The desire of both the Biafran regime and the federal military government of Nigeria during the Nigerian civil war to secure diplomatic support as well as military assistance from the outside world could not but lead to the internationalization of the conflict. This desire coupled with other reasons attracted many countries to declare support and assistance to either the federal military government of Nigeria or the Biafran regime.
The focus of this paper is to give a historical analysis of the intervention of Britain and Russia during the Nigerian civil war. The motivational bases of their involvement in the war, the dynamics and levels of their involvement as well as the effects of such involvement shall be examined in this paper. The paper also argues in the conclusion that the refusal of Britain and Russia to comply with the call for international arms embargo in 1968 did not help in facilitating a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The project also recommends as championed by scholars of conflict resolution in a civil war situation that there should be readiness by the intervening powers to stop arms sale when it might be effective to aid peaceful resolution of conflict.
1.1 Background of the Study
The History Of Nigeria Up To 1914
Nigeria the most populous country on the African continent only came into existence in its present form in 1914 when the two protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated by Sir Fredrick Lugard. The name Nigeria was first suggested in an article for the Times that the several British protectorates on the Niger be known as Nigeria1. The history of Nigeria as it is today goes back more than two thousand years. The earlier history of its peoples is contained in myths and legend, for north only, where the Kanuri and Hausa came into contact with the Arabs there any records noticed before the nineteenth country. One can say. However, reconstruct something of the history of Africa or Nigeria political division from archaeological research, which has greatly advanced in the last decades.2
Although Nigeria was the creation of Western ambitions and rivalry in West Africa; it is erroneous to believe that its peoples had little history contacts before its own boundaries were negotiated by Britain, France and Germany at the turn of the twentieth century. The Nigeria state contained not just a multiplicity of ethnic groups, but also a number of great Kingdoms that had evolved complex system of government devoid of European influence.3 The great Kingdom of Kanem-Borno, had a known history of more than a thousand years. The Sokoto Caliphate which for nearly a hundred years before its defeat by British had ruled most of the Savannah of Northern Nigeria; the Benin and Ife Kingdoms had become famous in art as amongst the most accomplished in the world. It is evident that the Empire of Oyo was once the most powerful of the States of the Guinea Coast. The Niger Delta (City States) had tremendously grown in response to European demands for slaves and later palm oil. On the other hand the Igbo-speaking peoples were known for the famous Igbo- Ukwu bronzes and terracotta’s. Before 1900, the diverse groups had in one way or the other through trade and war been in contact with each other4.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria covers an area of 570,000 square Kms and according to the last census has a population of over 150,000,000 people. The coastline stenches for 800 km from Badagry in the West of Calabar in the East, which includes the Bights of Benin and Bonny. The borders are contiguous with the Republic of Benin to the West, Niger Republic to the North and the Republic of Cameroon to the East. Despite the continuous notion that Nigerians were not consulted before the 1914 amalgamation, today Nigeria is inhabited by a large number of ethnics groups ranging in some from a few thousand to many millions, speaking between them several hundred languages. Though looking at the variety of customs, languages and social organization is confusing, they can be grouped into a number of linguistic groups which gives a honest good indication of their wider cultural relationship or affiliations.5
The Nigeria linguistic affiliation does not imply common decent, since contact between two very different groups can lead to assimilation of the linguistic system of one by the other. According to Joseph H. Greenberry, the majority of Nigeria’s inhabitants speak one of the large groups of languages of Niger-Corgo family that form part of the larger Congo-Lordofanion family. 6The Kwa family which Nigeria is concerned is sub family of Niger-Congo family. The Yoruba, the Edo, Nupe and Igbo speak language classified as Kwa 7
A crucial look at Nigeria issues and problem has be alluded to the 1914 amalgamation of Southern and Northern Nigeria as one state. In 1914, the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the protectorate of Northern Nigeria were united together by Lord Fredrick Lugard on 1st January 1914, thus becoming the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. The year 1914 has attracted so much importance in analyzing the politics of Nigeria as it marks the turning point in the evolution of the Nigeria state and also making Nigeria a political entity. A lot has been given as the reason for the amalgamation of South and North8. However, the immediate reason for the decision to amalgamate the two Nigeria was economic expediency or idea. 9The Northern Protectorate was running at a severe deficit, which was taken care of by Southern protectorate subsidy with British imperial Grant-in-Aid of about £300,000 a year. This was a departure from the age old policy of colonial autonomy, especially in financial matters.
