“I’m not a Nigerian,” said Mr. Gabriel, a motorcycle parts dealer in a suburb of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. “I’m a Biafran.”
Almost 50 years after Nigeria’s brutal civil war put down a secessionist movement among the nation’s Igbo community — one of Africa’s largest indigenous groups — sentiments such as those expressed by Mr. Gabriel remain common among the Igbo who crave a state of their own, known as Biafra.
And over the past year, the uptick in armed robbery, ritual killings, kidnappings and separatist agitation has sent tremors across the country as the deep-seated frustrations of the Igbo mount against the central government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

And with the economy in crisis and the fight against the violent Islamist movement Boko Haram still being waged in the north, the cohesion of Africa’s largest nation is being stretched to the limit, say analysts.
“With the Nigerian military trying to contain Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, opening another front in the southeast may prove expensive, particularly now that oil revenue has fallen sharply,” said Jeff Okoroafor, a political analyst in Abuja and head of Opinion Nigeria, a citizen’s rights group.
The Igbo of southeastern Nigeria first attempted to secede back in the mid-1960s, triggering a three-year civil war that ended in 1970 and killed more than 1 million people. A famine that struck the Igbo region attracted global attention and condemnation of the government’s handling of the conflict.

Beginning in the early 2000s, new secessionist calls ramped up again amid frustration over the handling of postwar reintegration efforts. But the new impetus for Igbo unrest comes from more recent grievances: The level of development and economic opportunity in Igbo strongholds mainly in the south pale in comparison to those in Nigeria’s north, say locals.
“The Igbo feel they are not part of the government, that government is too far away from them, and they are not getting the dividends of democracy,” said Mr. Okoroafor, who himself is Igbo. The Igbo are estimated to be almost 20 percent of Nigeria’s 186 million people.

Most of all, with a deteriorating economy that is hitting their strongholds hard, Igbo leaders say they are driven to fight due to the bleak future facing their children.


Publisher: Prince Richmond C. Amadi 
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