Image copyright Keystone-France The deaths of more than a million people in Nigeria as a result of the brutal civil war which ended exactly 50 years ago are a scar in the nation’s history. For most Nigerians, the war over the breakaway state of Biafra is generally regarded as an unfortunate episode best forgotten, but…

Lieutenant Colonel Okumegwu Ojukwu Eastern Nigeria's military Governor and chief of secessionist state of Biafra on war against the federal state of Nigeria, addressing a speech to Biafra parliament on July 16, 1967 in Biafra, Nigeria.

Drawl copyright

Presentational white space

The deaths of bigger than a million other folk in Nigeria since the brutal civil war which ended precisely 50 years ago are a scar in the nation’s historical past.

For most Nigerians, the war over the breakaway remark of Biafra is regularly knowing to be an miserable episode simplest forgotten, nonetheless for the Igbo folk who fought for secession, it remains a lifestyles-defining tournament.

In 1967, following two coups and turmoil which led to about a million Igbos returning to the south-east of Nigeria, the Republic of Biafra seceded with 33-365 days-vulnerable armed forces officer Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu at the helm.

The Nigerian authorities declared war and after 30 months of preventing, Biafra surrendered. On 15 January 1970, the war formally ended.

The authorities’s policy of “no victor, no vanquished” could presumably well even obtain led to an absence of honorable reflection, nonetheless many Nigerians of Igbo origin grew up on tales from folk who lived by the war.

Three of folk who had been fascinated with the secessionist campaign obtain been sharing their reminiscences.

‘We knowing we had been magicians’

Christopher Ejike In the past, soldier

He had honest accomplished grammar school and started coaching as a veterinary assistant at the College of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), in south-jap Nigeria, when the civil war started.

Nearly every pupil he knew became share of the war effort.

He joined the Biafran military and used to be assigned to the ticket unit, whose responsibilities incorporated “energetic intelligence and eavesdropping on the Nigerian armed forces”.

Christopher Ejike Ago

Christopher Ejike In the past

The Nigerians who had been pursuing us had been educated infantrymen… We had been drafted into the war, given two days’ coaching.”

“We knowing we had been magicians,” stated 76-365 days-vulnerable Mr In the past.

“The Nigerians who had been pursuing us had been educated infantrymen. We had been no longer. We had been drafted into the war, given two days’ coaching.

“Plus the reality that we had been hungry. A few of us, our skin used to be getting immoral. No person can battle a war like that.”

In January 1966, some senior Nigerian military officers, mostly of the Igbo ethnic neighborhood, assassinated key politicians for the duration of a coup in the West African remark.

Those killed incorporated Ahmadu Bello, a revered chief in the north.

This led to months of massacres against the Igbo living in the north. Tens of thousands had been killed while about a million fled to what used to be then known because the Eastern Space.

Drawl copyright

Drawl caption

Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, pictured right here in June 1968, used to be a charismatic resolve

These occasions sparked the Igbo’s resolution to secede, spearheaded by Ojukwu, who used to be then the armed forces governor of the Eastern Space.

In the months preceding the war, Ojukwu generally visited UNN, the simplest university in south-jap Nigeria at the time, to fulfill with students and prepare them for secession.

Mr In the past regarded forward to those visits, and joined the crew who gathered at the university’s Freedom Sq..

“Once his helicopter touched down, all americans went there and, practically, school shut down.

“He had this unbelievable sense of humour. He spiked all americans up and we fashioned songs and had been singing and having fun with ourselves.”

In the first 365 days of the war, the Nigerian authorities captured the coastal metropolis of Port Harcourt and imposed a blockade, which decrease meals affords to Biafra.

Drawl copyright
Evening Long-established

Drawl caption

Nigerian troops viewed in a single in all Biafra’s necessary cities, Port Harcourt, in 1968 after fierce preventing

Mr In the past remembers the overwhelming starvation that often compelled Biafran infantrymen to make your mind up on out and employ mice. He additionally remembers the final 365 days of the war when his unit used to be constantly on the pass, fleeing the advancing Nigerian military.

“Someplace in the heart of the war,” he stated, “the Biafrans made some dramatic successes that gave us hope that shall we preserve the Nigerians till at the least some motivate from commence air came.”

By unhurried 1969, all hope used to be misplaced.

