Friday, 29 April 2011

the history of Nigeria-Biafra war and cause

The Nigerian Civil War, also
known as the Nigerian-Biafran
War, 6 July 1967–15 January
1970, was a political conflict
caused by the attempted
secession of the southeastern
provinces of Nigeria as the self-
proclaimed Republic of Biafra.
The conflict was the result of
economic, ethnic, cultural and
religious tensions among the
various peoples of Nigeria.
As with many other African
nations, Nigeria was an artificial
structure initiated by the British
which had neglected to consider
religious, linguistic, and ethnic
differences.[6] Nigeria, which
gained independence from
Britain in 1960, had at that time
a population of 60 million people
consisting of nearly 300 differing
ethnic and cultural groups.
The causes of the Nigerian civil
war were diverse. More than fifty
years earlier, Great Britain carved
an area out of West Africa
containing hundreds of different
ethnic groups and unified it,
calling it Nigeria. Although the
area contained many different
groups, the three predominant
groups were the Igbo, which
formed between 60-70% of the
population in the southeast, the
Hausa-Fulani, which formed
about 65% of the peoples in the
northern part of the territory; the
Yoruba, which formed about
75% of the population in the
southwestern part.[citation
The semi-feudal and Islamic
Hausa-Fulani in the North were
traditionally ruled by an
autocratic, conservative Islamic
hierarchy consisting of Emirs
who, in turn, owed their
allegiance to a supreme Sultan.
This Sultan was regarded as the
source of all political power and
religious authority.
The Yoruba political system in the
southwest, like that of the Hausa-
Fulani, also consisted of a series
of monarchs being the Oba. The
Yoruba monarchs, however,
were less autocratic than those
in the North, and the political and
social system of the Yoruba
accordingly allowed for greater
upward mobility based on
acquired rather than inherited
wealth and title.
The Igbo in the southeast, in
contrast to the two other groups,
lived mostly in mostly
autonomous, democratically-
organized communities although
there were monarchs in many of
these ancient cities such as the
Kingdom of Nri, which in its
zenith controlled most of Igbo
land, including influence on the
Anioma people, Arochukwu
which controlled slavery in Igbo
land and Onitsha. Unlike the
other two regions, decisions
among the Igbo were made by a
general assembly in which men
could participate[citation
The differing political systems
among these three peoples
reflected and produced divergent
customs and values. The Hausa-
Fulani commoners, having
contact with the political system
only through their village head
who was designated by the Emir
or one of his subordinates, did
not view political leaders as
amenable to influence. Political
decisions were to be submitted
to. As in every highly
authoritarian religious and
political system leadership
positions were taken by persons
willing to be subservient and
loyal to superiors. A chief
function of this political system
was to maintain Islamic and
conservative values, which
caused many Hausa-Fulani to
view economic and social
innovation as subversive or
In contrast to the Hausa-Fulani,
the Igbo often participated
directly in the decisions which
affected their lives. They had a
lively awareness of the political
system and regarded it as an
instrument for achieving their
own personal goals. Status was
acquired through the ability to
arbitrate disputes that might
arise in the village, and through
acquiring rather than inheriting
wealth. With their emphasis
upon social achievement and
political participation, the Igbo
adapted to and challenged
colonial rule in innovative ways.
These tradition-derived
differences were perpetuated
and, perhaps, even enhanced by
the British system of colonial rule
in Nigeria. In the North, the
British found it convenient to
rule indirectly through the Emirs,
thus perpetuating rather than
changing the indigenous
authoritarian political system. As
a concomitant of this system,
Christian missionaries were
excluded from the North, and the
area thus remained virtually
closed to European cultural
imperialism, in contrast to the
Igbo, the richest of whom sent
many of their sons to British
universities. During the ensuing
years, the Northern Emirs thus
were able to maintain traditional
political and religious
institutions, while reinforcing
their social structure. In this
division, the North, at the time of
independence in 1960, was by
far the most underdeveloped
area in Nigeria, with a literacy
rate of 2% as compared to
19.2% in the East (literacy in
Arabic script, learned in
connection with religious
education, was higher). The West
enjoyed a much higher literacy
level, being the first part of the
country to have contact with
western education in addition to
the free primary education
program of the pre-
independence Western Regional
In the South, the missionaries
rapidly introduced Western
forms of education.
Consequently, the Yoruba were
the first group in Nigeria to
adopt Western bureaucratic
social norms and they provided
the first African civil servants,
doctors, lawyers, and other
technicians and professionals.
In Igbo areas, missionaries were
introduced at a later date
because of British difficulty in
establishing firm control
over the highly autonomous Igbo
communities. (Audrey Chapman,
“ Civil War in Nigeria,” Midstream,
Feb 1968). However, the Igbo
people took to Western
education actively, and they
overwhelmingly came to adopt
Christianity. Population pressure
in the Igbo homeland combined
with aspirations for monetary
wages drove thousands of Igbo
to other parts of Nigeria in
search of work. By the 1960s
Igbo political culture was more
unified and the region relatively
prosperous, with tradesmen and
literate elites active not just in the
traditionally Igbo South, but
throughout Nigeria.[8]
The British colonial ideology that
divided Nigeria into three
regions North, West and East
exacerbated the already well-
developed economic, political,
and social differences among
Nigeria's different ethnic groups.
For the country was divided in
such a way that the North had
slightly more population than the
other two regions combined. On
this basis the Northern Region
was allocated a majority of the
seats in the Federal Legislature
established by the colonial
authorities. Within each of the
