Conflict in Nigeria

Internal conflict has been prevalent throughout Nigeria’s past and present. The most notable civil conflict to date was the Biafran War, which took place from July 6, 1967 until Janurary 13, 1970. This three year war was political conflict that serves as a prime example of what can result from there being complex ethno-regional, economic, religious, and cultural tensions existing within a country. When Nigeria was colonized by Great Britain, it was divided between a mainly Muslim north and mainly Christian south. Then, when Nigeria gaining its independence in 1960, three provinces were formed along tribal lines with the Hausa-Fulani residing in the North, the Yoruba in the Southwest, and the Igbo in the Southeastern region of the country. This colonial divide would only make pre-existing tensions worse once oil in the Niger Delta would be discovered and political agendas would

Following claims of electoral fraud a military coup led by Igbo army officers was initiated on January 15, 1966 and resulted in General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Igbo and head of the Nigerian Army, taking power as President and becoming the first military head of state in Nigeria. Although the coup itself would eventually fail due to Ironsi rallying the military against the coup’s initial coordinators, the coup was perceived as having benefited the Igbo people. With all but one of the five coup coordinators being non-Igbo, and Ironsi, himself being an Igbo, this coup was thought to have promoted many Igbos in the Army at the expense of Yoruba and Housa officers. This would lead to Northerners executing a counter-coup on July 29, 1966, led by Lt. Col. Murtala Mohammed and eventually placing Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon into power. Ethnic tensions would increase within Nigeria following both the initial coup and then counter-coup would lead to the assassination of Aguiyi-Ironsi and July 1966 and large-scale massacres of Christian Igbos living in the Muslim north in September 1966.

And, to make implications more complicated, large amounts of oil reserves would be found in the Niger River delta in the southeastern region. With the outbreaks of violence against Igbo people in Nigeria, Igbo people feared of the Hausa northerners exploiting them of their recent oil discoveries. This would ultimately cause military governor Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu of the Igbo southeast region to proclaim the secession of the southeastern region from Nigeria as the Republic of Biafra, becoming an independent nation on May 30, 1967. Unfortunately, this approach would not fair well for Biafra. After a year of fighting off the government-funded Nigerian army, Nigeria would eventually create a blockade that prevented food and supplies from entering Biafra. After an estimated 1 million Nigerians dying from this internal conflict, mainly from starvation, Biafra would surrender on January 13, 1970.

Recently, similar internal conflicts have taken place in Nigeria due to ethno-regional and economic reasons as the radically Islamic Boko Haram continues to terrorize Nigerians across the country through their violent insurgencies in an attempt to overthrow the current government in place.


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