The Indigenous People Of Biafra, IPOB, currently has an embassy in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque Country in northern Spain, which opened in February 2015. In a message to Newsweek conveyed through a spokesperson for the Kanu family, Kanu says the movement will be adding further embassies over the course of the year.
IPOB’s head of directorate of state, Uchenna Asiegbu, who heads up the Biafran embassy in Spain, told Newsweek that a number of countries—including Sweden, Russia, Canada, the U.S. and Australia—are on the shortlist as potential destinations for the next embassy.
We are looking at two or three countries but we have not made up our minds,” he says. “In some months to come, we will be making that decision.
Asiegbu adds that the Basque Country was chosen as the location for the first IPOB embassy because of its history as the site of a struggle for independence. The Basque Country was afforded the status of an autonomous community in the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and has since been mired in a bloody bid for freedom from Spain, led by the armed group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA).
In the Basque region, they believe in freedom, they value freedom, they value human integrity.
That is why we chose the Basque region.
IPOB is one of several groups campaigning for Biafran independence. Another group, the Movement for the Actualization of a Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), has reportedly issued Biafran passports to its members, which it claims are valid anywhere except Nigeria, though U.K. and U.S. authorities do not recognize the passports. Asiegbu says that IPOB was not involved with the passport idea.
That has nothing to do with IPOB.
Until we are recognized as a sovereign nation, we will not be doing that.
Asiegbu says the embassy in Spain was established as a precursor to an independent Biafra but is not recognized by the Spanish government. He says it attends to the needs of some 20 million Biafrans around the world, lobbying countries on their behalf.
Asiegbu adds that plans for further embassies are dependant on Kanu’s release.
We are seeking the peaceful release of our leader. If anything happens to him in prison, they [Nigerian authorities] know the consequences.
Newsweek has frequently contacted spokespeople for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who have declined to comment on the issue of Biafran independence and Kanu’s detention. In December 2015, Buhari said that Kanu can’t be released on bail because he is a flight risk.
In his first media chat as President, Buhari said:
There is a treasonable felony against him and I hope the courts will listen to the case.