At a press conference on Saturday, 13 March 2021, a coalition of pro-Biafra groups announced Asari Dokubo, a former president of the Ijaw Youth Council, and the founder of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, as the chairman of the implementation committee for a new organisation called the Biafra Customary Government. Noticeably absent from the press conference was any representative of Nnamdi Kanu’s Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). However, Uche Mefor, formerly Nnamdi Kanu’s deputy in IPOB, Ralph Uwazuruike, founder of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), and George Onyibe, a former IPOB executive who fell out with Kanu last year, were in attendance.

The issue which has splintered IPOB is one of control and money. A faction of IPOB’s UK chapter, led by Mefor, asked for an account of funds raised. Following that request, Kanu abolished Mefor’s position of Deputy Leader. But Mefor is also registered as the deputy director of the organisation in the UK, which means that Kanu’s abolition of his position did not affect his official status. As the membership of the group divided behind both men, Kanu raised the stakes on 3 March when he announced the dissolution of the UK chapter of IPOB in a radio broadcast.

From a Nigerian perspective, Mefor may be more dangerous than Kanu as while he is not as charismatic as Kanu, he is seen as a better organiser. Dokubo aligning with Mefor probably amplifies the threat to the country’s oil economy, even though the bigger threat from the Niger Delta remains Government “Tompolo” Ekpemukpolo.

The involvement of Asari Dokubo as chairman of the implementation committee for the customary government, strongly suggests that the Mefor camp realises that their aims cannot be achieved without the original provinces in the Biafran state, or in other words, four states of Nigeria’s current South-South geopolitical zone. In his remarks accepting the role, Dokubo called on the 20 provinces of the original Biafran state to join the ‘walk to freedom’.

This bigger tent could increase the leverage of the Mefor group, with Niger Delta militants able to respond in kind to any provocations by Nigerian security forces. Indeed, time and time again, the government has shown that this is the only kind of language it understands. The real problem for the Mefor camp is the strong anti-Igbo sentiment in the South-South, a situation that Asari Dokubo does not have the clout to reverse, even though he still retains some measure of respect due to his contributions to the Niger Delta struggle.

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