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The Nigerian Civil War: Causes, Strategies, And Lessons Learnt

The Nigerian Civil War: Causes, Strategies, And Lessons Learnt

 

CSC 1992

 

SUBJECT AREA History

 

THE NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR

CAUSES, STRATEGIES AND

LESSONS LEARNT.

 

 

 

 

 

WRITTEN BY

 

MAJOR ABUBAKAR .A. ATOFARATI

 

 

 

STUDENT: US MARINE COMMAND AND

STAFF COLLEGE

ACADEMIC-YEAR 1991/92

 

 

CONTENTS

 

1. List of Maps.

 

2. Outline.

 

3. Introduction.

 

4. Executive Summary.

 

5. Background History of Nigeria.

 

6. History of the Nigerian Army before 1966.

 

7. The War - Planning Strategies.

 

8. The Clash of Arms.

 

9. Lessons Learnt.

 

10. Conclusion.

 

11. Bibliography.

 

 

LIST OF MAPS

 

1. Map 1 : The four Regions of Nigeria.

 

2. Map 2 : The twelve states of Nigeria.

 

3. Map 3 : The liberation of the Mid - Western state.

 

4. Map 4 : The front line in mid - 1969.

 

5. Map 5 : The final offensive.

 

 

THE NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR

CAUSES, STRATEGIES, AND LESSONS LEARNT

 

OUTLINE

 

The Nigerian Civil War was fought to reintegrate and reunify

 

the country. This paper will focus on the causes of the war, strategies

 

employed by the belligerents in the conflict, and the lessons learnt.

 

I. Background History of Nigeria

 

II. History of the Nigerian Army before 1966

 

III. The War - Planning Strategies

 

IV. The Clash of Arms

 

V. Lessons Learnt

 

VI. Conclusion

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The Federation of Nigeria, as it is known today, has never really

 

been one homogeneous country, for it's widely differing peoples and

 

tribes. This obvious fact notwithstanding, the former colonial master

 

decided to keep the country one in order to effectively control her

 

vital resources for their economic interests. Thus, for administrative

 

convenience the Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated in 1914.

 

Thereafter the only thing this people had in common was the name of

 

their country since each side had different administrative set - up.

 

This alone was an insufficient basis for true unity. Under normal

 

circumstances the amagalmation ought to have brought the various peoples

 

together and provided a firm basis for the arduous task of establishing

 

closer cultural, social, religious, and linguistic ties vital for true

 

unity among the people. There was division, hatred, unhealthy rivalry,

 

and pronounced disparity in development.

 

The growth of nationalism in the society and the subsequent

 

emergence of political parties were based on ethnic/tribal rather than

 

national interests, and therefore had no unifying effect on the peoples

 

against the colonial master. Rather, it was the people themselves who

 

were the victims of the political struggles which were supposed to be

 

aimed at removing foreign domination. At independence Nigeria became a

 

Federation and remained one country. Soon afterwards the battle to

 

consolidate the legacy of political and military dominance of a section

 

of Nigeria over the rest of the Federation began with increased

 

intensity. It is this struggle that eventually degenerated into coup,

 

counter coup and a bloody civil war.

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

The Nigerian Civil War broke out on 6 July 1967. The war was the

 

culmination of an uneasy peace and stability that had plagued the Nation

 

from independence in 1960. This situation had its genesis in the

 

geography, history, culture and demography of Nigeria.

 

The immediate cause of the civil war itself may be identified as

 

the coup and the counter coup of 1966 which altered the political

 

equation and destroyed the fragile trust existing among the major ethnic

 

groups. As a means of holding the country together in the last result,

 

the country was divided into twelve states from the original four

 

regions in May 1967. The former Eastern Region under Lt. Col. Ojukwu saw

 

the act of the creation of states by decree "without consultation" as

 

the last straw, and declared the Region an independent state of

 

"Biafra". The Federal Government in Lagos saw this as an act of

 

secession and illegal. Several meetings were held to resolve the issue

 

peacefully without success. To avoid disintegration of the country, the

 

central government was left with only one choice of bringing back the

 

Region to the main fold by force.

 

The Federal side expected a quick victory while the Biafrans saw

 

the war as that of survival and were ready to fight to the last man.

 

By August 1967, the war had been extended to the Mid - Western Region by

 

the Biafrans with the aim to relief pressure on the northern front and

 

to threaten the Federal Capital, Lagos. Both sides employed Political,

 

Diplomatic, Psychological and Military strategies to prosecute the war.

 

By the end of April 1969, after almost two years of bloody and

 

destructive war, the envisioned quick victory had eluded the Federal

 

side, the rebel enclave had been drastically reduced in size but the

 

Biafrans were still holding on. More peace conferences were held but

 

none achieved a cease - fire and an end to the war. The Federals

 

embarked on a strategic envelopment of the remaining Biafran enclave. By

 

the Christmas of 1969, it was obvious that the end of the civil war was

 

near.

 

The self - acclaimed Head of State of Biafra, Lt. Col. Ojukwu,

 

realizing the hopelessness of the situation fled the enclave with his

 

immediate family members on the 10th of January 1970. The Commander of

 

the Biafran Army who took over the administration of the remaining

 

enclave surrendered to the Federal Government on 14th January 1970

 

bringing an end to the war, secessionist attempt and bloodshed.

 

Several lessons were learnt from the war and these have helped in

 

the unification, political, military and economical progress of the

 

country.

 

THE NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR CAUSES, STRATEGIES AND LESSONS LEARNT

 

The Nigerian civil war, popularly known all over the world as the

 

"Biafran War" was fought from 2 July 1967 to 15 January 1970. The war

 

was between the then Eastern Region of Nigeria and the rest of the

 

country. The Eastern Region declared itself an independent state which

 

was regarded as an act of secession by the Federal Military Government

 

of Nigeria. The war was fought to reunify the country. In order to

 

understand what led to the civil war, it is necessary to give a brief

 

background history of Nigeria.

 

 

BACKGROUND HISTORY OF NIGERIA

 

The land mass known today as Nigeria existed as a number of

 

independent and sometimes hostile national states with linguistic and

 

cultural differences until 1900. The Governor General of Nigeria between

 

1920 - 31 , Sir Hugh Clifford, described Nigeria as "a collection of

 

independent Native States, separated from one another by great

 

distances, by differences of history and traditions and by ethnological,

 

racial, tribal, political, social and religious barriers." (Nigeria

 

Council Debate. Lagos, 1920). The building of Nigeria as a multi -

 

national state began in 1900 with the creation of Northern and Southern

 

Protectorates along with the colony of Lagos by the British government.

 

Further effort at unification and integration was made in May 1906 when

 

the colony of Lagos and the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, which had

 

existed separately, were amalgamated to become the Colony and

 

Protectorate of Southern Nigeria.

 

Even then the Northern and the Southern Administration were

 

separate and distinct. Both were independent of one another and each was

 

directly responsible to the Colonial Office. The first momentous act of

 

the British in the political evolution of Nigeria as a modern state was

 

the amalgamation of the administration of the two sections of Nigeria on

 

1 January 1914 by Lord Lugard. For ease of governing and in the economic

 

interest of the British, indirect rule and separate development policy

 

were maintained in the two sections of the country, with the amalgamated

 

administration based in Lagos. This, in effect produced two Nigerias, each

 

with different social, political, economic, and cultural backgrounds and

 

development within the country.

