1967 War: Rare Biafra War Documentary And Touching Song

1967 War: Rare Biafra War Documentary And Touching Song

Fifty years ago, one of the bloodiest wars in modern human history was fought on the African continent. The Nigeria-Biafra thirty-month-long war is undeniably one of the worst in the twentieth century with an estimated three million deaths. The images of starving Biafran children and civilians, broadcast on television around the world, jolted many organizations and individuals to reality and led to the establishment of many humanitarian agencies in Europe and the US. Some writers have classified the Nigeria-Biafra war as a genocidal response by the Nigerian military government under General Yakubu Gowon to the 30 May 1967 declaration of independence of the Republic of Biafra by Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Others have justified the war, based on the belief that the Federal Government of Nigerian acted rightly in preventing the splintering of its territory by force.          

There has been a tremendous amount published on the war by reporters, relief workers, humanitarian organizations, academics, creative writers both from Africa and the West. Some of the most significant writings on the Nigeria-Biafra war are written by principal actors of the war themselves or through their proxies. For example on the Biafran side the generals Philip Effiong, and Alex Madiebo, as well as major Adewale Ademoyega whereas on the federal side the (conflicting) accounts of commanders Olusegun Obasanjo and Alabi Isama should be mentioned. A few years ago, Chinua Achebe, who spent the war years lobbying for Biafran recognition by other countries, wrote his memoir on the events shortly before his death in 2012. Most of the autobiographies, however, have been criticized for being too self-serving and not true accounts of what really happened. Nevertheless, these writings and others are valuable for the study of the Nigeria-Biafra confrontation.

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The war, which commenced on 6 July 1967 and ended on 15 January 1970, seems not to have fully fulfilled the Nigerian Federal Government’s objective of maintaining a united Nigeria because, over the years, there have been major violent conflicts along ethnic lines with formation of ethnic militias demanding for either the collapse of the Nigerian state or her restructuring. In the last two decades, there have been renewed agitations for the excision of the Republic of Biafra from the country by Igbo, who are currently occupying five states of the South Eastern part of the country. Leading in the agitation are two Igbo organizations: Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), which was established in 1999 by Ralph Nwanzuruike and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) formed in 2015 by Nnamdi Kanu. Despite provocation and the arrest of the leaders and loyalists of these two groups by the Nigerian state security, they have maintained a non-violent approach in pressing their demand for the Republic of Biafra.

Julius-Adeoye, Rantimi Jays
LeidenASA Visiting Fellow 2017
Redeemer’s University (RUN), Nigeria.

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