Who owns Biafra?

LEADER of the Niger Delta Peoples Salvation Force Asari Dokubo has said that the people of the Ijaw ethnic nationality are the owners of the name ‘Biafra’ and as a result, are the original Biafrans. Dokubo also advanced the Ijaw claim to ownership of the territory known in history as the Bight of Biafra.

Dokubo, an Ijaw man, spoke in an interview aired on Arise News Television on July 28. The interview was monitored by The ICIR.

The former militant leader, in the interview, suggested that Biafra as being championed by the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has a pro-Igbo outlook which, according to him, does not accommodate other ethnic nationalities that made up the old Eastern Region which broke away from Nigeria to form Biafra in 1967.

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The breakaway region was forcefully reabsorbed into Nigeria after the federal army defeated the rebel troops in a bloody civil war that lasted three years.

About 44 years after the civil war, a campaign for the actualisation of an independent Biafran state is still raging on with IPOB currently at the vanguard of the struggle.

Dokubo had earlier fallen out with IPOB leader, Kanu, who is currently detained by the Nigerian government after he was arrested and brought back to Nigeria from Kenya.

Who owns Biafra?
Who owns Biafra?


In the Arise News Television interview, Dokubo attacked IPOB for allegedly alienating the non-Igbo nationalities that were part of the defunct Republic of Biafra.

But he also used the opportunity to advance the claims of the Ijaw over the name ‘Biafra’.

“Ijaw is Biafra. Ijaws are divided between the Bight of Benin and the Bight of Biafra, we are the owners of Biafra. Biafra is an Ijaw name, we own it. The territory identified as Biafra is Ijaw, maybe with a little Ibibios towards the end and Oron people.

“The real Biafra – the name Biafra – the geographical location known as Biafra is Ijaw and a little bit Oron and a little bit Ibibio. Some few Ibibios are in that territory known as the Bight of Biafra,” Dokubo said.

He buttressed his claims with a historical account of the role played by an Ijaw man, Frank Opigo, in the declaration of the defunct Republic of Biafra from Nigeria by rebel leader Odumegwu Ojukwu in 1967.

In 1967, the eastern Ijaws were part of the old Eastern Region and when the Eastern Consultative Assembly was convened in Enugu, capital of the region, in 1967, it was Opigo that suggested the name ‘Biafra’ for the new breakaway country formed out of the Eastern Region.

Some historical accounts state that the word ‘Biafra’ came from the name of the geographical location known as ‘Bight of Biafra’. The Nigerian government changed the name ‘Bight of Biafra’ to ‘Bight of Bonny’ after the civil war.

Opigo was to become the administrator of the Yenagoa Province of Biafra and commissioner for rural development after the declaration of the Republic of Biafra in 1967. He reportedly died in 2010 at the age of 84.

Dokubo pointed to Opigo’s role in the formation of the defunct Republic of Biafra to justify his claim that ‘Biafra is Ijaw’ and as such has nothing to do with the Igbos.

“Francis Opigo gave the name Biafra. He moved a motion that Biafra should be adopted as the name and Biafra was adopted and on the 30th of May 1967 the Republic of Biafra was declared which included the Eastern Region within our territory. So Biafra has nothing to do with Igbo. I hear intellectuals talk rubbish, can they dismiss this historical fact that the geographical area known as Biafra is Ijaw?”, he argued, adding that the Ijaw origins of the name “Biafra’ was also proved in a book titled ‘The twelve-day revolution’ written by late Isaac Adaka Boro, an Ijaw-born soldier reputed to be one of the pioneers of minority rights activism in Nigeria.

“It (Biafra) is in Boro’s book on page 152. Go and see it. Boro said this place is Biafra in his book. Ijaw is the geographical Biafra. At that time Biafra has not been declared.”

“The Biafran state that was declared in 1967 was not an Igbo state,” Dokubo added, stressing that the defunct Republic of Biafra embodied the collective sovereignty of the people found within the borders of the British-created Eastern Region of Nigeria.

Dokubo, who recently declared the formation of a Biafra Customary Government (BCG) after his fallout with Kanu, noted that Ijaws and other non-Igbo ethnic nationalities that were part of the defunct Republic of Biafra are not part of the Biafra being promoted by IPOB.

