A Civil War
After Nigeria won its independence from Britain in 1960, it was divided into three separate territories, consisting of three-hundred ethnic groups. It was a hasty and disorganized arrangement that almost failed.
The northern part of the country was dominated by the Hausa and Fulani people, practitioners of a strict brand of Islam and a monarchal government; the southwest was composed mostly of the Yoruba people, who were also a monarchal government, albeit less despotic; and the southeast portion of the fledging independent country was dominated by the Igbo people, proponents of a political system that was similar to a western democracy. Igbo lands were apportioned between six-hundred sovereign villages. Every Igbo citizen was allowed to participate in the government of their village, and gain political and economic status through acquisition instead of inheritance.
There was severe friction between these three territories. The British government saw the discord as an opportunity to influence Nigerian policy through an alliance with the Emir, the ruling faction — thirty or so people — of the Islamic north. The northern region of the country was allocated a slightly higher population of people — the northerners’ condition to the Igbo and Yoruba for independence from Britain. So, when it was time to vote in the elections, the Hausa and the Fulani were victorious because their population exceeded that of the other two territories.
On January 15, 1966, after accusing the Northern faction of electoral fraud, Igbo army officers launched a coup against the presiding government, which led to General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Igbo, becoming a military president. The Northerners launched their own coup in July of that year. These two competing coups ratcheted tensions between the Islamic northerners and the Igbos of Christian faith who called the north their home. In September of that year, tensions exploded and thousands Christian Igbos in the north were subsequently slaughtered by their Muslim neighbors.
On May 30, 1967, the Igbo’s of the southeast, in response to the attack by the northern Muslims, declared its independence from the rest of Nigeria. Igbos would refer to their fledging nation as Biafra, and appeal for aid and recognition from other nations. Only four…