The Nigerian Civil War History – The Untold Story of Biafra

cropped Oasdom Civil war in Nigeria History of Nigeria civil war with biafra
cropped Oasdom Civil war in Nigeria History of Nigeria civil war with biafra

The history of Nigeria will never be complete without highlighting the tales of the Nigerian civil war – the Biafra war as some have come to know it.

Every parent who lived in the 1960s knows what it really meant to be a parent in the face of hunger, disease, outcry and hopelessness.

Pictures of civil war in Nigeria as you’ll come to see in this comprehensive post will get you thinking; “what if I witnessed this brutal war?” Would I have survived?


You know what? Let’s get started and you’ll learn more about an important timeline in Nigeria’s history and the consequences thereafter.

History of Civil War In Nigeria

The sparks of a potential Nigerian civil war today would not have been if there had been no dying embers of it.

The underlying tension between two major Nigerian ethnic groups, Hausas and Igbos, can be traced back to the history of the Nigeria civil war.

Nigerian civil war with Biafra

civil war in Nigeria effects

A hate bomb that exploded, leaving its pieces lodged in the hearts of some people, its ashes with dying coal and not dead coals in different corners of the country, its effect ever so felt by the citizens of Nigeria.

The tale of the civil war in Nigeria have not expired in the mouth of our elders that tell it, neither has this tale become irritating to our ears.

Let us not forget the way our hearts move each time we hear the word Nigerian civil war; Biafra, Ojukwu, hunger, bloodshed and many other elements comes to mind.

In this updated article about the brutal Nigeria civil war, you’ll find information on:

  • Nigerian civil war timeline
  • Nigerian civil war causes and effects
  • Nigerian civil war facts
  • Nigerian civil war pictures
  • Biafra war videos

So, who won the Nigerian civil war? Let’s take it from the beginning…

The Nigerian Civil War Timeline

The Nigerian Civil War Timeline: 6 July 1967 – 15 January 1970 (2 years, 6 months, 1 week and 2 days)

The loving family created, so full of life and dreams

The love in their eyes, the joy they felt

The harmony we live in, Oh! Nigeria. I love my country.

No one imagined they would be next in ground

Little did they know, it was to be short lived

Oh! Nigeria. Where is the love? Can’t we all live in one accord?

By Aurora Maikudi.

The Remote and Immediate Causes of the Nigerian Civil War

51 years ago, the late Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu declared the republic of Biafra, hence, the Nigeria civil war that started weeks later.

Nigerian civil war history and timeline
Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu

The Nigeria civil war is not something anybody with humanity will ever pray for again in Nigeria, even the survivors of the Nigerian civil war do not pray for they nor their children to ever experience such.

It was such a bad experience with lot of bloodshed on both sides; death count was estimated to over 2 million. I’d say that the early amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 contributed to it.

The jubilation on 1st of October, 1960 as Nigeria gained her independence, the harmony in which everyone thought they lived in until 36 years later when Major Kaduna Nzeogwu and others made the 15th of January, 1996 a bloody day.

First coup d’etat Kaduna Nzeogwu Civil war in Nigeria bloodshed
Major Chukwuma General Kaduna Nzeogwu

The intervention of Major General Johnson T.U. Aguiyi and Lieutenant Colonel Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu that ushered in the first military rule in Nigeria with the accomplishment of foiling the first coup d’etat.

The increase in the tensions that had earlier been created led to the discriminating killing of the Igbos in the north on the 29th of May, 1966;

This was shortly followed by the assassination of the first military head of state, Major General J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi and Colonel Francis Adekunle Fajuyi by another set of coup plotters, who sought revenge and also the taming of the Igbos who had been seen as too ambitious for their good.

The induction of Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe, who was next-in-line according to the military hierarchy; which was pushed by Lieutenant Colonel Ojukwu as against the coup plotters choice, Colonel Gowon.

Unfortunately, it was not so and Colonel Yakubu Gowon became the Head of state but this did not leave things in good place between Gowon and Ojukwu.

Despite General Gowon becoming the head of state, the killings did not stop. Instead, it increased and on the 29th of September, 1966; this prompted the exit of the Igbos from the northern states.

A backlash killing of the Hausas also took place and made the Hausas leave the eastern states. Did you know that General Yakubu Gowon is the pioneer of the creation of state and capital in Nigeria? Check that out.

In What Year Did The First Civil War In Nigeria Surfaced?