 

No further constitutional development took place until 1922. The

 

1922 constitution made provision, for the first time, for elected members

 

to sit on a Nigerian legislative council, but did not empower them to

 

make laws for the North. Nigeria was divided into four administrative

 

units in 1940; the colony of Lagos, the Northern, Eastern and Western

 

provinces. This administrative divisions, with increased power for the

 

colony and the provinces, was not only maintained but separateness was

 

also strengthened and deepened by Sir Arthur Richardson's constitution

 

of 1946 which inaugurated Nigeria's regionalism. It however achieved a

 

half - hearted political breakthrough by integrating the North with the

 

South at the legislative level for the first time.

 

The post second World War political awareness and upsurge of

 

nationalism in Africa brought about the Richardson's constitution of

 

1950. Political parties were formed on regional and ethnic basis.

 

 

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The outcome of this was obvious: full scale regionalism. With the

 

Macpherson's constitution of 1951, a greater measure of autonomy was

 

granted the regions with stronger regional legislatures. With only

 

residual power left to the central government, Nigeria politically took

 

a turn for the worse, and there was a possibility of three countries

 

emerging out of Nigeria.

 

In 1953, the central cabinet was split over the acceptance of a

 

target date for securing self - government with the end result of the

 

Kano riot. The gap between the regions widened. For the first time the

 

North talked openly of the possibility of secession rather than endure

 

what they saw as humiliation and ill - treatment. The West also threatened

 

to secede over the non - inclusion of Lagos in the West in the new

 

constitution. The 1954 constitution confirmed and formalized the wishes

 

of Nigerian leaders to move and remain as far apart as they possibly

 

could. The choice between Unitary and Federal options in the form of

 

government had been irrevocably made. The leaders settled for Federal

 

option. Thereafter things happened fast in the political arena. There

 

were constitutional conferences in 1957, 1958, 1959 and in 1960

 

culminating in the granting of independence to Nigeria on October

 

1, 1960.

 

It should be noted that from 1954 onwards, the political direction

 

was constantly away from a strong center towards a formidable, almost

 

insulation of the regional base of each major political party. The

 

failure of the Willink commission to recommend the creation of more

 

states in 1958 for the Nigerian type of federalism planted the most

 

potent seed of instability into the evolution of Nigeria as a nation in

 

the 1950s. All the political leaders who had strong and firm political

 

bases in the regions fought hard for maximum powers for the regions

 

which weakened the center. At the same time, the ugly embers of

 

tribalism and sectionalism had been fanned into a deadly flame by all

 

the political leaders. These leaders rode on the crest of this cancerous

 

tribalism and ignorance of the people to power, at the expense of

 

national unity and the nation.

 

Instead of regionalism ensuring and preserving national unity, it

 

became its bane. There were diffusion instead of fusion of the three

 

units. According to Gen. Obasanjo: "The only point on which Nigerian

 

political leaders spoke with one voice was the granting by the British

 

of political independence - and even then they did not agree on the

 

timing." (5:3) With granting of independence in 1960, all the dirt,

 

swept under the carpet, surfaced. Nigeria was now beset by strings of

 

political problems which stemmed from the lop-sided nature of the

 

political divisions of the country and the type of the existing federal

 

constitution, and the spirit in which it operated.

 

The first post independence disturbance was over the defense

 

agreement between Great Britain and Nigeria, which was seen as "an

 

attempt (by Britain) to swindle Nigeria out of her sovereignty", by

 

contracting with Nigeria to afford each other such assistance as may be

 

necessary for mutual defense and to consult together on measures to be

 

taken jointly or separately to ensure the fullest cooperation between

 

them for this purpose. It was viewed an unequal treaty. Through student

 

demonstrations and vehement opposition by the general public and members

 

of the Federal House of Representatives, the agreement was abrogated in

 

December 1962.

 

This episode was nothing compared with later developments in the

 

country's turbulent political history. The general census conducted in

 

1962 was alleged to be riddled with malpractices and inflation of

 

figures of such astronomical proportions that the Eastern Region refused

 

to accept the result. A second census was carried out in 1963, and even

 

then the figures were accepted with some reservations. Meanwhile the

 

people of the Middle Belt area of the North had grown increasingly

 

intolerant of the NPC rule of the North. The Tiv, one of the major

 

tribes in the Middle Belt, openly rioted for almost three years

 

(1962 - 1965). Then came the biggest crisis of them all - the general

 

election of 1964. The election was alleged to be neither free nor fair.

 

All devices imaginable were said to have been used by the ruling parties

 

in the regions to eliminate opponents.

 

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission himself admitted there

 

were proven irregularities. The President, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe refused to

 

appoint a Prime Minister in the light of these allegations. The

 

President and the incumbent Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa,

 

were each seeking the support of the Armed Forces. This marked the first

 

involvement of the Armed Forces in partisan politics. For four anxious

 

days, the nation waited until the President announced that he had

 

appointed the incumbent Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, to

 

form a broad based government. The same could not be said of the Western

 

Region election of 1965. The rigging and irregularities in the election

 

were alleged to be more brazen and more shameful. Law and order broke

 

down completely leading to an almost complete state of anarchy. Arson

 

and indiscriminate killings were committed by a private army of thugs of

 

political parties. Law abiding citizens lived in constant fear of their

 

lives and properties.

 

This was the state of affairs when the coup of 15 January 1966 took

 

place. "As an immediate cause, it might be claimed that the explosion of

 

that day could be traced back along the powder trail to the fuse lit at

 

the time of the Western Region election of October 1965." (5:6) The

 

aim of the coup was to establish a strong, unified and prosperous

 

nation, free from corruption and internal strife. The outcome of the

 

half-hearted and ill-fated coup was a change of political balance in the

 

country. Major Nzeogwu's (the leader of the coup) aims for the coup was

 

not borne out of its method, style and results. All the politicians and

 

senior military officers killed were from the North and Western Region

 

except a political leader and a senior Army officer from the Mid - West

 

and the East respectively.

 

The coup hastened the collapse of Nigeria. "The Federation was sick

 

at birth and by January 1966, the sick, bedridden babe

 

collapsed." (1:210) From independence to January 1966, the country had

 

been in a serious turmoil; but the coup put her in an even greater

 

situation. Most of the coup planners were of Eastern origin, thus the

 

Northerners in particular saw it as a deliberate plan to eliminate the

 

political heavy weights in the North in order to pave way for the

 

Easterners to take over the leadership role from them. The sky high

 

praises of the coup and apparent relief given by it in the south came to

 

a sudden end when the succeeding Military Government of

 

Maj Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi, an Easterner, unfolded its plans. If

 

Ironsi had displayed a greater sensitivity to the thinking of the

 

Northerners, he could have capitalized on the relief that immediately

 

followed the coup.

