Faces behind the agitations – Daily Trust

Faces behind the agitations – Daily Trust

Isaac Adaka Boro

With the nation still trying to find its feet barely six years after independence, it was unexpected that the political developments in the country would provoke the ire of an undergraduate student to take up arms against the state.

But that was what happened to the young Isaac Adaka Boro, who not only demanded a better deal for the people of his region, the Niger Delta, but also abandoned school to raise an army to confront the Nigerian state.

He was said to have been dissatisfied with how the oil producing areas were being treated by the Nigerian state and demanded to pull the region out of Nigeria.

The rebellion was said to have lasted for 12 days, before it was crushed, but by then, Boro had succeeded in establishing a consciousness among the people of the region to protest what he called the exploitation of oil and gas resources in the region.

He was jailed for treason on account of that, but the regime of General Yakubu Gowon granted him amnesty on the eve of the Nigerian civil war in May 1967, after which he was enlisted into the Nigerian army. He reportedly died fighting on the Nigerian side.

His agitation is believed to have given inspiration to subsequent agitations by various groups from the Niger Delta, over the issues of environmental degradation, and to demand compensation over the years, which led to various struggles and subsequent granting of amnesty to restive youths in the area and the creation of the Niger Delta ministry.


Chukuwemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu

Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu led the most prolonged and sustained armed struggle to break out of Nigeria.

As governor of Eastern Nigeria at the time of the July 1966 counter coup, he was said to have expressed reservations about the turn-out of events after the coup and was reluctant to submit to the authority of Yakubu Gowon, after the latter became the head of state.

He openly disagreed with Gowon and raised certain objections about the plight of his people and how his regime was trying to hold the country together. In a bid to sort things out, a neutral venue was chosen for him to meet with Gowon in Aburi, Ghana.

The relationship further thawed, after the meeting as he felt Gowon did not adhere to the terms agreed to at the Aburi meeting, but the breaking of the regions into 12 states by Gowon on 5th May, 1967 was said to be the final straw that convinced Ojukwu, and on 30th May, 1967, he announced the break-away of the Eastern Region from Nigeria.

This led to a 30-month war, at the end of which he went on exile in Ivory Coast, but was granted amnesty by the Shehu Shagari administration and he returned to the country and contested for a Senate seat, which he lost. He later contested the presidency as well. He died in 2017 at the age of 72.


Ganiyu Adams

The Odu’a Peoples Congress (OPC) which was formed in 1994 was led by Frederick Fasehun, with focus on defending, protecting and promoting Yoruba interests.

The inability of the military regime of General Sani Abacha to resolve the June 12 crisis led to the tinkering of the organisation’s structure, which gave prominence to a militant faction that recognised Ganiyu Adams as its leader.

The Adams agitation was hinged on either restoring the mandate believed to have been won by Chief MKO Abiola or have the Yoruba pull out of Nigeria.

The subsequent deaths of General Sani Abacha and Chief Moshood Abiola, however, whittled down the threat. But it is believed that it was mainly due to such agitations that in 1999, there was a concession by the major political parties in Nigeria, to zone their presidential tickets to the South-west region.

Chief Adams, 54, is currently the Are Ona Kakanfo (the generalissimo) of Yorubaland.


Ralph Uwazurike

Ralph Uwazurike founded the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in 1999.

His would be the first agitation for secession to confront the civilian administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

MASSOB agitated for a Republic of Biafra, comprising the South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria.

But Uwazurike disagreed with other groups agitating for the actualisation of Biafra, especially IPOB, distancing himself from the violent approach and the sit-at-home order imposed on the region.

He was later accused by other Igbo groups of abandoning the Biafran project when he supported the bid by then governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, to become the president of Nigeria despite belief by his kinsmen that it should be the turn of the South-east.


Nnamdi Kanu

Born in 1967, Nnamdi Kanu gained prominence when he started activism as the director of Radio Biafra, a radio station which broadcast targeted the Nigerian audience and became popular for its radical views and promotion of Biafran separatism.

With the popularity among the Igbo, Kanu founded the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in 2012, in line with the principle of agitating for the South-east region to pull out of Nigeria.

He was arrested while in Nigeria in 2015, and was detained for more than a year before he was released.

He was believed to have left the country after the military allegedly invaded his country home in September 2017, but was re-arrested in Kenya in 2021and returned to Nigeria, where he is currently facing trial.


Sunday Igboho

When the name of Sunday Igboho began to gain national prominence, after he gave herdsmen notice to quit Yorubaland, people were puzzled at the sheer effrontery and began to ask where he came from.

Then political adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, Babafemi Ojudu helped in filling up the blank spaces when he penned a piece about his first meeting with the man he described as political enforcer.

The summary of the entire piece was that Igboho had become notorious in political circles in the South-west and was being used by politicians to win elections through unconventional means.

His taking up a new cause, following attacks in some communities by suspected herdsmen in the South-west, however, cast him into a new image of a rights defender who aims at striking a better bargain for his people.

From issuing ultimatum to herdsmen to vacate Ibarapa community in 2021, he began agitating for a larger cause to “liberate the entire South-west and to form a Yoruba nation.”

Born in 1972, the agitation pit him against the authorities and he had to flee Nigeria, but was arrested in Benin Republic. He was, however, released after a stint in protective custody.