Today, 30 May 2017, marked 50 years of the declaration of independence from Nigeria by the breakaway republic of Biafra in the southeast of the country. The secession resulted in a bitter and deadly civil war that ended with the Biafrans surrendering in 1970.
Despite the cessation of hostilities, Biafran sentiment still lingers among the majority Igbo ethnic group in the region and this has grown exponentially since 2015, with the (s)election of Muhammadu Buhari as president of Nigeria.
Buhari, a retired soldier and Fulani from the north, who fought on the Nigerian side during the civil war, has been seen as very insensitive towards the plight of Igbos in Nigeria. The security forces under his command have been very brutal in their repression of unarmed pro-Biafran demonstrators.
Several pro-Biafrans living in the UK turned up at the front of the National Gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square in a carnival-like atmosphere, as across many cities in Nigeria’s southeast people reportedly obeyed a stay at home order from pro-Biafra groups such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (Massob).
A flyer from the organisers of the London event accused the British government of complicity in the genocide that occurred during the civil war, claiming that 6m lives were lost and 2m children were starved to death.
It claimed that “Biafrans are not allowed to develop their land. The oil and gas in Biafraland is being stolen by the British government-puppet regimes in Nigeria, who share it among themselves without leaving a crumb to the owners of land.”
The flyer also claims that the “history of Biafra is dated back and linked to Biblical Israel. The progenitors of Biafrans have been scientifically proven and was traced traced back to Biblical Jacob, as we are highly aware that Jacob was the father of the 12 tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:33). Gad in this order was the seventh son (Genesis 49:19) who also begat seven sons (Genesis 46:16). Eri his fifth son with his two younger brothers namely Arodi and Areli were the true ancestors of Biafrans.
“It has been historically verified that during the serious persecutions of the Israelites in the land of Egypt, led to the migrations of Eri with his two younger brothers.”
It claims some of those migrants settled in Agulu-Eri in Anambra State, southeast Nigeria and that there is an ancient temple in the town called “Obi-Gad” (“a place for Gad”). According to the flyer, the Igbo language was a corruption of the word “Hebrew”. Gad’s sixth son Arodi was said to migrate further north to beget Arochukwu, while Areli the youngest son is the ancestral father of Owerri.
It also called for the release of “all innocent Biafran men and women being held in various concentration camps and detention cells across Nigeria for merely agitating for Biafran self-determination.”
There was even a history lesson read out at the event, with the speaker providing a list to loud cheers of countries and their leaders that recognised Biafra in the late 1960s. These included Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Ivory Coast (where then Biafran leader Emeka Ojukwu fled when the breakaway republic fell), Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Haiti’s Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. The speaker and the crowd seemed not bothered about Duvalier’s reputation as a brutal despot.