THE NEW BIAFRANS: HISTORICAL IMAGINATION AND STRUCTURAL CONFLICT IN NIGERIA’S SEPARATIST REVIVAL
Olly Owen, Oxford Department of International Development.
This paper was presented on 8th March 2016 as a seminar in the Changing Character of War series
hosted by Pembroke College, University of Oxford. The intention was to point out some of the
underlying issues which would merit further research if the current phenomenon of renewed
campaigning for Biafran separatism is to be properly understood. Two disclaimers are necessary:
Firstly, the author is not an expert in this area and intends the paper basically as a note which may be
of use in prompting others to go beyond the abundant surface rhetorics and heated ideological
positions to examine the deeper root causes of recent events. Secondly, the author is not a supporter of
any political agenda and therefore this paper should not be construed as endorsing any of the positions
it documents. On a personal note, the author’s interest in this subject came about as a result of noting
how initial fundamental misunderstandings of the root causes of previous state-contesting movements
in Nigeria such as the Boko Haram insurgency caused a lag in identifying effective solution of the
issues, and allowed the crisis to deepen. That suggests there is value in looking further into the drivers
of radical movements in the service of enabling stakeholders to act in a timely manner to minimise
needless conflict and loss of life.
The paper identifies four important areas which merit more study if we are to better understand the
phenomenon. First, the powerful role of history, memory and myth in providing a template for
interpreting the present. Secondly, economic issues including most importantly constriction and
instability in the informal economy. Thirdly, failures of electoral politics and governance in the
South-East of Nigeria. Fourthly, changes in patterns of national politics since the 2015 elections.
Footnotes throughout the paper have been added to clarify areas about which audience members
asked during the question and answer session.
The pdf of the rest of the presentation is available below.