By Lawrence Njoku (Enugu) and Osiberoha Osibe (Awka)
09 June 2020.
• Members predict fresh manhunt as Ohanaeze cautions FG on backlash
The leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, declared yesterday that every kobo contributed by members of the group worldwide was being invested into “dismantling Nigeria and restoring the state of Biafra.”
Kanu was responding to an allegation by the presidency on Sunday that the group he leads was using Christianity to ignite war in Nigeria. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Mallam Garba Shehu had alleged that IPOB was spending huge sums of money on a divisive campaign against Nigeria.
“Nigerians and the international community are advised to be wary of this divisive campaign, which available evidence shows is being funded with a monthly spending of $85,000 USD since October 2019, with no records of the source of this largesse,” the spokesman said.
He added: “There is also a UK and European angle of the campaign, which is more opaque than its US sister campaign – given there is less legal requirement for public filings – but what is known of this at the moment is that their budget is sufficient to hire four PR firms in the UK, Belgium, France and the U.S.”
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“International groups and societies are welcome to send representatives to Nigeria and give a lie to the false claims made by these terrorist groups who are duping them of their money and involving them in conduct and activities disguised to destroy the harmonious relationships existing between their home countries and Nigeria.”
But in a personally signed statement issued through Media and Publicity Secretary Comrade Emma Powerful, Kanu said: “Every dime the indomitable IPOB family worldwide contributes towards our liberation goes towards the dismantling of Nigeria and the restoration of Biafra. I mean every dime.”
Insisting he has no ulterior motive, he noted: “I Mazi Nnamdi Kanu have no mansion. I have no car. I have no hotel. I have no University. I have no government contract. I don’t lie. I don’t cheat. I don’t steal. All I have is the grace of Chukwu Okike Abiama (Almighty God) to do His will, which is to restore Biafra in truth and honesty.
“Once again, the Nigerian government has inadvertently confirmed that we spend big on our diplomatic offensive. We have destroyed Nigeria and by the time we are done with them, the name, Nigeria will cease to exist.”
Kanu said the growing campaign for Biafra has become a thorn in the flesh of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, hence the internationalisation of the agitation.
He alleged that since 2015, thousands of IPOB members have met their death through extrajudicial killings by Nigerian security agencies. According to him, many others have also been arrested and imprisoned without bail or trial by agents of the administration.
Members of the group have been reacting to the statement from the presidency. While some described it as a ploy for another manhunt against members, others said it showed the government was already jittery, knowing that the group’s cause had gained global attention and that help was on the way.
One member, Chief Ikechi Agu, alleged: “There is a ploy to hound more members of our group into prison. That is why they are raising the issue. We all know that what we have done so far is through diplomacy and not violence. If government is sincere, let it deny that security forces are not killing Ndigbo. Let it deny that we are not marginalised. Let it deny that there is no justice, equity and fairness in the country, especially since Buhari assumed power.”
Reacting, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said Kanu’s claims, which “is the right to self-determination, is guaranteed in the laws and constitution of the land.”
Deputy National Publicity Secretary Mazi Chuks Ibegbu said: “IPOB is not using any violence and we are still in Nigeria and we have to be law-abiding citizens. But be that as it may, the government is advised to ascertain the truism or veracity of their claim, so as not to embark on any action that could endanger a particular section of the country.
“Ohanaeze is still committed to the restructuring of Nigeria, to give us equal sense of belonging. Kanu is talking about self-determination. How he goes about it without insulting anybody is not bad. And since the group he leads is not violent, I don’t see anything bad with it.”
On fears that the presidency’s statement might pave the way for an attack on the region and on members of the group, Ibegu said: “There is nothing you cannot consider a possibility because of past experiences. But we are warning against any act of terror being unleashed on Igboland. We will resist it. If the Federal Government has issues with Kanu, it should follow due process, devoid of violence. No killing. No intimidation. But let common sense prevail. We will resist any attempt to cause chaos in Igboland.”
Face-off between the presidency and IPOB had died down after the government proscribed the group, declaring it “a terrorist organisation,” and after Kanu had fled the country alleging a plot against his life.