Exclusive interview with Dr. Fredrick Onyeali (Founder) and Collins Chinedu of IPOB

Interview: Kevin Moseri talks to Dr. Fredrick Onyeali and Collins Chinedu 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 founders of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB):

As explained by both Dr. Onyeali and Collins, the IPOB organization is structured as follows:

  • The IPOB leader
  • The IPOB Deputy leader
  • Directorate of State (DOS) – The DOS is led by a Head of Directorate and Deputy Head of
  • 5 Directorate of State members – representing the Europe, Africa, South America, North America,and Asia)
  • Country National Coordinators – IPOB has membership in 53 countries
  • Country Zonal Coordinator – Within each country there are zones

I asked both of them a few questions about IPOB, IPOB Germany and how the organization is supporting the struggle for the restoration of Biafra.

Interview with Dr. Fredrick Onyeali

Dr. Fredrick Onyeali – 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

Interview Dr. Fred Onyeali

[KEVIN] With COVID-19 still a global issue, how is IPOB Germany ensuring that Biafrans in Germany are taking the pandemic seriously?

[DR. ONYEALI] Because of the pandemic condition present, we have been advising our people, especially in the meeting places, that they should keep their distance. This has forced a lot of IPOB units to shift their meetings to parks instead of meeting indoors where they had previously met. They are now meeting more outdoors in open spaces. As time goes they are now conscious that they have to be vigilant at all times. I feel that we are doing as much as possible. We thank God because we have not had any case of COVID-19 infection or related deaths among us Biafrans here in Germany.

[KEVIN] Do you have an overview of all IPOB members/supporters in Germany? And how do you make sure that they are receiving the right information about what is happening in Nigeria? Do you send out a newsletter?

[DR. ONYEALI] Yes, I would say that media and information was the biggest problem the Biafrans had in the 60s. It was only the BBC that was broadcasting. The said whatever they felt like against Biafra and that prevented the whole world from seeing the reality of what was happening on the ground in Biafra. In current times, it is different. Thanks to social media. We have massively used social media to spread the gospel. We have our media centers, we have our Facebook pages … in fact IPOB is a very connected organization which is united. That is why our slogan is “One Family”. So, every unit in every country has its own Facebook page and WhatsApp groups, Twitter and all. Through that, we disseminate our own stories to make sure that everybody is getting information on what is happening in Nigeria. Within minutes of anything happening, everybody is aware of it through social media. So information presently is successfully going across the globe to the IPOB families.

[KEVIN] IPOB seems to be dominated by men. What are you doing to promote Biafran women? Do you have women’s issues on the IPOB platform?

[DR. ONYEALI] You are correct. Biafran women challenged the British colonialists. Thousands of women protested during the Aba Women’s Riots in 1929 against marginalization of women. These riots resulted in the inclusion of women in local government.

[KEVIN] Do you think it’s time to change tactics? Or are you happy with what IPOB has achieved? Do you think that your current tactics will achieve the goal of bringing the Nigerian government to the negotiating table?

[DR. ONYEALI] You see the problem in Nigeria is that the leadership of Nigeria is made up of men who don’t understand what leadership is all about. The way IPOB has taken issues is supposed to have forced them to do the right thing just like in any civilized society. That right thing is to call them to the table and discuss the division of the commonwealth. The people are so blind and what they want is the situation to result into conflict. When it comes to conflict, it will cause more damage. If they don’t separate in peace, we’ll make it in pieces.

[KEVIN] What issues are currently on the IPOB platform? I know what IPOB is and what it is fighting for, but what is IPOB bringing to the table? How is IPOB making a difference? How is IPOB different from other pro-Biafra groups?

[DR. ONYEALI] I would like to start by saying that IPOB has done great and are still doing great. But they need to do more. The leadership of IPOB has to look inwards and find out if they are doing what they are supposed to do and whether there are other things they should still be doing but are not doing. By doing so, they can hopefully force the Nigerian government to do what’s required; which is to start negotiations.

[KEVIN] What is IPOB Germany doing at the moment to generate support from Germans and fellow Africans in Germany?

[DR. ONYEALI] I want to say that from the onset, IPOB in Germany has never kept quiet. We have been to Berlin; we have had a series of rallies. The most important thing we are doing and I’m trying to encourage the National Coordinator to do is to make sure that every IPOB unit is registered with their local government. By doing so, we are bringing ourselves closer to the German government. To tell the truth, there is no arm of government that can say they don’t know that we exist. They all know that we exist. But there is a problem, and the problem is, their interest in Nigeria. You know, that has been a hindrance. By God’s grace, everything will take shape at the right time. I will encourage every IPOB unit to be registered with their local government so that it will bring the cause closer to the government.

