Nnamdi Kanu, the self-styled leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who want the secession of southeast Nigeria from the rest of county, showed up in court for his treason trial in Jewish skull cap and a shawl with the Star of David.
It is not clear if Kanu has converted to Judaism while in detention since October 2015. However, a handful of Kanu supporters also showed up in Jewish clothing and a prominent Star of David flag.
Kanu’s choice of clothing may be an attempt to secure Jewish or Israeli support for his cause. But it is not quite clear if this would work. While many Igbos like to think that they are the “Jews of Africa”, there are no scientific or historical links between both ethnicities. Unlike, the Lemba of Zimbabwe and South Africa or the Falasha of Ethiopia, who have, in the case of the Lemba, oral history and DNA evidence suggesting a link to the Middle East, and in the case of the Falasha, oral history and evidence of early conversion to Judaism, there are no such links between Igbos and Jews.
But this hasn’t stopped some Igbos claiming Jewish ancestry. Some claim that Igbos are from the lineage of Shem, one of the three sons of Noah.
What is not in doubt is that both Jews and Igbos were victims of genocide and this shared history of persecution has convinced some Igbos of their affinity to Jews, even though this feeling is not shared by any prominent Jews or by the state of Israel.
Israel’s own history of racial intolerance towards Falashas who have become Israeli citizens should give any Igbo pause for thought in claiming to be Jew. Israel also offered in 1975 to sell nuclear weapons to the apartheid regime in South Africa. Considering Nigeria was an avowed enemy of the racist regime in South Africa at the time, if those nukes were ever used against Nigeria, many Igbos would have been at the receiving end. Israel’s pact with apartheid South Africa was all the more shocking considering John Vorster, South Africa’s Prime Minister at the time of the proposed nuclear deal, was a known Nazi sympathiser in the 1940s.
Israel’s unholy alliance with apartheid demonstrates that the state has little time for sentiment in choosing allies. Today, Israel sells arms to Nigeria, some of which may have been used to kill members of Kanu’s IPOB. A couple of years ago, the US protested against Israeli arms sales to Nigeria because of the country’s human rights record. Amnesty International estimated that up to 150 pro-Biafran protesters have been killed by Nigerian security agencies since October 2015. The state of Israel is unlikely to risk its financially beneficial relationship with Nigeria by showing any interest in Kanu’s advocacy for secession.
So despite the Jewish garments, there is little chance of Israel intervening in getting Kanu out of captivity or showing the slightest inclination to lean on “Pharoah” Muhammadu Buhari to let Kanu’s people the Igbos go.