 

But in addition to his failure to take advantage of the

 

initial favorable reaction to the coup, he did not know what to do

 

with the ring leaders who had been arrested. He did not know whether to

 

treat them as heroes of the revolution or send them before a court

 

martial as mutineers and murderers. Military Governors were appointed to

 

oversee the administration of the regions. In the North the numbed

 

favorable reaction in certain quarters turned to studied silence and a

 

"wait and see" attitude. This gradually changed to resentment,

 

culminating in the May 1966 riots throughout the North during which most

 

Easterners residing in the North were attacked and killed.

 

A counter coup was staged by the Northern military officers on 29

 

July 1966 with two aims: revenge on the East, and a break up of the

 

country. But the wise counsel of dedicated Nigerians, interested and

 

well-disposed foreigners prevailed. The Head of State, Maj. Gen Aguiyi

 

Ironsi and many other senior officers of Eastern origin were killed.

 

After three anxious days of fear, doubts and non-government,

 

Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, at the time the most senior officer of Northern

 

origin and then the Chief of Staff, Nigerian Army, emerged as the new

 

Nigerian political leader. The lack of planning and the revengeful

 

intentions of the second coup manifested itself in the chaos, confusion

 

and the scale of unnecessary killings of the Easterners throughout the

 

country. Even the authors of the coup could not stem the general

 

lawlessness and disorder, the senseless looting and killing which spread

 

through the North like wild fire on 29 September 1966.

 

Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, the then Head of State, in a broadcast to

 

the people of the North in September said; "I receive complaints daily

 

that up till now Easterners living in the North are being killed and

 

molested and their property looted. It appears that it is going beyond

 

reason and is now at a point of recklessness and

 

irresponsibility." (3:9) Before then, in an effort to stop the killings

 

and to preserve the nation in one form or the other, an ad hoc conference

 

of the representatives of the regions was called on 9 August 1966 in

 

Lagos. The meeting made the following recommendations:

 

 

1. Immediate steps should be taken to post military

personnel to barracks within their respective regions of origin.

 

2. A meeting of this committee or an enlarged body should

take place to recommend in a broad outline the form of political

association which the country should adopt in the future

 

3. Immediate steps should be taken to nullify or modify any

provisions of any decree which assumes extreme centralization.

 

4. The Supreme Commander should make conditions suitable for

a meeting of the Supreme Military Council urgently as a further means of

lowering tension.

 

 

The first recommendation was implemented on 13 August 1966. Troops

 

of Eastern Nigeria origin serving elsewhere in the country were

 

officially and formally released and posted to Enugu, the capital of

 

Eastern Region, while troops of non-Eastern origin in Enugu moved to

 

Kaduna and Lagos. This marked the beginning of division and disunity

 

within the rank and file of the Nigerian Armed Forces. "This simple and

 

seemingly innocuous action broke the last thread and split the last

 

institution symbolizing Nigeria's nationhood and cohesion which had been

 

regularly tampered with by the politicians since 1962. The rift between

 

the Eastern Region and the rest of the country was total." (5:8) Most of

 

the civilian of Eastern Region origin who had never lived in the East

 

and would have continued to live elsewhere in the country lost

 

confidence and moved to the East. Some of them when they arrived at

 

their destination became refugees in their own country

 

None of the other recommendations was fully implemented except

 

nullification of the unification decree. The implementation of the

 

recommendation with regards to the posting of troops to barracks within

 

their region of origin was relentlessly pursued by the political leaders

 

of Western Region after the exercise had been completed in the Eastern

 

Region. They were afraid of the so - alled Northern troops domination

 

and probably of the safety of the troops of Western Region origin.

 

With the troops of Eastern Region back in Enugu and the non-Eastern

 

troops withdrawn from there, with Nigerians of non-Eastern origin driven

 

out of the East in their own interest, and with Easterners at home and

 

abroad returning home with news of Nigerian's brutality against them,

 

and with the oil flowing in the Eastern Region, the way was now open for

 

the implementation of the secession. The East and the North began a

 

virulent of words through their radios and newspapers. Early in 1967, a

 

peace negotiating meeting of the Supreme Military Council of the Federal

 

Republic of Nigeria and the Eastern Region Military Governor,

 

Lt. Col. Ojukwu was called under the auspices of Gen. Ankrah of Ghana in

 

Aburi, Ghana. As it turned out, all the other members of the council

 

except Ojukwu were either too thrusting, too naive or too ill - prepared

 

for the meeting. Therefore Ojukwu scored a vital goal in his ambition.

 

Walter Schwarz remarked : "Ojukwu got his way with little effort,

 

by being the cleverest. He was the only one who understood the issue.

 

Step by step the others came to acquiesce in the logic of Ojukwu's basic

 

thesis - that to stay together at all, the regions had first to draw

 

apart. Only Ojukwu understood that this meant, in effect, a sovereign

 

Biafra (Eastern Region) and the end of the Federation." (6:18)

 

Different versions of what happened in Aburi were released by

 

Ojukwu in the East and by the Federal Military Government in Lagos.

 

Ojukwu accused the Federal Government of bad faith and going back on

 

promises. The Federal Government accused Ojukwu of distortion and half

 

truths. After several meetings amongst the Federal and Regional

 

officials, what amounted to the demise of the Federation was promulgated

 

in decree No. 8 of 17 March 1967 in a desperate effort to implement the

 

Aburi decisions and to avoid further stalemate and possible civil war.

 

Not surprisingly, Ojukwu completely rejected Decree No. 8 as falling

 

short of full implementation of Aburi decisions. The die was cast. All

 

efforts to intervene by eminent Nigerians and well - wishers to Nigeria

 

like Gen. Ankrah, late Emperor Hallie Selassie of Ethiopia and the late

 

Dr Martin Luther King proved abortive.

 

The flurry of conciliatory meetings achieved nothing. Gen. Obasanjo

 

remarked: "Ojukwu was adamant, obstinate and obdurate. He refused to

 

attend the Supreme Military Government meeting called in March in Benin

 

city, Nigeria to discuss outstanding issues and deliberate on the budget

 

for the coming fiscal year. If he could not achieve his long cherished

 

ambition of ruling an independent Nigeria, he could break it up and rule

 

an independent and sovereign "Biafra." Nothing could stop him." (5:10)

 

As early as 7 June 1966, after the May incident in the North, Ojukwu was

 

quoted as saying: We are finished with the Federation. It is all a

 

question of time." (5:11)

 

Ojukwu seized the Federal Government property and funds in the

 

East. He planned the hijacking of a National commercial aircraft Fokker

 

27 on a schedule flight from Benin to Lagos. All these and other signs

 

and reports convinced the Federal Military Government of Ojukwu's

 

intention to secede. Lt Col. Yakubu Gowon, the Head of Federal

 

Government, imposed a total blockade of the East. It was realized that

 

more stringent action had to be taken to weaken support for Ojukwu and

 

to forestall his secession bid. Short of military action at that time,

 

creation of States by decree was the only weapon ready to hand. The

 

initial plan was to create States in the Eastern Region only. Such

 

action was considered impolitic and fraught with danger. Eventually

 

12 States were created throughout the country on 27 May 1967.

 

The Eastern Region was divided into three states. The reaction from

 

Enugu was sharp and quick: the declaration of Eastern Nigeria as the

 

independent sovereign state of "Biafra" on 30 May 1967. The month of

 

June was used by both sides to prepare for war. Each side increased its

 

military arsenal and moved troops to the border watching and waiting

 

until the crack of the first bullet at the dawn of 6 July 1967 from the

 

Federal side. The war had started and the dawn of a new history of

 

Nigeria.