[KEVIN] Does IPOB have a charter? Do you think it’s time to have an IPOB charter? That clearly defines what IPOB wants and also clearly defines what the Biafran identity is?

[DR. ONYEALI] Just as a reminder, for 3 years, Biafra existed as a country, with everything in place. General Ojukwu, who was the first president of Biafra set the course and put everything in place so that nothing was lacking. We are trying to replicate everything that they set up with his government. We will use policies they set and modify them to make them fall in line with the present condition.

[KEVIN] Should the government of Nigeria agree to negotiations with IPOB (and other pro-Biafra groups), is IPOB ready for the negotiations and what are your negotiating positions?

[DR. ONYEALI] Like I said before, the leadership of Nigeria does not know what negotiation is. They don’t know what round table discussions are. They don’t want peace. They are ruling with their Islamic mentality. But there is something to rejoice about. In the 60s when Biafrans were trying to leave Nigeria, the other parts of Nigeria were fighting against Biafra. Now, they are beginning or they have seen what the Biafrans saw in the 60s. Now they are also crying for freedom. Nigeria wills gradually balkanize without the need for armed conflict.

[KEVIN] Thank you for a very informative interview. If you think you can expand on my questions (or their answers), let me know in the comments section below.

Interview with Collins Chinedu

Collins Chinedu –  A former Zonal Coordinator of IPOB Hamburg, Germany and is the current National Coordinator of IPOB Germany

[KEVIN] With COVID-19 still a global issue, how is IPOB Germany ensuring that Biafrans in Germany are taking the pandemic seriously?

[COLLINS] Answering your question, the COVID pandemic is real, but it is unfortunate how a lot of people are playing down how deadly this pandemic is. I must also say that it has also been politicized. Having said that, I believe it is adamant that we take it serious. To answer your question of how IPOB is ensuring that Biafrans are taking the pandemic seriously; we try to educate Biafrans as much as we can in our meetings. We are constantly telling them that they need to be conscious of this disease and that they should try to adhere to the safety measures that the German government has put in place like social distancing, wearing masks, and using hand sanitizers. I think up until today we have not had any issue with COVID-19 infection or reported deaths resulting from COVID among the Biafran community in Germany. As for awareness, we are raising the issue that people must be cautious of this pandemic. I think we have done what we can and the fact that we are in Germany, everyone is conscious of this disease.

[KEVIN] Do you have an overview of all IPOB members/supporters in Germany? And how do you make sure that they are receiving the right information about what is happening in Nigeria? Do you send out a newsletter?

[COLLINS] OK. IPOB is an acronym which means or stands for Indigenous People of Biafra. Everybody that comes from the old Eastern Nigeria before 1970 is considered an Indigenous Person of Biafra. We have family unit members; in other words, family members that attend the IPOB meetings. They are the IPOB family members. Every other person is an IPOB member and whether they come to meetings or not, most of them support the movement because freedom … everybody wants to be free. I don’t think that anybody wouldn’t like to be free. Nobody likes to be oppressed, or maltreated … if you think about it, that is why husband and wife, or marriages are not the way they are supposed to be and end up in divorce. So in our case, I think every … everybody that likes freedom is supporting what we are doing, you know … and the … we … you can see that today, the Biafran issue has taken over social media. A lot of people are using different platforms to spread news about Biafra. We have our own website and coming soon to Germany will be a website that will be in German and English language. This is where Germans will go and get the information.

To be honest, I think the media has not been fair to … not only to Biafrans. They are not telling the truth. They only tell you things that they want you want to know. Media is an instrument that the government uses to control the people. So they just put out the information they want you want to get. The issue of Biafra before now … nobody talked about Biafra until IPOB came and it is still difficult for media houses to pronounce the Biafra issue … I don’t know why they have against us. Media houses like CNN, BBC… If they are even talking about Biafra, it is in a negative way. So we have our media warriors back home who are also doing their best to disseminate the information or creating awareness about the struggle, you know. On the other hand, Nigeria is always doing what they do best, which is trying to hide information. You know we have Radio Biafra, which is one of the most listened to Radio in the world. It is on Facebook, it is on Satellite. People listen to the broadcasts across the globe. Nnamdi Kanu, leader of IPOB is doing a very good job. He is really teaching people the things they need to know about Nigeria and the need for Biafra to be an independent nation.

[KEVIN] IPOB seems to be dominated by men. What are you doing to promote Biafran women? Do you have women’s issues on the IPOB platform?