Also, there were the pressing issues to coordinate railway policy, which at times was not in existence. The singular action by Lugard influenced the whole future of Nigeria. 10These actions would have been averted if Lord Lugard had listened to better judgment of a man who knew Nigeria well. E. D Moral, at that time editor of the African Mail. A known critic of the colonial policy, he proposed the division of the country into four large provinces; namely Northern, Central, Western and Eastern Provinces. While Temple, the then Lt. Governor of the Northern Protectorate suggested the division of Nigeria into seven with three each at North and South respectively, Lagos as the last of the seven.
However, the decision of Lord has inevitably led Nigeria to political crisis and peace. At the era of Nigeria independence, it’s clear to note that the seeming unity of Nigeria was at low ebb. The events that preceded the October’s 1st 1960 have attracted serious question on the amalgamation of the North and South in 1914.11
THE PATH TO INDEPENDENCE
The Richard’s Constitution of 1947 marked the actual turning point in Nigeria’s road towards independence, though the constitution received serious attacks from every side of Nigerian nationalists.12 The very objectives of the constitution signified unity, providing unity for the diverse elements that make up Nigeria and to ensure much participation by Africans in the discussion of their affairs. The most striking feature of the Constitution was the inclusion of the North in the Central legislature, a move seen as an effort at ensuring unity. Though they were mainly restricted to discussion, the creation of Regional Assemblies in the Constitution has been seen as the foundation of tribalism in Nigeria politics. Dike (1957) reaffirmed the nation that Richard’s constitutional development, is against the effort of unifying Nigerian towards a centralized state and the realization of a common nationality.13
However, it has been argued that if Lord Sir Arthur wanted to contain regional and ethnic differences he would have followed the notion proposed by Moral and Temple, also later by Zik. This whole action set a precarious situation of a very unwieldy federation with one region twice the size in area and population of the other two. The events that followed the introduction of the constitution show a great deal of damage it had caused to the unity of Nigeria. The decision made at the Ibadan conference 1948 must be seen in the context of the great increase in ethnocentrism. The origin of this tribal feeling was the source of much bitterness and recrimination by Nigeria political parties; an issue that later climaxed on party polities leading to a coup which led to Nigeria Civil War in years to come.14
In fact originally, the increase in tribalism, as Ezera showed, was resisted by circumstance rather than design and only later was it seized upon by politician. This trend continued to dictate the politics then, as later it also led to crisis in the Nigeiran Youth Movement (NYM) Tribal feeling had set in the quarrel between Zik and then older members of the Nigerian Youth Movement on the candidature of Samuel Akinsanya for a seat on the legislative council; Zik left the group. By 1949, the Northern People’s Congress, a cultural Congress like Egbe Omo Oduduwa set in an era of tribal party politics posing a greater danger to the Nigeria polity in years to come. 15The events at the coal miners’ strike in which the police opened fire on the strikers leading to the death of about twenty one led to the need for a new Constitution that was thought of arresting the regional politics. Again the Minority reports which would have ensured national building and national character were dropped aside leading to events that occurred in 1956.16
On 1st April 1956 an Action Group backbencher, Anthony Enahoro moved a motion demanding self government in 1956. It was clear that the Northern members would not support the motion as they were not yet prepared. The question here is whether the colonial authority would have approved if the Western region people wanted self government. This would have arrested the violence that followed the motion. The Kano riot gave a final blow to the seeming unity in the theory of 1914 amalgamation. It clearly sent a signal that all was not well despite all efforts at ensuring unity through the Macpherson Constitution of 1951. Though the Macpherson’s Constitution was much more liberal in its look than it’s predecessor, and much more in keeping with the needs of Nigeria which inevitably led to the end of colonial rule in Nigeria.17
The issues that coloured the motion for self government continued to shape Nigeria politics long after independence. Uncertainty and lack of trust became the order of the day in Nigeria politics. At the immediate post motion of self government, seeking alliance between the West and East Nigerian unity collapsed leading to more complex regional politics. At the height of the crisis among the North, West and East, the North demanded the dissolution of the Federation.18 The immediate result of the riots and the motion in the Northern House was the realization by the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Oliver Lyttelton that his earlier complacent statement that what Nigeria needs is a period of reflection to let the dust die down was a departure from the truth.