three regions the dominant
ethnic groups; the Hausa-Fulani,
Yoruba, and Igbo respectively
formed political parties that were
largely regional and based on
ethnic allegiances: the Northern
People's Congress (NPC) in the
North; the Action Group in the
West (AG): and the National
Conference of Nigeria and the
Cameroons (NCNC) in the East.
These parties were not
exclusively homogeneous in
terms of their ethnic or regional
make-up; the disintegration of
Nigeria resulted largely from the
fact that these parties were
primarily based in one region
and one tribe. To simplify
matters, we will refer to them
here as the Hausa, Yoruba, and
Igbo-based; or Northern,
Western and Eastern parties.
During the 1940s and 1950s the
Igbo and Yoruba parties were in
the forefront of the fight for
independence from Britain. They
also wanted an independent
Nigeria to be organized into
several small states so that the
conservative North could not
dominate the country. Northern
leaders, however, fearful that
independence would mean
political and economic
domination by the more
Westernized elites in the South,
preferred the perpetuation of
British rule. As a condition for
accepting independence, they
demanded that the country
continue to be divided into three
regions with the North having a
clear majority. Igbo and Yoruba
leaders, anxious to obtain an
independent country at all costs,
accepted the Northern demands.
Military coup
On January 15, 1966, Major
Kaduna Nzeogwu and other
junior Army officers (mostly
majors and captains) attempted
a coup d'etat. It was generally
speculated that the coup had
been initiated by the Igbos, and
for their own primary benefit,
because of the ethnicity of those
that were killed. Yoruba and
Hausa leaders were killed while
Igbo leaders were left
untouched. However, evidence
exists to the contrary. For
example, the coup was not only
generally applauded in the
Northern region, it was most
successful there. The fact that no
Igbo officer was killed can be
attributed to the mere fact that
the officers in charge of
implementing Nzeogwu's plans
in the East were incompetent.
The coup, also referred to as
"The Coup of the Five Majors" has
been described in some quarters
as Nigeria's only revolutionary
coup. [9]This was the first coup
in the short life of Nigeria's
nascent democracy. Claims of
electoral fraud was one of the
reasons given by the coup
plotters. This coup resulted in
General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, an
Igbo and head of the Nigerian
Army, taking power as President,
becoming the first military head
of state in Nigeria.
The coup d'etat itself failed, as
Ironsi rallied the military against
the plotters. Ironsi then
instituted military rule, by
subverting the constitutional
succession and alleging that the
democratic institutions had failed
and that, while he was defending
them, they clearly needed
revision and clean-up before
reversion back to democratic
rule. The coup, despite its failure,
was wrongly perceived as having
benefited mostly the Igbo
because most of the known coup
plotters were Igbo. However
Ironsi, himself an Igbo, was
thought to have made numerous
attempts to please Northerners.
The other event that also fueled
the so called "Igbo conspiracy"
was the killing of Northern
leaders, and the killing of the
Colonel Shodeinde's pregnant
wife by the coup executioners.
Despite the overwhelming
contradictions of the coup being
executed by mostly Northern
soldiers (such as John Atom
Kpera later military governor of
Benue State), the killing of a Igbo
soldier Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur
Unegbe by coup executioners,
and Ironsi's termination of an
Igbo-led coup, the ease by which
Ironsi stopped the coup led to
suspicion that the Igbo coup
plotters planned all along to pave
the way for Ironsi to take the
reins of power in Nigeria. It also
ignored the fact that the army
was largely composed of
Northerners at the private level,
but Igbo at the officer level, and
thus promotions would have to
draw upon a large body of Igbo
officers. Mazi-Chialuka (talk)
11:20, 25 April 2011 (UTC)
On 29 July 1966, the Northerners
executed a counter-coup. This
coup was led by Lt. Col. Murtala
Mohammed. It placed Lt. Col.
Yakubu Gowon into power.
Gowon was chosen as a
compromise candidate. He was a
Northerner, a Christian, from a
minority tribe, and had a good
reputation within the army.
Ethnic tensions due to the coup
and counter-coup increased and
the sequels to the mass pogroms
in May 1966 repeated later the
same year in July and September
known as the large-scale
massacres of Christian Ibo living
in the Muslim north
In the aftermath of the Counter
coup, there were pogroms in the
North where soldiers, officers
and civilians were killed. It was
estimated that about 30,000 out
of the 13 million people of Ibo/
Igbo ethnic origin lost their lives.
[ citation needed]. Northerners
beheaded numerous Igbo
civilians and left the headless
corpses on trains to the East for
the Igbos to see. This led to a
large influx of refugees from the
North, about 1.8 million refugees
heading to the south-east[7] The
refusal of Gowon's government
to stop the killing of Igbo
civilians by fellow Northerners
led to increasing anti-Nigerian
feelings on the part of the Igbos.
Even more pathetic was that
some of these killings were
organized by soldiers, who after
killing all Igbo soldiers they could
lay hands on, resorted to killing
and maiming civilians.[10]
The discovery of vast oil reserves
in the Niger River delta, a
sprawling network of rivers and
swamps at the southernmost tip
of the country, had especially
tempted the Federal Government
to re-annex the region.[citation
needed] However, the exclusion
of easterners from power made
many fear that the oil revenues
would be used to benefit areas
in the north and west rather
than their own. Prior to the
discovery of oil, Nigeria's wealth
derived from agricultural
products from the south, and
minerals from the north. The
north, up until around 1965, had
had low-level demands to secede
from Nigeria and retain its
wealth for northerners. These
demands seemed to cease when
it became clear that oil in the
southeast would become a major
revenue source.[citation needed]
This further fueled Easterners'
fears that the northerners had
plans to strip eastern oil to
benefit the North.

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