The year 1967 ushered in a peace conference in its first month at Aburi, Ghana for Gen. Gowon, Lt. Col. Ojukwu, and others to talk on how to bring back unity to the country.

Ojukwu asked for a confederated Nigeria which Gowon agreed, alas! Things did not go as agreed upon. On the 30th of May, 1967 Lt. Col. Ojukwu declared the republic of Biafra.

The glass of illusion of a united Nigeria was shattered on the 6th of July, 1967 when General Gowon declared war on Biafra, making the Nigerian civil war legit, it was no longer a rumor or backyard murmuring.

when did Nigerian civil war start? 6th of July 1967 Civil war started in Nigeria

The Nigeria army not only fought with weapons against Biafra army, the Nigeria Navy set a blockade that denied entry of food, supplies, weapons via water into Biafra.

A military strategy that was not a joke as more biafran civilians than army died daily from starvation. This starvation killed the civilians more than the bullets. It was horrible seeing how dried up they looked.

starving biafra kids in the nigerian civil war pictures
Starving biafra kids

Biafra civil war in Nigeria starving children

Nigerian civil war with Biafra

Civil war in Nigeria pictures

Starvation did not just kill; there were reports of the biafran civilians raped by the Nigerian army. The Biafran civil war was not favoring Biafra due to lack of adequate resources amongst other things but they stood their ground.

Learn more about the Nigerian army ranks and salary structure in this post.

nigerian civil war pictures

Until the 13th of January, 1970 when Biafra surrendered to Nigeria after their hero abandoned them. By this time, too much damage had been done.

Surrender of biafra in the civil war

The properties the Igbos had left in the northern states could not be reclaimed, their money gone; 20 pounds was given to each that had money in the bank irrespective of the amount had; albeit smaller or larger than the £20.

Also Read: The List of all Nigerian Presidents from 1960 till date

More on Causes of The Nigerian Civil War

There is no need to go on an ultimate search for the cause of the Nigeria civil war. Everybody caused this war.

If you are familiar with the history of in Nigeria or have read about the first military head of state in Nigeria then the first coup that took place leading to the launch of the first military rule and subsequent ones is no longer news to you.

Reading back on the information provided, the cause of the Nigerian civil war can be traced to the first coup popularly called the “Igbo coup”.

causes of Nigeria civil war pdf - igbo coup

One would think the intervention of the first military head of state in Nigeria would have placed a lid on these tension bombs waiting to explode but Alas! What started out as fighting corruption by Major Kaduna and co. was seen as assassination; an assassination that paved way for ethnic differences.

What started out as an action of intervention by General Aguiyi Ironsi was seen as the opposite, more like a process of dominating by the Igbos.

The perpetrators were said to not have been punished as expected and so a time was set on these tension bombs.

Tension bombs that exploded in to the first civil war in Nigeria, the Nigerian civil war; leaving its shreds lying in different corners of the country to explode again when triggered.

It was on record that General Aguiyi-Ironsi cancelled the Federal system of Government and imposed a unitary state of government.

You Should Read: Nigerian Government Structure and politics

This meant any tribe could be posted to any state to govern. The northerners did not see this in their favour as it was an easterner that was on the seat of power at the time.

It would also seem they had not forgotten what Mr Charles Dadi Onyeama was recorded to have said in 1945 at the Central Legislative Council when he was representing Enugu that “the domination of Nigeria and Africa is only a matter of time.”

And so it started, the Northerners would not let the death of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, Lt. Col. Abogo Largema, and the rest go unpunished, they just could not fold their hands and expect things go well.

From their angle, they saw things seemed not to be in their favour and so they struck back. Even though Aguiyi Ironsi had arrested his Igbo brothers with the help of another Igbo man, Ojukwu Emeka, it was not enough; instead it was seen as a pre-planned stage act.

Without consideration for what it could turn out to be, the bloodshed began. The Hausas feared the freedom the igbos so much believed in, and acted upon and thought they decided to tame them in the way they thought best.

There was mass slaughter of the Igbos in the North on May 29, 1966, it reached its peak on September 29, 1966; forcing most of the Igbos out of the north.

The Igbos too retaliated, who could blame them? And before some of our parents could speak long sentences in English they were hearing Nigeria civil war.

In as much as the Nigeria civil war or the Biafran civil war was between Nigeria and Biafra, better still let me say the Northern and Eastern tribes; let us not forget the role the Western ‘Yoruba’ tribe played.

