While the world seems preoccupied by the independence of Britain from the EU, a less known but an easily ignored and important plea for independence is coming out of Western Africa. Nigeria has a population of roughly 180 million people with a balanced religious mix of roughly 49.3% Christian and 48.8% Muslim. Most of the Christians live in southern Nigeria, a land previously controlled for over thousands of years by a people living in a land known as Biafra. Biafrans were a proud people. They were mostly Christian and a bastion of free-enterprise in Western Africa. With the formation of Nigeria in the breakup of Great Britain’s empire, Biafra lost its independence when it was unilaterally combined with the Muslim dominated north.
Today, the drive for a Muslim caliphate in Africa remains focused on three primary African states, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, where large populations of Christians remain. The all-out effort to destabilize the Christian power base has been carried out by Al-Shabaab in Kenya and Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria.
Boko Haram, an extremist Sunni Islamic fundamentalist sect strongly influenced by the Wahhabi movement, is committed to establish Nigeria as an Islamic State under Sharia Law. Their impact is strongest in the North. Seeking more grazing land for their herds, Fulani militants, linked to Boko Haram, have killed at least 20,000 people since 2009. The Fulani herdsmen have been moving south to areas dominated by Christians and non-religious farmers. They are well armed, and their coordinated attacks are increasing.
The atrocities against moderate Muslims and Christians are well documented but not widely covered in the Western press. Recently, angry Muslims youths in Kano decapitated a woman plastics trader alleging that she blasphemed the Prophet Muhammad. When the shop owner refused to allow a young man to wash his legs for the usual Muslim’s prayers in her shop because other customers were there, the young man shouted Allahu Akbar and lied to his friends that the owner had blasphemed. They dragged her away, beheaded her carried her head through the market and town center.
Many feel that now is the time for Biafra independence. The Biafran “George Washington,” Nnamdi Kanu, remains in jail on trumped up charges. Judges have refused to officially charge him. But fearing his leadership, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has kept him under lock and key. His sustained incarceration has just fueled the flames for independence. The number of supporters of freedom for Biafra has quadrupled since Kanu’s imprisonment.
Recently, Niger Delta Avengers blew up vital Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation oil pipelines. A new militant group, Red Egbesu Water Lions, has joined them in demanding that Nnamdi Kanu be released. Unless the Buhari government releases Kanu and moves toward a referendum on independence for Biafra, militants promise to shut down oil and gas production in the region.
In the past, Shell and British Petroleum have formed lucrative agreements with the Northern Muslim politicians to control 80% of the Nigerian oil, primarily from wells in the south. Not only are resources from Biafra being sold and profits diverted, the lack of environmental controls have resulted in pollution—hurting farming and fishing in the south.
Freedom isn’t free, but nowhere in Africa is freedom more important than in Biafra. But what are the Western powers doing? Unfortunately, very little. Britain has called for the release of Nnamdi Kanu but said little about the freedom referendum he supports. While covering the atrocities of Boko Haram in the North, there is little or no coverage of the Islamic terrorists brutalizing the Biafran Christians in the South.
This is about more than stopping Islamic extremism in Nigeria. Supporting the freedom of Biafra establishes a beachhead for Christian capitalism in Africa that puts a stop to a vision of a united Muslim caliphate in all of Africa.
America received support from France in breaking free of England. It’s time for the UN and Western powers to do their part to free the people of Biafra while independence is still possible without expanded bloodshed.