“Nnamdi Kanu wants an Igbo Biafra. He is taking our name to add to himself. It does not belong to him. Instead of calling for all, he wants an Igbo. He says Chukwu Okie Abiama is the god of Biafra. I don’t know Chukwu Okike Abiama,” he said.

Chukwu Okike Abiama (God the creator) is the name of the Almighty God in Igbo tradition and is usually invoked by the IPOB.

Who owns Biafra?
Who owns Biafra?


Dokubo added that IPOB had stated that Biafra is a Jewish State.

“I am not a Jew and I will never be Jew. I am a Kalabari Ijaw man. Period. He (Kanu) says Islam will not be in his Biafra. I say which one is your Biafra?,” he said, adding, “The Biafra that I know is Ijaw. Frank Opigo suggested the name of an Ijaw area to the people of the former Eastern Region and it became Republic of Biafra. So which Biafra is IPOB talking about?”

* My great ancestor was Igbo… Dokubo

Dokubo, in the interview, explained that he has Igbo blood flowing in his veins because his great ancestor was an Igbo man.

“Even though I have Igbo blood flowing in my veins, I am not an Igbo man today. My great ancestor was originally an Igbo man from Obowu, his parents moved to Obosi in present day Anambra State from there he came to Kalabari and became a Kalabari man,” he said, adding that as a Muslim and non-Igbo, he was not part of IPOB’s Biafra.

“When you call Biafra I am included in Biafra and I will stand up as a Biafran but don’t include me. I am a Muslim, I am not a Jew. There is a distinction between IPOB and Biafra, I don’t know whether IPOB is Igbo.”

* Ownership of the name ‘Biafra’ not important… IPOB, MASSOB

But, reacting to Dokubo’s claims in separate interviews conducted by The ICIR, pro-Biafra groups IPOB and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) said the origin and ownership of the name was not important in the continuing struggle for the actualisation of an independent Biafra state.

“What we need is Biafra, we are not dragging who owns Biafra. That statement is irrelevant to the IPOB family worldwide. Let them give us Biafra, we are not debating who owns it,” IPOB spokesman Emma Powerful told The ICIR.

“Our people have sacrificed so much for the freedom of Biafra. Everyone knows how the Nigerian government is killing us. What we are fighting for is freedom of Biafra, not who owns it,” Powerful added.

The ownership and origin of the name ‘Biafra’ is of no significance, MASSOB leader Uchenna Madu, said in a separate interview with The ICIR. He said Dokubo, who he described as a “colleague in the struggle”, was entitled to his personal opinion.

To Madu, what is of significance was that Biafra comprised the entire people that made up the old Eastern Region.

* Biafra activists working with the map of the old Republic of Biafra declared by Ojukwu

Madu explained that the current agitation for Biafra is based on the understanding that the areas that made up the old Republic of Biafra that seceded from Nigeria in 1967 are still Biafran territories.

“It is the same old Biafra that Ojukwu declared. Before Ojukwu declared Biafra he embarked on a wide consultation of the Eastern Consultative Forum, which includes the Ijaw, Kalabari, Ogoni, Igbo and the rest of them. They backed him up. We are working according to the old map and territories of Biafra,” he said, noting that Dokubo was claiming that Biafra was Ijaw ‘because of the area known as Bight of Biafra towards the Atlantic Ocean in the old map’.

MASSOB leader Uchenna Madu
MASSOB leader Uchenna Madu

The MASSOB leader challenged Dokubo and other Ijaw leaders, including elder statesman Edwin Clark, to lead the struggle for actualisation of Biafra if they feel the Ijaw are the original Biafrans.

“Let the people of Ijaw prove that they are the original Biafrans. Let the Ijaw start working earnestly and show that they are the original owners or leaders of Biafra. We want that.”

He said Igbos would gladly follow the Ijaws “if they can come up and be eloquent and bold enough in talking about Biafra”. “We (Igbos) will be so happy to queue behind them,” he added.

* Biafra is secular state, not Jewish… MASSOB

Madu added that Biafra was not a Jewish state. All religions are allowed, he said.

Dokubo had observed that he was not part of IPOB’s Biafra because he is a Muslim and not a Jew.

