CRG Seminar: A Question of Memory? The Biafran Struggle in Perspective

In this study our Visiting Fellow Dr Ngozika Anthonia Obi-Ani (University of Nigeria) explores how economic, political and security anxieties enable the mobilisation of memories of the past Biafra war. Post-independent Nigerians fought a war of 'unity' from 1967 to 1970, and over fifty years later, the descendants of war survivors have emerged with the same demand for an independent Biafran state. The research examines the motivation of war survivors, exploring how local militia of The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, (IPOB) have become ‘cult heroes’ with messianic posturing across Igboland. Dr Obi-Ani draws on a case study of Southeastern Nigeria, in which she combines with participant observation of the activities of survivors’ generation, go-alongs and reviews of print media, social media platforms, and physical documentation of protests, to explore in detail the history and formation of Biafran struggles.

The research findings show that the structural imbalances in Nigeria have constituted an agency of distrust among the children of Biafran survivors. Closely examining the narratives of war survivors shows how the inability of the successive Nigerian governments to provide goodlife for its quotidian generation has revived Biafran war memories. Furthermore, memory entrepreneurs active on social media have been able to reach and build a large number of sympathisers. The findings ask to interrogate the tensions and ambiguities within Nigerian society: Will the Biafran state exit? What is the beingness of a Biafran in Nigeria? While contributing to the conceptualisation of civil society and everyday life of postcolonial African society, the paper contributes to the discourse on conflict continuities, peacebuilding, and the role of social media in memorialisation in Africa.

If you wish to attend the seminar online, please register in advance with the CRG Chair, Lidewyde Berckmoes.

This seminar is organised by the Collaborative Research Group Conflict Continuities.

Photo: Biafran war veterans with disabilities. Photo credits: Chika Oduah (via Wikimedia Commons).

Ngozika Anthonia Obi-Ani is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History and International Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She is an interdisciplinary historian with a specialization in Nigeria and Africa. Her research focuses on the relationship between women, memory, and conflict, providing invaluable insights into the complexities of African history. Through her examination of women's experiences and contributions, Obi-Ani illuminates their often-overlooked roles in shaping the continent's past. Also, her exploration of memory and conflict studies offers a nuanced understanding of the sociopolitical dynamics that have shaped contemporary Nigeria. She is currently a Visiting Fellow at the ASCL.



Date, time and location

14 March 2024
15.30 - 17.00
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 0.B13