Nigeria will on Tuesday mark 50 years since separatist groups in the country pushed for the creation of an independent Republic of Biafra – a move which plunged the country into a civil war.
An estimated one million people died, many of them from starvation after the secessionist region was blockaded.
Under-equipped Biafran soldiers – outnumbered ten to one by Nigerian federal troops – laid down their arms in 1970, after nearly three years of fighting for independence.
With the surrender went their dreams of a separate state for the Igbo people who are the majority in the southeast of Nigeria.
50 years on, many Nigerians who identify as Biafrans have not given up their fight to secede from Nigeria.
“We are not joking, to a greater extend we are fanatical about getting Biafra restored. That is the truth about the issue,” said a Chidi Nowokoro, a preacher.
“We want to be free and we don’t need those people, that’s Hausa, Fulani herdsmen. We don’t need them. I need myself to be free, that’s why I want to be alone,” said Victor Emete.
Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra movement was recently released by a federal high court in Abuja, having been jailed 2 years for championing the secession of Biafra.
During the long years of military government after the end of the war, Biafrans felt excluded from economic and political power. Sympathizers of the Biafran cause, like Magnus Nkwoche believe the status quo has not changed.
“We have suffered a lot in this country called Nigeria. A lot of things have been deprived us. We are supposed to be educated people and no longer going to school. Our roads, none works for us. All the resources in Biafra land is been used to develop Nigeria while we are suffering here.”
Biafrans have been preparing for the commemoration of their 50-year struggle for independence with religious ceremonies.
Religious leaders and the pro-independence groups, the Indigenous People of Biafra and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra have thus called on Biafrans to observe a day of reflection on Tuesday as fears remain of an eruption of violence.
Nigerian security forces have indicated that they are on red alert in hotspots in the former republic such as Aba and Onitsha, where protests last year turned bloody.