Radio Biafra! An Overview
Radio is used as an instrument of political agitation or propaganda aimed at influencing attitudes and generating high public support towards a cause. Its effectiveness as a tool of political persuasion lies in its ability to ignore local and national borders, and make “enemy” lines easily accessible. Radio has been used as a propaganda force in several countries struggles across the World. Typical examples are Radio Rwanda which was used to inflame ethnic crisis among the Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda, Radio Moscow used in the early cold war era, and Radio Cairo which was used as a propaganda and political persuasion tool for Egypt’s foreign policy during President Anwar Sadat’s regime. The Voice Of America (VOA), and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio, were used as propaganda tools during World War 11. Radio Tokyo was also a very active propaganda tool during World War 11. There are several other examples where radio played potent role in actualizing causes in different nations.
Radio Biafra which is the focus of this article also played effective role during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. It began as an instrument of the Biafra government but came back after a long while off air to be used as a propaganda tool by a new set of Biafra agitators. The station went off air with the fall of Biafra in 1970. Several years later, in 2009, the station returned with the re-emergence of Biafra agitation but continued to operate underground as it was not recognized by the Nigerian government.
Radio Biafra also known as Voice of Biafra, is a radio station that was originally founded by the government of the Republic of Biafra and used during the Nigeria/Biafra civil war by the Bifran government. It is believed to have had its first transmission sometime in 1966, even before the Nigeria-Biafra war but it became very popular during the war. The radio station was instrumental in the broadcast of speeches and propaganda by Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to the people of the Republic of Biafra. This was when the station first existed before it disappeared with the falloff Biafra in 1970.
Radio Biafra remerged with the return of Biafra agitation by a fresh set of agitators. The station was first established in London in 2009 as an independent broadcasting outfit. It was reportedly operated by Mr Nnamdi Kanu. It broadcasted for six months but unfortunately went off air owing debilitating financial and logistical hiccups. The return of Radio Biafra had nothing to do with the first set of owners and operators of the station during the Nigerian civil war. Everything changed in terms of ownership, objectives and operators.
Radio Biafra is “allegedly” based in the United Kingdom. The station currently transmits via the internet and shortwave broadcast targeted majorly around Eastern Nigeria. Radio Biafra claims to be broadcasting the ideology of Biafra “Freedom of the Biafra people”. The station’s sophistication today is such that it has the ability to penetrate local national boundaries via internet channels, making it difficult for government of Nigeria to clamp down on its operators or even jam the station. It could be described as an invisible station operated by the physical for the physical.
Radio Biafra on its internet platform, describes itself as “a community online/indigenous broadcaster strictly dedicated to unadulterated defence of the rights of the Indigenous People of Biafra and the ultimate restoration of Biafra by highlighting the issues affecting the lives of the Biafran people in Nigeria.” This is a reflection of the mission for which the station was re-established by the new set of agitators. But its content is generally seen as laced with hate speech against the Nigerian government and programmes capable of inciting crisis among ethnic groups in the country.
Radio Biafra is seen as a controversial station and has drawn mixed reactions from the public. While some critics have condemned the station for “inciting war” through its programmes and “preaching hate messages” against Nigeria which it refers to as a “zoo”, an editor for Sahara Reporters wrote in defence of the radio station after he compared Radio Biafra with the British Broadcasting Corporation Hausa service. Attempts in the past by the Nigerian government to jam the station frequency and broadcast ability failed. On 14 July 2015, it was reported in the media that the radio station had been jammed because it did not have a broadcast license from the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission. However, the radio station in a swift reaction labeled such claims as “lies” and went on to release its new frequency details to the public.