The London conferences of 1956 seemed almost impossible. The various parties sent delegations to the conferences with many misgiving against this unpromising background; it is remarkable how much agreement was in fact reached by the delegates to the London Conferences.
The all important question of self government in 1956 was cleverly, side stepped by offering self-government to those region that wanted it in 1956, but not to the federation as a whole, thus leaving it open to the North choice for self government. The bitterest issue of the conference, which broke the N.C.N.C., Action Group Alliance, was whether Lagos should be part of Federal territory. The N.C.N.C. which had many members in Lagos, also felt that a federation should have a true Federal Capital, while the AG wanted it to be part of the Western Region. Once again a conference about which most people had been very pessimistic was a striking success.19
In so far, the two conferences presented a framework that led to a Constitution under which Nigeria was governed till the military take-over in 1966.
The Coup to Coup (January 1966 to July 1966)
On October 1, 1960 Nigeria became an Independent member of the International Community. There was clear optimism about its future both within the country and outside, particularly the European powers. The Independence was achieved through patient negotiation between Nigerian leaders and the colonial masters, not by violent revolution. The three governing parties of the regions namely N.P.C in the North, the N.C.N.C. East and A.G. in West all ensured western-style parliamentary democracy. The N.P.C. and N.C.N.C. formed alliance with Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe as Governor-General and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister. The tension that had preceded independence seemed over as Nigeria appeared in its first year of sovereign nationhood, a sea of tranquility in reference to the situation in Congo20. In the early years of independence, the constitution was able to contain the various strains to which it was subjected. This is supported by one Nigeria newspaper which put it succinctly, “Nigeria seemed to have perfected the art of walking to the brook of disaster without falling in”. However, the complete breakdown of law and order in the western region in late 1965 led the military to take over the government and suspend every democratic institution.
Many factors have been given, including the historical, regional and ethnic differences that led to the breakdown of the political order in Nigeria. First, by the end of 1965, the politicians had earned increased contempt for their corruption and profligacy in dealing with Nigerians. Secondly, the gap between wealthy and the growing wage earning closes grew rapidly greater during the next first years. Thirdly, the growing discontent between Balewa and the elite as regard the west. Fourthly, the continued policy by the government to disregard the provision of the constitution and lastly the census of 1952-3, had created a slight overall majority was, however, the failure of the politicians to respect both the letter and spirit of the constitution that led to chaos which precipitated the January 1966 coup. The coup of January set the road for another coup in July, 1966.
The coup in January was mainly seen as an Eastern coup by the North. The North subsequently saw the unification of regional and federal public services as policy to dominate by the Igbos. Also they saw the killing of Northern military personnel as an attempt to dominate the military. In July, Northern officers staged a coup in which Ironsi on a visit to Ibadan was killed together with his host, Governor Fajuyi. Finally the Army Chief of Staff, Lt Col. Yakubu Gowon a Northerner took over as Head of State. The legitimacy of Gowon as Head of State caused civil unrest leading to conflict and killing between the North and Igbos. The continued rejection of Gowon by Lt. Col. Ojukwu led to chaos that plugged into a thirty-month-long civil war, with the Igbos declaring their Republic of Biafra.21
Conclusively, the colonial rule in Nigeria set a standard that started in 1914. The constitutional framework at bringing unity to Nigeria did not engender peace in the State. The war that ensued in Nigeria has in the colonial legacy which the master left in the hand of Nigerians the word is independence.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Most of the existing works on oil, Nigeria civil war and Biafra vis-à-vis Shell-BP tend to emphasize the political impact of the war on two warring parties, with no detail account offered on the dilemma most oil multinationals found themselves, particularly the economic value of their investment in Eastern Nigeria. This paper agrees with existing discussion that the Biafra rebels largely relied on oil of commercial quantity found on their land as underline factor for secession (Kirk-Greene, 1971; John, 1972, Josephine, 1974; Davies, 1973; Ikelegbe, 2006;
Agbonifo, 1987; Aghalino, 2009), since palm oil, rubber and other cash crops were no longer in high demand in the international market. The fact that the economic value of Shell’s investment did put her at a cross-road is not in doubt. Again, that their business principle in Nigeria does not permit involvement in politics is also not doubtful. In a different perspectives, this paper contend that Shell-BP, its parent body Shell International and the British government feared that their investment worth £300 million at the time should not be jeopardized. The project slots into this larger debate and emphasizes the fact that Shell-BP could not divest from local politics when such posed a serious threat to its business interest in Eastern Nigeria. It provides more confidential evidence to substantiate the central argument. Why did Shell-BP offer payment of a token payment to the Biafra rebels at all? Was Shell-BP or British Government willing to sacrifice their huge investment for peace and unity of Nigeria? Was Shell-BP apolitical in terms of business principle in a conflict zone?
