No Referendum, No Election: Biafra Agitation and the Boycott of the 2017 Anambra State Governorship Election
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have threatened to stop the November 18, Anambra Governorship Election. The IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu had earlier posited that unless the Nigerian State calls for a referendum to determine the status of the country, there would be no election in Anambra State. In series of press interviews and YouTube videos, Kanu insisted that the November Anambra election would not hold. It is important to point out that the agitation for the Sovereign State of Biafra never died since the end of the civil war in 1970. The agitation is not unconnected to a perceived skewed distribution of resources and opportunities in the country since the end of the civil war in 1970.
The opportunity to return the Biafra issue to the political front burner was provided immediately the country returned to democracy in 1999 when the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) was launched under the leadership of Ralph Nwazurike.
The strong resurgence for the Sovereign State of Biafra received a fillip immediately after President Buhari’s address at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) on July 22, 2015. In his response to a participant on how he would bring development to the oil-rich Niger Delta region in the south that has suffered decades of environmental degradation due to oil spills and oil bunkering, he remarked that:
“I hope you have a copy of the election results, Naturally, the constituencies that gave me 97 percent cannot, in all honesty, be treated in the same way on some issues with constituencies that gave me five percent” (Aljazeera 30 May, 2017).
This statement was interpreted to refer to the South East where he got five percent of the presidential votes. Although President Buhari went on to say that the principles of federal character should prevail, his initial statement was taken as a political testament. Immediately after the speech, Pro-Biafra movements such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Biafra Independent Movement (BIM), Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), and People of Biafra Rebranded (IPOBR) all re-emerged with a strengthened call for self-determination and the independence of Biafra.