Yesterday, well over seven thousand members of both the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), shut down markets and all commercial activities in Nnewi and Onitsha areas of Anambra State concurrently in a solidarity protest demanding the immediate release of the Director of Radio Biafra, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, who has been held in custody by the Directorate of State Services (DSS), since October 2015.
For the Nnewi rally, supporters of MASSOB and the IPOB which were mobilized from the five south-eastern states, converged at St. Mary’s Junction from where they marched to the house of the late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu as they displayed placards with different pro-Nnamdi Kanu slogans, such as ‘Free Nnamdi Kanu,’ ‘No Biafra, No Peace,’ ‘Free Biafra,’ ‘Biafra now or never,’ ‘We want Biafra now,’ etc. The protesters moved through Nkwo Nnewi market, down to the express way leading to Nnewi Area Command, through Odumegwu Ojukwu’s residence to Owerri Road, Nkwo Nnewi Triangle and later headed for Awka-Etiti through Nnobi.
Speaking with journalists, Mr. Emeka Onwane, who is one of the IPOB commanders said that the protest was done in order to send a signal to the Federal Government to release their leader without any delay. He said the protest, which would last for three days, is meant to keep the town and market grounded in a bid to buttress their demand to the government. He said the demand must be met, or else there will be no peace in the country.
He said: “IPOB is looking up to the international community including the United States, Russia, France and every other country excluding Britain which is the enemy of Biafra. We are not talking about Igbo presidency; we are talking about an independent nation of Biafra. So, we are looking up to world leaders to help us actualize Biafra.”
On the closure of the markets, traders under the aegis of South-East Amalgamated Markets Traders Association (SEAMATA), yesterday, stated that they were in total support of the pro-Biafra groups but condemned the invasion of markets by the agitators.
President-General of the association, Chief Okwudili Ezenwankwo in a press statement, jointly signed with the Secretary-General, Mr. Temple Udeh, noted that in as much as the traders support the movement for the state of Biafra, they were in total condemnation of a situation where the pro-Biafra agitators/protesters allowed themselves to be infiltrated by some miscreants who cashed in on the protest to loot and do all sorts of things in the markets.
“To set the record straight and for the purpose of clarity, the traders are not challenging the constitutional right of peaceful assembly of any one. We only condemn the attitude of the protesters (or miscreants that infiltrated them) that went into markets, chased the traders out and closed the entrances to the market,” he added.
In a new twist, the national leader of MASSOB, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, has been expelled from the group, with Uchenna Madu, former national director of information, installed as the new national leader of the group. According to a communiqué released on Monday, November 30 at the well attended installation ceremony, Ugwuoke Ibem Ugwuoke, emerged as national secretary. The communiqué also accuses Uwazurike of using the groups agitation to pursue his own political ambition in Nigeria. The communiqué read:
“A vote of no confidence and total rejection has been passed on Ralph Uwazuruike. His inability to sustain and maintain Ojukwu’s dream of Biafra actualization, his deviation into the mainstream of Nigerian politics and using the Biafra struggle to enhance his selfish political ambition in Nigeria are the reasons for our rejection of his association with Biafra struggle.”
Members of MASSOB have been dissatisfied with the way Uwazuruike recklessly embezzled the groups’ funds and were pleased to see him expelled. Many accused him of defrauding them through the introduction of the Biafra international passport, which they say was a gross and dubious means through which he generated about N100 million for himself. Some alleged that after the dedication of the Biafran war veterans home in Okwe, built by MASSOB members, the over N40 million realized was diverted to his private pocket.
The group has therefore warned Uwazuruike “to stop parading himself as MASSOB leader or using Ojukwu’s name to dupe Ndigbo or garner personal fame to pursue his political ambition.” This development has led to the group splitting into two, with Uwazuruike heading a part and Madu heading the other part.