1.3 Objective of the Study
The main objective of this study is to analyze the impact of Russia in Nigeria Civil War.
1.4 Scope of the Study
The scope of this study is centered on the analysis of the impact of Russia in Nigeria Civil War
1.5 Research Methodology
Doctrinal method and also empirical shall be mainly adopted in this research which will entail the consideration of statutes, textbooks of both foreign and local authors, journals, case laws conferences, materials form, collection of facts and data through questionnaires, internet and other relevant materials will be consulted.
1.6 Literature Review
During and immediately following the conflict a firestorm of books surfaced on the Nigerian Civil War. In 1969 Frederick Forsyth published The Biafra Story, a work sympathetic to the Biafran cause; (Frederick Forsyth, 1969) John de St. Jorre’s even-handed account, The Brothers’ War: Biafra and Nigeria, came out in 1972; (John de St. Jorre, 1972) and in that same year British journalist Suzanne Cronje released her scathing indictment on Western ambivalence toward “genocide,” The World and Nigeria: The Diplomatic History of the Biafran War, 1967–1970 (Suzana Cronje, 1972). In addition to these books by journalists, a slew of articles supporting both sides were published in newspapers and magazines in the world press (Margery Perham, 1970). The African magazine Transition, which had a large readership in the United States, featured two articles in the same issue by two prominent Ibos taking opposite sides in the conflict (Chinua Achebe, 1968). Nigeria’s first president, Nnamdi Azikiwe, released a monograph in 1969 condemning the Biafran cause—after spending the previous two years supporting it—entitled Origins of the Nigerian Civil War (Nnamdi Azikiwe, 1969). The two foils of the conflict, Ojukwu and Gowon, released their own books during the war, Biafra: Selected Speeches & Random Thoughts and Faith in Unity, respectively (Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, 1970).
Then, as now, Nigerian CivilWar literature did not suffer from quantity. Quality, however, as Nigerian historian Osarhieme Benson Osadolor puts it, has been lacking. “The state of the art on the CivilWar [remains] a comparative poverty of our intellectual heritage.
The evidence from the literature so far . . . weakens historical scholarship, and even makes the debates on post-war Nigeria much harder to use (Osarhieme Benson Osadolor, 2002).” This section details the historiography of the Nigerian CivilWar, focusing on three key questions in the literature: what were the origins and causes of the war, why did the conflict last so long, and what were the effects of the war. It demonstrates that there is a pressing need for historians to rethink many of the assumptions commonly held about the Nigerian Civil War and ask fresh questions concerning the impact of the conflict.
Three major interpretations emerged from the early debates on the civil war that still influence how we understand the origins of the conflict. One explanation describes the war as a tragedy that resulted from British colonial rule and the legacy of Lord Frederick Lugard’s 1914 decision to amalgamate Nigeria into one territory.19 The Nigerian Civil War, this interpretation says, was inevitable. Biafran leader Ojukwu posits that this was certainly the case. In his book published during the war, Ojukwu declared that from the beginning Nigerian unity was a farce. “Nigeria never was and can never be a united country. . . . Her only claim to form and sense was to be found in the nostalgic ruminations of the withered minds of ex-colonial office wallahs. Nigeria was not united—the Nigerians knew it.” The constitutional arrangements, which he claims favored the North, “were nothing but an implicit acceptance of the fact that there was no basis for Nigerian unity.”
