Floating on dreams
The announcement of the formation of a Biafra Customary Government (BCG) by the leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, on Saturday, March 13, may have come to many as a surprise but the move has been long in coming following reports of an internal crisis rocking the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), led by Nnamdi Kanu.
Dokubo, an Ijaw man, masterfully capitalized on the predicament of IPOB and the falling out of Kanu’s lieutenants, like his former deputy, Uche Mefor, who is now BCG’s Head of Information and Communication, and decided to take matters into his hands by declaring himself the de-facto head of the Biafra agitation.
The crisis currently rocking the Biafra dream and the subsequent ‘intervention’ of the Niger Delta warlord seems to have thrown spanners into the work of the actualization of the dream, creating a longer and tortuous route.
While announcing the formation of the BCG, Dokubo, through Mefor, vowed to set up provincial structures for the new government.
The statement read:
“We as people have resolved that as Biafra, it’s time for us to take our destiny in our hands and bring freedom to ourselves and our children and the generation of Biafrans yet unborn.
“I hesitate a little but I thank God that it’s time for us to do our duty and our service to motherland, I have accepted this role. I have dedicated my life hundred percent to play this role.
“My first act today in taking this position is to name those who would be on the driver’s seat to navigate through this period of tempest, this period of uncertainty with me.
“I want to call on our brother, George Onyibe to come on board to join as the secretary of the de-facto customary government of the State of Biafra. He will take care of the administrative, day to day administration of the Biafra State.
“I also call on our brother Emeka Emeka Esiri to take care of the legal needs of this nascent government.
“My brothers and sisters, the four of us will kick start the process, others will come on board. We want volunteers who are committed; we want volunteers because there is nothing anymore. We are the people who have volunteered to salvage ourselves and the rest of us.
“I also call on Biafrans in the various provinces of the Biafra nations in Aba, Abakiliki, Annang, Awka, Calabar, Degema, Eket, Nsukka, Ogoja, Oji River, Okigwe, Onitsha, Opobo, Orlu, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Umuahia, Uyo and Yenegoa provinces.
“We are going to proceed to set up provincial structures of government starting with provincial assemblies and provincial governance and administrators.”
Method to a madness
Even before the formation of IPOB by Kanu, there were many groups that sprang up in the South-East with the aim of seeking the actualization of a nation called Biafra. But IPOB managed to take the center stage and become the frontrunner of these groups through its unconventional and confrontational methods of attacking the government of the day, and engaging in bitter skirmishes with prominent Ndigbo.
Kanu’s methods shot IPOB to the limelight and he gathered a lot of followers both at home and in the Diaspora, emerging as a powerful force, founding an online radio and winning the hearts of many Igbo-speaking people in Nigeria and abroad.
But the cracks in the ranks of the group began emerging when Kanu was accused of running IPOB as a personal business with his wife, and changing the registration status of the group in the UK where he is based, leading to splinter groups being set up by his former loyalists.
Before the resignation of Mefor from IPOB, a faction of the group in the United Kingdom had demanded the financial accounts of the funds raised for the organisation, something that did not sit well with Kanu who promptly announced the sacking of Mefor.
Kanu went ahead to abolish the position of deputy leader and subsequently scrapped the UK IPOB faction which was loyal to Mefor.
Apart from the financial accountability crisis, Mefor and his loyalists had, at different times, questioned Kanu’s violent style of leadership, often accusing him of deliberately orchestrating various crises with the Nigerian government and security forces which have led to the killing of many Igbo people during such conflicts.
With a seriously fractured internal structure, Mefor decided to team up with Dokubo to chart a new course for himself, giving birth to the BCG.
Dokubo’s dangerous antecedents
Asari Dokubo may come across to many as a freedom fighter who has the interest of his people at heart and can do anything for them, including laying down his life as an ultimate sacrifice, but those who have studied his long battle with various governments know he is not one to be trusted with the Biafran dream.
As the leader of the NDPVF, Dokubo had told his people that he was taking on the Nigerian government and holding them to account to better the lives of the people of the Niger Delta region which had been degraded by the activities of oil exploration by the government and international oil companies over the years.