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HISTORY OF THE NIGERIAN ARMY BEFORE 1966

 

What is known today as the Nigerian Army was, before 1966, a part of

 

the British West African Army called the Royal West Africa Frontier

 

Force ( RWAFF ). This force included the armies of Gold Coast (Ghana)

 

Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Gambia. At this time, there were eight

 

indigenous Nigerian officers in the entire force, the rest being British

 

officers. The role of an army in a developing country was not fully

 

realized by the nationalist leaders struggling for independence, hence,

 

there was no effective pressure on the British Government to train

 

Nigerian officers in preparation for independence. Even at this stage,

 

it was clear that the future stability of a nation such as Nigeria

 

depended to a large scale on the existence of a reliable army. One

 

result of this short - sightedness was that the first Nigerian to

 

command the Nigerian Army - Maj Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi, was not

 

appointed until 1965, nearly five years after independence.

 

At independence, it was also obvious that only the group that

 

controlled the Army could aspire to run a stable Nigerian government.

 

Either by coincidence or by design, almost all the military

 

installations were concentrated in one area of the country - The North.

 

To illustrate this fact, below is a list of major military installations

 

in Nigeria and their locations before the January 1966 coup:

 

Northern Nigeria:

 

1. 3rd Bn Kaduna

 

2. 5th Bn Kano

 

3. 1 Field Battery (Arty) Kaduna

 

4. 1 Field Squadron (Engrs) Kaduna

 

5. 88 Transport Regt Kaduna

 

6. Nigerian Defense Academy "

 

7. Ordinance Depot "

 

8. 44 Military Hospital "

 

9. Nigeria Military Training College "

 

10. Recon Squadron & Regt "

 

11. Nigerian Air Force "

 

12. Ammunition Factory "

 

13. Recruit Training Depot Zaria

 

14. Nigerian Military School "

 

 

Western Nigeria:

 

1. 4th Bn Ibadan

 

2. 2 Field Battery (Arty) Abeokuta

 

3. 2 Recon Squaron "

 

 

 

Eastern Nigeria

 

1st Bn Enugu

 

 

 

There were no military units in the Mid - Western Nigeria and those

 

in Lagos were either administrative or ceremonial. Recruitment of

 

soldiers into the Nigerian Army was based on ethnic quota system. Under

 

this system Northern Nigeria provided 60%, Eastern and Western Nigeria

 

15% each and Mid - Western Nigeria 10%. This was done to encourage the

 

Northerners who had not been interested in joining the Army initially.

 

The standard of entry into the Army was as well lowered to favor the

 

Northerners. As a result the North in 1966 had the absolute majority

 

within the rank and file of the Army. The standards fell within the Army

 

and the soldiers became more politically conscious. Madiebo pointed out

 

"In order to ensure the loyalty of the military thus established, the

 

criterion for promotion and advancement was based more on political

 

considerations than efficiency or competence. (2:10)

 

The involvement of the Military in politics took a turn for the

 

worse during the Western Nigerian elections in October 1965. The

 

politicians openly courted the friendship of top military officers. Due

 

to the chaos that characterized the general election of 1964 and the

 

Western Region election of 1965, it had become clear that Nigeria was

 

overdue for a change. By October 1965, rumors of an impending coup were

 

already circulating in the country. It was therefore not much of a

 

surprise when the coup was finally staged.

 

 

THE WAR PLANNING STRATEGIES NIGERIA MOBILIZATION

 

 

The declaration of secession made war not inevitable but imminent.

 

At the dawn of 6 July 1967, the first bullet was fired signalling the

 

beginning of the gruesome 30 month civil war and carnage, brothers

 

killing brothers. Preparations for war had already been set in motion

 

on the Nigerian side by May 1967. All the soldiers of Northern,

 

Western, and Mid - Western origin had been withdrawn from the East and

 

redeployed. Four of the regular infantry battalions of the Army were

 

placed under the command of 1 Brigade and redesignated 1 Area Command.

 

Mobilization of ex - service men was ordered by the Commander - in -

 

Chief. Out of those called up, about seven thousand in number, four

 

other battalions were formed. Increased recruitment from the personnel

 

of the Nigerian Police Force was embarked upon.

 

The civilians were trained in civil defense duties. In mobilizing

 

the people of Nigeria, the Federal Government had to make the war look a

 

just cause to stop the disintegration of the country and in doing this a

 

slogan was invented "To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done."

 

Even the letters of the Head of the Federal Government, GOWON was coined

 

to read "Go On With One Nigeria" and became a very strong propaganda.

 

 

MILITARY

 

Delivery of arms and equipment for the Nigerian Army were hastened.

 

Nigerian Army Headquarters (NAHQ) Operations plan envisaged a war that

 

will be waged in four phases and that will be over within a month with

 

the capture of Enugu, the capital and nerve center of Eastern Region.

 

The four phases were (1) Capture of Nsukka, (2) Capture of Ogoja, (3)

 

Capture of Abakaliki, (4) Capture of Enugu. 1 Area Command was to be

 

the fighting force, 2 Area Command in Ibadan, Western Region, was

 

earmarked for the defense of Mid - West and border protection while the

 

Lagos Garrison Organization was earmarked for the defense of Lagos, the

 

Federal capital.

 

The NAHQ assessment of the rebels in terms of men under arms and

 

equipment did not give the NAHQ much concern. The total mobilization

 

and the will of the people of the Eastern Nigeria to fight against

 

severe odds was under estimated. Nigeria knew that the survival of

 

Biafra depended on importation of material from abroad to sustain her

 

war efforts and the only route was through the Atlantic Ocean. As part

 

of strategic planning, the Nigerian Navy (NN) was to blockade the region

 

from the sea thereby preventing shipment of arms, equipment, food and

 

other war materiel and services into the East. At the same time all

 

flights to the region were cancelled and the international community were

 

informed that no flight to the region would be accepted without

 

clearance from Lagos. The NAHQ did not pay any particular attention to

 

strategic intelligence of the Eastern Region. In planning and concept

 

the war was intended to be fought by the troops located in the North and

 

to be supplied mainly from Kaduna.

 

Immediately secession was declared, Nigeria sent her war ships to

 

blockade and secure all sea routes into the region. The Nigerian Air

 

Force was tasked to ensure the control of the air space over the entire

 

country. The offensive was to be a two prong attack, a combined arms

 

mechanized infantry divisional attack from the north and an amphibious

 

operation by another division from the south with the aim of crushing

 

the Biafran army in between. The offence was to be supported by the Air

 

Force and the Navy. A third and fourth fronts were introduced later in

 

the war.