In the historiography, the colonial legacy is the most prevalent aspect associated with the causes of the Nigerian Civil War. Suzanne Cronje, in her brutal exposé of Western complicity in the conflict, lays the brunt of the blame on Britain. “I saw the trouble in Nigeria coming a long time before Biafra’s secession and the war,” she remarks. “Having lived in Nigeria for several years, and having written about Nigerian affairs, I knew the circumstances which led to the collapse of the political system bequeathed to the Federation by Britain on independence.” As one historian puts it, the British colonial system was based on “so much inequality and injustice” that the civil war was bound to happen.
Some scholars take the colonial legacy argument a step further by linking the origins of the war with economic considerations. There are two directions in this line of reasoning.
One claims that uneven economic modernization during the colonial period exacerbated sectional and ethnic conflict in Nigeria. The other says that the Nigerian Civil War was fought over the control of natural resources in Nigeria. Nigerian ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, a recent convert to this position, finds “resource control”—a euphemism for oil—to have been at the heart of the tension between Nigeria and Biafra. Political scientist Annalisa Zinn also believes that oil was the prime factor in the secession of eastern
Nigeria. After quoting a manifesto of the Biafra Students’ Association in the Americans,
Zinn writes that for Biafrans “the connection is clear: Biafra’s sovereignty is the main objective and a key element of this sovereignty is control over Biafra’s resources, of which the most important is oil.” While the coveting of oil is one of the more questionable explanations for why Biafra seceded, some scholars do see natural resources as playing an integral part in the origins of the Nigerian CivilWar.
These arguments, however, seem tenuous at best. Scholars are correct in illustrating that the political situation handed down by the British fostered ethnic and religious rivalries and tensions in post-independence Nigeria. But the uneven distribution of power and the inability of one section of Nigeria to dominate the others also helped to quell secessionism during Nigeria’s formative years. It was only after the breakdown of the political party system in 1964 that sectional parties gave up on bisectional cooperation. The coalitions that formed after 1964, the United Progressive Grand Alliance and the Nigerian National Alliance, reshaped the nature of party competition and upset the normative balance in Nigerian politics. The political structure set up in 1960—as imbalanced as it was—could contain and confine sectional differences. So while it can be argued that the colonial legacy was an important aspect in Nigerian politics prior to the war, it certainly does not account for actions and decisions made by Nigerians in the years between 1960 and 1967.
In contrast to those who believe that war was inevitable, the second major interpretation on the origins of the Nigerian Civil War claims that Biafran leader Ojukwu alone was responsible for the temporary breakup of Nigeria. Supporters of the Federal Military Government took this position during the war because Nigeria was in many ways fighting to uphold the British system. During the war, Nigerian head of state Yakubu Gowon lamented the fact that so many of his countrymen died due to “the blind and inordinate political ambition of Lt. Col. Ojukwu.”28 For Gowon and his supporters, Nigeria was a natural and orderly nation-state that must stay united. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Origins of the Nigerian CivilWar is the best example of an observer laying guilt at the feet of Ojukwu. As Nigeria’s first president, “Zik”was probably the most well-known Ibo before the war. He initially supported Biafra and traveled the globe on Biafra’s behalf. But shortly after being rebuffed by Ojukwu, and therefore seeing few opportunities to participate in Biafran politics if secession succeeded, Azikiwe turned an about-face and called for a united Nigeria. In his short book, Azikiwe offers a revision of events in Nigerian history that many have found troubling. In January 1966, a military coup overthrew the government of Sir Abubakar Balewa. Having ruled since independence, Balewa was increasingly coming under attack by Nigerians over his domestic and foreign policies. Maj. Gen. Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Ibo, took over the reins of government. But his government was soon overthrown by a countercoup in July 1966. An already hostile political situation exacerbated the simmering ethnic conflict. In September, Northern Muslims struck back and killed more than ten thousand Ibos and Easterners living in the North. Azikiwe describes the massacres as a “natural reaction” by Northerners who saw pamphlets Ibos allegedly promulgated featuring postmortem pictures of highly revered Muslim leaders Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Sir Ahmadu Bello. Azikiwe accuses Ojukwu of being a tyrant and violating the “established democratic traditions” in Nigeria bequeathed by Great Britain.
Zik concludes “Ojukwu has deceived his people to believe that they are fighting the civil war for their survival”when, in fact, Ibos could find protection only in a united Nigeria.
Azikiwe’s monograph, published by the Nigerian National Press in 1969, places all the blame on Ojukwu’s ambition to control Nigeria. According to Zik, who was surely taking cues from the Federal Military Government, Biafra seceded because of Ojukwu’s unbridled desire for power.
