Interview: Kevin Moseri talks to Dr. Fredrick Onyeali and Onyekachukwu Ezemba about the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the organization in general, the current state of Biafra and where the struggle for the restoration of Biafra is and is going.
I had the pleasure of talking to two of the Dr. Onyeali and Onyekachukwu Ezemba (Founders) of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB):
1. Dr. Fredrick Onyeali (Founder of IPOB)
Dr. Fredrick Onyeali is the founder of IPOB. He is the first ever National Coordinator of IPOB in Germany and the first National Coordinator ever in IPOB Worldwide. He is the former national Coordinator of IPOB Germany
2. Onyekachukwu Ezemba (Co-Founder of IPOB)
Onyekachukwu Ezemba is the first Public Relations Officer and Communications director of IPOB worldwide (Ezemba can be credited with pronouncing Nnamdi Kanu as the leader of IPOB in 2013 in addition to his position as the Director of Radio Biafra London. He subsequently helped Nnamdi Kanu realize the potential he had to lead the IPOB through his already established Radio Biafra network globally)
I asked both of them a few questions about IPOB, the strategy and philosophy of the movement and their hopes and dreams for the restoration of Biafra.
KEVIN: What is your opinion on where the movement is?
EZEMBA: The IPOB has done a lot of things. What I’m seeing now with the movement is just like what you expect to see in any movement; there are a lot of ups and downs.
We have accomplished a lot with our movement, we have created awareness, we have woken the people up to the reality in Biafra. But like I said, sometimes you will see genuine men at the beginning of a movement. But as the movement grows, you will also see people join with different agendas – with different motives. They will display their true motives with time. That is exactly what I’m seeing in the IPOB movement.
Honestly, I think the wider movement is still going strong. We as the people are the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). We the people, I, Dr. Onyeali are the movement, regardless of what else might be going wrong. As the founding fathers of the movement, we will not let the movement down. We will make sure that the movement gets to the promised destination. That is our only objective. If other people have other objectives, that is up to them. We will not let our objectives destroy the movement.
I thank God for today. God has been wonderful to our movement and we have seen the movement grow. I can tell you now that we are all over the world. You can go to any major country and you will find us.
We have a leader of the IPOB. We made him who he is today. I will come back to that topic. What we are grateful for the fact that the movement is going strong. We thank God for that.
KEVIN: Dr. Onyeali, do you have anything to add to that?
DR. ONYEALI: Yes. Ezemba did not finish introducing himself. Without him, I don’t think I would have gone this far with the movement. He was the first Publicity Secretary for IPOB Germany and worldwide. He helped so much to make sure that the IPOB organization got a good footing. Not only that. He initiated the creation of the IPOB Coordinating Unit. What I can say is, we are born to appreciate everybody and the good that they do. I wanted to acknowledge that and remind him of how much we value his counsel –
EZEMBA: Sorry Dr. Onyeali. I’m not cutting you off. I didn’t forget to do that. I was thinking that we would still come back to that topic.
DR.ONYEALI: I’d like to add that the struggle started very well especially when it began here in Germany. It started very well and attracted a lot of people who had and still have the desire to see the restoration of Biafra. For a while we were moving along and all our efforts were yielding the results of attracting more people to the movement. We have not lost hope. We still believe that the movement will achieve its goal. You know – it’s always like that in any struggle. I hope we come up with new ideas to re-energize the movement.
KEVIN: Ezemba, what do you think needs to be done now to generate more awareness for the movement?
EZEMBA: I think we have done good job of creating awareness. We now need increased diplomatic engagement. We need more governments of the world to get involved. Awareness has been created. No country in the world can deny knowledge of the existence of IPOB – No government of any country in the world. What we need now is genuine diplomatic engagement with the world governments. These have to be secret talks and not just over the radio waves or in propaganda.
We now need to face the reality. The time for propaganda is over. There has to be a new way forward. What we need right now is – I don’t think we need more awareness. It’s already there. We need to involve diplomats and start making secret preparations of the eventuality.
KEVIN: Dr. Onyeali, any thoughts on that?
DR. ONYEALI: We have spread the gospel of the restoration of Biafra. The world organizations such as the UN, Human rights courts, all of them know about our plight. Between 2014 and 2019 we got access to the president of the United States, we got access to the head of the ICC, we got access to major world bodies. We are calling them and are speaking to them. We reached all the relevant places with our gospel. The world is being controlled by selfishness.
