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The causes of the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 - 1970

In 1967, the people of Igbo land in the eastern parts of Nigeria decided to secede from the Nigerian federation and form their own country called Biafra. In a federal system of government, secession was a taboo so the central government of Nigeria tried to stop the easterners from seceding. This attempt to stop them from breaking away and the resolve of the easterners to secede culminated in the 6th July, 1967 to 15th January, 1970 Civil War. 

The causes of the Nigerian civil war of 1967 can be categorized into remote and immediate.

Amalgamation of Nigeria
One of the very remote causes of the Nigeria Civil War was the amalgamation of the north and the south by the British in 1914. This amalgamation was mainly for colonial administration since they were geographically close to each other. The British conveniently ignored the marked difference in the culture and the religion these two major groups. This was a major foundation for battles in the years that followed.

Rigging of the Western Regional elections of 1965
Another of the remote causes of the Nigerian Civil War was that the 1965 elections of the Western Region were believed to have been rigged and contesting of the results culminated in the breakdown of law and order in the region. This breakdown of law and order gave a nice opportunity to the military to usurp power in the coup d’tat of 1966. It was this coup that is believed to have been one of the reasons that eventually led to the Civil War in 1967.

Fear of tribal domination
Another remote cause of the Civil War was the fear of tribal domination. First of all, it was this fear that caused the first ever military takeover in Nigeria on 15th January, 1966. The coup d’tat was believed to have been initiated by the Igbo tribe on the bases of the fact that no Igbo army officer was killed. Six months after this first coup d’tat, on exactly 29th July, 1966, there was a counter coup believed to have been initiated by the Northern soldiers.

Failure to punish the first 1966 coup plotters
It was believed that General Ironsi, who was part of the July coup, should have punished those who plotted and executed the January, 1966 coup but he failed to do so. It was the view of some people that the January 1966 coup was influenced by tribal sentiments and therefore the five army officers who were implicated should have been punished for their role. This did not happen. His failure to punish them is believed to have laid a solid ground for the Civil War that erupted in 1967.

Politicization of the army
One of the immediate causes of the Nigerian Civil War was the politicization of the army. The army was so politicized that one’s promotion was no longer based on one’s experience and training but rather on one’s political leanings. This political leaning was in turn underpinned on one’s tribal origin of officers who were so promoted.

Ambition of military officers
Another immediate cause of the Civil War was that the army officers were just plainly politically over-ambitious. Under every normal democratic dispensation, the army is generally confined to their barracks. However, in the case of this crop of Nigerian soldiers, they were in too much of a hurry to taste political power and this drove them to take over power which eventually slid into the Civil War.

Personality clash between Colonel Gowon and Lt. Colonel Ojukwu
The other immediate cause of the 1967 Civil War was the personality clash between Colonel Gowon and Lt. Colonel Ojukwu. Colonel Gowon as the Head of State at the time was not the most senior military officer before he assumed his position. The most senior at the time was Brigadier Ogundipe. Lt. Colonel Ojukwu felt that Brigadier Ogundie should have been made the Head of State. Apart from that Lt. Colonel Ojukwu was higher in rank than Colonel Gowon and therefore he was reluctant to take orders from him. This is believed to have been linked to his decision to take the Eastern region out of the federation.

1. Highlight six causes of the Nigerian Civil War of 1967

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