He led his group to blow up pipelines in several parts of the region, and generally making life uncomfortable for the government until late President Umar Yar’Adua decided to set up the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and grant amnesty to the militants.
Dokubo promptly abandoned the dream and instead of using the millions given to him to better the lives of the Niger Delta militants and his followers, he moved to Benin Republic to set up businesses including a state of the art school facility that that has a primary, secondary and a university.
He also acquired a citizenship in the West African country and declared he was no longer a Nigerian and by implication, also not a Biafran. In all of these, Dokubo has presented himself as someone who cannot be trusted with the agitation for the actualization of Biafra.
Forcing an ‘unholy’ marriage
The Dokubo-Mefor alliance throws up an interesting debacle which is the forceful inclusion of the South-South in the Biafra project. Political leaders of that region, on several occasions, have distanced themselves from Biafra, stating categorically that they do not identify with the struggle which is perceived predominantly as an Igbo struggle.
During the Nigeria-Biafra civil war between 1966 and 1970, the late Biafra leader, Odimegwu Ojukwu, had great troubles in making the South-South see themselves as Biafrans, but majority had kicked against the move.
Rivers State, where Dokubo originally comes from, fought on the side of the Nigerian Army and till date the herd mentality suggests that many do not see themselves as Biafrans, ditto for the people of Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Bayelsa and Edo States, making it a misnomer for Dokubo to want to forcefully co-opt the South-South to be part of the project.
United in ‘madness’ but now foes
Asari Dokubo and Nnamdi Kanu have not been the best of friends and the formation of the BCG by the former is an indication that whatever bond they had has been irretrievably broken. The two men have often time, engaged each other in brickbats, insults, criticisms, accusations and counter-accusation.
Saying there is no love lost between the two warlords is stating the obvious as they have been known to antagonize each on several occasions. At a time, Dokubo had vowed that nothing could make him ever work with Kanu on the Biafran project again, calling Kanu an idiot for promoting ‘religious intolerance against non-followers of Judaism,’ a religion Kanu has insisted is the religion of the Igbos.
Dokubo had accused Kanu of condemning pastors by calling them evil and saying that anyone who attends a church is heading straight to hell.
Kanu had, in a video on his Facebook page, said:
“Every pastor in Nigeria is evil. If you’re going to church, you’re going to hell! Direct! Because the message you’re receiving, they’re from messengers of darkness, of liars and deceivers.”
But in a swift reaction to the video, Dokubo, a Muslim, said he could not work with such people because his Biafra would guarantee religious freedom.
“All of us are Biafrans; a set of Biafrans now decide that they have the right of life and death over all of us; that they are going to kill all Christians; that they’re going to close down all churches.
“They have started going, breaking down the monuments of Mary, Angel Gabriel and all sort of things; they have proclaimed our Biafra, our own Biafra, a Jewish state.
“They are going to kill all Moslems, including myself, a critical stakeholder, a formal stakeholder in our Biafra – they will kill me! They will kill every member of my family, they will kill every Muslim.
“And they say go and work with Nnamdi Kanu, go and work with Nnamdi Kanu. Who is this idiot you want me to go and work with?
“What are his credentials in our struggle? He rants. What is his badge of honour? 76 times in detention, and still counting. I have not given up, I have not run away. I am not Ben Johnson, I am not Usain Bolt.”
Kanu’s altercations with Dokubo over the years was further given a kick when the Niger Delta militant leader opened a can of worms on the IPOB leader, accusing him of a myriad of fraudulent activities under the guise of fighting for the Biafran project.
Come back home, Asari Dokubi tells Southerners to leave North
Dokubo had, at various times, accused Kanu of being a fraudster and a con man who was using the Biafra struggle for his personal gains, further alleging that Kanu was not in any struggle for the restoration of Biafra but for his personal gains, and that he regretted ever associating with the IPOB leader in the past.
“With Nnamdi Kanu, there’s no hope for Biafra. It gives me regret that in my life, I ever associated with a person called Nnamdi Kanu. I regret that when he was in crisis, I came out to defend him. In fact, my greatest regret is associating with Nnamdi Kanu. I can’t make peace with somebody like him. He has nothing to offer other than to derail our struggle.”