This interpretation is not as prevalent in the historiography as the first. This is perhaps explained by the fact that the majority of popular worldwide support during and after the war went to Biafra. More to the point, though, this explanation is similar to the first in that it does not adequately describe the situation in Nigeria during the 1960s. Ojukwu was far from the only person supporting secession in Nigeria. The Sardauna of Sokoto, the de facto ruler of the North before his death in 1966, questioned the unity of Nigeria as early as 1964. He said: “Sixty years ago there was not a country called Nigeria. What is now Nigeria consisted of a number of large and small communities all of which were different in their outlooks and beliefs. . . . These many and varied communities have not knit themselves into a complete unit” Gowon himself, in a speech shortly after assuming the presidency, frankly stated that “putting all considerations to the test—political, economic, as well as social—the base for unity is not there.” Most historians that blame Ojukwu attempt to compare the leaders of Nigeria and Biafra to great dramatic effect.
The clash of personalities—Ojukwu versus Gowon—made for a great story. Here we had the Oxford-educated, gregarious, and wealthy Ojukwu up against the soft-spoken, middle-class, and austere Gowon. It is an almost irresistible storyline. However, it is misleading to say that a personality difference brought about the Nigerian Civil War. Chika B. Onwuekwe asserts that it was a lack of pragmatism on both sides that caused the war.
“Thus, it is doubtful if the immediate or primary cause of the civil war was the personal disagreement between Gowon and Ojukwu’s camp, or the subsequent massacre of the easterners living in the North in late 1966.”
The third major interpretation is perhaps the most compelling because it addresses the practical issues facing the Ibos in Eastern Nigeria in the late 1960s. A. H. M. Kirk-Greene argues that Ibos felt the need to secede because of fear—fear that the Nigerian government could not protect them from mass slaughter. There is much evidence to back up this claim. The massacres in September had a crucial effect on the Ibo psyche and Ojukwu calls the attacks on Ibos in the North “a pogrom . . . intended as the Northerners’ final solution to end what they call the ‘Eastern Menace.’” While it is still impossible to find evidence of a determined governmental policy to eliminate any single ethic group in Nigeria, many Ibos began to believe that the Federal government could not protect them. The September massacres led to a mass exodus of Ibos back to the Eastern region where Ibo propaganda used fear to great effect in galvanizing the local population for secession.
John de St. Jorre, a journalist from the Observer covering the war, describes the mind-set of the Eastern region as a “siege psychology” in which secession seemed the only way to ensure the security of the Ibo people. St. Jorre says that the September massacres transformed secession from a contingency plan . . . into an inevitability.” The massacres did not rule out negotiations, he notes, “but because the secessionist forces within the Eastern government used [the massacres] in such a way that agreement, in the deepening atmosphere of mutual suspicion and mistrust, became impossible.” Jones O. Ahauzem, in an article appearing in the book A Social History of the Nigerian Civil War, quotes an ordinary Ibo who vividly remembered why he supported a separate Biafran state. “To me then, Biafra was the only survival for Biafran people or they will be eliminated. . . . It was believed—it was either Biafra or we will all be exterminated.” Fear for security and safety under a united Nigeria, then, helps a great deal in explaining the origins of the Nigerian CivilWar.
More radical scholars have latched on to this idea to argue that the Ibos feared for their lives because the Federal Government was in the process of carrying out a deliberate policy of genocide against them. In going beyond those historians that maintain only that the Nigerian government could not protect the Ibos, these scholars find ethnic extermination to be at the heart of Nigerian policy toward the Ibo people. Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe alleges that the September massacres were but the first stage of genocide instituted by the Federal Government. “Essentially,” Ekwe-Ekwe asserts, the events in September “inaugurated the second phase of the genocide which would go on till January 1970.”While there is little evidence to substantiate these claims, fear of genocide remains a powerful force in explaining why Biafra seceded.
Historians have offered a variety of reasons for why Biafra seceded on May 30, 1967.
But why did the war last as long as it did? At first glance, it seems that nearly Biafra, after all, was a permanently shrinking territory and never had the same advanced weaponry as Federal forces. The literature recognizes two primary explanations: the resolve of the Ibo people to continue despite overwhelming odds, and the internationalization of the war.