DIPLOMATIC

 

At the Diplomatic level, the Federal Government mounted a serious

campaign to dissuade other countries, particularly the super powers, the

 

USA, USSR, and the United Kingdom from recognizing the secessionist.

 

The war was painted as an adventure by an individual. The government in

 

Lagos continued to represent the entire country in the international

 

organizations where a very strong propaganda was mounted to continue to

 

portray the war as one to re-unite the country. This made it possible to

 

win the support of the super powers and to continue to discredit Biafra.

 

Through this support, Nigeria was able to import more arms and equipment

 

from all over the world to prosecute the war. In order to show that she

 

was prepared for a peaceful solution to the conflict, Nigeria continued

 

to participate in peace talks organized by the international community.

 

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL

 

Realizing the importance of the support of the civil populace,

 

Nigeria embarked on an elaborate psychological warfare. "To keep

 

Nigeria one is a task that must be done" became a very popular slogan.

 

Leaflets discrediting the Biafran Head of State, encouraging the

 

Biafrans to lay down their arms with a promise of non-persecution, were

 

regularly dropped in the East.

 

BIAFRA MILITARY

 

On the Biafran side, preparation for war was put into high gear as

 

soon as the troops of non - Eastern origin withdrew from Enugu in

 

August of 1966. Thousands of people poured in for recruitment. Training

 

was embarked upon both for officers and soldiers who were mainly

 

lecturers and university students. Before the outbreak of hostility, the

 

Eastern Region had no sufficient arms since all the soldiers who

 

returned to the region did so without their arms while the soldiers who

 

were withdrawn from the East departed with their weapons. What was left

 

of the Nigerian Army at Enugu barracks amounted to about 240 soldiers,

 

the majority of them technicians and tradesmen and not all the soldiers

 

had weapons. However at the outbreak of the war, the Eastern Region had

 

succeeded in securing arms and ammunition from France, Spain and

 

Portugal. Madiebo remarked, "When more weapons were received in May

 

1967, a decision was taken to form two new battalions to be called the

 

9th and 14th Battalions." (2:100)

 

Many pilots and technicians formerly of the Nigerian Air Force of

 

Eastern origin returned to the region to form the Biafran Air Force

 

(BAF). Two old planes, a B26 and a B25 were acquired with new

 

helicopters. T he two bombers were fitted with machine guns and locally

 

made rockets and bombs. The BAF also acquired Minicon aircrafts. A small

 

Navy was established in Calabar with some patrol boat formerly used by

 

the Nigerian Navy. More boats were later manufactured locally and these

 

were armored plated and fitted with light guns and machine guns. A

 

peoples army called, the Biafra Militia, was formed. Local leaders and

 

ex - servicemen trained young men and women in the use of whatever

 

weapon the indivIduals had. These weapons were mainly imported and

 

locally made short guns. The militia were to provide a ready source of

 

manpower re-enforcement for the regular army, to assist with military

 

administration immediately behind the frontline, to garrison all the

 

areas captured or regained from the enemy, and to help educate the

 

population on the reason why Biafra was fighting.

 

An establishment known as the Administration Support was formed.

 

Before the declaration of hostility, the small Biafran Army was almost

 

completely administered and maintained by donations from the civil

 

populace. This establishment was to muster necessary support

 

particularly logistic requirements for the army and to run the

 

administration since all the young and able bodied men and women were to

 

be engaged in the fight. A Food Directorate, responsible for the

 

purchase and distribution of all food, drink and cigarettes to the

 

armed forces and the nation was formed. A Transport Directorate with

 

operational procedure similar to that of the Food Directorate was

 

established. A Petroleum Management Board was established for

 

procurement, management and distribution of POL. The board designed and

 

built a sizeable and efficient fuel refinery which produced petrol,

 

diesel, and engine oil at considerably fast rate.

 

Several other directorates such as Clothing, Housing, Propaganda,

 

Requisition and Supply, and Medical were established. Clothing in

 

particular was very essential as uniform was unavailable in Biafra. The

 

textile mills in the Eastern Region were reactivated to produce bails

 

of uniform for the armed forces and the civilians. A Research and

 

Production Board was established. This organization researched and

 

manufactured rockets, mines, tanks, grenades, launchers, bombs, flame

 

throwers, vaccines, biological and alcoholic beverages and so forth.

 

Women were not left out in the scheme of things. Women were trained

 

in intelligence gathering and how to infiltrate into the Nigerian side.

 

Women Voluntary Service was formed to assist in educating the women of

 

Biafra on the cause of the crisis, keep women informed of developments,

 

rehabilitation of war casualties, setting up of nurseries, orphanages,

 

civil defense corps, and provision of cooks for the troops. An Advisory

 

Committee was set up to plan and execute the war and to advise the Head

 

of State on political and military matters.

 

 

POLITICAL / DIPLOMATIC

 

The Biafrans knew that the odds against them was immense and that

 

their survival depended on the amount of external support they were able

 

to muster. The Biafrans, through many of their people abroad, mounted a

 

very strong campaign and propaganda for the recognition of Biafra by the

 

international community and for the purchase of arms and equipment. This

 

powerful propaganda paid off by her recognition by countries like,

 

Tanzania, Zambia, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Haiti, covert support by France

 

and double dealing by countries like West Germany, Spain, Portugal,

 

Switzerland, Sweden, Republic of Dahomey, Sierra Leone and secret

 

importation of arms and ammunition into the region.

 

 

THE CLASH OF ARMS STRATEGIES EMPLOYED

 

Nigeria's potential in manpower, wealth, natural resources, land

 

mass, infrastructure, international links and diplomacy could hardly be

 

surpassed in Africa. Whenever war is declared, people are generally

 

concerned with the relative strengths of the opposing forces coupled

 

with their war potential. Armed forces are the towing equipment that

 

pulls a nation out if she runs aground in her policy. It is madness for

 

a nation to commit herself more than her armed forces can do. There was

 

no comparison between the strengths of the opposing forces in the

 

Nigerian civil war. Nigerian Army (NA) was too formidable for Biafra, a

 

ratio of 4:1. However each side knew the tactics the other side would

 

employ since they all belonged to the same Armed Forces before the war.

 

The Biafran Army, realizing the odds against them decided correctly

 

to go into defense. Taking the advantage of fighting on their own

 

ground, they constructed fortified pill boxes on the enemy most likely

 

avenues of approach, the major highways connecting the Eastern Region

 

with the rest of the country. The Biafran army had gathered a lot of

 

information on the disposition of the Nigerian army and made contingency

 

plans to meet any incursion into their territory. They conducted

 

training exercise code named "Exercise Checkmate" which was on the line

 

Biafra Army hoped to fight. This exorcise was so realistic that when the

 

Nigerian Army started their offensive, they reacted exactly the way

 

Biafra expected them to.

 

Biafra deployed her troops as follows:

 

1. Northern Sector - 51st Brigade made up of three infantry

Battalions

 

2.Central Zone and Garrison Command - 11th Infantry Battalion

 

3.Southern Zone - 52nd Brigade made up of three battalions.

