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Sources and Nature of Nigerian Civil War


Sources and nature of Nigerian Civil War

The sources of the civil war will be subdivided into remote and immediate causes. Nigeria had a civil war otherwise known as the “Nigerian-Biafran Civil War” which lasted for 30 months (6th July, 1967-15th January, 1970). The January 15, 1966 coup that took place aimed at salvaging Nigeria from eminent collapse due to the violent political disagreements amongst the Nigerian ethnic based politicians and again to wipe out corrupt politicians and to end election rigging. Like the “Operation Wetie” in Western Nigeria of 1965, were massive election rigging, bribery, rape and murder which necessitated the young majors to stage the coup to maintain law and order. The nation’s politicians were strongly promoting ethnic politics because then it was regionally based by using what you have to develop your area and the young majors considered that act as a means of fuelling ethnic tension. So they overthrew the government to establish an egalitarian government for the people. In other to succeed in the coup to establish the government for Nigerians, all the leaders will be killed in Nigeria, but only the Northern leaders like Sir Tafawa Belewa, Saudana of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and four Northern top ranking officers including Brigadier Maimalari, Aguiyi Ironsi’s second in command were killed and the leaders from the Igbo extraction were not killed though the premier of Western Nigeria, Chief Samuel Akintola and Finance Minister Festus Okotiebo were killed. These leaders that were murdered were not Igbos. Because no Igbo top politician was killed, the coup was not considered a national coup and the killers were from the Igbo ethnicity so the Northerners suspected them that they want to dominate the nation’s political space (Onwuzuruke, 2005).

The suspicion became so convincing when Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi manned the leadership of the nation as “Head of State” from the Igbo ethnic nationality after the killing of Northern top politicians and his introduction of the “Decree 34” to centralize or abolish the regional civil service thus making it unified (Saro-Wiwa, 1978). And Aguiyi Ironsi’s plan to rotate military governors and his inability to try coup plotters through court marshal really opened their eyes on the calculated Igbo hegemony in the Nigerian federation. So in reprisal attack the Northerners started killing innocent Igbo residents in the North and killed Aguiyi Ironsi and hundred Igbo officers and men of the Nigerian Army in a counter coup in July same year (Special Publication, 2003). When Yakubu Gowon came in as “Head of State” the killings of Igbos did not stop rather it continue, which makes the Igbos to be angry at home. The Igbos felt they are unwanted in Nigeria and seemed unsafe out of Eastern Nigeria due to the pogrom that occurred in the North, Lagos and Ibadan (Achebe, 2011). Prof. Chinua Achebe stressed this evil act which was perpetrated by the Northern ethnic members against the Igbos in the North as “genocide” in his recently maverick book, titled: “There Was A Country”. Some Nigerians considered the book to be controversial.

And the Federal Government failure to sign the “Aburi Agreement” which entails confederal system of government; the central government will be weak and the components will be stronger and the components will remit an agreed percentage from their regional derivations to the central government. Now, Nigerians have registered their thoughts to “Ojukwu’s School of Thought” currently known as True Federalism, Federalism or Resource Control. The recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) now Petroleum Industry Act and the 13percent Derivation could invariably be classified as a confederal system of government, though in the opposite direction. This happened because the host states and communities, especially in the Niger Delta being the people having the oil exploration effects wanted to have some economic benefits (TELL Magazine, 2002). But the Federal technocrats admonished General Yakubu Gowon not to sign it because Aburi Agreement is beneficial to Ojukwu’s Eastern Nigeria alone. So, General Yakubu Gowon refused to sign it rather he asked to play the full tapes for all to hear and Ojukwu insisted on the full implementation of the Aburi Accord, no more no less- ON ABURI WE STAND, became the standpoint of Eastern Nigeria (Ojukwu, 1983). On the 4th October 1966, Ojukwu told his Consultative Assembly, “I have said before that the East will not secede unless she is pushed out of the federation, fellow country, the push has begun.”

The immediate causes of the civil war are as follows: (a) the creation of twelve States in the federation which divided the Eastern Region into three states and Ojukwu considered that Act as the biggest joke of the year while General Yakubu Gowon warned that nobody should make him use force to protect the interests of the states either by commission or ommission (b) On 30th May, 1967, Ojukwu made a declarative seccession statement on the Biafran Republic and General Yakubu Gowon too can never withdraw his states’ creation thus the Nigerian civil war inevitably started (Onwuzurike, 2005).

In conclusion, Nigerian nature of the civil war was ethnic politics and mistrust, where personalities from a particular (Hausa) ethnicity were killed and the killers (Igbo) ethnic members were exempted and those that were killed in the name of the South were not core Igbos, but from Yoruba and Itsekiri ethnicities and after the coup an Igboman manned the nations hegemony (Special Publication, 2003). This act convinced the Hausas that the Igbos had ulterior motive. Thus, the Hausas engaged on a counter-coup to maintain leadership that was given to them by the British (TELL Magazine, 2002).

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Opuene Kingsley Inowei

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