I don’t think there is any freedom fighting movement that has gone as far and as quickly as IPOB has managed to do. This is the truth. We have gone far than any other group. I am glad to say that. I am very boastful of that fact. Even at home, we set up a grassroots plan to make sure that every community, including my own, in Biafraland has an IPOB unit. From the youngest person to the oldest person, they know about IPOB. Our struggle is not new. God has used us to do all these things. I believe he will do more to make sure we achieve our goal.
KEVIN: I searched all over but I have not seen any new demarcation of the territory that represents Biafra. If Nigeria agrees to negotiations, do you have any demarcation that you would say this is where we will build a new country?
EZEMBA: The demarcation of the territory of Biafra is already there. We don’t have it now on Google, because we have been living in a situation where it’s divide and rule, where you tell your brother he is no longer your brother because of the mineral and oil resources. They oppress us and use that strategy to divide Biafra. Because of that, we really need to negotiate with our brothers and pick a way forward.
We have to live in a democratic world. You don’t push someone into doing what they don’t want. We need to sit down with them and negotiate and make them realize we are brothers. That is why I believe the final map of Biafra is not easily accessible as you mentioned. You only see the old map of Biafra. But in our generation, with this new movement the map is not yet fully official. Because there will be negotiations. Most of the people were brainwashed by the oppressors into denying there brothers. We need to educate them on the territory of Biafra. As we are talking now, our people are doing that on the ground and they are responding. They are waking up to the reality.
It’s a tough job trying to convince mature people. This was the strategy of Nigeria, to divide us so that we cannot fight as one for a common goal. Now we are trying to bring them back to reality. We know it will take time. I thank God that everything is working and very soon I believe there will be an agreement and the official map of Biafra will be unveiled.
DR. ONYEALI: In addition to what he said, nature blessed Biafra with religious, social and cultural boundaries with our neighbors. The people that make up Biafra have almost the same culture. The people of Biafra have the same cultural affiliation. You can also see in the current Nigeria that our Biafran women who dress with 2 wrappers are easy to identify.
We have religious boundaries with other regions. We have similar traditional religions. Christianity came along and has since become our chief religion, unlike our neighbors. In every part of Biafraland Christianity is the chief religion. The land, despite what the politicians might say, is Biafra. And now, just as Ezemba said, they are coming to the realization of what our mothers and fathers were fighting for more than 50 years ago. Our mothers and father saw it years ago. They knew we must separate. Unfortunately they were labeled as trouble makers. The boundary of Biafraland is where we separate socially, culturally, and politically.
KEVIN: Now other regions in Nigeria are looking to Biafra as an example. Does that mean IPOB and other pro-Biafran groups are willing to support them in order to speed up the balkanization of Nigeria?
EZEMBA: Yes of course. That has been our prayer all along. What is really happening now in Nigeria is divine. It’s all God’s work. In every freedom movement, there comes along something that accelerates things. It might not be something that you did by yourself. It might also come from your opposition. What is really happening in Nigeria is a dream. That gives Biafra a great chance for freedom. Now everyone can see what we have been campaigning for.
Fighting for Biafra does not mean that we hate other people in Nigeria. Because of the situation in Nigeria which everybody is facing, we seem to be experiencing it more. That is why we are saying we need our own nation. Now we are very happy that people are seeing Nigeria, just like Dr. Onyeali said, just like IPOB has been saying all along. Out of that, now they are waking up to the reality. They also want to take their destinies into their own hands. We are supporting them. We will support them. Nigeria will try and divide us but we will not accept that. That is why we are ready to support them. We are still using the Nigeria passport. We are still part of Nigeria. We have not yet become independent. With this opportunity, we will all act like Nigerians to demand and make sure that there is dissolution of Nigeria. We are working underground, we are doing everything.
KEVIN: Dr. Onyeali?
DR. ONYEALI: The reason why Nigeria got to this point is that the other regions, the west and the middle belt, teamed up with northern Nigeria and other foreign state actors like Britain, Russia to fight against Biafra. They peddled the wrong message about Biafra to the world through leadership. But the other tribes of Nigeria were unable to see what Biafrans were seeing then. That is why it was difficult for Nigeria to divide. Today, they are seeing it and, there is a lot of killing. When you look at Nigeria today, I can boldly tell you that it is only in Biafra that you have peace.
Many northerners are coming down to Biafraland where they can live without fear. The other parts of Nigeria are chaotic. They have come up now with their own movements to free themselves. The western parts, the Yoruba parts are now realizing that Nigeria cannot sustain itself as a single country any longer. Considering that 99 member of the executive council of Nigeria are from the north, they are now seeing what we have been saying. That is why they are starting to fight for their own freedom. Now that they are stating movements, we are not interfering. We are ready to support them.