 

 

The Biafran Air Force carried out strategic bombings of major towns,

 

military installations and the Defense Industry. This had a

 

diverstating effect on civilian population and further helped the

 

Nigerian propaganda which resulted in making more people to join the NA

 

to crush the rebellion. The Biafran Navy also carried out some attack on

 

the Nigerian ships with little effect. Mercenaries were hired to train

 

the troops and took part in the fighting.

 

 

 

THE NIGERIAN ARMY OFFENSIVE.

 

Nigeria opened her offensive operations from the northern sector.

 

1 Area Command NA, supported by an Artillery Brigade, Armored units

 

equipped with British Scorpion tanks, Saladin armored cars and ferrets,

 

and Engineer units, issued its operational orders for OPUNICORD, the

 

code name for the "police" action against the rebels on the 2 July 1967.

 

The offence was launched on two fronts. The command was divided into two

 

brigades with three battalions each. 1 Brigade advanced on the axis

 

Ogugu - Ogunga - Nsukka road while 2nd Brigade advanced on axis Gakem -

 

Obudu - Ogoja road. The rebels successfully repulsed the attack.

 

However, with the many friends the command had made since they

 

concentrated on the border waiting for the order to attack, they began

 

to recruit guides, informants and with this came the intelligence on

 

the disposition of the Biafran troops, their strength and plans and a

 

breakthrough.

 

By the 10th of July 1967, 1st Bde had captured all its first

 

objectives and if they had had the detail intelligence of the Biafran

 

army on this day they would have pressed on to take Enugu, the Biafran

 

capital. H.M. Njoku remarked, "At Ukehe I could not believe my eyes. All

 

along the way were refugees streaming towards Enugu on Nsukka road. Many

 

of the retreating troops carried self inflicted wounds. Some senior

 

offices complained of malaria, headache, and all sorts of ailments. If

 

the NA knew the situation on the Biafran side on this eventful day and

 

pressed on they would have taken Enugu the same day without

 

resistance." (4:128)

 

By the 12th of July the 2nd Bde had captured Obudu, Gakem, and

 

Ogoja. A second front, the southern sector was opened on the 26 July,

 

1967 by a sea landing on Bonny by a division formed from the Lagos

 

Garrison Organization (LGO). With the support of the Navy, the division

 

established a beach head and exploited north after a fierce sea and land

 

battle. On 8th August 1967, Biafra invaded the former Mid - Western

 

Region with the aim to relieve the pressure on the northern sector and

 

to threaten Lagos, the Federal Capital. While the LGO was making

 

preparations for subsequent operations beyond Bonny, the news of the

 

rebel infiltration into the Mid - West was passed to the commander who

 

was then instructed to leave a battalion in Bonny, suspend all

 

operations there and move to Escravos with two battalions with a view to

 

dislodging the rebels and clearing the riverine area of the Mid - West.

 

These moves were carried out with the support of the Nigerian Navy and

 

 

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the merchant of the National Shipping Line. Another division was

 

formed to support the LGO in the clearing of the Mid - West of the

 

rebels. At this point, the formations were redesignated 1 Area Command

 

became 1 Infantry Division, the newly division was designated 2 Infantry

 

Division, and the LGO became the 3 Infantry Division. And with this the

 

"police action" turned into a full scale military operation.

 

By the end of September 1969, a substantial part of the Mid - West

 

had been cleared of the rebels. The commander of the 3 Infantry Division

 

secured permission to change the designation of his formation to 3

 

Marine Commando because of the peculiarly riverine and creek operations

 

already carried out by the division. This was the first time something

 

in the resemblance of a Marine organization was tried in the history of

 

the Nigerian Army. The division was not trained In amphibious

 

operations. Infact the troops were made up of the soldiers of the Lagos

 

Garrison Organization (LGO), the administrative establishment for the

 

Federal capital. However, with some crash training, the division became

 

the most feared and successful throughout the war.

 

Enugu became the bastion of secession and rebellion and the Federal

 

Government of Nigeria expected that its capture would mean the end of

 

secession. The advance from Nsukka to Enugu began in earnest on 12

 

September 1967. The rebels counterattacked and for the first time

 

launched their "Red Devil" tanks. These were modified pre - second World

 

War armored personnel carriers made in France. They were dangerous,

 

slow, blind, cumbersome and not easily maneuverable. T hey were easy prey

 

to anti - tank recoilless rifles and bold infantry attack. By the 4th

 

October 1967, Enugu was captured and with this capture 1 Infantry

 

 

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Division took time to refit and reorganize. The division had the

 

erroneous belief that the fall of Enugu would automatically mean the

 

collapse of the rebellIon. 1 Infantry Division decided to give the

 

rebels time to give up secession not knowing that the fire of rebellion

 

was still burning high in the hearts of most Easterners. Ojukwu was

 

callously fanning the fire and riding high on the emotions of his

 

apparently wounded and high spirited people who felt slighted and wanted

 

to revenge for all the events of 1966. It took the division another six

 

months to resume the offence thereby giving the rebels the necessary

 

respite to also reorganize and acquire more ammunition, weapons and

 

equipment to continue the resistance.

 

The 3 Marine Commando opened another front on the south / south

 

eastern border. With the support of the Navy, Calabar was captured on

 

the 13th October 1967. The capture of Calabar, Warri, Escravos and Bonny

 

established the supremacy of the Federal Government in Nigerian waters

 

and international waters bordering Nigerian coast. Biafra was sealed off

 

leaving Portharcourt Airport as the only means of international

 

communication and transportation with the outside world. It was at this

 

point that Biafran leadership decided to find alternative routes for

 

importation of war materiel and medical aids into the enclave. Three

 

stretches of straight roads were developed into airstrips; Awgu, Uga and

 

Ulli. On 19th May 1968 Portharcourt was captured. With the capture of

 

Enugu, Bonny, Calabar and Portharcourt, the outside world was left in no

 

doubt of the Federal supremacy in the war. The mercenaries fighting for

 

Biafra started deserting. Biafra started to smuggle abroad photographs

 

of starving children and to blackmail Nigeria of genocide. This secured

 

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military, economic and political relief from international organizations

 

for Biafra and further lengthened the war and the suffering of the

 

people of Biafra.

 

By the early 1969, 2nd Infantry Division crossed the Niger River at

 

Idah, after several unsuccessful attempts to cross the river at Asaba,

 

advanced through the already liberated areas of Nsukka and Enugu to

 

capture Onitsha. The division continued its advance towards Owerri. At

 

the same time 1 Infantry Division advanced on Umuahia. The 3 Marine

 

Commando was by now advancing on three fronts: Oguta - Owerinta - Ulli

 

airstrip - Umuahia axis; Portharcourt - Aba - Owerri - Umuahia axis; and

 

Calabar - Uyo - Umuahia axis. The plan was a link up with 1 Infantry

 

Division at Umuahia in order to envelop the rebels and either force them

 

to surrender or to destroy their fighting spirit. his plan, the final

 

offensive, was successfully implemented. Biafra tried unsuccessfully to

 

hold the NA onslaught using guerrilla tactics.

