So many things have gone wrong with Nigeria that an increasing number of people have embraced separatism. Apart from Nnamdi Kanu, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader, Sunday Igboho has been championing this political ideology in the West African nation since January 2021. An activist, philanthropist, and businessman, Igboho has always been a popular figure since the role he played in the Modakeke-Ife communal crisis in 1997. Nonetheless, he gained nationwide fame in January 2021 after he issued a 7-day ultimatum that demanded Fulani herders to leave the Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State.
Since then, the 49 years old Nigerian from Igboho, Oke Ogun, Oyo State, has had several run-ins with the Nigerian government for reasons that boil down to his agitation for the Oduduwa Republic, a separatist state for the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Earlier in July 2021, the Department of State Service (DSS) declared Igboho wanted, alleging that he stockpiled arms in his home. Reports have it that the activist was arrested on Monday night, 19th of July 2021.
The Yoruba Activist Was Arrested In Cotonou, Benin Republic
In Buhari's Nigeria, it's a crime to seek freedom from oppression, and that's the offence of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho.
Yoruba elders, we are watching you.
— Ayemojubar (@4thArmOfGovt) July 20, 2021
When the DSS raided Sunday Igboho’s home in July, they arrested and paraded some of his supporters. Speaking to the press, Peter Afunnaya, the service spokesperson, related that the DSS raided Sunday’s home in Soka, Ibadan, after it learned that he stockpiled arms in his home. According to Afunnaya, operatives of the service were attacked by Igboho’s guards when they raided his home. And in a shootout that ensued, two of the guards were gunned down and others arrested.
Adding that the DSS recovered several weapons, including pump-action guns, AK-47 assault rifles, and whatnot, the DSS spokesperson declared Igboho wanted, asserting that he had been leading a group that undermines public order in the guise of campaigning for self-determination. The service advised Igboho to turn himself in, affirming that raiding his home confirmed a grand plan to stir a violent insurrection against the government of Nigeria.
Nonetheless, the separatist didn’t surrender himself to the authorities and had evaded arrest until the 19th of July. From what we gathered, he was arrested in Cotonou, the economic hub of Benin, another country in West Africa. Details of his arrest are still sketchy, but sources from security operatives in Nigeria have divulged that he was planning to travel to Germany from Cotonou.
Fact Check: Did Sunday Igboho Surrender Himself to The Nigerian Government?
While several platforms reported that the Yoruba nation agitator was arrested in Cotonou and would be repatriated to Nigeria to face the law, it has been claimed in some quarters that he wasn’t arrested but willingly surrendered himself to the Nigerian authorities. BuzzNigeria has traced this narrative to Pelumi Olajengbesi, one of the lawyers representing the separatist and his supporters arrested.
Speaking to SaharaReporters, Olajengbesi confirmed Sunday Igboho’s arrest. However, he argued that the separatist isn’t a threat to Nigeria and stated that the Yoruba activist was only arrested because he wanted to avail himself to the government. According to the lawyer, the separatist isn’t someone that can be easily apprehended: he allowed his arrest because he believes it’s the right thing for his campaign to ensure justice for the Yoruba people.
How Nnamdi Kanu’s Arrest Inspired The Arrest of The Yoruba Separatist
Kanu was handed over by the Kenya government. Sunday Igboho arrested by the Benin republic government. It shows Africa governments are United in oppression but not development pic.twitter.com/2ZTFYQEoDK
— MERCIFULGOD (@GeneralVjay) July 20, 2021
While details of Sunday Igboho’s arrest are still emerging, it is speculated that the same modus operandi used for the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu was utilized for apprehending his Yoruba counterpart. Although this has not been substantiated, it is not difficult to see why people have spread this narrative. The DSS had been after Kanu since September 2017, when he disappeared after the Nigerian military raided his home.
The IPOB leader agitating to restore the separatist state of Biafra evaded arrest until the 27th of June 2021, when he was arrested in Kenya and extradited to Nigeria to face trial. It was initially claimed that the Kenyan police arrested Kanu, but the Attorney-General and Justice Minister of Nigeria, Abubakar Malami, later related that the separatist was arrested with the help of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).
As such, people have come to believe that the international establishment that facilitates police cooperation across the globe has a hand in Sunday Igboho’s arrest. When the DSS declared him wanted, it alerted licensing authorities outside the country that the Yoruba separatist would attempt to replace his personal permits and identity cards. So, it is only natural to conclude that Sunday Igboho was arrested with some help from foreign security operatives.
Public Reactions to Sunday Igboho’s Arrest
As one would expect, the arrests of the Yoruba nation agitator have generated mixed reactions among Nigerians. While those that regard his activities as a threat to the unity of Nigeria consider his arrest as a good development, Nigerians who believe in the right to agitate for self-determination are not happy about it. Some prominent citizens of the country have also commented on the arrest.
Reno Omokri, a lawyer and human rights activist who served as the media aide of former president Goodluck Jonathan described the arrest as unfortunate. Omokri took to Twitter to describe Sunday Igboho as a freedom fighter who defended Nigerians. With that, he urged that Nigerians must also defend him through gathering resources for his legal defense. The lawyer called on Yoruba groups like Afenifere and prominent figures from the tribe to openly start a fundraiser that would support the legal defense of the separatist.
The reported arrest of Sunday Igboho in Cotonou is unfortunate. He is a hero freedom fighter who defended us. We must also defend him and gather resources for his legal defence. Igboho deserves the same commitment from us, that Buhari is showing to killer herdsmen#TableShaker pic.twitter.com/c7GLZQbz1n
— Reno Omokri (@renoomokri) July 20, 2021
Also reacting to the arrest, Professor Banji Akintoke, the leader of Yoruba Self-Determination Groups, revealed that he and other prominent members of the umbrella body are already working towards stopping the extradition of Sunday Igboho to Nigeria.
#FreesundayIgboho: The arrest of Sunday Igboho in Cotonou by the Beninoise authorities was orchestrated by tyrant Muhammadu Buhari. No crime asking for self determination. Let’s all oppressed people UNITE. A govt that pampers bandits and terrorists! #BuhariMustGo #RevolutionNow
— Omoyele Sowore (@YeleSowore) July 20, 2021
Deji Adeyanju, an activist and social commentator, has also made several tweets condemning the arrest. In one of his tweets, he wondered while the president has not done anything to rescue the 125 students bandits kidnapped in Kaduna state but has crossed the country’s borders to “abduct” Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho.