Memories of Nigeria’s Civil War: The Wound, Scar & Lessons

Memories of Nigeria’s Civil War: The Wound, Scar & Lessons

In May 30, 1967, the then eastern region of Nigeria under a regional military administrator, Colonel Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, declared a breakaway government, of an independent and separate country called Biafra from the Nigerian nation.

This followed unresolved political disagreements and crisis between the Nigerian central government headed by General Yakubu Gowon and the Eastern regional government, culminating in a thirty months civil war which claimed over three million lives.


Fifty-one years down the line, it seems the wounds of the war has refused to heal with new echoes of separatist agitations resonating in parts of the country.

Although the historical accounts of what led to the Nigerian civil war which pitched the people of then Eastern region against the Nigerian central government may be varied, but the May 30, 1967 date remains constant and most significant among the predominantly Igbos of the defunct Biafra nation.

It was the date that the Eastern region government led by a youthful military governor, Colonel Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu announced the secession of the Eastern region from Nigeria and declared what was to be known as the Biafra Republic.

This triggered a chain of events that resulted in a thirty months civil war that led to the death of an estimated three million people, mainly children and women from the breakaway territory.

Following mediations from the international community, the cessation of hostilities came into effect in mid 1970 with what was proclaimed as “a no victor, no vanquished” terms.

Not withstanding, the scar of the war, the Eastern region is yet to heal with the May 30 Biafra Day still remembered by the people, despite deliberate actions of the Nigerian governments to stifle the echoes of the voice.

In recent times, the voices are becoming louder with separatist agitations gaining grounds by the day; and this time not only in the Eastern regions but even in the West.

A few commentators however believe what the Igbos need most at this time, is a total integration into the Nigerian nation where they will pursue their God given potentials of commerce and technology than the scramble for power at the center.

Currently, the Igbos still feel marginalized, and alienated from the political and economic schemes of things at the Nigerian centre, worse than what the situation was before the civil war.

These unaddressed ethnic and regional tensions have triggered the establishments of new pro-self determination groups, including the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB; the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, among others.

For some, the greatest tribute the Igbos can pay to the memories of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the civil war, is for the present generation to ensure that the circumstances that led to the conflict are never repeated.

As the people of the South East geopolitical zone mark the May 30 Biafra Day, historical and political analysts are urging the present Nigerian government to make deliberate efforts towards building a country devoid of any form of discrimination and marginalisation, but ensure equity, justice and fair play among the component groups of Nigeria.

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