 

On the 10th January 1970, Lt. Col. Ojukwu, the self proclaimed Head

 

of State of Biafra, on realizing the total chaotic and hopelessness of

 

the situation, handed over to the Commander Biafran Army Maj. Gen.

 

Phillip Effiong, the administration of Biafra and flew out of the

 

enclave with his immediate family members in search of peace.

 

Maj. Gen. Effiong consulted with the Biafra Strategic Committee on the

 

situation and they decided that enough was enough and that the only

 

honorable way out was to surrender. In his surrender announcement to the

 

people of Biafra on Radio Biafra, part of Maj. Gen. Effiong address said:

 

Fellow Countrymen,

 

As you know I was asked to be the officer administering the

 

government of this republIc on the 10th of January, 1970. Since

 

then I know some of you have been waiting to hear a statement

 

from me. Throughout history, injured people have had to result

 

to arms in their self defense where peaceful negotiation have

 

failed. We are no exception. We took up arms because of the

 

sense of insecurity generated in our people by the events of

 

1966. We have fought in defense of that cause. I am now

 

convinced that a stop must be put to the bloodshed which is

 

going on as a result of the war. I am also convinced that the

 

suffering of our people must be brought to an end. Our people

 

are now disillusioned and those elements of the old regime

 

who have made negotiations and reconciliation impossible have

 

voluntarily removed themselves from our midst. I have,

 

therefore, instructed an orderly disengagement of troops.

 

I urge on Gen. Gowon, in the name of humanity, to order his

 

troops to pause while an armistice is negotiated in order to

 

avoid the mass suffering caused by the movement of population.

 

We have always believed that our differences with Nigeria

 

should be settled by peaceful negotiation. A delegation of our

 

people is therefore ready to meet representatives of Nigerian

 

Government anywhere to negotiate a peace settlement on the

 

basis of OAU resolution.

 

Part of Maj. Gen. Yakubu Gowon, the Head of the Federal

 

Government's speech to accept formally the declared surrender and the

 

end of the civil war read:

 

 

Citizens of Nigeria,

 

It is with a heart full of gratitude to God that I announce to

 

you that today marks the formal end of the civil war. This

 

afternoon at the Doddan Barracks, Lt. Col. Phillip Effiong,

 

Lt. Col. David Ogunewe, Lt. Col. Patrick Anwunah,

 

Lt. Col. Patrick Amadi and commissioner Police, Chief Patrick

 

Okeke formally proclaimed the end of the attempt at secession

 

and accepted the authority of the Federal Military Government

 

of Nigeria. They also formally accepted the present political

 

and administrative structure of the country. This ends thirty

 

months of a grim struggle. Thirty months of sacrifice and

 

national agony.

 

The world knows how hard we strove to avoid the civil

 

war. Our objectives in fighting the war to crush Ojukwu's

 

rebellion were always clear. We desired to preserve the

 

territorial integrity and unity of Nigeria. For, as one

 

country, we would be able to maintain lasting peace amongst

 

our various communities; achieve rapid economic development to

 

improve the lot of our people; guarantee a dignified future

 

and respect in the world for our posterity and contribute to

 

African unity and modernization. On the other hand, the small

 

successor states in a disintegrated Nigeria would be victims

 

of perpetual war and misery and neo - colonialism. Our duty

 

was clear. And we are today, vindicated.

 

The so - called "Rising Sun of Biafra" is set for ever. It

 

will be a great disservice for anyone to continue to use the

 

word "Biafra" to refer to any part of the East Central State

 

of Nigeria. The tragic chapter of violence is just ended.

 

We are at the dawn of national reconciliation. Once again we

 

have the opportunity to build a new nation. On our side, we

 

fought the war with great caution, not in anger or hatred, but

 

always in the hope that common sense would prevail. Many times

 

we sought a negotiated settlement, not out of wickedness, but

 

in order to minimize the problems of reintegration,

 

reconciliation and reconstruction. We knew that however the

 

war ended, in the battlefield or in the conference room, our

 

brothers fighting under other colors must rejoin us and that

 

we must together rebuild the nation anew. All Nigerians share

 

the victory today. The victory for national unity, victory for

 

hopes of Africans and black people everywhere. We mourn the

 

dead heroes. We thank God for sparing us to see this glorious

 

dawn of national reconciliation. We must seek His guidance to

 

do our duty to contribute our quota to the building of a great

 

nation, ounded on the concerted efforts of all its people and

 

on justice and equality. A nation never to return to the

 

fractious, sterile and selfish debates that led to the tragic

 

conflict just ending. The Federal Government has mounted a

 

massive relief operations to alleviate the suffering of

 

the people in the newly liberated areas. We are mobilizing

 

adequate resources to provide food, shelter, and medicines for

 

the affected population. My government has directed that

 

former civil servants and public corporation officials should

 

be promptly reinstated as they come out of hiding. Details of

 

this exercise have been published. Plans for the

 

rehabilitation of self - employed people will also be

 

announced promptly. We have overcome a lot over the

 

past four years. I have therefore every confidence

 

that ours will become a great nation.

 

The surrender paper was signed on 14th January 1970 in Lagos and

 

thus came the end of the civil war and renunciation of secession.

 

 

LESSONS LEARNT

 

The Nigerian civil war, unlike other wars across international

 

boundaries, was a war of unification, a war of reintegration. It was

 

therefore a much more difficult war for the Federal field commanders to

 

prosecute with the objectives of unification in mind than wars fought

 

against aggressors on foreign land. The human aspect was paramount. It

 

was a contradiction and complication not easy to resolve - how to fight

 

causing only limited destruction, how to inflict wounds and heal at the

 

same time, how to subdue without fatal and permanent injuries, how to

 

feed and house civilian population without exposing our troops to danger

 

and risk of saboteurs and infiltrators, how to achieve surrender without

 

inflicting permanent or long lasting psychological humiliation.

 

 

 

POLITICAL/DIPLOMATIC

 

The Nigerian political tensions, conflicts and confrontations, like

 

other human interactions, had never conformed with the law of physics

 

that action and reaction are opposite and equal. Reactions had always

 

been more intense and graver than action, real or imagined. Those who

 

are the sowers of wind are usually the reapers of the whirlwind. The

 

Kano riots of 1953 was a reaction to the humiliation of the Northern

 

legislators in Lagos most of whom are still alive and politicking while

 

the rioters are dead, unsung and long forgotten. In the Nigerian

 

historical context, each political action, tension or conflict had

 

evoked more violence in reaction and the elites who initiated the action

 

are normally not the ones who reap the more violent reaction or

 

destruction. They are masters in the art of survival and they have

 

always emerged almost unscratched. It is the common man who knows little

 

or nothing of the on-goings and who certainly gains nothing from the

 

appointments or the prerequisites of office of these elites that is used

 

as cannon fodder and expendable material for the attainment and

 

sustenance of power, wealth and prosperity.

 

Our leaders aid those of other developing nations must eschew

 

bitterness and violence, learn that no individual or section has a

 

monopoly of violence and that one action of violence evokes greater and

 

more destructive violent reaction, the magnitude which can never be

 

imagined in advance. In the end the law of retributive justice catches

 

with the perpetrators of bitterness, violence and destruction. This

 

difficult lesson must be learnt.