He further rubbed it in by accusing Kanu of collecting millions of dollars from Igbo businessmen in the Diaspora in the name of fighting for Biafra but ended up pocketing the money.
On another occasion, Dokubo had said that with Kanu at the forefront of the Biafran agitation, there will be no hope for the dream to come through.
“Those of us who get close to him know he’s not fighting for any Biafra. Nnamdi Kanu is just one individual in Biafra, so, we shouldn’t make him important, he’s not. He’s just like everyone one of us.
“He’s not in any struggle. Whatever spell he has cast on the Igbo will be removed very soon and their eyes will open. When he was in trouble, all of us came out to defend him because an injury to one is an injury to all. We risked our lives by speaking in support of him, for him to be released from prison and for him not to be killed.
“Now, he sees those of us who fought on his behalf for his freedom as his followers. Some of us regret ever lending our voice. We would have left him to rot in jail because he’s caused more harm to Biafra struggle than anyone else.”
In one of their landmark altercations, Dokubo had, in June 2020, challenged Kanu to swear if he has not been collecting money from governors and Igbo businessmen in the name of IPOB.
Kanu too had accused Dokubo of collecting N20 million from him in 2016, adding that the money belonged to IPOB, and challenged Dokubo to swear on the Quran to deny the allegation.
Throwing the challenge on May 31, 2020, Kanu said in a broadcast:
“Asari Dokubo, if you claim that I didn’t give you money and I didn’t send people to discuss with you, make a video and swear with your Quran. Swear with your religion and die.
“You are an idiot, you are a thief, over-bloated swamp pig.”
Swiftly, Dokubo replied through a video he posted on Facebook, asking Kanu to also swear on the Bible or the Torah, the Jewish Holy Book, if he has not been collecting money from South-East governors and prominent Igbos.
Rascal or demented soul?
On Kanu’s part, his trail of madness has pitted him and his followers against the Federal Government, as he has been using a series of propaganda to discredit every government, particularly President Muhammadu Buhari, with his constant ridiculous claims that he (Buhari) died a long time ago and that a clone called Jubril Al-Sudani is the one in power.
Many of his followers have blindly held on to this whoopla as the gospel truth and can even swear that what their leader tells them is credible enough.
When Buhari was planning a trip to Japan some years ago, Kanu made a broadcast where he said the President would be arrested by his IPOB group based in that Asian country.
“The formidable IPOB family in Japan is hereby placed on direct order to ensure the impostor, Jubril Al-Sudani, masquerading as the late dictator, Mubammadu Buhari, is arrested and handed over to the authorities, when he sets foot on Japanese soil,” Kanu said.
“He is not only a fake president, but is also wanted for mass murder and crimes against humanity for his role in previous and ongoing genocide in Biafraland.
“Under Japanese law, an impostor is a common criminal and subject to citizen’s arrest. International diplomatic protocol as it relates to visiting heads of state is not applicable in this instance.
“Any legal fall-out emanating from any confrontation will end up in a Japanese court, where we will be able to establish before the world that Jubril is indeed a fake Buhari,” he added in the broadcast.
Kanu’s confrontational style has landed him in trouble with the government and many prominent Igbo leaders like the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinmma, and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
The Ohaneze Ndigbo, the umbrella body of the Igbo people has, on several occasions, condemned his methods of agitation and cautioned him many times but not one to listen to voices wisdom, Kanu has continued to carry on in his style.
Kanu has also continued to fan the embers of hatred against the Igbos by his constant tirades against people of other tribes, especially the Hausa/Fulani tribe, whom he accuses of being against his people and churning hate speeches against them.
In one of his interviews following a communal clash in Kaduna, Kanu had said:
“This is Fulani Janjaweed atrocity at its inglorious best against peaceful indigenous Hausa and other ethnic groups that make up Southern Kaduna.
