Since the amalgamation of the regions in 1914, inter-ethnic suspicion, rivalry and conflict have been a feature of the Nigerian state, as conflicts in different parts of the country have continued to threaten its unity. The height of these conflicts was the civil war of 1967-70, which came on the heels of two military coups.
The Nigerian civil war (NCW) was fought between the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and the Eastern Region of Nigeria. It began following secession proclamation of the Eastern region on May, 30, 1967, upon which on July 6, 1967, the FGN declared a “Police Action” on the Eastern region to suppress the insurrection.
The suppression was aimed to be shortlived, but it culminated in a full scale war that lasted for three years and claimed millions of lives and property. The thesis in addressing its central problem raises question as to why with two super powers – Britain and USSR – on the side of Nigeria and with a well organized army and military hardware, the war dragged for that long.
The thesis relying on primary and secondary data, using the descriptive, inter and multidisciplinary approach indicated the dragged duration of the war was owing to frustration of the FGN’s strategy in abruptly stemming the tideof the civil war.
The thesis aligning with the geopolitics theoretical framework assessed the role of Nigeria’s immediate neighbors in the civil war and submitted on the strength of evidence provided that the support given to Nigeria by these states was earned, having been accumulated from Nigeria’s diplomatic leverage and gestures to these states over the years. The thesis concludes that the civil war was fought and won by Nigeria, the victory being owed to the accrued dividends of Nigeria’s goodwill, specifically to the immediate neighbors.
Background to the study
The thrust of this thesis is to objectively access the relationship between the role of Nigeria’s immediate neighbours in the Nigeria civil war of 1967-1970 and the duration, intensity, impact and effects of the civil war. The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) following secession proclamation of the Eastern Region on May, 30 1967 declared a “police action” between the Eastern Nigeria and the rest of the country on July 6, 1967.
Upon the outburst of hostilities the FGN was confident that the rebellion should be short lived and thus quickly put down. The suppression of the rebellion was described as a police action. But suffice it to state that the suppression culminated in a full scale war that lasted for nearly three years and resulted in nearly one hundred thousand (100,000) military casualties and between five hundred thousand (500,000) to two million (2,000000) casualties who died(Ige, 1976).
Thus raising questions as to why with two super powers—Britain and Russia—on the side of Nigeria and with a well organised army and abundance of military hardware, the war dragged for that long. In view of this the thrust of this thesis is to access if the role played by Nigeria’s neighbours had any relationship with the duration, intensity, impact and effects on the war
The Federal Republic of Nigeria covers an area of five hundred and ten thousand Square meters (510,000SQM) (Crowther, 1978). Its borders are contiguous with Republic of Benin (Dahomey) to the West, Niger Republic to the North, Cameroon to the East, Equatorial Guinea to the South East and Chad (Abubakar, 1992).
While the area known as Gulf of Biafra became part of Nigeria from 1914 by the British government fiat (Ezeani, 2004).Biafra was a secessionist state in South Eastern Nigeria inhabited mostly by Igbos. The land borders were shared with Nigeria to the North and Cameroon to the East. Its coast was on the Gulf of Guinea in the South. It was also bordered by the Benue Hills and mountains that lead to Cameroon.
Prior to the civil war, Nigeria had cordial relationship with all its immediate neighbours as well as with other countries in the West African Sub-region and Africa as a whole, most of which it had bilateral agreement. In ensuring a continued cordial relations and good neighborliness she contemplates towards her neighbors, Nigeria in her
“Presentation to United Nations Goodwill Mission” emphasized that border conflict between the country and her neighbours have been largely avoided through, the ‘Principle of good neighborliness, policy of cooperative security and preventive diplomacy which Nigeria cherishes and upholds even at the expense of its national interest (Omede, 2006).
Given this, Nigeria developed very friendly relations with her immediate neighbors and Africa at large. She thus developed cooperative ventures with a number of them and made relatively immense contribution to their activities. Nigeria had a commendable record of bringing succour, in the form of financial and material aid to the needy ones. This was typified by Republic of Benin’s utilization of Nigeria’s expertise in road construction.
This represented, the first time in the history of Nigeria that Nigerian contractors have been given the opportunity to tender in a French speaking country (Mahadi, 1989). Similarly, Cameroon benefited from the services of three (3) agricultural officers, seven (7) police officers, four (4) veterinary officers, five (5) Post and Telecommunication officers, four (4) Cooperative inspectors and one (1) Labour officer, Chad obtained five thousand pounds per citrus plantation and Benin Republic received another three thousand pounds for flood relief (Stremlau, 1973). Obviously,
Nigeria had been a dominant economic power within the contiguous zone, West Africa Sub-region and Africa. Nigeria’s commitment and role in the development of the region, West Africa and Africa is indisputably paramount, it remains the single largest donor to community finance with the combination of mobility, equipment and operational experiences required by contingencies ( Bassey, 2005)
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