As the edited volume A Social History of the Nigerian CivilWar makes clear, Biafrans believed wholeheartedly in the necessity of the war. Women played a crucial role in the war effort. They were mothers and soldiers, wives and traders. They took on men’s responsibilities while their husbands were at war and sometimes filled in formen on the battlefront. Biafrans’ resolve to fight the war, exacerbated by Biafran propaganda, stemmed from a belief that the Federal Military Government wanted to destroy the Ibo people. One poster, featuring a severely beaten man on crutches, says, “GOWON HATES YOU!”On the bottom it alerts Biafrans to the fact that the Nigerian head of state “loves nobody/Gowon spares nobody/He destroys all.”43 It should be clear, then, that Ibos believed that they had to fight to the death.
Howmuch of a factor was Biafran resolve in stoking the war? The answer is terribly difficult to quantify. Biafrans were defending a homeland, and they had an interest in continuing the fight until the bitter end. Many Ibo authors, writing after the conflict, point to Biafran ingenuity and resolve in their arguments. Still, all the resolve in the world does not help when you do not have the weapons to fight a modern war. This argument, then, should be ranked behind other factors in explaining the length of the war in Nigeria.
The internationalization of the war—where outside powers interfered with the conflict—was one of the most crucial and controversial aspects for the prolongation of the Biafran conflict. Both sides needed the help of outside powers if they were to win the war. Nigeria wanted military aid and nothing more, while Biafra wished for recognition from outsiders. The Biafrans, much like the Algerians in their struggle for independence against the French, successfully exploited international opinion to gain support for their cause. The Biafran government, working with Western journalists, promulgated images of starving Biafran women and children in the Western press in the summer of 1968 to gain sympathy. There were four major outside influences on the Nigerian Civil War: Great Britain, the United States, France, and nongovernmental organizations. All of these groups are discussed in the historiography in interesting ways.
Britain’s role in the Nigerian Civil War was the most visible, influential, and contentious.
After initially refusing to sell arms to either side, the British openly sided with the Federal Military Government. Suzanne Cronje argues that oil and the Soviet Union’s involvement in the civil war influenced Great Britain to openly support Nigeria.
Chibuike Uche paints a more complicated picture in his 2008 article, “Oil, British Interests, and the Nigerian Civil War.” Uche says that Britain was still feeling the impact of Arab Oil embargo following the 1967 Arab-IsraeliWar. Keeping Nigerian oil flowing toward the United Kingdom took priority over humanitarian concerns.47 The prospect of Soviet influence in Nigeria was also a concern. In The International Politics of the Nigerian CivilWar, John Stremlau refutes Uche, in asserting that Soviet influence played a larger role than oil and was, in fact, the decisive factor in British Prime Minister HaroldWilson’s decision to provide military aid to Nigeria. “For the duration of the conflict,” Stremlau claims, “Gowon could use the threat of greater reliance on Moscow to ensure the flow of British arms to restrain theWestern powers from pressing too vigorously for a compromise settlement on terms he considered contrary to national interest.”
Next to the British, French aid to Biafra had the most direct impact on the war. John de St. Jorre offers a litany of reasons for de Gaulle’s decision to send aid to Biafra. They included, but were not limited to, a disdain for federalism, pressure from the French Left in sympathy with Biafra, the classic rivalry between France and Britain, a desire to break up the most powerful nation in West Africa, that “the concept of Biafra . . . appealed to all the General’s political and ideological instincts”; and pressure from President Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d’Ivoire.49 While certainly not the most parsimonious explanation, there is probably a hint of all of those factors in de Gaulle’s strategy toward Biafra. Raph Uwechue’s take on the de Gaulle and Biafra is probably the best, given that he served as Biafra’s envoy in Paris during the majority of the war. Uwechue contends that France became involved in Biafra “as a result of the pressures exerted on her by respected African leaders and by French public opinion at home.” French support for Biafra, most historians agree, was not enough for Biafra to succeed in creating an independent state. Ebere Onwudiwe describes the French presence in Biafra as “lukewarm” and quotes Phillip Efiong, a Biafran major general, as saying the French “bastards did more harm than good by raising false hopes and by providing the British with an excuse to reinforce Nigeria.”
