In 2014, Nnamdi Kanu founded a group called, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The movement clamours for the breakaway of a group of states in south-east Nigeria, made up mainly of people from the Igbo ethnic group from the Federal Republic of Nigeria to form the independent nation of Biafra.
The talk of a breakaway is not new. In 1967, Igbo leaders led by General Ojukwu declared a Biafran state. However, after a brutal civil war, which led to the deaths of about a million people, the secessionist movement was defeated. The idea of secession since then had faded until Mr. Kanu once again, came into the picture and became the latest Biafran activists taking up the cause.
Nnamdi Kanu was not known until 2009 when he started a radio station called Radio Biafra, a station that called for an independent state for the Igbo people. The radio station broadcast to Nigeria from London. Nnamdi Kanu grew up in Nigeria and had his university education at the University of Nsukka. However, Mr. Kanu moved to the UK before graduating.
Soon after setting up the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), he spoke to gatherings of the large Igbo diaspora, calling for Biafran independence. In some of his comments, he urged Biafrans to take up arms against the Nigerian state.
About Nnamdi Kanu
His full name is Nnamdi Okwu Kanu. He was born on the 25th of September 1967. He is a British Nigerian and Biafra political activist. He is the leader of a movement called the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The main aim of IPOB is to create an independent state for the people of the old Eastern Region of Nigeria. It aims to achieve this through a referendum. Nnamdi Kanu is also the director of a UK registered radio station named Radio Biafra. Nnamdi Kanu was arrested by the Nigerian government and charged with treason in Lagos, Nigeria on the 14th of October 2015. Kanu was detained for more than a year, despite various court orders that ruled for his release. When in court, Kanu appeared regularly wearing a Jewish prayer shawl and head covering. He declared his belief in Judaism and that he considers himself a Jew. Oftentimes, he has led his Biafran people to various Jewish prayers and religious observations. He also describes himself as an Igbo Jew, part of a group who believe they are descendants of the lost tribe of Israel who settled in West Africa. On the 28th of April 2017, Kanu was released from prison on bail.
Nnamdi Kanu was born in Isiama Afara Ukwu in Umuahia, Abia State. His father’s name is Eze Israel Okwu Kanu (JP) while his mother is Ugoeze Nnenne Kanu. Nnamdi Kanu attended Library Avenue Primary School for his primary school education and then went to Government College Umuahia for his secondary education. He studied at University of Nigeria, Nsukka before moving to the UK before his graduation
Activism and Awareness
Nnamdi Kanu was a guest speaker at the World Igbo Congress on the 5th of September 2015 which was held in Los Angeles. There it is reported that he told his audience about their need to have guns and bullets. Later on in June 2017, in an interview, Kanu explained his comment saying that he had demanded for bullets and guns from a group of US-based Nigerians for self-defense against the incessant attacks on Igbos by Fulani herdsmen which were currently reoccurring back in Nigeria in Igbo lands that were targeted to be Biafran.
Since Nnamdi Kanu had begun his advocacy for the Republic of Biafra in 2015, he had made highly controversial comments on various occasions. Sometime in 2017, a video of Kanu was seen wherein he issued an open death threat to former Nigerian president Chief Obasanjo. Here, he had told a gathering of supporters at his home that if any harm comes to him, members of IPOB should eliminate Obasanjo and his lineage. This was also made in reference to Obasanjo’s statement at a gathering in Abuja when he said that all must be done to Stop IPOB.
Arrest of Nnamdi Kanu
On 18 October 2015, it was reported that Kanu had been arrested in Lagos State by Nigeria’s secret police, the Department of State Services (DSS). Later, the public got to know that Kanu was arrested four days earlier. Kanu had told his solicitors that he was arrested on the 14th of October 2015 while he was in his hotel room at the Golden Tulip Essential Hotel Ikeja, Lagos State. This means that between the 14th and 17th of October 2015, Kanu’s whereabouts were unknown. On the 18th of October 2015, the press broke the news of his arrest and detention by the SSS in Abuja. The news of the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu generated protests across Delta State, Enugu State, Rivers State, Cross River State, Abia State, Imo State, Akwa Ibom State, Bayelsa State, and Anambra State.
After the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, members of the IPOB movement gathered in protest all around Nigeria in Delta State, Enugu State, Rivers State, Cross River State, Abia State, Imo State, Akwa Ibom State, Bayelsa State, and Anambra State and thus, the movement gained even more momentum. Many human rights groups also demanded Mr. Kanu’s release, sighting his months of detention without trial as unlawful.
Several court orders called for Mr. Kanu’s bail but all these were ignored by the federal government. However, the government finally bowed to a court order and granted Mr. Kanu bail based “on medical grounds” on the 28th of April 2017,
Nnamdi Kanu’s announced that his strategy in demanding freedom for his people and the establishment of a new republic called Biafra is the application of civil disobedience, which is peaceful advocacy. In various air broadcasts, Nnamdi Kanu stated how Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi‘s had used different forms of civil disobedience. He stated that if it worked out for them, he was assured it will also lead to the “restoration of Biafra”.
Before the 2019 presidential election, IPOB had threatened to boycott the election, describing it as a multi-faceted approach comprising civil disobedience and passive resistance. However, on the eve of the election, Nnamdi Kanu lifted the boycott position and urged Biafrans to participate in the election.