I will tell you that these groups have previously used their social media assets to criticize IPOB, to disturb our – we are still supporting them. They have since come to pledge allegiance to Biafraland in support of what we are doing. We are 100% ready to support them. We are looking to God to make sure that the division of Nigeria can happen sooner so that they can also be satisfied with their own nation.
KEVIN: What lessons do you think the movement can and should they learn from the Balkans? When I say movement I mean every Biafran irrespective of the affiliation they have in Biafra (IPOB or any other pro-Biafra groups)
EZEMBA: As much as possible. There is a lot to learn. Looking at it now, it’s not easy on the African continent as a whole. I know what is happening in Nigeria has happened in other parts of Africa. It happened in Libya and Algeria.
All eyes are on Nigeria. Nigeria can be an example to the world. That is a fact. If Nigeria is a role model, it can help move Africa forward as well. Economically, we have all it takes to be great. Through that, the African continent can gain respect from the world. It will also bring hope to the black continent.
No one ever thought that there will come a time when Nigerians will rise up. They believe that they can buy everything. The politicians, they can buy everything. Whatever you are doing in life, there will come a time when you will not continue. Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, it has an end. That is one thing they fail to understand in this life. They believe that they can hold Biafra down forever. They believe that they can remain a puppet in the hands of Britain forever. The new generation will show them otherwise.
Let me give you an example from today. I saw it in a video. A senator came out during this process and said that he was going to give them 2 million dollars – immediately he opened up his mouth and said 2 million dollars, they nearly killed him. However, they decided not to kill him because they don’t want to start violence. They let him go and he ran away leaving his car. His security also disappeared.
That is a big lesson if you have the opportunity to occupy any position in the new coming government; I am talking about Biafra now. I don’t believe Nigeria will remain Nigeria again. It will disintegrate. If you want to start your government, you have to learn from the past – the disintegration of Nigeria will happen. It will be a lesson for everyone; both African and people in Nigeria as well.
The people who have the opportunity to serve have to serve with respect. You have to know that you are serving the people. You are not there to be king. You are there to be a servant. That is a lesson every African brother and sister must learn. Things will never remain the same. We have had enough.
DR. ONYEALI: Before the coming of the white man, Biafraland existed with her people, culture and lifestyle. So the white man came and forcefully joined Biafra with 3 other nations. Nigeria is as big as Germany or France and every region has its own traditions which are different. The British failed to understand that they were trying to mix oil with water. The regions could not and should not have been joined as one.
Nigerian has become a brain drain for Biafra. When you go the US and Europe, the most educated Africans there are Biafrans, especially doctors and engineers. They are doing extremely well in diaspora. So what we are going to gain out the balkanization of Nigeria is our freedom and the ability to do things according to our traditions.
We give honor to whom honor is due. The so-called president of Nigeria did not go to secondary school and his deputy is a law professor. So can that combination work? What we are going to gain and what other nations are going to gain out of this balkanization is great, starting with development. If I am travelling and show my Biafran passport, nobody will ask me where I am going. They will open their doors. But now, if I am travelling with a Nigerian passport, you will have to undergo extra scrutiny. Everyone travelling on a Nigerian passport faces humiliation. It’s because of the name Nigeria. Nigeria was forcefully made by the British.
So there are a lot of lessons to learn. Nothing lasts forever. If the USSR can disintegrate, Yugoslavia can disintegrate, why not Nigeria? Nigeria must peacefully disintegrate. And it will. Currently, life in Nigeria means danger and death to a lot of people –
EZEMBA: Just to jump back in, and add on to my answer and what Dr. Onyeali has said. The point is that the current reality in Nigeria is not a secret. I believe even most western nations know what is happening. The balkanization of Nigerian is one of the best things that will happen to the African continent. Why? You know Nigerian being a single country as it is now, gives the impressions that the black men is worthless.
After how many years of independence do you think Nigeria is supposed to be buying outside? Do you think that Nigeria does not have the capability of at least being a superpower? Don’t we have enough of an educated population that will give us a chance of being one of the superpowers? But because of that name – because of that togetherness called Nigeria, it creates an exodus of talent from the country. It reduces the opportunity to create something that people can say “this was produced in Africa” and not a Nigerian in America produced that or a Nigerian in the UK produced that. Changing that will not be possible as long as the country and the name Nigeria exist.