While Britain and France had much at stake in the Nigerian CivilWar, the significance of the war to the United States was far from clear. The United States and Nigeria enjoyed a complicated relationship before 1967, and official U.S. policy at the beginning for the war adhered to steadfast neutrality toward the conflict.52 Yet, as Adebayo Oyebado notes in his article on the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Nigerian Civil War, neutrality in an international conflict slowly became anachronistic as humanitarian concerns emerged during the war.53 As the conflagration in Nigeria raged on, and as images of starving children entered into American living rooms, popular sympathy in the United States shifted toward Biafra. In American Policy and American Famine, Joseph E. Thompson chronicles how the United States slowly found itself supporting relief efforts in Biafra.
While it is not the main focus of his book, Thompson does demonstrate how nongovernmental organizations persuaded the Nixon administration into ignoring the fact that supporting humanitarian aid meant violating Nigeria’s national sovereignty. On September 10, 1968, Nixon himself said, “But genocide is what is taking place right now— and starvation is the grim reaper.”55 That the relationship between the United States and Nigeria remained complicated during the war is reflected in the historiography.
The contribution of nongovernmental organizations is the least understood of all the outside forces at work during the war. These organizations included, but were not limited to, voluntary organizations such as the American Committee to Keep Biafra Alive and the Britain-Biafra Association; international relief organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, Caritas, and Joint Church Aid; and regional groups such as the OAU.56 Dan Jacobs, a former speech writer for Hubert Humphrey and spokesman and consultant for UNICEF in 1968, criticizes the International Committee of the Red Cross’s legalism and refusal to deliver aid to Biafra. Thompson makes the case that the United States, politically unable to support Biafra overtly, worked through the Red Cross to send relief to Biafra because of domestic political pressure. In his 2008 dissertation, Daniel Sargent briefly mentions nongovernmental organizations, and he ties their actions in the war to a broad change in international politics in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Taken as a whole, it must be stated that not much of this work is based on archival research.
There has yet to be an in-depth study of any of these outside forces that operated during the war, let alone one that tries to put them all in conversation with one another.
The internationalization of the conflict will be further discussed in the last section of this essay. At this point, however, it is worth noting that the international aspects of the war offer new avenues for understanding global society in the 1960s.
The final historiographical debate among historians deals with the “National Question.”
What did the Nigerian CivilWar solve? Is a basis for unity in Nigeria present? Did the Nigerian CivilWar preserve unity? For those who tackle this tough question, the answer is either a resounding no or, perhaps more worrisome, a whimpering yes.61 Historian Obaro Ikime has gone so far as to ask whether Nigerians “fought a civil war in vain.”
Always willing to throw his hat into debates on the war, Ekwe-Ekwe states that Nigeria has proven itself to be a “failed state.” The Ibo nation, according to the controversial author, “should now set to work as determinedly as ever” toward creating a Biafran state and transforming it into a secure bastion for Ibos living all over the world. Ekwe-Ekwe believes that Ibos should stop investing their time and energy in Nigeria and create a new Biafra.
The National Question, he says, has never been solved because a unified nation was never truly established.
Not all Nigerians are ready to throw in the towel on national unity. The problem, as
Tunde Babawale sees it, is that “years of military rule have set Nigeria back and consolidated its marginalization in the global system.” Rather than a strong center, Babawale calls for the decentralization of the government in order to make it more democratic. “A Nigerianness must be made to emerge” if Nigeria is to survive.64 Still, even among the optimists there is a prevailing feeling that the “National Question” has yet to be solved.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
In carrying out this research many factors served as constraints: 1. The limitation of the research title as impact of Russia in Nigeria Civil War.
2. Financial Limitation.
3. Inadequate Time: time factor constitutes the major limitation of this research study. It relates to the fact that the time for research work was short because it was combined with lectures, studies and examination. 4. Negative attitude of respondent: the problem facing the researcher with regards to the respondents relates to the non-cooperation and uncompromising attitude some respondents in giving
1.7 Definition of Term
Amalgamation: the action, process, or result of combining or uniting.
Civil War: A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war between organized groups within the same state or country.
Political Decay: Political decay is a political theory, originally described by Samuel P. Huntington, which describes how chaos and disorder can arise from social modernization increasing more rapidly than political and institutional modernization. Huntington provides different definitions for political development and describes the forms of political decay according to the various definitions.