- The movement, which seeks to break away from Nigeria and form the Republic of Biafra, has become notorious for spreading disinformation and hate speech on social media. Pulling the strings behind this campaign is a large network of ‘media warriors’ in the diaspora.
One name that comes up often in the war against disinformation in Nigeria is the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a separatist organisation whose controversial campaign has ripped through Nigeria’s airwaves and internet spaces for over a decade. Despite multiple attempts to muffle its message, it has continued to have a powerful presence both on social media and in people’s hearts. A major reason for this is its large propaganda machine with branches spread across the world.
Established in 2012 by Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB’s goal is to break the Republic of Biafra away from Nigeria. In late 2020, it formed a militant wing known as Eastern Security Network (ESN) and has grown increasingly violent since then.
Following Kanu’s arrest and detention in June 2021, the group split into two factions: Directorate of State (DOS), headed by Chika Edoziem, and Autopilot, headed by Simon Ekpa – both claiming to have Kanu’s support.
Both accuse the other of working with the government against Biafra’s interests. Autopilot says DOS betrayed Nnamdi Kanu, while DOS claims Autopilot is a product of the government’s plan to demonise their campaign. The factions have also been competing to win over followers on the internet and get IPOB sympathisers to fund their separate activities.
Autopilot has a reputation for being more brutal, announcing regular curfews in the Southeast and ruthlessly enforcing them. IPOB’s members have generally attacked civilians, security personnel, and politicians. The separatist group was ranked the third deadliest terror organisation in Nigeria by the 2022 Global Terrorism Index report.
IPOB’s activities are mainly funded through member commitment levies and contributions from sympathisers, especially those living outside Nigeria. The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit has identified 19 of these countries. The group has executives outside the country too. The founder, Kanu, is a citizen of the United Kingdom, where he broadcasted on Radio Biafra. Simon Ekpa is similarly a citizen of Finland – as are many of the group’s top leaders.
Like its administrative structure and financing model, IPOB’s propaganda has a foundation that transcends national boundaries.
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