Nigerian Civil (Biafra) War: The Igbo tribe is an ethnic group dominant in both the South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria in West Africa. They are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa and can be found throughout the rest of the world. They are renowned for being hard working, industrious and are generally peace loving and generous. The first Nigerian Billionaire, Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu was Igbo and the father of Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the late leader of the secessionist Biafra.
In 1967, the then military administrator of the former Eastern region, Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu advised Igbos living all over Nigeria to return to the East because of the massacre of thousands of Igbos in North due to feelings that the Military coup of 1966 was an Igbo coup. The Federal Military government failed to intervene and this led to feelings of neglect and the Igbos questioned their allegiance to the Nigerian cause. After due consultations Col. Ojukwu declared the Eastern region the Federal Republic of Biafra and this led to the Nigerian civil war; and with the help of the British, Nigeria defeated Biafra and regained her former territory. The Nigerian civil war is commonly known as the Biafra War. This war led to the destruction of the Eastern region and death of several millions of Igbos. Although the Military government adopted a “no victor, no vanquished” policy, it was mere propaganda because all bank accounts of the Igbos were nullified and each Igbo given a paltry 20 pounds to restart their lives. They were also marginalized politically. According to the victims of this policy, it was like starting life all over again but this time more difficult than ever. Even after all these, like the proverbial phoenix the Igbos have risen from the ashes and rebuilt the Eastern region with minimal government assistance and is currently one of the most developed zones in Nigeria.
There is even a proverb, popular in Nigeria about Igbos which says “if you visit anywhere and you can’t find an Igbo man, pack your bags and run away”. Here are some historic events that have proved the ingenuity and industrious nature of the Igbos:
Construction of Uli Airstrip
Without any technical assistance from foreigners the Igbos built the Uli airstrip and when it was bombed by the Nigerian military, it was repaired in record time in the most difficult working conditions with crude implements. This was a truly amazing feat.
Refining Crude Oil
This was a period when the British preached that the Igbos couldn’t refine their own crude oil. The Igbos rubbished this falsehood when they refined their own petrol and even diesel. They also improvised with non-fossil fuels. This was no mean feat at the time.
Manufacture of Local Missiles
The Igbos didn’t have access to advanced weapons due to activities of the British so they resorted to producing theirs. They produced surface to air missiles and later improvised to surface to surface missiles which was called Ogbunigwe.
Weaponizing Commercial Planes
The Igbos converted commercial planes into fighter jets and successfully thwarted Nigeria’s attempts with series of victories against their opponents until the British started intervening for the Nigerian Military.
This was the first armored personnel carrier manufactured in black Africa and the Igbos built it. The Igbos were disappointment when the Nigerian Military, around 2012, rolled out “Igirigi” and called it the first armored personnel carrier.
Rebuilding of The Eastern Region
Even after the destruction caused by the civil war and the obnoxious policies administered to cripple the Eastern region, the Igbos have successfully rebuilt their region which is currently one of the most developed in Nigeria.
The CIA World Fact Book puts the population of the Igbos at about 32 million. That’s about 18% of the total Nigerian population. So now we all know a little something about the Igbos. Cheers.