A pro-Biafran separatist group on Friday said it had lifted its call for a boycott of Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary elections this weekend.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) wants independence for the Igbo people who are in the majority in southeast Nigeria and had urged its supporters not to vote on Saturday.
IPOB’s self-styled “supreme leader”, former London estate agent Nnamdi Kanu, has said the action was part of a wider call for a referendum on sovereignty.
But he tweeted late on Thursday that the boycott was lifted as all the group’s “preconditions and terms have been met, signed, sealed and delivered”.
Kanu, who is in his 40s, disappeared after an army raid on his home in Umuahia in September 2017. He re-emerged in Israel in October last year and is now in Britain.
The IPOB high command confirmed the decision in a statement on Friday, but neither it nor Kanu gave further details, although it promised to publish more details at a later date.
That will likely fuel speculation of a deal between the group and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, who stood to lose out if voters stayed at home.
The five states in southeast Nigeria have just over 10 million registered voters and have long been a stronghold for the PDP.
The party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has chosen an Igbo politician, Peter Obi, as his running mate.
Abubakar, a former vice-president, has also said he is in favour of restructuring Nigeria’s federal system, by devolving more power from the centre.
The southeast has long complained it has been marginalised by successive governments and military regimes since the end of the civil war in 1970.
The conflict, which killed more than one million people, started after a unilateral declaration of an independent republic of Biafra in 1967.
No Igbo politician has held high office since 1983, when Alex Ekwueme was Shehu Shagari’s vice-president.
Shagari and Ekwueme were ousted in a coup led by army general Muhammadu Buhari, who has been civilian president since 2015.