Less than one week after he returned from a three month medical vacation, President Muhammadu Buhari has given a marching order to the military to crush the dreams of Biafran insurgents and others violent agitators who want to divide Nigeria
In his first major speech after returning, Buhari said he was concerned by Nigerians who have “crossed our national red lines by daring to question our collective existence as a nation” and warned that threats to Nigeria’s unity would not be tolerated.
“Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable. We shall not allow irresponsible elements to start trouble, and when things get bad they run away and saddle others with the responsibility of bringing back order, if necessary with their blood,” said Buhari.
Buhari’s comments seem to have been directed at separatists calling for an independent state of Biafra in Nigeria and the rampaging Boko Haram ravaging the North East.
While Buhari has been recuperating in the U.K., pro-Biafra activists have gained momentum. The leader of one of the main activist groups, Nnamdi Kanu, has been riling up crowds and promising to visit major urban centers in Nigeria to spread his gospel of secession.
Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), was arrested in October 2015 and detained for over a year; he is currently on bail and faces trial for treasonable felony.
Tensions were also stoked in recently when, a coalition of youth groups from northern Nigeria ordered that the Igbos be expelled from the region.
Igbos are one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria and constituted the majority of Biafra’s population. The youth groups’ order was denounced by Nigeria’s Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo—who stood in for Buhari during his absence—but emphasized the ethnic divisions that persist in Nigeria.
IPOB has reacted angrily to Buhari’s return speech, accusing the Nigerian president of hypocrisy for supporting the self-determination of other groups while rejecting aspirations for Biafra.
Another prominent group, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, also vowed not to give up their dream and accused Buhari of “hatred against the people of Biafra.”