12 September 2019
There has been a social media storm about a purported visit to address the European Union parliament in Brussels by Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who are campaigning for the secession of Nigeria’s predominantly Igbo southeast from the rest of country.
The hoopla was kicked off by Kanu with a tweet on 5 September.
On the day in question pictures and videos of Kanu and entourage at the entrance of the building in Brussels went viral on social media.
This was followed up with some ridiculously photoshopped images of Kanu “addressing” the parliament. Genuine pictures of him inside the building were in short supply.
All these had Kanu’s sympathisers waxing delirious on social media about the status of their Biafran dream. In reality, there was no session of the EU parliament on 10 September. The next sitting is in Strasbourg on 16 September.
This information is readily available on the EU Parliament’s website and there is no record there of a visit or hearing addressed by Kanu, not even to a committee.
Kanu, to his credit, didn’t make any outlandish claims about his Brussels trip, but didn’t discourage them either.
If he had indeed spoken to any gathering of Members of the European Parliament, he would have been quick to share pictures and videos to boost the credibility of his movement. But he understands that many of his supporters know very little about how things work in the West. The EU parliament is a public building. And the parliamentarians, MEPs, are supposedly representatives of the people. As a British national, and while the UK remains as a member of the EU, Kanu should have access to his MEP, Seb Dance, and the EU parliament is a public building where any member of the public can visit by applying for something like a day pass and see their representatives. So Kanu going to Brussels to allegedly present the case for Biafran secession to the MEP does little to move the Biafran dial any further from where it is today.
Questions have been raised in the UK parliament about Kanu and the Biafran cause by the likes of his MP Harriet Harman and current Labour Party education spokesperson Angela Rayner, who appears to be sympathetic towards pro-Biafrans. This has made little difference to the British or European official positions on Biafra. So there seems to be little benefit from Kanu’s trip to Brussels to his cause, with the exception of the propaganda value towards his less thoughtful followers. The suggestion that such a photo op could motivate more supporters to donate to the cause should therefore not be discounted.