Nigeria: Biafra independence more important than Peter Obi as president of a failed system – IPOB

By Ben Ezeamalu
Posted on Monday, 2 January 2023 12:54

IPOB's Emma Powerful

In this exclusive interview with the elusive spokesperson of Nigeria's separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Emma Powerful speaks to the 2023 general election, Peter Obi's candidacy, and the sit-at-home practice in the southeastern part of the country.

In 1967, the Republic of Biafra, a country comprised mostly of Igbos from southeastern Nigeria, announced its secession from Nigeria leading to a civil war.

It rejoined Nigeria after a defeat by the Nigerian military in the three-year war. Since 2014, The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has attempted to restore the Republic. The separatist group is founded by Nnamdi Kanu, a British Nigerian who is currently facing terrorism-related charges before a Nigerian court.

Emma Powerful has been IPOB’s spokesperson since its inception. During that period, he successfully shielded his personal details from the public: he never agrees to physical interviews and would only speak via phone or press statements.

In this interview, Powerful tells The Africa Report‘s Ben Ezeamalu about the group’s position on the 2023 general election in Nigeria, allegations that he is behind the attacks in the southeastern part, and the sit-at-home practice in the region.

Powerful declined repeated requests for a face-to-face interview and preferred that questions be sent to him via Whatsapp.

Here are the excerpts of the interview, edited for clarity:

The Africa Report: What is IPOB’s position towards the 2023 general election?

Emma Powerful: IPOB has unequivocally made its position regarding the 2023 election and elections very clear and open to everyone that wants to know, which is, for the avoidance of doubt, that IPOB has no interest whatsoever in the 2023 Nigerian selection process. The enemies of Biafra, however, keep on linking IPOB to those criminals who wish to demonise IPOB and ESN. This strategy of trying to drag IPOB into a process that ab initio is programmed to produce a particular result is simply to give legitimacy to a flawed process and IPOB will not be part of it. Moreover, our position is clearly and expressly stated in the series of IPOB  press releases on this topic.

For emphasis, the Nigerian government, the Press, and Media should leave IPOB out of their shambolic selection process because Nigeria can never conduct credible elections no matter what INEC tells you. Nigeria is highly compromised and lacks transparency. That’s why we don’t have confidence in the failed system of a failed country.

The international community knows this as well but for their own interest, they have continued to prop up and protect a foundationally and morally bad system. We pity the genuine candidates contesting elections in Nigeria because we know the highly compromised system will never permit them the opportunity to address that foundational problem confronting Nigeria.

Our demand is simple and consistent. Give Biafrans a date for a referendum to decide our own fate whether or not we want to continue being part of a totally failed contraption or stand on our own and build a future for our children.

But it’s unfortunate that instead of understanding our position the enemies are trying to blame Nigeria’s innate failure on IPOB. We have no issues with INEC because INEC is not even the main problem and therefore have no reason to declare war on INEC.

Focusing on INEC is missing the core problem confronting Nigeria. We have not called for a boycott of the election. Why should we dissipate our energy on something we do not believe in? Our focus is Biafra and our position is simple: We have no interest in Nigeria as an entity and therefore have absolutely nothing to do with its flawed election.

TAR: Would Peter Obi’s emergence as Nigeria’s president assuage the agitation for Biafra?

Powerful: Our position is not about the individuals or persons wishing to participate in a flawed process. We are saying that Nigeria has a fundamental foundational problem that must first be resolved before the issue of election and the personalities that wish to participate in elections thereafter are thematised.

Our agitation for freedom pre-dates Peter Obi’s desire to contest as president of Nigeria. Goodluck Jonathan was president for five years. It did not stop our [agitation] for self-determination, so why would any reasonable person even think that the liberty and freedom of Biafrans can be exchanged with Peter Obi emerging as a Nigerian president? And after his tenure what then?

There is nothing that can assuage the intrinsic desire for the freedom of Biafrans because freedom is forever. Can anyone equate true and lasting freedom with an eight-year term, that is assuming for the sake of argument, he wins? People should detach Peter Obi from Biafra’s agitation. Biafra’s independence is far above the emergence of Peter Obi as president of a failed system and a failed state; the two have no connection at all.

TAR: Nigeria’s law enforcement agents routinely blame ESN and IPOB for the violence in the southeast. The recent attack on INEC offices in the region is one example. Are you behind those attacks?

Powerful: Certainly not! IPOB has no hand in the attacks on INEC facilities. Nigeria’s Fulanised government knows the game it is playing. Forget the media propaganda to demonise IPOB. Virtually everything that happens in the South East they say is IPOB. But those who are discerning enough know the truth. You will agree that the attacks on INEC facilities are not limited to the South East. It’s also in the South West and Northern states.

Is it IPOB that is also attacking the facilities in the North and Yoruba land? Has INEC itself not told the world that bad politicians are behind the attacks, yet Nigeria security agencies and the Zoo shameless media will keep pointing their accursed fingers at IPOB? We are a nonviolent movement and we have remained ideologically and philosophically consistent as far as our modus operandi is concerned.

TAR: If yes, do you think they would help your cause?

Powerful: I said before, that we are not after INEC because INEC is not our problem. Any criminal hiding under IPOB to attack INEC facilities should be treated like a common criminal. IPOB has not called for a boycott of the 2023 elections let alone attacking INEC facilities. Please leave us out of it. Our major preoccupation is a referendum date for Biafra. Nigeria should stop blaming IPOB for the attacks on INEC facilities.

