Friday, 02 June, 2023


Why US Should Go Tough On IPOB – Sheehan

Executive director of the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore, Prof Ivan Sascha Sheehan has said he is being harassed for calling for the inclusion of a militant, separatist group in Nigeria, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), on the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) list.

According to him, it was hardly a radical proposal saying the group meets all the definitional criteria for terror listing and their malign efforts to coerce and intimidate those that oppose their political and social goals are legendary.

In an article he titled: “The Biden Administration Should Support Ally Nigeria in Fight Against Terrorism,” he said contrary to claims that IPOB is a “nonviolent” movement with only “peaceful” intentions, the Eastern Security Network (ESN) – the group’s 50,000-strong paramilitary wing – have engaged in a series of escalatory attacks on Nigerian security forces and civilians in recent months.

He said their global network of supporters is equally uncivil.

He said, “Within hours of publication, I found myself in the movement’s crosshairs – the latest target of a coordinated take-down operation designed to bully me into backing down from my policy prescription. Local and federal law enforcement took notice.

“My work as a counterterrorism scholar makes me accustomed to criticism. I have researched and written about rogue actors and repressive regimes on hundreds of occasions in dozens of outlets.

“The work has taken me around the globe and behind enemy lines. But the combination of racism, ethnic superiority, religious bigotry, and falsities displayed by IPOB activists and Biafra’s sympathisers was unique – even for someone that covers militant substate actors.

“I was tagged in thousands of social media posts that coupled disinformation with ad hominem attacks intended to silence me.” He claimed that threats were directed not only at him but also his family.  “My phone rang day and night. Hundreds of emails flooded my inbox. My home address was circulated on social media. So too was my spouse’s work address.

“I was derided as a ‘fake professor’, despite being easily identifiable as a tenured scholar that leads a nationally-ranked school of public and international affairs. IPOB supporters were publicly encouraged to complain to university officials about my article and given scripts to follow.

“The harassment was extensive. I have been falsely pronounced a Muslim, as if it were a crime. My national origin was questioned. My wife – a black woman from Botswana – was incorrectly cast as Fulani, a naked reference to an ethnic group scattered across West Africa and the Sahel that has long challenged Igbo dominance in Nigeria.”

And, without a shred of evidence, he said he was repeatedly accused of accepting bribes from Nigerian authorities – some going so far as to manufacture sensationalist details in the form of cash-filled envelopes.

“Scores of complaints were lodged with the Offices of the President and Provost at my university. Human Resources also took angry calls from IPOB supporters insisting on my removal.

“When The Washington Times ignored calls to retract my commentary, IPOB supporters falsely claimed the article had been taken down. BBC News corrected the disinformation  – in Igbo, no less. The only substantive criticism I received came from an individual whose signature identified him as a Foreign Agent acting at IPOB’s behest.

“That IPOB supports a virtual army of paid hands that collect lucrative fees for peddling the group’s propaganda speaks volumes. To be clear, the abusive tactics employed by IPOB militants, and their global network of sympathizers, are not new. And I am just one of many targets,” he said.

He said Biafra’s self-appointed leader Nnamdi Kanu, once in exile and now under detention following his arrest by Interpol, has trafficked in incendiary rhetoric and division for so long that he has given rise to a generation of cultish followers.

Credit: Leadership


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