“There is no religion that takes upper hand in Biafra. In Biafra there is Christian, Muslim, Jews, traditionalists, everybody is entitled to practice whatever religion he or she believes in. Biafra is not a Jewish state, it is a secular state,” Madu said.

* Biafra not imposed on anybody

The MASSOB leader further told The ICIR that, although the pro-Biafra agitators are working with the old map and territories of Biafra, ethnic nationalities that were part of the Republic of Biafra are not being forced to remain part of the breakaway state.

According to him, any of the ethnic nationalities that feels they are not comfortable with Biafra can continue with Nigeria or even declare there own separate state.

    Igbos are at the forefront of the pro-Biafra struggle, a development which has led to suggestions that the movement is a South-East affair. Madu said he was not comfortable with the impression.

    “Presently it looks as if it is only the Igbos that are agitating for Biafra. Almost all the major and minor groups are led by Igbos. Personally I am not comfortable with that. I want a situation where an Ijaw, a Kalabari or an Ogoni man will come up. Let it be that they are also talking of Biafra. They should not stay at the background and be create confusion by saying that the Igbos are imposing Biafra on them or that Igbos are hijacking Biafra. Nobody stopped them from clamouring for Biafra on their own.”

    Madu said the other ethnic nationalities that were part of the old Biafra should state their stand on Biafra.

    Commenting on the seeming apathy on the part of the Ijaw and other ethnic nationalities in the present day South-South, the MASSOB leader said, “If they want Biafra let them say it and if they don’t want Biafra let them also say that they want to continue with Nigeria or that they want their own state. Let the whole world know their position.”

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    1. Dokubo is insane
      Dont mind Dokubo
      Me that am here look am am from Benin but if u ask me which traib am I from I will tell u that am an Igbo

    2. Were every body will be giving equal rights . not after now you will say nah the Igbos started and fight for the war and that you are majority.and after that you will say you are the real biafra.because will no Igbos for there coni life they will do all they want to get what dey want after which they will do what they feel like so come and prove to us by an agreement of signing.you people that are saying that if will don’t want to joint you people will should live are you trying to use our head,if they give you your five states to tell the truth will you go with it.because I no igbos they don’t go for something without knowing the important of that thing or getting something from it.so if they give you that five states you people will not accept it.come and sign for us.after all now Azikiwe want the one Nigeria and handed over power to the Hausa or nigeria.making the Igbo now looking as if they are magenalised politically.if you don’t want to sign then live the ogonis. Out of your biafra.after all I cannot speaks your language or to understand it.and by history I did not relate to you or migrate from you.so what connect us together?

    3. Igbos should come and sign memorandum of association, because they are full of betrayals.will don’t want another minority and struggle.if not go with your five state.come and sign that everything will go equally.without no political marginalization.

    4. I just want to ask you Dokubo,what happened to your igbos blood, did you
      removed it and replaced it with ijaws blood,because I didn’t hcear you saying that your mother married ijaw man after the death of your father, and then your blood turn to an ijaws man blood, coconut 🥥 head

    5. Oga go and find out the meaning of ‘IPOB’
      This struggle is for the benefit of all Biafrans which you have agreed to be part of
      Just join the moving train to the right direction and stop all these confusion statements.
      ThanGod you said you are Igbo Origin

    6. Oga go and find out the meaning of IPOB
      Maybe you have bn bought by religious sentiments
      Mind you this struggle is for the benefit of all Biafrans which you have agreed to be part of.
      Thank God you said your ancestors came from Igbo
      So I don’t know why you are just afraid for nothing.
      Stop all these your confusion statements and join the moving train to right destination.

    7. I appreciate the ijaws Let them come and fight it together now, not when there perceive the hot done food before there will bring such topic

    8. Dokubo is insane.
      Didn’t he hear of MNK say that nobody will be forced to join BIAFRA. That referendum will be conducted to determine sections within the old Eastern region who wants to or not to join BIAFRA.
      The problem of Dokubo is just mere worthless rivalry with the IPOB leader which makes no sense. He is looking for cheap popularity of which he had as a militant and which has slipped of his part nowadays.

    9. I think 🤔 I aligned with our dear leader Sir Madu… He said… Who ever that with the struggle for the actualization of BIAFRA.. should join hand together and let’s go for it.. let’s join hand together and make a better BIAFRA..


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