Sunday, May 28, 2017. 18:30GMT
Calls For Biafra Restoration Getting Stronger Everyday in Nigeria
Millions of Biafra supporters on a peaceful rally

On May 30, many people in southeastern Nigeria will remember those who lost their lives in  Africa’s most brutal war. More than 3 million people died during Nigeria’s 1967 to 1970 civil war known as the Biafra War. The conflict erupted after a pogrom targeting the Igbos residing in the North and Western Nigeria which led General Odimegwu Ojukwu who was the military governor of the then southeastern Nigeria to try to save the Nigeria unity by proposing a federated nation which was agreed upon in Aburi - Ghana known as the 'Aburi Accord'.  This agreement was later but totally thrown out by the then Nigeria Head of State - Gowon. This sabotaging of the Aburi accord led the South-eastern leader to declare that the region would secede from Nigeria.

Memories of the war remain strong for those who lived through it.

“Have you been walking with somebody and the bomb killed him and all you have to do is look at the corpse and continue walking? Even if it’s your sister, you just continue walking because you’re running for dear life? Or have you been hidden on the roof of a building because you are afraid because your mother is afraid the soldiers will come and rape you?” says Enuma Okoro, who was 21 when the war broke out.

“In my compound, we saw several skeletons of dead people. My father’s compound was flattened. It was a war front,” says Obum Okeke, who was 7 years old when the war started.

A group of starving Biafran children wait at Aba for doctors to see them, July 27, 1968.

The war gained widespread global attention once pictures of starving Biafran children were published in the international media. The Nigerian government with the help of the British government had formed a blockade, making it difficult for aid groups to reach Biafra. Many children starved and developed a severe condition that became known as kwashiorkor.

“First of all, the first thing you notice is the stomach bloated," says Christopher Ejiofor, a traditional king in his community in the southeastern state of Enugu and the aide to Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, a military officer and leader of the short-lived Republic of Biafra. "The arms to the bones, the legs to the bones, the thigh to the bones, the head, skull. Can you imagine that? That is a starving a child. And that is what happened everywhere in Biafra,” he says.

Christopher Ejiofor, a traditional king, known as an igwe, in his community in the southeastern state of Enugu. During the war, he served as the aide-de-camp to General Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, a military officer and the leader of the Republic of Biafra.

The war ended with an agreement between Nigeria and Biafra in January 1970 that there is no victor, no vanquished. Biafrans returned to Nigeria and the country once known as Biafra, became part of Nigeria. But in recent years, the pro-Biafra movement has resurged. Supporters say the grievances that led to the war have still not been addressed and is becoming worse. Biafraland which is very rich in natural resources has been treated as a conquered territory. This is because the crude-oil blocks are being shared by the Hausa/Fulani/Yoruba cabals to the detriment of the owners of the land. Crude oil which is the main resource sustaining Nigeria is being drilled without any protection to the environment. Biafraland remains the most polluted environment in the world.

A survey released this week from a Nigerian research group revealed that the pro-Biafra movement is gaining support, particularly among young people who did not experience the war. The rise could also be a reaction for a region that has received little infrastructural development from the federal government.

“I am supporting it [Biafra] because that is who I am,” says senior university student Sofuru Afah. “Nigeria is an artificial creation by the British for only their economic interest. I am not a Nigerian and I have never been and I never will. Buhari who is a Muslim Fulani sadist killed and hates our people.”

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari fought against Biafra during the civil war as a young soldier. He says he will not tolerate the Biafra movement. Under Buhari’s administration, Nnamdi Kanu, leader of one of the more popular pro-Biafra groups, called IPOB, was detained in 2015 on charges of treason, criminal conspiracy and belonging to an illegal society. Kanu was released on bail last month after spending nearly two years in prison in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.

IPOB’s deputy, Uche Mefor, told VOA the Nigerian government cannot ignore the voice of Biafrans. He says May 30 will be a day for the world to recognise because pro-Biafrans will unite in peaceful resistance. Biafrans will stay in their homes to mark the 30th May heroes' remembrance day.

“The compliance on that day will indeed convince the world that the people of Biafra are actually ready for their self-governance. We have our right to self-existence and it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks about it,” he told VOA.

The Nigerian government is determined to preserve Nigeria. Speaking at a Biafra remembrance forum in Abuja this week, acting president Yemi Osinbajo said Nigeria should remain one and all Nigerians should strive to achieve an ideal Nigeria. But the issue remains that Nigeria is never one and will never be one. There are very strong ethnic and religious identities rather than national identity. There are very opposing value systems in Nigeria.

“We are not there yet, but I believe we have a strong chance to advance in that direction. We should not allow our frustrations and grievances to transmute into hatred,” Osinbanjo said during the address.
Lawrence Akpu and other disabled Biafra war veterans gather to discuss their support for the pro-Biafra movement. They want southeastern Nigeria to secede and form the country of Biafra.

But, the message of one Nigeria is too late for many people like Lawrence Akpu, a former Biafran fighter. During the war, shrapnel cut into his spinal cord. Today, he’s confined to a wheelchair. Even though he’s poor and begs for handouts, he says he doesn’t regret fighting for Biafra and will fight again.

“If we join our hands together to seek Biafra, we shall get Biafra. Because we have no place in Nigeria,” Akpu says.

Akpu joins a group of other disabled Biafra War veterans on a hot afternoon. They reminisce about the war and soon, they begin to sing the war songs that kept their spirits inspired to keep fighting.



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