Autumn of 2014 saw the inauguration of the Japan chapter of the Indigenous People of Biafra, an ethnic nationalist organization that has proliferated in countries that host Igbo immigrants. IPoB agitates for an independent Biafran state in southeastern Nigeria. A handful of other Igbo nationalist groups have coalesced in Japan over the past two decades, but IPoB quickly eclipsed its predecessors in both membership and fundraising capacity. In September 2015 the organization’s global director, Nnamdi Kanu, visited Japan and drew 300 people to a fundraising event in Ikebukuro.




Shortly thereafter he traveled to Nigeria and was imprisoned by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. The dubious legality of his continued detention has invigorated the Japan chapter of IPoB and contributed to the rapid growth of its membership. In October of last year, members from Tokyo and Nagoya protested in front of the Embassy of Nigeria; a tense interaction with the acting ambassador included a threat by the Japan chapter’s chairman, Celestine Okeke, to “raze this building down” if Kanu’s detention continues. In part, IPoB’s future in Japan depends on its leadership’s ability to form productive relationships with existing Nigerian civic unions. Leaders in two of these unions had hoped to found a pan-Igbo organization of their own, and they privately regard IPoB’s rapid expansion as an unwelcome complication.




It may not be a coincidence that IPoB Japan has achieved such swift strength concurrent to the renewed escalation of economic pressure on nightlife workers, who account for the majority of members.




The Anambra State Union inaugurated its new chairman, Austin Nnajiofor, at its year-end party in November, the final Nigerian community event I attended as a reporter. IPoB’s rapid expansion was a popular topic among guests, and several of its supporters were seated at the high table. Recent organizing successes by the Abia State Union were also much-discussed.


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