Nigeria Biafra Civil War

Topics: United States, World War II, Yakubu Gowon Pages: 7 (2383 words) Published: April 12, 2013
Realism, Power and the Nigerian Civil War|
Ntsika Nduli|


International Relations is a field of politics that takes a look at the interactions that occur in between states in the international arena. Its aim is to explain why certain events have unfolded in certain ways, as a result of how states use their power relatively to each other. Mostly the interactions that International Relations tries to examine or explain, is the conflicts that arise as a result of differing interests that states have. To provide a base for analysis, this essay is going to use the central theory of realism to explain the civil war that occurred in Nigeria in between 1967 to 1970. This essay will seek to explain the events and how Realism can elaborate on the outcomes and the causes of the war. It will do it by firstly providing a historical background of Nigeria/Biafra war; it will then give the history of the development of realism as a theory of international relations. It then will seek to explain how the central concept of power bore on the circumstances that surrounded the war, and how we could use it to critique the outcomes of the war. It will also try show which, if any, aspects of the conflict cannot be explained by the theory of Realism. To understand the nature of the Nigeria/Biafra conflict, the essay will have to turn to a certain period of Nigerian political history so that in-depth understanding of the circumstances that surrounded the conflict may be attained. Post World War II, while Nigerian was still under colonial rule, the Richardson’s Constitution of 1950 was formulated which allowed for political party formation in Nigeria. This resulted in political parties being formed along regional and ethnical bases. In 1951, more autonomy and stronger legislatures where allowed in Nigeria. In 1953, the four regions of Nigeria, namely the North, East, West and The Mid-Belt had disagreements on the date of independence. The northern region of Nigerian talks of secession as a result of feeling ill-treated during the process. During the same time, the Western region also threatens secession because a newer constitution did not place Lagos in the west. In 1954 a constitution is drafted which cemented federalism in Nigeria and Nigeria is granted independence from colonial rule on the 1st of October in 1960. The results of these events were that political parties strengthened their regional power bases by invoking tribalism and sectionalism at the expense of national unity (Atofarati,1992). Without realising, the major political powers in Nigeria had made a wound that quickly began to fester as the results of these actions were that diffusion in unity began. Fuel is added to the fire when in the General Election of 1964 is marred by unsavoury methods used by the regional political leaders in order to gain votes. Evidence seems to show that the event that seems to be the harbinger of change is the 1966 coup that was led by Major Nzeogwu. A marked feature of the coup is that most of its planners were of Eastern origin, and was seen by Northerners as way to eliminate northern political heavyweights so that easterners may assume control (ibid). This is so, because at the time, the federal government was largely populated by northerners. On the 29th of July 1966, Major General Johnson ‘Johnny Ironside’ Aguiyi Ironsi is killed in a counter coup, which is seen as revenge of the north on the east. As a result, Lieutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon, the most senior northern officer in the military assumes control of both the military and Nigeria. Lt. Col. Gowon calls for an ad hoc conference on the 9th of August, of regional representatives, to preserve the unity of the state. The conference recommends; i) The posting of all military personnel in their respective regions ii) The nullification or modification to any decree that assumes extreme centralization iii) The convening of meetings of the...
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