Biafra timeline

  • January 1966 – Nigerian authorities overthrown in what used to be viewed as an “Igbo coup” led by junior military officers
  • January 1966 – Lt Col Odumegwu-Ojukwu appointed armed forces governor of Eastern Space
  • July 1966 – 2nd coup masterminded by Murtala Muhammed, Lt Col Yakubu Gowon turns into head of remark
  • June to October 1966 – Riots in northern Nigeria focused at Igbos, killing many and forcing as a lot as a million to approach to south-jap Nigeria
  • Could per chance honest 1967 – Ojukwu declares independence of the Republic of Biafra
  • July 1967 – War begins
  • October 1967 – Biafran capital Enugu falls
  • Could per chance honest 1968 – Nigeria captures oil-rich Port Harcourt
  • April 1969 – Umuahia, novel Biafran capital falls to Nigerian forces
  • Jan 1970 – Ojukwu flees Nigeria
  • Jan 1970 – Biafra surrenders

Mr In the past left the military and went looking for out his family, whom he had no longer heard from in bigger than two years.

He gentle his share from an allocation of raw rice to his unit, then trigger off in the direction of the village of a relative, the set up he suspected his of us and siblings would be holed up.

“I had to preserve the rice while starving myself, carrying it at some stage in rivers and forests till I chanced on them,” he stated.

Drawl copyright
Getty Photos

Drawl caption

Hunger introduced referring to the deaths of many other folk for the duration of the war

A bunch of his traffic and classmates had died at the battlefront. But his family used to be contented to sight that the son and brother they assumed ineffective used to be alive. And they had been overjoyed that he had grew to change into up with meals.

Hunger killed more Biafrans than bullets and bombs.

When the university used to be reopened a couple of months after the war ended, Mr In the past returned to UNN, indirectly graduating with a stage in plant and soil science.

“I judge we would obtain executed higher if we had handled it with quite bit more intelligence,” stated Mr In the past. “I judge now that Ojukwu… knowing he used to be Jesus Christ.

“He knowing he can also attain magic. If he had slowed down and allowed some folk who had been with him to point out him wisely, we would obtain approach out higher than we did.”

‘They simplest had knives and cutlasses’

Felix Nwankwo Oragwu, scientist

He used to be a physics lecturer at UNN when the civil war started.

For the subsequent 30 months, he headed the Analysis and Manufacturing (RAP) neighborhood comprising Igbo scientists from diversified fields.

Its necessary accountability used to be to provide technological make stronger to the Biafran military, which used to be poorly geared up.

Felix Nwankwo Oragwu

Felix Nwankwo Oragwu

When the war started, there used to be no longer a single weapon… wherever for the duration of Biafra. No gun, no bomb, no nothing.”

The RAP’s most significant product used to be the “ogbunigwe”, a weapons launcher of excellent and devastating attain which influenced the consequence of many battles in Biafra’s favour, in step with historical reports.

“Without us, the war would obtain lasted simplest about 30 hours,” stated the 85-365 days-vulnerable.

“When the war started, there used to be no longer a single weapon either in a retailer or wherever for the duration of Biafra. They simplest had knives and cutlasses. No gun, no bomb, no nothing.”

In the aftermath of the war, the Nigerian authorities didn’t are looking to impose any create of collective punishment.

Drawl copyright
Getty Photos

Drawl caption

Felix Nwankwo Oragwu and others helped create a couple of of the weapons that Biafran infantrymen feeble

Nonetheless, the Igbo confronted some devastating penalties, specifically economically because the Biafran currency that of us had gathered became worthless.

Many Igbo gentle feel sidelined in Nigerian politics, as since the civil war no-one from the ethnic neighborhood has change into president.

Rising cries of marginalisation obtain led nowadays to the emergence of Igbo groups agitating over again for secession, specifically the Indigenous Of us of Biafra (Ipob), fashioned by UK-primarily primarily based British-Nigerian Nnamdi Kanu.

Media playback is unsupported to your tool

Media captionThe Biafran war explained

Mr Oragwu needs that the Igbo had paid less attention to the scoot for energy at the centre, and as an alternate neatly-known their space by advancing the technological gains of the war.

“Biafra would obtain been a technological nation and would obtain been ready to compete with any one,” he stated, infuriate in his converse.