“This is a lesson for all those, especially Yoruba and RUGA communities in Biafra that think Fulani will ever stop slaughtering them. The same way Hausa peasants naively welcomed their Fulani visitors who later dominated and turned them into their slaves, is how it shall be in the south in the next 47 years.
“The Fulanis love killing people and they will never ever stop. Long-suffering Hausa people are prime examples. Only IPOB can save you from the Fulani. The Fulani has no home or land anywhere in the world, that’s why they see the ZOO as their only land, because they know that once you give money to our politicians and traditional leaders, they will sell you right away.
“The time has come to expel the bloodsucking Fulani Janjaweed from our lands. If you find anybody in your village asking after Radio Biafra, kill the baboon Awusa Foolani or Yoruba bastard. Let them keep searching as we keep tweeting for #Biafra.”
All of these have often led to a jaundiced view of the Igbos by other ethnic stock markets who perceive Kanu’s project as enjoying popular by all Igbos.
Kanu has had a rather hypnotic hold on his followers through a series of well-concocted propaganda of perceived marginalization of the Igbo nation and plans by the Nigerian government to wipe out the entire race. These calls have been swallowed hook, line and sinker by his gullible supporters who worship the ground he treads and kiss his feet.
Kanu has also been a staunch advocate of war against Nigeria and on September 5, 2015, had spoken at the World Igbo Congress held in Los Angeles that all IPOB needed were guns and bullets to fight the Federal Government as the Nigerian government was the problem of the Igbos and to gain an independent Biafra, violence and bloodshed was what was needed.
In one of his broadcasts on Radio Biafra, Kanu made it clear that IPOB is gearing for an all-out war against Nigeria and called on Igbos to wage war against the country, saying it is either Biafra or death.
“Nigeria should prepare for war, we are coming to annihilate you; my secret service are already studying the Zoo and strategising. Nigeria is a zoo and everybody living in that God-forsaken Zoo deserves to die. It’s either Biafra or death.
“When we speak, the Zoo trembles; that is what happens when a cattle rearing terrorist and paedophile is your ruler.
“By the time we finish dealing with the animals in the Zoo, there’ll be none left to tell the story. We are assembling weapons and we need some more money to thoroughly equip our military to enable us unleash mayhem on Nigeria.”
Kanu does not stop at attacking the Hausa-Fulani alone as some other prominent Nigerians have been at the receiving end of his caustic and acidic tongue.
He once attacked and insulted former President Goodluck Jonathan, calling him an imbecile for handing power to a Hausa man.
“The imbecilic Goodluck Jonathan is a disgrace to humanity and deserves to be skinned alive for handing over to a Hausa goat,” he said.
The General Overseer of the Deeper Life Christian Church, Pastor William Kumuyi, also came under attack by Kanu who once told his followers to stone the man of God in Aba whenever he went to the town for his church’s crusade.
“Kumuyi should be stoned and dealt with thoroughly if he comes to Aba for his planned crusade,” he said.
His many brushes with the law had seen him arrested, charged to court on criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organisation by the Department of State Services (DSS), and clamped into detention for several months.
And when he was released on bail with strict conditions, one of which was a travel ban, Kanu managed to escape the shores of the country, and has been a fugitive since then.
On his escape, Kanu said:
“Nigerian Army came to my house to kill me. They killed 28 people in the process. My people evacuated me before they could get to me and they smuggled me out of Nigeria.”
War without end?
BIAFRA: Another death knocks? How the Asari-Kanu drama may bury IPOB’s secession dream
On the surface, it may seem Dokubo and Kanu are fighting for the same cause which is the actualization of the Biafran Republic but given their antecedents, it is easy to deduce that achieving the dream will not be a mean feat.
What Dokubo did on March 13 was akin to looking Kanu in the eyes and telling him that the battle line has been drawn, and given the animosity and bad blood that flow between them, it would be interesting to see who will blink first and yield ground to the other.
In relating the emergence of Dokubo as the leader of the BCG to a popular proverb that says that it is a clear injustice for a farmer to clear a farmland, and another farmer coming in to plant on the same farmland, it remains to be seen how the two contrasting groups can come together to achieve the ultimate dream of making the Biafra Republic a reality.