So dear readers, what caused the Nigerian civil war? Who is to be blamed?

Would you say it’s the Northerners who found out that the prominent Eastern leaders were not killed in the first coup and took drastic steps making them no different from those who carried out the first coup?

Or the Easterners who did not take firm measures against their brothers who killed the prominent Northern leaders but instead could not bear the loss of lives of their people?

The Westerners who suffered at different degrees on both sides but remained somewhat accommodating? What actually caused the Nigerian civil war?

Yes, I know you’d want to keep this for offline use, so we’ve created Causes of the Nigerian Civil War Pdf Download

Must Read: Top 17 Local Airlines in Nigeria For Local Flights

Nigerian Civil War Effects

The effects of the Nigeria civil war can still be felt everywhere in the country at varying degrees. The Hausas and Igbos still walk on eggs around each other, the Nigerian civil war has made tribalism or ethnic rivalry chewed deeper still.

Biafran war effect in Nigeria

The resentment felt by the Igbos whenever there is a slight evidence of domination by the Hausas and vice versa. There is so much mistrust and tension between the tribes in Nigeria.

Even the present day boko haram which is said to mean “western education is an abomination” or “no to western education” can be said to have stylishly be birthed from the Nigerian civil war.

The Igbos were one liberated ethnic group and pursued a level of education, they believed in deciding their fate and not to be dictated to; while the Hausas had no issue submitting to authorities and did not really pursue education then…is someone relating?

Looking at the political sector, we can see it is largely dominated by the Hausas, Northerners.

Economic Effects of The Civil War

It cannot be denied the Nigerian civil war affected the economy of the country. Imagine what a country Nigeria would have been without the existence of a Nigerian civil war!

Economic effects of biafra war

The Nigerian civil war took its toll on the economy of Nigeria in the following ways:

  • Brain drain: Nigerians or biafrans fled for their lives to other countries as refugees and started a new life there, contributing to the development of the country in which they are now part of.
  • The igbos had a positive effect on the economy, you know them na they are business men and women, but they were ostracized from the economic activities of the country; sided they were biafrans and faced Biafra.
  • The Nigerian government had to rebuild the war affected areas, some which the government was responsible for due to the Nigerian civil war. This was a waste of resource; it was building on a spot twice, first before the war and second after.
  • There were employment opportunities due to the reconstruction of affected areas; this was an expensive cost on the aspect of wages/salaries.
  • Education was put on hold, who could go to school in such atmosphere? Educational institutions were shut down.
  • Unemployment as many industrial plants, companies were said to be shut down also.
  • There was an alarming high rate of crime, lawlessness, etc.
  • The orphans, homeless, destitute of the country became the government responsibilities.

Everything productive, that would also have boosted Nigeria economy to a level farther than where she is today, was brought to a standstill in Nigeria because of the Nigerian civil war.

Civil War In Nigeria Facts

Here are some facts about the Nigerian civil war, you should know:

General Ojukwu peace talks addis ababa ethopia - Nigerian civil war
1968, General Ojukwu attending Peace Talks in
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • A peace conference was organised and attended at Aburi where agreements were reached but they did not hold giving a boost to the morale of the Nigerian civil war.
  • Although the republic of Biafra was declared, they were on the defensive.
  • The Nigeria civil war began in the early hours of the 6th of July, 1967 when Nigeria responded as was expected by Biafra.
  • Colonel Victor Banjo, who led the biafran forces on the 9th of August, 1967, was executed as ordered by the President of Biafra and General of the Biafran army, late Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu on 22nd of September, 1967.
  • France and Israel made weapons available to both sides during the Nigerian civil war.
  • Nigeria had an unending support from their colonial master, Britain, who would not want to see their work go up in flames. This support contributed greatly to Nigeria’s victory.
  • A mass slaughter of over 500 civilians took place at Asaba after the Nigerian army captured it.
  • Colonel Ogbu Ogi surrendered to General Benjamin Adekunle, black scorpion.
  • 12th of July, 1967, Garkam fell.
  • 14th of July, 1967, Nsukka fell.
  • 19th of May, 1968, Port Harcourt fell.
  • 9th of January, 1970, Owerri fell.
  • On the same 9th of January, 1970; late General Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu handed over power to his vice, Major General Philip Effiong.
  • The late biafran warlord fled for his life to Ivory Coast, where he was granted political asylum.
  • 11th of January, 1970, Uli fell.
  • On the 13th of January, 1970; Biafra surrendered to Nigeria bringing an end to the Nigerian civil war but not an irrevocable damage.