“That’s what makes me sad. By this time, we would obtain been competing with at the least South Korea.”

The scientist’s wartime accomplishments had caught the attention of the Nigerian authorities and he used to be invited by the authorities to pioneer a explicit science and technology programme for the country.

He used to be in the motivate of the constructing of four universities of science and technology in diversified areas of Nigeria and after retirement he published Scientific and Technological Innovations in Biafra, a guide he hoped would inspire young Nigerians.

“Nigeria used to be programmed by the British colonial authorities no longer to take part in manufacturing and assemble of world applied sciences,” he wrote in the guide.

“The war gave the choice to… reject the colonial assemble.”

‘An improbable interval’

Edna Nwanunobi, trainer

She used to be teaching English and French in a secondary school in Port Harcourt in southern Nigeria when the civil war started.

Whereas the UK backed Nigeria, France used to be the most prominent supporter of Biafra.

But English used to be more widely spoken in Biafra, so translators had been wanted at any time when French officials visited Ojukwu.

Edna Nwanunobi

“You had been compelled to fraternise with your other folk bigger than any time earlier than”

Ms Nwanunobi joined the Biafran ministry of international affairs as share of a handful of translators who worked right this moment with Ojukwu.

“The war used to be a fanciful interval,” stated 82-365 days-vulnerable Mrs Nwanunobi. “Each person used to be compelled to pass home so you had been compelled to fraternise with your other folk bigger than any time earlier than.

“And folk who worked in every Biafra office had been excessive stage other folk. These had been folk who had been doing all kinds of issues and the war compelled them out of their positions.”

She enjoyed working right this moment with the Biafran chief, whom she and her colleagues fondly known as “Brother OJ”.

Media playback is unsupported to your tool

Media captionBiafran War veterans be conscious the war 50 years on

“He used to be a unbelievable person,” she stated consistently. “And he used to be disciplined. If any assembly lasted bigger than two hours, he would no longer be celebration to it.”

Her most memorable assignment happened after the Biafran armed forces captured six Italian oil workers employed by the Nigerian authorities.

Officers from diversified European countries travelled to fulfill Ojukwu to allure for their liberate.

“That used to be the greatest assembly we had,” she recalled. “Even the Vatican despatched representatives.”

Correct by the assembly, Mrs Nwanunobi conveyed to Ojukwu that he stood the likelihood of losing European make stronger.

He promised to steal into myth the topic, and the Italians had been therefore launched.

Drawl copyright
Getty Photos

Drawl caption

The jam of Biafrans won make stronger amongst activists at some stage in the sector, including in London, the set up this disclose used to be held in 1968

Mrs Nwanunobi met Ojukwu for the final time on 23 December 1969, when she lined up commence air his office along with her colleagues, to bag a Christmas reward and a handshake from him.

A few days later, she left the country for the Biafran office in Paris. Correct by a stopover of several days in Lisbon, she heard that Biafra had surrendered.

Her first notify used to be for Ojukwu.

“I used to be skittish that he would approach to damage,” she stated softly. “I didn’t desire any one to disgrace him.”

Her anxiety lifted when she learned that her boss had escaped in his inner most jet, and used to be granted asylum by Ivory Fly, a francophone country.

Mrs Nwanunobi spent noteworthy of the 1970s in Canada earlier than returning to Nigeria in 1977, the set up she resumed work as a secondary school trainer.

Drawl copyright
Getty Photos

Drawl caption

Ojukwu used to be given a plump Nigerian armed forces burial in March 2012

Ojukwu himself remained in exile for 13 years. After he used to be formally pardoned by the Nigerian authorities, he returned in 1982, with multitudes pouring onto the streets of his home remark of Anambra to welcome him.

He died in November 2011 and used to be given a plump armed forces burial in a ceremony attended by then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, some diversified African leaders and members of the diplomatic corps.

Fifty years after the Biafran war, Nigeria is gentle battling to preserve its unity, with diversified groups, no longer honest the Igbo, calling for the restructuring of Africa’s most populous remark.

It’s going to also very neatly be attributable to this that the war is barely mentioned.

The authorities has nothing to assemble by reminding Nigerians that secession came about earlier than and can also additionally be attempted again.

Share this:

About the author

NewsRoom Paperdabba