[COLLINS] NO. They say that behind every successful man there is a good woman. Our women are very serious about the struggle. You might not see them come out and protest like they do in Biafraland, but they are strongly behind us. For your woman to allow you to go to demonstrations, that means she is supporting you. For her to allow you to go to meetings every now and then … because of Biafra she is supporting you. We have our women “week”. Going back to Biafra, the women there are very strong. We have our women leaders back home. They have their women gatherings and do their programs. And again, the head of our financial department of this struggle is a woman. She is charge of our finances. We don’t have issues with women in the struggle. They are with us and we respect them. They are part of what we are doing. I don’t know if you have read about the Aba Women’s Riots in 1929.

[KEVIN] Do you think it’s time to change tactics? Or are you happy with what IPOB has achieved? Do you think that your current tactics will achieve the goal of bringing the Nigerian government to the negotiating table?

[COLLINS] We, our tactics at the moment are really hitting Nigeria very hard. Just a few days ago the minister of information in Nigeria said that IPOB has destroyed the image of Nigeria abroad. Our diplomatic efforts are yielding good results and yes the end goal of our situation is for Nigeria to negotiate. The negotiations will be centered on how to reach an agreement on how to share our common wealth. You know there have been calls for Nigeria to be restructured but they refused. The Aburi accord of 1967 was about restructuring Nigeria.  Colonel Chukwuemeka “Emeka” Odumegwu-Ojukwu and the then head of state of Nigeria General Yakubu “Jack” Gowon were in Accra, Ghana, where the then president of Ghana General Joseph Arthur Ankrah had this agreement that Nigeria would be restructure to start practicing federalism so that every region would be autonomous and be able to govern itself. They all agreed but when they came back, General Gowan reneged on the agreement. The only negotiation Biafrans will want to have with Nigeria is just to come together and decide how they will share the commonwealth. We have crossed the road of further negotiations on other issues not related to sharing the commonwealth. Now we want total separation from Nigeria. That is the stand of IPOB.

[KEVIN] What issues are currently on the IPOB platform? I know what IPOB is and what it is fighting for, but what is IPOB bringing to the table? How is IPOB making a difference? How is IPOB different from other pro-Biafra groups?

[COLLINS] Like I already said, everybody is IPOB. What we want is the total dissolution of Nigeria. We want Biafrans to be independent. That is what we are calling for … that is what we are agitating. We are not agitating for restructuring. It’s just … a lot of people have died in this struggle … 3 million people were killed during the Nigeria-Biafra war. They died fighting for an independent Biafra and not for the restructuring of Biafra. In this generation, we have taken from where they stopped in the 60s. That is what we are asking for and nothing more. Talking about other pro-Biafra groups … yes, there are pro- Biafran groups but there some of them advocate the use of political means to achieve freedom. You know that it is not possible for any African country to just come out and say, “Yes, you people are asking for freedom, then you can have it and you can go”. It has never been accomplished. No country in Africa has emerged through peaceful means. Using political means to achieve freedom can work in the western world but not in Africa; like in the case of Scotland and Catalonia. But in Africa, it’s always gone through war. But IPOB is not instigating a war for freedom because we already fought the war in the 60s. We decided to take the approach of restoring Biafra through peaceful means. That involves using every known international treaty. And since Nigeria is a member of the African Union, who are also signatory to the UN charter that gives people the right self-determination, we will pursue this avenue to force dialogue.

[KEVIN] What is IPOB Germany doing at the moment to generate support from Germans and fellow Africans in Germany?

[COLLINS] We are still holding rallies. We just had a rally in Hamburg where I live. We had a rally last Saturday where 250 showed up. Biafrans and non-Biafrans alike were in attendance. We also had an event in Heilbronn. We are rallying to show Germans who we are and tell them our story. Like in the rally in Hamburg, a policeman was asking me who we are and what we are fighting for. I explained to him and he was surprised. A lot of people do now know what we are going through in Nigeria. So, we should tell our story ourselves and not allow someone else to tell the story for us because if someone else tells the story, they will tell it the way it suits them.

Apart from rallying, we are also making some diplomatic moves like writing letters to embassies, to consulates in Germany, to politicians in Germany, to parliamentarians in Germany. So, we are really doing our best to make sure that Germans get to know what is going on in Biafra and what we are doing about it. Once you get Germans to take up your cause, they are the once that will put pressure on their politicians. That is why we have IPOB family units. The essence of IPOB family units is for us to have grassroots sensitization and mobilization. And that is what we are doing. We are going out and talking to our people. We print and distribute flyers with our information. Just as an example – after our rally on Saturday in Hamburg, somebody from Watchtower, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, wrote us an email after seeing our flyer telling us how they have learned a lot about Biafra and are supporting our cause. We are really sensitizing people by telling our stories ourselves, and also increasing our diplomatic efforts to make sure that we get the support of Germans.

[KEVIN] Does IPOB have a charter? Do you think it’s time to have an IPOB charter? That clearly defines what IPOB wants and also clearly defines what the Biafran identity is?

