The name Biafra was coined by two men – Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu from Anambra state, South East Nigeria, and Chief Frank Opigo of the Ijaw tribe in the present-day Delta state. The two were instrumental in the actualization of the Republic of Biafra.
Ojukwu adopted the name Biafra as suggested by his friend Opigo but there are controversies over the real meaning of the name. Some say it is an Ijaw name, while others claim it is Igbo.
There is a school of thought that says the name Biafra has existed as Bight of Biafra or Bight of Bonny, since the slave trade era of 1519-1700. The region was reportedly identified by Europeans (and subsequent historians) to describe the part of the western African coast between the Niger River and Cape Lopez. It encompasses the coasts of several modern African nations, including eastern Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and northern Gabon.
How Many States Make up Biafra?
The present-day Republic of Biafra largely comprises Igbo-speaking states in the Southeastern part of Nigeria. They are Abia, Enugu, Imo, Anambra, and Ebonyi. However, Nnamdi Kanu, the Biafran leader, claims that Biafraland is made up of Rivers Province Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Imo, Anambra, Abia, Enugu, Bayelsa, and Delta.
In its description of Biafraland as a place that is rich with variety and diverse cultures, the IPOB also claims that Biafrans do not speak the same language, as many speak Igbo, and others speak Urhobo-Isoko, Ijaw-Epie-Ogbia, Ogoni, Efik, Annang, Eket, Oron-Ibibio, Ogoja, Ejagham, Igala, Idoma Ibani and Igbanke among others.
These provinces are located in the present-day Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, and Rivers states. States like Kogi, Edo, and Benue are partly included in the list of Brafra states because of tribes like the Igbanke, Igala, and Idoma
In terms of land mass, Biafraland extends over 30,000 square miles, walking through a large extent of the Niger River, the Kwa River, the Cross River, and the Imo River and has its coast to the South Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea. The Land is bordered in the east by Cameroon and in the north and west by Nigeria.
List of Biafra States in Nigeria
- Akwa Ibom,
- Cross River,
- Rivers states
Is Benue State Part of Biafra?
Benue as a state is not considered part of the Biafra land, however, a portion of the state, particularly the Igbo-speaking areas has been declared Biafra land by the IPOB. Igala people situated on the Eastern side of the river Niger and Benue confluence are considered a part of Biafra because of the large influence of the Igbo culture in the area.
The southern Igala land which constitutes Idah, parts of Ibaji, and parts of Igalamela/Odolu and Olamaboro were once occupied by Igbos. Igbo influences are still felt in the southern Igala land today. However, the people have strongly denied being part of the Biafraland.
The Idoma tribe were also mentioned to be part of the Biafra nation by the IPOB. The Idoma are an ethnolinguistic group that primarily inhabit the lower western areas of Benue State, with its kindred groups found in various parts of the Biafraland (Rivers, Enugu, Cross-River, and Nasarawa State). There are claims that some Idomas were originally Igbos who intermarried with the Northern fringes of Igboland.
Is Delta State Part of Biafra?
Delta as a state is not one of the states listed by Nnamdi Kanu and the IPOB as a Biafra state but the state is known to comprise mainly Igbo (Anioma people). The Ijaw community in particular has, however, been listed among the Biafra land following a said history of the community being divided between the Bight of Benin and the Bight of Biafra.
There are claims also that parts of the Ijaw land were founded by Igbos from the interior, including Opobo, Bonny, Okrika, etc. Francis Opigo’s contribution to the naming of the secessionist group could also be a contributing factor behind the assumption that the Niger-Delta state belongs to Biafra.
Mujahid Asari-Dokubo who is the leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Salvation Force (NDPSF) recently cleared the air on the issue of the true owners of Biafra. He claimed that Opigo’s primary contribution to the actualization of Biafra is a proof that Biafra belongs to the Ijaw people and that the name is Ijaw.
“We are the owners of Biafra. Biafra is an Ijaw name. The territory identified as Ijaw is Biafra with parts of Ibiobio and Oron. The real Biafra, the geographical location of Biafra is Ijaw,” he said while asserting that the likes of Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, an Ijaw revolutionary, was a Biafran long before the Republic of Biafra was created.
While the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, has declared that it would not force any ethnic nationality in the South-South to be part of Biafra, the South-South region, including Delta state has stressed their unwillingness to form an alliance with Biafra. Several groups from the Niger Delta states have also stressed that no part of the South-South geopolitical zone will be part of any “imagined Republic”.
Is Edo State Part of Biafra?
Edo state is not among the Biafra states mentioned by the pro-Biafra group. Although parts of the state, including the Ika and the Igbanke of Edo speak Igbo, the state has denied being part of the secessionist group.
Edo, prior to its creation, was under the defunct Bendel State. Before Bendel, they were under the mid-west region. According to reports, the region was captured by the Biafran forces and without known prior consultation and consensus, declared the Republic of Benin during the Nigerian civil war.