 

The great publicity given to the war by Markpress on behalf of

 

Biafra, especially the photographs of starving children and ruined or

 

deserted towns, evoked deep feelings of sympathy all over the Western

 

world. By and large, these pitiful sights touched the conscience of

 

those who mounted large scale humanitarian campaigns on behalf of

 

Biafra. The issues in the war were relegated to the background and the

 

human and humanitarian aspects came to the fore. Most of them were

 

genuine in their humanitarian efforts but little did they know that most

 

of their contributions were used to purchase arms and ammunition which

 

prolonged the war and thereby increased and heightened the sufferings

 

of those they were trying to help.

 

There were involvement of some notable world leaders on supposedly

 

humanitarian grounds, but they had, as we have seen, ulterior motives

 

which were mainly to satisfy their political, economic or diplomatic

 

interests. Some foreign governments covertly encouraged and sustained

 

rebellion under the guise of humanitarianism by secretly giving weapons

 

and other war material to Biafra. They seceded in fuelling the war and

 

prolonged it and consequently prolonging the suffering of the people in

 

the war affected areas.

 

The importance of winning the support and mobilizing the civilian

 

populace became very obvious. Biafra, despite her inferiority in

 

manpower and war machineries held on for so long because her people

 

believed in fighting the war which they considered a war of survival. On

 

the same token, Nigeria won the war primarily because she was able to

 

win the support of the populace who enlisted in thousands to reunify the

 

country.

 

 

MILITARY

 

Moral and discipline are two of the most important factors that

 

greatly contribute to success in war. Obasanjo commented on the effects

 

of these factors thus, "I observed amongst Nigerian troops during the

 

war different aspects of human behavior under the stress and strains of

 

battle, and interaction between ordinary Nigerians, war or no war. What

 

I found amazing was the length to which soldiers would go when morale

 

and discipline broke down, in order to avoid going to battle or, so to

 

speak, facing death. In effect, while running away from death they

 

inflicted death on themselves as some of them died from their self -

 

inflicted injuries. But towards the end of the war when everything was

 

going right - the rebels were on the run, advance was fast and

 

co-ordinated, moral was high - even our own wounded soldiers did not want

 

to be evacuated to the rear for treatment and medical attention. Several

 

times I heard such wounded soldiers saying to me, "Oga, na you and me

 

go end this war and capture Ojukwu. " (5:169)

 

Motivation is another very important factor that made troops fight.

 

The Nigerian soldiers enjoyed rapid promotion and increase in pay

 

throughout the war. This encouraged them to fight on. It is also

 

important to allow troops time to worship in their various religious

 

faith. Chaplains should be provided to pray for the troops whenever time

 

warrants. War is a situation that requires faith - faith in your

 

equipment, faith in your comrades and colleagues, faith in God or the

 

supreme being or whatever one believes in, faith in oneself and in the

 

cause for which one is fighting. I believe that success in a profession

 

that embraces the twin problem of human relationships and personal

 

danger in a degree not to be found in any other profession demands more

 

than the attributes of man, it requires divine guidance as well. The

 

care for the wounded and the dead must be taken seriously.

 

High standard of training can never be over emphasized. Most of

 

the soldiers recruited during the war did not undergo enough depot

 

training before being launched into battle. This resulted in many

 

casualties on both sides. Most of them who survived the war had to be

 

retrained. Members of the military must recognize that they depend more

 

on the professional and technical competence and proficiency of their

 

team members than on the formal authority structure. The maintenance of

 

the highly sophisticated weapons and equipment procured during the war

 

became very difficult. Most of them lasted for a few months in combat.

 

Weapons were imported from all over the world and this led to non -

 

standardization after the war. Most of them had to be phased out due to

 

lack of spare parts.

 

The quality of initiative in the individual must be allowed to

 

develop. It is the most valued of all leadership qualities and virtues

 

in the military. In this period of tremedious technological change,

 

military leaders are confronted with almost perpetual change or crisis

 

of organization especially in a fairly fluid combat situation. Whatever

 

may be the technological achievement of our age and it's impact on

 

military science, improvisation is still the keynote of the individual

 

fighter and combat group. This aspect of military training must be

 

emphasized in peacetime. This is particularly important in the

 

developing nation like ours.

 

Failures arising from lack of adequate joint training became very

 

obvious as a result of fratricide that occurred during the war. On many

 

occasions fire support request made to the Air Force never came, and

 

when it did come, it was sometimes on own friendly positions. Supply

 

from the air that became necessary atimes and were tried often fell on

 

the enemy side.

 

It is commonly said that an army fights on its stomach. Logistics

 

won the war for Nigeria. If the Biafrans had half of the resources

 

Nigeria had, the story might be different. The Biafrans were better

 

organized and managed the meager resources available to them more

 

effectively. The Nigerian Army learnt a big lesson from this. The Army

 

school of Logistics was upgraded and well funded to train and produce

 

high quality logisticians for the Army after the war.

 

Communication in the field was a big problem to both sides in the

 

conflict. Radios were lacking and when they were procured, trained

 

manpower was not available. The importance of good and reliable

 

communication and gathering of adequate and up to date intelligence of

 

the enemy was a big lesson.

 

The silencing of guns allowed the milk of brotherhood, love,

 

understanding and sympathy to flow from both the civilians and the

 

soldiers on the Federal side to their fellow citizens on the rebel side.

 

As time went by, everybody came to appreciate the futility of the war

 

which some had regarded as inevitable.

 

CONCLUSION

 

The war had come and gone. The story of the war and what led to it

 

has been told, is being told and will continue to be told. What seems to

 

me a human tragedy all through ages is the inability of man to learn a

 

good lesson from the past so as to avoid the pitfall of those who had

 

gone before. There is also the innate and unconscious desire of man to

 

remain oblivious of the lessons of the past. He hopes and believes that

 

the past can be ignored, that the present is what matters, that no

 

mistakes of the present can be as serious and grievous as the mistakes

 

of the past. As a result history tends to repeat itself. However, there

 

are exceptions of nations and men who had learnt from history to avoid

 

collective and individual disasters or a repetition of such disasters. I

 

feel confident that Nigeria must join the group of these happy

 

exceptions if we are to have political stability, economic progress,

 

integrated development, social justice, contentment and be the epicenter

 

of African solidarity. Since the end of the civil war, Nigeria has made

 

considerable progress in all these areas.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

1. Kirk - Green, A.H.M. Crisis and Conflicts in Nigeria 1967 - 70.

Vol. I, January 1966 - July 1967. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971.

 

2. Madiebo, A. Alexander. The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War.

Fourth Dimensions Publishers, 1980.

 

3. New Nigerian: Daily Newspaper.

 

4. Njoku, H.M. A Tragedy Without Heroes: The Nigerian - Biafran War.

Fourth Dimensions Publishers, 1987.

 

5. Obasanjo, Olusegun General. My Command: An account of the Nigerian

Civil War 1967 - 70. Heinemann Publications, 1980.

 

6. Schwarz, Walter. Nigeria. London, 1968.



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