Like Catalonia, Like Biafra
The dust raised by the Scottish referendum in the UK had hardly settled before mass protests hit Spain and Nigeria especially within the regions that are calling for a break up. However, while the Catalonia independence struggle was kept on the spotlight as the rest of Europe watched with anxiety at what was happening in Spain and its potential ripple effect on other countries within the EU that has pockets of other separatist groups who are equally toying with the idea of having their own countries, that of Biafra was not giving adequate attention, as only a few of the popular cable networks like Aljazeera, BBC and CNN along with a few other media houses were able to show glimpses of what was happening in Nigeria.
Regardless of the little coverage giving to it by the global media, the agitation for the emergence of Biafra waxed stronger in the East of the country where the dominant separatist group known as Indigenous People of Biafra or IPOB for short held sway. Its leader, Nnamdi Kanu had told his followers that Nigeria was an evil nation created by Britain and handed over to the Fulani/Hausa people of the North to superintend over at the detriment of the Igbo people of the East and the other smaller minorities who have always complained of marginalization.
Just like Catalonia, the region that is supposed to form a part of the Republic of Biafra is the Niger Delta that harbors the crude oil which sustains Nigeria. Incidentally, and sharing in similarity with its counterpart in Spain, Nigeria had fought a bitter civil war many years ago from 1967 to 1970 that resulted in the death of an estimated three million people, a majority of them through starvation that occurred when the Nigerian government imposed a savage blockade on the breakaway region. The restriction of essential foods and drugs led to devastating and widespread kwashiorkor that killed many children within Biafra territory.
President Mohamadu Buhari has called their bluff and even went ahead to proscribe the group as a terrorist organization which paved the way for a subsequent brutal crackdown by the Nigerian Army at the house of Nnamdi Kanu that allegedly led to the deaths of many IPOB protesters who had gathered in solidarity with their leader. The military crackdown was code named ‘Python Dance’ and there have been pictures and videos circulating in the cyberspace that showed scores of young men being tortured by Nigerian soldiers and several other dead bodies with signs bullet wounds. Likewise, Nnamdi Kanu has remained missing since the army invasion of his house but Nigerian Army through its spokesman John Enenche has denied killing protesters or having the IPOB leader in its custody. The spokesperson of the separatist group, Emma Nmezu has called for independent investigation into what went down at the home of its leader and for the army to provide him dead or alive and equally bring to account those that that murdered IPOB protesters.
The United States’ Central Intelligence Agency had earlier in 2006 predicted that Nigeria will break up by 2015. On the face value, the prediction may not have materialized, but recent events have shown that Nigeria has continued to deteriorate badly. Plagued by a myriad of woes that included dilapidated and grossly inadequate infrastructure, worsening unemployment, waves of terrorism and ethnic cleansing by Boko haram and Fulani herdsmen respectively, especially in the North and Central Nigeria among other crises has ensured that Nigeria perennially remains on the edge. The recent discovery of twenty six dead Nigerian women in a ship on the Mediterranean Sea showed how badly the economy was hemorrhaging if the citizens could decide to face extreme risks in their desperation to leave the country.
There have been demands by the more economically prosperous South for restructuring to give more powers to the states so they manage their resources and pay royalties to Abuja, but the North that seems to profit from the existing arrangement appears to be averse to any change in the status quo.
With the recent increase in international oil prices and the push towards diversification, Nigeria may still weather the storm once again.