You can only find the most educated talent in Biafraland and from Biafrans in diaspora. 90% of them are in Biafra. However, they are not being given opportunities. During the Biafra Nigeria war, Biafra produced all the arms they used in that conflict. Biafra scientists were doing very well. They produced their ammunition, their rockets. They even went as far as to convert passenger aircraft into fighter jets. They produced the machinery used to refine their oil. They never needed any foreign company to come and refine the oil. At that time, everything used in Biafra was built in Biafra. Do you know that Nigeria destroyed all that technology?
They know that the African continent will be proud when Biafra is free. The power holding Biafra is not only Nigeria. They are using Nigeria as a tool to prevent the freedom of Biafra. If I remember correctly, during the Biafran war, they asked the UN “Why can’t you people allow Biafra to go?” They said “No”. They didn’t want a second Japan. Why did they say that? Because they knew what Biafrans were capable of doing. Had they supported the bid for freedom, Biafrans would have managed to make the whole continent proud. I am proud to say I am a black person and that I believe Biafra will turn the African continent around.
The disintegration of Nigeria is the best thing that will happen to black Africa. That is the only salvation we have. It will also be salvation for them because when Biafra is successful, our neighbors will also succeed.
KEVIN: I will switch gears a bit and go back to the IPOB movement. There seems to be a legitimacy issue. I don’t know whether that is due to mismanagement. As an outsider, when I look at how organizations are run, for example a charity, they generate legitimacy very quickly. What do you think is holding back the movement from gaining legitimacy? The movement has been around since 2013, but it has not gained any meaningful and actionable legitimacy. What do you think is the issue?
EZEMBA: A lot of self-centered people have hijacked the movement. Like I said before, we will not let it happen. Even though we shouldn’t be talking about this subject, I have to say that something is wrong somewhere in IPOB. There are some people that don’t know how the movement started but have been lucky enough to inherit one position or the other. Now they believe that they are in charge. They are more interested in what goes into their pockets. These people are not the majority. They are a minority. One day, everyone following those people will wake up to the reality of what is happening. They will realize that enough is enough. People are starting to fight back against it. People are now working against it.
If you want to gain legitimacy internationally, it has to be on merit. The international community is very clever. The problem may arise from the documents you sign. For example, what you register. Unfortunately, they may not tell you. They are playing a game. You will think that you are doing well but you don’t know that you caged yourself somewhere.
For example, if I go and register an LLC or LTD and tell the international community that I am a music producer. This is my company. Then tomorrow I want the international community to recognize me as an independent nation. I will be a company inside a nation. I will not be a nation. When I see IPOB is registered as a company, for example, do you think if it’s in your hands to make a decision? Will you recognize me as a nation?
KEVIN: Not at all
EZEMBA: Of course you will not recognize me as a nation. Maybe that was a mistake that was made. The fact that you might be interested in the supporting us does not take away from that fact that I was forcing the issue on you. However, you might have found a loophole not to recognize me as a nation. You will probably not tell me that. You will not tell me that you will be withholding the recognition. You will keep telling me to submit documentation as often as I can. You will continue to treat me as a company. I registered as a company. I never registered as a national organization or nation.
You can fight for a nation. However, you cannot fight as a company. The questions will be – What are you producing? What is your product? These are the problems. I thank God that these problems are now coming to light so that we can solve them. People are still working hard. I don’t want to belabor the subject, but simple fact of the matter is that something is very wrong in IPOB. This issue will be resolved and we will get to where we want to get to.
DR. ONYEALI: After the Biafra war, the northerners used their divide and rule tactics and came down to the south and in Biafraland. Some people in the south were effectively made rich. Those people are the same people that are in politics today. They were bought and financed with money from the oil in Biafra. They are the same people causing problems for the Biafra struggle for restoration. They are not keen to see a free Biafra because they might have other agendas or might have signed agreements with their slave masters.
This has been a problem from home. It seems like the politicians are not on our side because they are enjoying the positions they have been given. Besides them, other nations of the western world have interest in Nigeria. Starting with the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, US. All of them have interest in Nigeria. They don’t want Nigeria to disintegrate because of what they are getting. They know that the average person if going through a life of hardship. They are very much aware of the suffering that Biafrans are undergoing. What they are getting is more important for them. They seem to pretend that they are unaware of what is happening in Biafra.
In addition to what Ezemba has said, all this has contributed to the image and impression that that we are not making effort. I don’t think any freedom fighting group has done as great as IPOB, especially for the publicity. We are active all over social media.
