All you need to know about the Nigerian Civil War: The civil conflict in Nigeria is colloquially referred to as the Biafran War. It lasted from the 6th of July 1967 until the 15th of January 1970.
The war’s objective was to prevent Biafra from seceding from the original Nigeria.
History of The Nigerian Civil War
Biafra is a territory in Nigeria that encompasses the country’s historic eastern section. This section has been subdivided into two regions: South South and South East.
The leadership of the old eastern region concluded that they could no longer coexist with the rest of Nigeria, particularly in light of the ill treatment meted out to people of the old eastern region in Northern Nigeria by northern military men, most notably during the counter coup of June 1967, which resulted in the murder of numerous eastern military officers.
The entire process began with a military coup led by Aguiyi Ironsi, followed by a counter-coup led by Murtala Muhammed, and culminated in the persecution of persons of Igbo origin, particularly in northern Nigeria. The war resulted from the religious, cultural, ethnic, economic, and political tensions that existed during this time period.
Within a year of the war’s outbreak, the Biafran region was completely surrounded. Port Harcourt’s oil facilities were among the first to be captured by the Nigerian military shortly after the conflict began.
The total encirclement of Biafra’s coastline and borders resulted in the closure of ways for goods and services to enter the country, making it difficult for the country to feed itself and its inhabitants.
Soon afterwards, severe starvation became the norm, and feeding the Biafra troops and populace became extremely difficult. Additionally, they lacked the necessary equipment to fight the conflict.
Up to 2 million civilians were killed on both sides during the Biafran War, with the majority of deaths coming from the Biafran side. Diseases and malnutrition were the leading causes of mortality. This was the same cause that contributed to the war’s rapid conclusion.
When images of emaciated children were shared to the outside world in the middle of 1968, the world was compelled to take notice of what was happening during Nigeria’s civil war. This prompted Non-Governmental Organizations to mobilize and gather donations for the Biafran populace’s starvation.
Nigeria’s federal government was primarily backed by the United Kingdom and the former Soviet Union. Bulgaria, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan, Chad, Niger, the United States, and Canada also backed the federal administration. Egypt aided the Nigerian military with air support.
On the other hand, Biafra received support from countries including as France, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Tanzania, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Rhodesia, and Haiti.
Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Benjamin Adekunle, Olusegun Obasanjo, Mohammed Shuwa, E.A Etuk, Shehu Musa Yar-Adua, Theophillus Danjuma, Ibrahim Haruna, Ipoola Alani Akinrinade, Ted Hamman, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Isaac Adaka Boro, and Idris Garba served as commanders on the Nigerian
On the Biafran side, prominent leaders included Odumegwu Ojukwu, Philip Effiong, Alexander Madiebo, Albert Okonkwo, Victor Banjo, Ogbuago Kalu, Joseph Achuzie, Azum Asoya, Mike Inveso, and Tomothy Onwuatuegwu.
The Major Effects of the Nigerian Civil War
A. Economic Effects: Throughout the duration of the Civil War, both parties experienced the toils of war, but one party fared worse than the other; the economy has been in shambles ever since. The new Biafran Nation’s economy reached rock bottom when it was cut off from food supplies coming down from Nigeria. The Biafran Nation lacked an active labor force, and as a result, unemployment was increasing. The majority of industrial enterprises ceased operation, bringing active output to a halt; all resources were directed toward mitigating the war’s exigencies, namely the purchase of war weaponry.
When demand for food and other essential commodities exceeded supply, people suffered greatly from starvation as prices skyrocketed. Between one and three million people died, largely from famine, sparking a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Starvation levels in Biafra during the Nigerian civil war were three times greater than those in Stalingrad and Holland during World War II. This produced a massive imbalance in the Biafran Nation’s economy.
On the other hand, Nigeria’s economy took a fair amount of heat, as the oil in Delta was kidnapped and Nigeria lost control. It was a significant blow to the economy for a country whose primary source of revenue was oil. Nigeria’s government was more preoccupied with supplying guns for the conflict, and as a result, residents suffered a significant reduction in access to basic essentials of life.
B. Effects on Social Strata, Religion, and Education: During the civil war, social strata collapsed dramatically; anarchy became the rule. Unhappiness with life sparked riots and criminal activity, which resulted in a large number of migrants from Nigeria. Additionally, the war resulted in a large number of dead and disabled persons who were unable to continue living normally, which resulted in their exclusion from society’s circus.
The conflict was erroneously framed as a religious conflict between Christians and Muslims. However, Biafra was not a religious war. The war’s origins were traced back to political, ideological, and moral conflicts—disagreements that may have intersected with religious disagreements but were not driven by them.
In some towns in former Biafra, the end of the war saw a renaissance and revitalization of traditional practices as indigenous peoples abandoned Catholicism, including an invigoration and revitalization of masquerade-worship of deities, while many others developed a strong aversion to the white man’s religion.
As a result of the erroneous belief that the civil war was precipitated by religious frictions between the Muslim (North) and Christian (East) communities, the relationship between the two sides has been skewed. This has persisted over time, reaching tremendous depths of cold war, which has repeated itself in numerous manifestations of religious crisis.
Throughout the war’s duration, religious and educational establishments were damaged (some completely), and as a result, much effort was expended in restoring and reforming those structures that were destroyed.
Nigeria is still trying to maintain its unity five decades after the Nigerian Civil War ended, with diverse groups clamoring for the country’s reorganization. Educational institutions have been closed. The prestigious University of Nigeria in Nsukka was closed and students were forced to return home; this was a significant setback because, following the war, a large number of people (including lecturers and students) died, while others became displaced or disabled; millions of children became orphans.
C. Impacts on Development and Security: Crime rates have soared. War crimes were vital to the civil war’s continuation. Due to the persistence of widespread hunger and malnutrition, frequent marauding ravaged businesspeople and indigenous people, heightening insecurity. During the conflict, there was no fresh development; instead, established and existing structures were reduced to dust. Igbos were killed by Nigerian forces in the north, and several became disabled while fleeing for their life.
Following the end of the secession, the government initiated recovery initiatives in the war-affected zones. This was allowed and facilitated by the 1970s oil boom, which increased government resources. The Nigerian government and international organizations worked to reintegrate war-affected populations, repair physical infrastructure damage, including health and educational facilities, and restore social services and public utilities to war-affected regions.
The insecurity experienced along the journey has infiltrated contemporary Nigerian society, manifesting itself in the Boko Haram insurgency and the Fulani HERDERS/Farmers conflict. Even after five decades, there appears to be no end to Nigeria’s insecurity concerns.
There is little doubt that the civil war left profound and painful scars on both parties engaged, which have manifested themselves in the economics, education, religion, and politics of the country.
Though the Biafran war ended five decades ago, research has demonstrated the continued occurrence of violence around the world, and that even when wars end, its harmful consequences are passed on to future generations and continue to resurface in new forms of warfare.