and he has since been agitating for the freedom of the South-West Region.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on the other hand, is a separatist organization in Nigeria. Its main aim is to restore an independence of Biafra in the Old Eastern Region of Nigeria, comprising mainly today’s South-East and South-South Regions of Nigeria; and also parts of the Middle Belt States of Nigeria such as Benue State and Kogi State.
The group was founded in 2012 by Nnamdi Kanu, a British Nigerian political activist known for his advocacy of the contemporary Biafran independence movement – and the group has been deemed a terrorist organization since 2017 under the Nigerian Terrorism Act.
IPOB is known for criticising the Nigerian federal government for poor investment, political alienation, inequitable resource distribution, ethnic marginalization, and heavy military presence, extra-judicial killings in the South-Eastern, South-Central and parts of North-Central regions of the country.
The organization rose to prominence in the mid-2010s and is now the largest Biafran independence organization by membership. In recent years, it has gained significant media attention for becoming a frequent target of political crackdowns by the Nigerian government. It also has numerous sites and communication channels serving as the only trusted social apparatus educating and inculcating first-hand information and news to its members.
The acclaimed leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, gained prominence from his broadcasts on Radio Biafra, which was established in 2009, transmitting from London.
Nnamdi Okwu Kanu (born 25 September 1967) was first arrested by the Nigerian security forces on 19 October 2015, on charges of “sedition, ethnic incitement and treasonable felony.” and was detained for more than a year, despite various court orders that ruled for his release. When in court, Kanu appeared regularly wearing a Jewish prayer shawl and head covering. He said in court, that he “believes in Judaism” and considers himself a Jew and oftentimes has led his Biafran people to various Jewish prayers and religious observations.
The news of Kanu’s arrest generated protests across Delta State, Enugu State, Rivers State, Cross River State, Abia State, Imo State, Akwa Ibom Sate, Bayelsa State and Anambra State.
On 28 April 2017, Kanu was released from prison on bail. After jumping bail and fleeing abroad, Kanu played a major part in the insurgency in South-Eastern Nigeria, as the Nigerian security forces attempted to quash IPOB’s armed wing, the Eastern Security Network, resulting in a low-level conflict in early 2021. Despite the fighting, Kanu maintained that IPOB was interested in a peaceful solution and achieving Biafran independence without violence. In June 2021, he was arrested by Interpol and handed over to Nigeria.
Following the arrest of Kanu, several members and financiers of IPOB, who were of Igbo origin, were trailed and arrested – but in a recent development, one of the names of the suspects at large is that of a Yorubaman, one Mr. Omowale Ismael Makanju.
At first, Makanju’s involvement was considered to be a misrepresentation or joke until security personnel took his wife, Adepeju Ayoola, for questioning, showing her evidences, minute books and financial records, of her husband’s involvement with an IPOB group.
Makanju is a criminal and saboteur according to Nigerian law but he was lucky not to be in the country at the moment. His friends claimed he was presently hiding in Europe or North America and his wife has been keeping his whereabouts a secret for fear of her husband being deported to face the necessary charges.
While many ‘Thomases’ are still doubting the involvement of Ismael Makanju, the question on the lips of most people is, “Why would Prince Ismael Makanju, an elected Oba of Ijaye Village in Ogun State, Western Nigeria, be involved in the affairs of ethnicity that has nothing to do with his jurisdiction or tribe?”
Some of his Ibo friends and business partners including one Uche, a motor spare parts seller in Idumagbo area of Lagos has ascertained that Mr. Makanju believed in the agitation of Biafra – and he has promised allegiance to see to the Independence of Biafran people.
He also said that Mr. Omowale Ismael Makanju, does not believe that Nigeria as a country, is fair enough to all her citizens – and so he believed that Nigeria should be divided into various units with definite and independent sovereignty.
If the lens view and popular perception is that Nigeria is one lopsided, favouring a tribe above the others and with recent development where another tribesman is sposnsoring agitators from another division, the question is, Will Nigeria survive this fragmentation?