The oil in Nigeria is coming from Biafraland. Assuming that Biafra gets its independence, it will be difficult for a lot of private, state and non-state actors to exert influence. They don’t want anything to happen in Biafraland. That is why they are using our own people as a hindrance to the movement.
However, this will not last forever. Like what is happening in Nigeria today. Do you know that the number of military and police that are protecting the politicians and their families in Nigeria is greater, almost 3 times than the police assigned to the public? It’s because they want to put fear into Biafrans. Now the youth has woken up to that fact.
KEVIN: One global issue that can be used to drive momentum for the movement is equality for women. You and I know that women, especially young women in Africa can participate in order to generate momentum for the movement if they feel included. One thing that is missing across the board, not just IPOB, but with most pro-Biafra movements is a platform for women where they feel included as stakeholders. How come IPOB has not attempted to address this issue?
EZEMBA: Women play a bigger role in IPOB. Even in Biafraland, women are playing a big role. Right now in IPOB we have a women’s wing and they are doing wonderful work. Maybe they don’t have a link on Google or their efforts are not publicized well. In Biafraland and other nations, our women are engaged and are doing well. Our finance minister now in IPOB is a woman.
Women are playing a big role in IPOB. But you are right. We still need to do more. Traditionally, our women tend to be very engaged. When they come out and march, you will notice their passion. Women have played a very big role, a storied role in the history of our land.
The white man left Biafraland to women rioters. In that regard, we respect our women so much. We give them opportunities in everything we are doing. We encourage them to join the movement.
DR. ONYEALI: What I want to add to what was said is that the struggle is for everybody. Everyone that shows interest is recognized. Biafran women have been exceptional since the 70s. Even in present day politics, they are there. One of the new director generals of the World Trade Organization is a Biafran woman named Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. If you go to the UK, there are more than 3 civic mayors of Biafran origins. In the US, in Canada Biafrans women are also doing wel. In this struggle, they are not left behind. Like you do say, Biafra is a spirit. The spirit of Biafra has entered into our women. They are leading the way. We are proud of them. We see that our women make the best governments because every Biafran woman will not let their name to be stained. That is why they will try their best to make sure that things go well. They are playing an important role in this struggle, both in Biafraland and in diaspora.
KEVIN: There hasn’t been that much done to humanize the struggle for the restoration of Biafra. By that I mean celebrating culture. I am aware of the Biafran national anthem. I have seen the pledge of allegiance clips on YouTube. Struggle movements in the 70s and 80s sold their culture long before they sold their politics which made it easier to humanize them. A good example is the PLO in the 70s and 80s. They humanized their process. Is this something you should be thinking about to attract a lot of people from other cultures and nations?
EZEMBA: That is a very good question and a good idea. I think your question is something that we have to invest in. We have honestly not done a good job on that end. I see how that might help us at this moment in time. We as a people respect culture so much and we project our culture in the struggle as well. Our culture goes with our history and our origin. Maybe we have not done it enough – we have not projected it enough but we are doing it as well.
We would be glad to present it in a way that the other cultures will willfully join us. For example here in Hamburg we participate in the cultural days in Berlin and present our Biafran culture there.
But it is something that we have to take more serious. With that I think we will accelerate recognition. Thank you very much.
KEVIN: Dr. Onyeali?
DR. ONYEALI: Biafrans are a very unique people culturally. Colonization tried very much to disrupt our culture. We thank God that there are still people that are aware and still practice. Changing of the language in Biafraland during colonization affected a lot of things. The amalgamation of Biafraland and the north resulted into Nigeria which was a wrong committed on our culture. Some people now see our culture and festivals as something demonic. They are afraid of our culture. This happened as a result of introducing Christianity in the region.
During childhood, I saw our father practicing the real culture of our people. Later in the 80s and 90s, a lot of people converted to Christianity and stopped practicing the culture. We are now beginning to embrace back our culture – Like Ezemba pointed out how they go to the Berlin cultural festival to present our culture. Here in Munich we are established and are coming up with cultural engagement activities. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited our efforts. We have everything we need to add our culture into the struggle. We will make it particularly as human as possible. That is what we have planned. We hope other Biafrans all over the world will do the same thing. By doing so, own host nations will know that we are unique people with a unique culture. Thank you very much.
KEVIN: Thank you both very much for taking the time for a chat. I hope we will have time soon again to talk about other issues affecting Biafra. Today was just an introduction.