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Is IPOB Using Christianity To Advance Its Cause?

The Claim: The presidency, on Sunday,  June 7, accused the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) of using false claims to deceive the United States and the United Kingdom. 

The presidency said IPOB was using the cover of Christianity to call for a U.S. special envoy to be appointed to stop the “genocide” of Christians in Nigeria. 

In a statement, Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, said the real purpose of IPOB was to cause disaffection between the Nigerian government and its U.S. and UK/European allies.

The presidency said Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB claimed to be a Jew but the position was not shared by the generality of the members of the group.

“For reasons of convenience, he claims to have an interest in the welfare of Christians – but this is a ruse: the case for independence, the leader believes, is strengthened by ‘proving’ the government of Nigeria is ‘autocratic’, engaged in a ‘silent slaughter’ of their own citizens along with religion and ethnic lines – and that therefore the only viable option for the unique religious and ethnic minority is a sovereign Biafra separate from Nigeria,” Shehu stated.

The presidency also said IPOB had founded a Christian non-governmental organisation (NGO) and a linked web-based campaign named,  “Stop the Silent Slaughter”, which was designed and complete with video “evidence” completely concocted.

Shehu said, “The campaign consists of producing articles in the names of the alleged Christian NGO’s leaders (of campaign groups created at the time this PR contract with a U.S. lobbying firm was signed) and letters to and from members of Congress to the White House.

“Unfortunately, some members of Congress have clearly been persuaded there is indeed “Christian persecution” underway in Nigeria – and do so quoting the campaign – and they are known to be taking up the case directly with the White House to appoint the special envoy.

“The American charity secured a meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and has made presentations to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“There is also the UK and European angle of the Campaign, which is more opaque than its U.S. sister campaign – given there is a less legal requirement for public filings – but what is known of this at the moment is that their budget is sufficient to hire four PR firms in the UK, Belgium, France and the U.S., ” he added.

The ‘Stop the Silent Slaughter’ Campaign

HumAngle found that a campaign tagged ‘Stop the silent slaughter’ exists although it is unclear if it is the same campaign being referenced by the presidency. The organisation has a media contact page with representatives in the United Kingdom, United States, Belgium and France.

The website does not mention IPOB or any affiliations to it. Instead, it focuses on the lives of Christians lost in the Nigerian insecurity crisis. It tags the problem, ‘a silent slaughter of Nigeria Christians’.

The campaign reads,  “The Fulani population is mostly Muslim and represents the world’s largest herding nomadic group. They are mainly concentrated in the northern states of Nigeria and in many Sahelian West African nations with a strong tradition of seasonal migration from one area to another, sometimes across national borders.

“Conflict over land-use has occurred for years, however, in the last ten years the conflict has been exacerbated by radicalised religious undercurrents, as well as environmental factors, including drought and climate change.

“While Christians are by no means the only victims of these atrocities, the estimates of Christian victims is staggering: 88 per cent of Fulani attack victims in Nigeria’s Benue State were Christians, 75 per cent of the victims were Christians In Nasarawa State and 70 per cent of the victims were Christians in Taraba State.”

On May 4, a website “providing free, independent news from the capitals of Europe” published a report tagged, ‘Europe’s role in stopping Nigeria’s ‘silent slaughter’.

The story read, “Campaigners want the United States to create a Special Envoy for Nigeria and Lake Chad Basin to focus on terrorism, deteriorating human rights and the root causes of violence, food insecurity and poor governance.

“But what can the EU – for whom Nigeria is an important potential partner, especially as Brussels seeks to overhaul its trade and political relations with Africa – do to stop the ‘silent slaughter’?”

HumAngle gathered that a series of reports have been written on the same campaign but none has been linked directly with IPOB.  

According to the presidency, members of the ‘alleged Christian NGO’ have had multiple op-ed articles news websites promulgating their message of a “Christian genocide,” and some of the articles have been used as “evidence” in the sister U.S. campaign.

Shehu said, “IPOB secured a debate on the “Christian genocide” in the House of Commons. 

“It is clear from all of the above that the IPOB’s extraordinarily and dubiously well-funded campaign in the U.S. and UK/Europe is misusing the issue of the welfare of Christians purely to further their own political ends, and it seeks to damage inter-religious dialogue in Nigeria as well as to damage the international reputation of Nigeria.

“International groups and societies are welcome to send representatives to Nigeria and give a lie to the false claims made by these terrorist groups who are duping them of their money and involving them in conduct and activities disguised to destroy the harmonious relationships existing between their home countries and Nigeria.

“In 2017, a court had declared the activities of IPOB as ‘acts of terrorism’,” he added. 

IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu and Judaism 

Nnamdi Kanu has consistently claimed to be Jewish and most of the leaders of IPOB professed Judaism publicly. 

In April 2017, during his bail hearing, Kanu told the open court that he was a Jew. A Jewish cleric also facilitated his bail. 

In negotiating his release, a judge asked Kanu which religion he belonged to, as one of the bail conditions would include the appearance of a “highly placed religious leader,” the Vanguard reported.

“I believe in Judaism,” Kanu said.

“So you are a Jew then?” the judge asked.

“Yes I am a Jew,” Kanu said.

The cleric, named Immanuel-El Shalom Oka-Ben Madu, wore a red kippah and a tallit, or Jewish prayer shawl.

Mention of the “Jewish Chief High Priest” who signed for Kanu’s bail made front-page news. Also, several foreign media reports have linked IPOB and most of its members to Judaism. 

At the end of May 2017, Kanu hosted a large Shabbat party outside his family’s country home. He was joined by IPOB members who had ‘converted’ to Judaism and a large congregation from the Yahwah Yashua Synagogue.

Kanu used this opportunity to establish a connection between the spiritual and political parts of his struggle — telling his followers that the worship of the “God of Israel” is central to his vision of a free Biafra.

“We’re going to worship in temples and synagogues”, he said.

Verdict 

The claim is misleading as there are no direct public links between IPOB and Christianity, Kanu and Christianity or any of the IPOB parties with the ‘Stop the Silent Slaughter’ campaign.

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