Cultural Conflict Revised
The Nigeria Biafra war took place between 1967 and 1970 in Nigeria. The war was at first attributed to religious conflict between the Christians in the South and the Muslims in the North. However, further studies and research on the war has proved that there was no single cause for the war and that its cause was a mix of religious, ethnic, political and economic reasons. The conflict between Nigeria and Biafra saw the death of approximately 2 million people in Biafra, as well as, starvation of a whole generation of children to death. During the war, Biafra got very little support from other countries, and it was only able to purchase supplies it needed for the war from a few African countries, China, Portugal and the Czech Republic. On the other hand, Nigeria got immense support from the Soviet Union, parts of North Africa, and the North-Atlantic Alliance, which was led by Britain. The dynamics behind the war, reasons for conflict and the results of the war raise numerous questions about the reality behind the Nigeria-Biafra war. As much as the war is attributed to religion, recent findings about the war compel one to want to look into the various sources of information about the war to discover the truth CITATION Nic10 l 1033 (Omenka, 2010).
Politically the war between Nigeria and Biafra was fuelled after Nigeria attained independence in 1960. Because of the new political structure in the country, a coup broke out in 1966, altering the political equation of the country and led to ethnic division. In frantic attempts to hold the country together, the government split up Nigeria into 12 states. This was followed by a declaration by Lt. Col. Ojukwu who led the creation of decrees that declared Biafra an independent state. However, this love was not welcomed by the Federal Government based in Lagos. Attempts were made to resolve the problem peacefully, but nothing worked. Eventually, the Federal Government decided to use force to bring back Biafra. The Biafrans were not ready to give up easily and without a fight and they decided to fight back with the hope to winning their freedom. After two years of bloody wars, most of Biafra had been destroyed by the way and hundreds of thousands of people had lost their life. However, the remaining battle men from Biafra were still not ready to concede and so the war went on. The war was however, declared officially over on the 14th of January 1970CITATION Sta l 1033 (Diamond, 2007).
The religious reasons behind the Nigeria-Biafra war was driven by the campaign for Christian support by Biafra which stated that the religious difference between the north and the south was the reason why there was no unity in their land. The combination of the Muslims in the north and the Christians in the south was likened to combining Egypt and Ireland and calling it one united nation.
(Omenka, 2010, para. 4), states, “In its campaign to win Christian support for its separatist movement, the break-away region highlighted the religious divide of the two geopolitical regions as a factor militating against a unitary state. The amalgamation of the Islamic north with the largely Christian and pagan south was likened to ‘putting Egypt and Ireland together and calling the combination a nation”.
The argument for the lack of unity between the two sides was also advanced by among others, the then Catholic Archbishop of Wetminster Cardinal Heenan. He was an ardent supporter of Biafra and argued that the problem in Nigeria was simply the integration of the Muslims in the North to the rest of the country to form one united nation. The religion divide was also supported by the head of state and the supreme commander in Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon. Gowon was a stout Christian and the son of a Methodist Minister. Even though he was a general, he stated that the war in Nigeria was not against foreign enemies and that he was fighting on the Christian side. Majority of the soldiers in his army were from the Tiv Middle Belt region, hence Christians.
The final outcome of the conflict was the defeat of Biafra, and a horrible trail of disaster that would haunt the country to date. Apart from the deaths of millions of people, a whole generation of children was left to starve to death. The most disturbing fact about this war though is that Nigeria was not answerable for the destruction it caused in Biafra and no action for justice has even been taken.
(Diamond, 2007, p. 340), contributed by stating, “Moreover, Nigeria and its allies, misrepresenting the depth of the Biafran struggle in an effort to mitigate their own responsibility, have done everything in their power to underestimate the past suffering and the present condition of the Biafran people”.
The destruction in Biafra stripped the region of any form of development or civilization. As much as the population was still solid, most of the people could not afford the bare basics in life. The remaining children suffered from malnutrition and could not grow into strong and healthy adults to revive their land. The self-dependent land that produced its own food supplies and arms during the war was reduced to the ground. Currently, the survivors are still confined in a land where they lost their families and friends and still under the rule of the ruthless government that wiped out a good portion of the population. Even though the war is long over, the effects can never be forgotten and the suffering of the Biafran people cannot be concealed from the rest of the world.
Based on the information provided on the war so far, the Muslims in the north and the Christians in the south were always in a state of tension because of their religious differences. In addition, there was also ethnic tension between the two groups; The Igbo who were largely Christians and the Hausa who were Muslims. The division that came after Nigeria attained independence heightened the tension even further thus fueling the war. However, apart from the religious tension, there was also greed for power by the leaders of the different sanctions that participated in the war as every side wanted to take over the leadership of the new nation. This is the reason every side was trying to populate its side for victory in the elections and elections were rigged. The fight for power also meant fight for resources. This was because of the restrictions that were imposed on the production of oil in Nigeria by the U.S. The locals in the areas where U.S. companies drilled oil were promised better living standards and poverty alleviation if Nigeria agreed to impose the Libyan-style tax laws.
According to (Klieman, 2012, para. 3), “In the prewar oil boom period in Nigeria, U.S. independent oil companies undertook intensive lobbying and propaganda campaigns to convince Nigerians that newly imposed Libyan-style tax laws would force them out of business. In turn, they argued, the regions where they operated, as well as the ethnic groups inhabiting them, would be relegated to perpetual poverty”.
However, the leaders and the government decided to hide oil matters from the public thus heightening the tension at a time when the country was already in a warring mood.
The Nigeria-Biafra war was largely as a result of conflicting powers among the leaders back in the day. The most influential powers were that of the Biafra leader Lt. Col. Ojukwu and the head of state in Lagos General Yakubu Gowon. It was these two that led the two conflicting sides into the war. However, Lt. Col. Ojukwu turned out to be a disappointment and a total failure when he fled with his family leaving the rest of the Biafran people to suffer alone yet he led them into war. The war was also supported by leaders from other countries who teamed up with the two warring sides. Nigeria, being more powerful and getting support from well developed countries turned out strong and was well supported with abundant supplies of weapons, arms, aircrafts and even pilots (Omaka, 440)
Biafra, on the other hand did not get support from as many countries and it mostly depended on its own supplies. Approaching these two groups for mediation is indeed a tough and challenging undertaking which may take years or even decades. Since the end of the war in 1970, Nigeria has not yet come out to make peace with the inhabitants of Biafra. Despite the fact that the war ended and Biafra is now a part of Nigeria, the people are still scarred and they are not at peace with the Nigerian government. Thus, the first step in mediating between these two sides would be to get Nigeria to apologize to the people of Biafra and together, work out a lasting plan to ensure the peace, wellbeing and total support of the people of Biafra.
BIBLIOGRAPHY l 1033 Diamond, S. (n.d.). Who Killed Biafra? New York : The New School for Social Research .
Klieman, K. A. (2012). U.S. Oil Companies, The Nigerian Civil War, and the origins of Opacity in the Nigerian Oil Industry . The Journal of American History , 1-10.
Omaka, A. O. (2014). Analytique Humanitarian Action: The Joint Church Aid and Health Care Intervention in the Nigeria-Biafra War, 1967-1970. Canadian Journal of History , 423-447.
Omenka, N. I. (2010). Blaming the Gods: Christian Religious Propaganda in the Nigeria-Biafra War . Journal of African History, 367-389.