[COLLINS] The issue of charter is, we have a lot of documents on who the Biafrans are, how our boundary was drawn and the actual boundary of Biafra. After this interview, we will furnish you with some documents so that can also see for yourself.

We have come a very long way. We have been in this IPOB struggle since 2013. The issue of charter, that is to say who are the Biafrans, what do Biafrans want, and our struggle for Biafra.

[KEVIN] Should the government of Nigeria agree to negotiations with IPOB (and other pro-Biafra groups), is IPOB ready for the negotiations and what are your negotiating positions?

[COLLINS] Yes, Kevin, like we already said, the end goal is negotiation. From the way we know Nigeria, they are not ready to negotiate unless they are forced to negotiate. That is what we are doing. We are forcing Nigeria to negotiate. Somebody who is milking you can never allow you to go away with your resources. The resources are what are keeping Nigeria as one. If the resources found in eastern Nigeria were in the north, there wouldn’t be a Nigeria. The oil in Biafraland is the reason Nigeria is one country. They won’t just let it go without putting up a fight. If they call us for negotiations, we will go with our terms and those terms I cannot tell you right now because it is up to the leadership of IPOB and other pro-Biafran groups to disclose them. From my own perspective, IPOB is only focused on the restoration of Biafra. They are not ready to negotiate. Everyone is asking for common restructuring, so that people can have … so that people can govern themselves. Nigeria is so big but Nigeria is not a nation. We are different from the northern people and we are different from the Yorubas. Having this cultural, religious and language difference is what makes us different. You know, Christianity and Islam cannot coexist side by side. Islam is the kind of religion that likes to dominate. So wherever they are, they want to dominate. Christians are peaceful. We have tolerated this nonsense for a long time. And now we say it’s enough. You can take the resources, but stop killing us. Stop killing us. The issue right now is that, if Nigeria calls us for negotiations, we will go to the table with our terms but I’m telling you that Nigeria will never call for negotiations.

[KEVIN] Thank you for taking part in this interview. If you think you can expand on my questions (or his answers), let me know in the comments sections below.

Link to the IPOB website: Here

Link to Dr. Fredrick Onyeali’s site: Here

Closing and takeaways

It’s clear that the struggle lives on 50 years after the Nigeria-Biafra war. After the interview, I came away with three takeaways:

Takeaway #1: Gauging from the level of excitement and conviction that Collins Chinedu and Dr. Fredrick Onyeali exhibited during the interview, it’s easy to see why IPOB has gained traction not only in Germany but around the globe. They both displayed a good level of understanding of the current situation in Biafra and the geopolitical ramifications of what the IPOB organization is trying to accomplish. They are very structure-oriented. I did not get the feeling that this was a one-man show.

Takeaway #2: I would have liked to hear from them that part of the IPOB agenda includes a platform that addresses the different areas that undermine women’s public health issues and political power in West Africa; issues such as gender inequality, weak economic capacity and gender-based violence that disproportionately affect women in the region. Women’s issues need to be addressed by IPOB as part of their Big-Tent approach to the restoration of Biafra. They should not forget the Aba Women’s Riots in 1929. Their reliance on a more conservative approach towards gender might cause them to loose support among Germany and international women who might otherwise be inclined to support them based on their inclusion of Biafran women’s issues on their agenda.

Takeaway #3: The IPOB organization is well structured to gain inroads within the African and Biafran diaspora. However, there is a lack of cohesion of message that will allow Biafrans in Nigerian and in diaspora to operate as one homogenous unit. Even though there are numerous pro-Biafran groups operating in Nigeria and in diaspora, there is an urgent need to define what a genuine Biafran future should look like. My question regarding a crystal clear Biafran charter did not really yield a satisfactory answer. Dr. Onyeali has promised to share his thoughts on the subject shortly. (Dr. Onyeali has recently provided me with his position paper on a Biafran National Charter – See the link below)

Food for thought

Is it time for the Nigerian government to proactively embrace the process of restoration of Biafra? Or do you think their belligerence is causing more harm to the Nigerian image and standing than to Biafra?

READ MORE interesting articles on the subject of Biafra here:

Biafran National Charter

Regional Security Concept

IPOB – The Indigenous People of Biafra

About Dr. Fredrick Onyeali 16 Articles
Dr. Fredrick Onyeali is an Elder Statesman of the IPOB. In 2012 he was inspired by Nnamdi Kanu and together with other elder statesmen; they formed what is now known as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) organization. Up until recently he was the National Coordinator of the IPOB in Germany and is presently an Elder Statesman of the IPOB. He continues to contribute to the Biafra struggle for independence in words and deed.

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