More Nigerian Civil War Pictures

Here are more Nigerian civil war pictures – War is never had a positive impact on lives and properties.

Nigerian civil war picture - gowon head of state
Colonel Gowon became head-of-state at 32 following the murder of the former head-of-state, General Ironsi, who had appointed him Chief of Army
pictures of soldiers in the biafran civil war abia state
Nigerian soldier on Aba Road
Biafran soldiers - Nigerian civil war
Biafran soldiers
Biafran currency and stamps - Civil war in Nigeria
Ojukwu, displaying new Biafran stamps and currency

Also Read: Top 10 list of richest igbo men in Nigeria

Who Won The Nigerian Civil War?

In the bloody fight between Nigeria and Republic of Biafra, Nigeria won the Civil war.

But what happened after the unforgettable civil war in Nigeria?

The Nigerian civil war can never be forgotten, it will always be replayed in the head but never again in real life.

The bitterness that lingers in the hearts of many speaks volume when they open their mouth to talk, you could hear in their voice.

Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, started in the year 1999 when it was seen hoisting the biafran flag in Abia state. It is headed by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, a man who believes in non violent measures.

After the death of Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu on the 26th of November, 2011, there have been the births of different Biafra organisations. They include Biafra Zionist Federation (BZF), and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

The Indigenous People of Biafra is led by Nwannekanyi Nnamdi Kenny Okwu Kanu, who was born during the Nigerian civil war on September, 1967 in Umuahia, Abia state.

Nnamdi-Kanu IPOB Indegenous People of Biafra

The popular agitator, Nnamdi Kanu was the director of the radio station that was established by the leader of MASSOB in the United Kingdom in 2009.

From the United Kingdom, Nnamdi tried rekindling the flame of Biafra using the Radio Biafra as his tool, he was quite successful.

He was arrested at his hotel room at Golden Tulip Essential Hotel, where he had lodged on his visit to Nigeria, on the 14th of October, 2015 on charges of treason.

5 days later, Nnamdi was dismissed from MASSOB for indiscipline and provocation of violence among members.

He was released on bail on the 25th of April, 2017 on the premises of health reasons. He is said to have stayed away from public eyes after his home was raided on September, 2017, by the Nigerian military.

Year 2017, MASSOB, began another radio station called the Voice of Biafra International. Today, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) is now known as the Biafra Independent Movement (BIM).

The call for restructuring is the recent chant word or Biafra.

List of The 25 Biafran States

Following the unfair treatment of the Igbos amongst other reasons, the easterners decided to withdraw from Nigeria and their leader, Lt. Col. Ojukwu Odumegbu declared the republic of Biafra.

Nigeria was not ready to let them go and with the support of their colonial master engaged in a war with the biafrans called the Nigerian civil war.

The republic of Biafra existed for a short period of 961 days, during which it had its biafran states. The following are included in the list of biafran states:

  • Agbor
  • Asaba
  • Abia
  • Owerri
  • Umuahia
  • Oklie
  • Ikot Ekpene
  • Uyo
  • Eket
  • Ogoja
  • Calabar
  • Enugu
  • Oji – River
  • Awka
  • Onitsha
  • Nnewi
  • Okigwe
  • Annary
  • Abakaliki
  • Yenegoa
  • Warri
  • Ahoada
  • Ugheli
  • Degema
  • Port Harcourt

The Biafran Flag

Biafra flag - Nigeria civil war image

The flag of Biafra was created and raised on May 30,1967 by the Biafran Government.
It consists of red, black and green horizontal colors. At the middle of it is a golden sun with 11 rays which represents the eleven provinces of Biafra.

Also Read: Ranks of Navy officials in Nigeria from lowest to highest

The History of Nigerian Civil War (Summary)

Yes, there is no way you’ll hear or read about the history of Nigerian civil war that you will not sympathize with those who were tremendously affected except if there is something else running in your veins.

The first time I heard about it, I was crying and prepared a placard to carry but then again I sat down and thought hard.

What if things had been done differently? What would have happened if people think twice about their intentions before carrying it out?

Would Nigeria ever have the Nigeria Biafra war in its history records? Would there still be an unsettling feeling among the generation of the involved tribes?

Would there still be a potential Nigerian civil war or a Nigeria Biafra war or Biafran civil war or whatever name they might choose to call the potential civil war?

We all should hope for a better Nigeria.

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