TAR: The southeast is now seen as unsafe, even for Igbos, because of the regular killings that happen there. Fingers are usually pointed toward “unknown gunmen.” A lot of people believe that ESN was established to help tackle widespread insecurity.

Powerful: The southeastern region is safe.  There is no region safer than the South East but the myopic and selfish political elite in the South East have allowed our enemies to use the media to create the wrong impression that the South East is insecure. The same people behind the criminal activities of their hired hands in the South East are the same people using the media to destroy the zone.

Most of the victims of the attacks in the North are security agents from Southern Nigeria yet life goes on yet any time there is an incident in the South East they will run to the press and accuse IPOB even without investigation.

We are not unknown gunmen, we said it severally and ESN operatives are still doing what IPOB and Mazi Nnamdi Kanu set it up to do; they are still carrying out their function to keep our forests and farmlands safe for our people to engage in their farming activities and they will defend our people in Biafraland when and if the need arises. You can see what ESN is doing in Eha Amufu, Enugu State. Go there and ask the people about ESN activities because they confirmed what they see. We are not unknown gunmen, please.

TAR: This week, a suspected ESN member arrested for terrorism named you as one of the sponsors of the criminal attacks in the southeast. What’s your response?

Powerful: You people are making mistakes by linking me to criminals and hoodlums and terrorists while you know I am a spokesperson. Where do I sponsor them? The man was staged to be talking rubbish. Don’t you see how the man was standing like a mad man?

TAR: Is IPOB still enforcing the Monday sit-at-home order in the southeast?

Powerful: IPOB has since a long time ago cancelled the Monday sit-at-home it initially declared. There was public outcry after we made that declaration and as a movement fighting for the people, we pay attention to the demands of our people. So, anybody enforcing sit-at-home in the South East is not IPOB but a saboteur working with our enemies. We do not enforce Sit-At-Home. Our people observe IPOB Sit-At-Home voluntarily and not with compulsion.

Our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, instructed the DOS and leadership who initiated sit-at-home to stop it and we did.  Anybody trying to enforce sit-at-home on Mondays in Biafra is certainly not one of us but working for the enemies.

TAR: What is your relationship with Simon Ekpa, the man who lives in Finland and who regularly issues directives to IPOB members in the southeast?

Powerful: IPOB has no relationship whatsoever with the criminal you mentioned now. The little relationship he had with our leader was when he interviewed our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, on his social media platform. He deluded himself after that interview that he has arrived. It is very important to state here that he does not give directives to the IPOB movement and can never do so.

IPOB is not a place for people like him, the modern Ukpabi Asika who work for the enemies of Biafra and the Biafran people. If he feels he gives directives to the IPOB movement worldwide, let him tell IPOB worldwide to protest in any country they are, even in Finland and see who will listen to him.

He knows he does not have what it takes to give directives to IPOB families because you cannot direct a movement to which you do not belong and do not understand its intricacies. But DOS can give IPOB members worldwide an order to protest, even our women at home, DOS and Mazi Chika Edoziem gave them an order to protest for the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and they complied.

Ekpa can only give directives to his co-travellers and criminal gangs being used by our enemies to demonise IPOB. We have severally dissociated IPOB from these agent provocateurs whose only purpose as given to them by their paymasters is to delay our match to freedom. How can you be hurting the interest of the same people you claim to be fighting for? That is completely antithetical to our fundamental principles and objectives.

TAR: You have accused the US government of aiding the Nigerian government’s ‘atrocities’ against the Igbos. Recently, you attacked the British High Commissioner for being a “biased diplomat”. You have also attacked a number of other Western nations for supporting the Nigerian government. Does IPOB have any allies?

Powerful: Don’t misconstrue what we said about the US government. America is too big to support atrocities in Nigeria but Nigeria cannot buy the American government over. Don’t you know your history, the flag independence we got in Africa, that the American government forced Europe to leave Africa after the Second World War? How can the American government allow itself to be belittled by the little Nigerian government for not speaking the truth about the rule of law? All we said was that America should speak up.

America should tell Nigeria to release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally because the UN Working Group has said so. Again, the Nigerian Appeal Court, a court of competent jurisdiction has delivered judgement ordering the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally and adequate compensation paid to him for the violent infringement on his fundamental human rights.

About the British High Commissioner, everybody in Nigeria knows that she interferes with regional and state affairs. How many diplomats engage in the intolerable activities she involves herself in? Not even the American ambassador gets herself so deep into the affairs of a supposed Independent country. Where does that sort of nonsense happen in the west? Except you want to say that Nigeria is not an independent and sovereign country. Except you want to say that Nigeria remains an appendage and colony of the British.

She is a British diplomat sent here to protect the interest of the British which is fine but that must not be at the detriment of the Biafran people.  She junkets around every part of Nigeria talking down on Ndigbo and Biafra because she is a replica of Lord Lugard and his girlfriend, Flora Shaw.

During that genocidal war against Ndigbo we lost over five million people and that cannot happen to us again. An independent and sovereign Biafran nation will enter into a mutually beneficial relationship, not that of superior and inferior partners. If Britain exited from the EU through a referendum, why does she not want Biafra to also leave Nigeria through a referendum?

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