Nigeria became a unified country in 1914. Since then the country has facedÂ some serious trials against its unity, the most serious during the civilÂ war which took place 1967 â€“ 1970. It was a war that resulted after one ofÂ 4 regions at the time (the Eastern Igbo-dominated region) sought to secedeÂ from Nigeria after years of political unrest. This secession attempt wasÂ the culmination of the various contradictions within the Nigerian state.Â Before the Igbo secession that led to the war, the Yoruba of the thenÂ Western region as well as the Hausa-Fulani dominated Northern region hadÂ also contemplated and sometimes threatened secession. The civil war andÂ the victory for the Nigerian forces put paid to secession attempts â€“ for aÂ while.
Forty six years after the end of the civil war, the agitations
forÂ separation have resumed, with each wave seeming to
gain momentum than theÂ last. If the Nigerian state
continues the policy of either ignoring suchÂ agitations
or meeting them with punitive force, the present
South-EastÂ geopolitical zone (the South-East) and the
rest of Nigeria could beÂ heading for a messy divorce
with serious political and economicÂ consequences for
both parties. Following the return of democracy in 1999,
there was the formation of the Ralph Uwazurike led Movement For TheÂ Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). Things howeverÂ did not escalate significantly until 2005 when MASSOB reintroduced theÂ Biafran Pound into circulation. The move was met with unexpectedÂ excitement in the South East and the Obasanjo government moved to stem theÂ tide by arresting Uwazurike, keeping him incarcerated until the Yarâ€™AduaÂ government released him in 2007. Moves like the launch of the BiafranÂ Passport in 2009 led to several arrests of Uwazurike and his groupâ€™sÂ members, culminating in the Jonathan administration declaring the group anÂ extremist group in the same bucket as Boko Haram in 2013. The arrest inÂ Nigeria of the UK-based Radio Biafra â€œdirectorâ€ Nnamdi Kanu has brought toÂ the fore the clamour for a separatist Biafran nation. The rise of IPOB andÂ Nnamdi Kanu shows that except the issue is tackled at its root, newer,Â more sophisticated movements among ever younger generations demandingÂ Biafra will keep rising.
This report does not make a case either for or against the Igbo
Nationâ€™sÂ independence. The purpose
of this report is to empirically examine Biafra,Â its
history, its viability, the level of support it enjoys and
objectivelyÂ provide a case for or against Biafran
secession. We have examined the
available data and conducted interviews on the economics and politics ofÂ independence, and we have sought to present our conclusions in an easilyÂ understandable form. Our methodology for gauging support included first,Â the use of an online polling engine to capture the internet savvy (andÂ mostly educated â€“ over 70% with a minimum of BSc) Igbos located across theÂ country, and second face-to-face (on the ground) interviews to surveyÂ Igbos resident in the South East and South South. We quickly observed thatÂ discussions on the issue of a Biafran state can be volatile. Online, itÂ often devolved into ethnic shouting matches, and on the ground, itÂ sometimes lead to dangerous encounters for our correspondents. ForÂ example, our correspondent was arrested by the police in Ebonyi forÂ conducting the survey and the survey forms seized.
Both polls, online and offline, asked questions around whether respondentsÂ wanted a referendum on Biafran independence and then what their responsesÂ would be if the referendum was indeed carried out. A surprisingly largeÂ percentage of online respondents were in favour of a referendum toÂ determine if the South East and other regions should pursue independenceÂ (79.1%). Few of the respondents were in favour of maintaining the statusÂ quo (24.6%) â€“ i.e. Nigeriaâ€™s present â€œunitary federal structureâ€. Few ofÂ the respondents were in favour of full independence too (23.5%). MostÂ online respondents preferred autonomy (26.2%) and limited autonomyÂ (including resource control) (25.7%). Most offline respondents wanted fullÂ independence. On the issue of a referendum, most people, in both surveys,Â want to have at least a shot at a referendum. If this happens, and theÂ Igbo people vote to leave Nigeria, the task will not be easy as theÂ economy, politics, culture and society of the Igbo Nation is more-or-lessÂ fully integrated into the larger Nigerian nation.