This is the "Home" page of the "The Nigerian Civil War" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

The Nigerian Civil War  

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.
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Home Print Page

Nigerian Civil War


Starving girl


David vs. Goliath

The two Giants who lead the armies to fight the nonsensical war, for the control of Power. As these two elephants fought the war of words, the innocent civilians, mostly children and women and the naive young soldiers paid the ultimate price of the war- lost of lives. As the old adage goes, when two elephants fight, the grasses suffer. The horrific images of the Civil War proved the saying beyond reasonable doubts.


The Nigerian Civil War

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 as 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 to  Ivory Coast (Cote d'voire). The Commander of the Biafran Army- Philip Effiong, 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.

The Civil War "destroyed" Nigeria in all ramifications. Most families were cleansed from the face of the earth as a result of this nonsensical war. The political, social and educational unrest in Nigerria presently are the aftemath of this senseless war. The Nigerian system  had fallen apart and the center will never hold again.



 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. At this stage, it was clear that the future stability of a nation such as Nigeria depended to a large extentent 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 Northen Nigeria.                        

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

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 by Major General Kaduna Nzeogwu who assassinated eleven senior Nigerian politicians, two soldiers, and kidnapped three others.   

Lincoln University's Library Circulation Para Professional

Profile Image
Ugochi Nwachuku

C. Odumegwu Ojukwu

President of Biafra
In office
30 May 1967 – 8 January 1970
Vice President Philip Effiong
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Philip Effiong
Constituency Biafra
Governor: Eastern Region, Nigeria
In office
19 January 1966 – 27 May 1967
Preceded by Francis Akanu Ibiam
Personal details
Born 4 November 1933
Zungeru, Nigeria
Died 26 Nov. 2011 
United Kingdom
Nationality Nigerian
Political party

Nigerian Military,

Biafra military,


Njideka Onyekwelu (divorced)

,Bianca Ojukwu

Children Emeka (Jnr), Okigbo, Ebele
Alma mater

Lincoln College,

Oxford University

King's College, Lagos

Profession Soldier, politician
Religion Christian

Yakubu Gowon

3rd Head of State of Nigeria
In office
1 August 1966 – 29 July 1975
Preceded by Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi
Succeeded by Murtala Mohammed
Chief of Army Staff
In office
January 1966 – July 1966
Preceded by Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi
Succeeded by Joseph Akahan
Personal details
Born 19 October 1934 (age 79)
KankePlateau State, Nigeria
Spouse(s) Victoria Gowon
Religion Christian

Knowledge about Biafra

 Nigerian-Biafran Civil War is still a nightmare among the Igbos. The war cuturally destroyed the Igbos. Unity among the Igbos, that was a mark of the Igbo men and women is long gone with the Civil War. We the people, in the present day Nigeria are considered as third class citizens in our mother land.

No poll choices defined.


Loading  Loading...