If you’re up to date with the news, you may have heard about increased unrest in the South-East region blamed on the secessionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The group’s leader is Nnamdi Kanu who’s still in the custody of the federal government in spite of a court order demanding his release.
While Kanu remains imprisoned, a self-acclaimed disciple of his, Simon Ekpa, has taken centre stage. If you’ve been on Twitter and Facebook long enough, you’ve likely seen his name pop up. So, who’s Simon Ekpa?
From running for Nigeria to fighting against Nigeria
Simon Ekpa was born on March 21, 1985 and the first thing that stands out about him is he once represented Nigeria as an athlete. In fact, he was a silver medallist at the 2003 African U-20 Championships.
However, Ekpa has gone from flying the Nigerian flag to pushing for the disintegration of the country. When he was nominated for an award by the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) in 2021, he publicly rejected it.
He said, “I’m not interested in anything that’ll move Nigeria forward because Nigeria is not structured nor created to move forward, so anybody trying to move Nigeria forward is already a failure.”
Publicly available records show Ekpa is a native of Ebonyi State but is now based in Finland. He describes himself on his Twitter account as “a human rights activist, CEO, senior legal advisor at Ekpa & Co Oy, legal researcher, author, analyst, Finnish politician, Biafra Spokesperson.”
The last bit is only partly true. In July 2021, Ekpa was named as a director for Radio Biafra following the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu. This was what shot him to the IPOB limelight. Yet, IPOB sacked him from the role that same month for refusing to sign the code of conduct governing the operation of the broadcasting station.
What’s Simon Ekpa currently up to?
Ekpa has been very vocal in his support for the realisation of Biafra. His voice has grown even louder with the 2023 elections looming on the horizon.
He’s also been at the forefront of the sit-at-home orders which have had very serious socio-economic consequences in the South-East. On December 12, 2022, the Igbo group, Ohanaeze, called for his arrest over the destruction and killings in the region. The IPOB have also distanced themselves from Ekpa but that hasn’t deterred him from going about his activities.
Online, various groups have petitioned the Finnish government to arrest him for his provocative statements believed to be fueling instability in the region. This hasn’t escaped Ekpa’s notice and he’s mocked those efforts.
How has the government responded?
Curiously, the Nigerian government hasn’t looked much in Ekpa’s direction. Maybe because they already have the real IPOB ringleader in custody, or because they see Ekpa as merely a noisemaker. There are other sinister reasons that have been suggested that have to do with the coming elections.
Whether the government will step up on this matter remains to be seen. However, there’s little doubt that if allowed to continue, the disruption posed by Simon Ekpa might have some impact on voter turnout in the South-East next year.