The Nigeria-Biafra civil war


Nigeria-Biafra civil war :Causes, Aburi Accord, and International Influences

On the early hours of 6 July 1967, the Nigerian-Biafran War commenced as Nigerian Federal troops advanced into Biafra, Nsukka. While some attribute the war to the 1966 coup, it is important to understand that the coup and subsequent events were failed attempts to prevent the war. The unification of Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups under one country led to a power struggle, ultimately plunging the nation into a cold internal tribal conflict.

Prelude to Conflict

In the period from June to October 1966, the North experienced pogroms that claimed the lives of an estimated 8,000 to 30,000 Igbo people, including many innocent children. These acts of violence pushed between one to two million individuals to flee to the Eastern Region. September 1966, known as ‘Black Thursday,’ witnessed the worst of these massacres.

Ethnomusicologist Charles Keil, who was present in Nigeria during the time, witnessed how months of anti-Igbo sentiments among various ethnic groups in Makurdi, such as the Tiv, Idoma, Hausa, and others, led to the killings. Tragically, the Nigerian army spearheaded these massacres. Despite promises of safety by Colonel Gowon, the true intent of the soldiers became painfully clear. The atrocities, with disemboweled bodies strewn along the Makurdi road, highlighted the urgent need for resolution.

Aburi Accord: In early 1967, a critical meeting between the Federal Government of Nigeria (the Supreme Military Council) and Eastern delegates, led by Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, took place in Aburi, Ghana. The Aburi Accord, also known as the Aburi Declaration, was regarded as the last chance to prevent an all-out war. During the meeting, the council collectively pledged not to resort to violence to resolve the Nigerian crisis. They also agreed on a law of collective responsibility, vesting all powers of the Federal Military Government in the Supreme Military Council, requiring unanimous concurrence.

Furthermore, it was decided that the Head of the Federal Military Government would hold the title of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. While the meeting was generally amicable, Ojukwu did not participate in the lighter aspects of the gathering. The resolutions reached were intended to be embodied in a Decree to be issued by Lagos with the concurrence of the military Governors.

Breakdown of the Accord

Unfortunately, the Federal Military Government failed to implement the Aburi Accord. Ojukwu returned home with expectations of its realization but was informed by his advisers that Gowon did not understand the difference and would likely disregard the agreement. This failure by Gowon to honor the spirit of the Aburi agreement, along with a perceived lack of integrity on the side of the Nigerian Military Government, was seen by Ojukwu as a breach of trust.

Unequal Conditions and International Influence:

The Eastern Region of Biafra, ill-prepared for war, found itself outnumbered and outgunned by Nigerian forces. However, the Biafrans fought with determination, taking advantage of their homeland’s familiarity and enjoying the support of most Easterners. Despite limited resources, Biafra collected oil royalties from companies operating within its borders, which contributed to its efforts.

Foreign involvement played a decisive role in the conflict. While only five countries officially recognized Biafra (Tanzania, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Zambia, and Haiti), sympathetic nations provided support. The United Kingdom, through Shell-BP, supplied heavy weapons and ammunition to Nigeria, officially to preserve the multi-ethnic nature of the country ithad established. However, it is widely acknowledged that the protection of Nigerian oil supplies and Shell-BP investments also influenced this decision. On the other side, France provided arms and ammunition to Biafra, despite denying official sponsorship. Reports suggested that French arms reached Biafra through neighboring countries like Gabon. The extensive supply of weapons by the United Kingdom ultimately played a significant role in determining the outcome of the war.

Conclusion: The Nigeria-Biafra civil War emerged as a result of complex factors and a culmination of events. The unification of Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups under one nation created power struggles that led to internal tribal conflicts. The failure to implement the Aburi Accord, which sought to address key issues, further exacerbated tensions. Additionally, international influences and unequal conditions on the ground played crucial roles in shaping the course of the war. Understanding these historical events is vital in comprehending the impact and legacy of the Nigeria-Biafra civil War.


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