The Nigerian Civil War (Biafra war) – A war fought to counter the secession of Biafra from Nigeria – was a brutal war. Men raised their weapons against their countrymen, and they slaughtered one another in one of the most violent and devastating conflicts in African history. By the end of the war both Nigeria and the igbos (Biafra) suffered a great deal in terms of lives, money and infrastructure.
Here are 10 Little-Known Facts From The Nigerian Civil War (Biafran War).
1. Duration of the war
The war lasted for 2 years, 6 months, 1 week and 2 days. After a hard fought war that led to the death of a lot of Nigerians, the surrender paper was signed on January 14, 1970 in Lagos and the next day it was over.
2. Both sides had some support
Nigeria was supported by USA, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Egypt, Syria, Algeria; while Biafra was Supported by: France, Israel, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Rhodesia, tanzania, and to an extent United kingdom.
3. Arms supply
While Britain supplied heavy amounts of sophisticated weapons and ammunition to the Nigerian side because of their desire to preserve the country it created. The Biafran side received arms and ammunition from France through neighbouring countries like Gabon.
They also created some of their own weapons like the ogbunigwe.
4. The yoruba biafran
A yoruba man by name of Lt. Col. Banjo with the Biafran rank of brigadier fought alongside biafran soldiers During the Nigerian civil war.
He also led a successful attack that saw to the capture of the Mid-Western Nigerian region.
5. Foreign mercenaries were used by both sides
Both Nigeria and Biafra hired foreign mercenaries to help in the war. Those hired by Nigeria stuck with them till the end because there was never a shortage of arms or cash. But of all merceneries hired by Biafra only German born Rolf Steiner a Lt. Col. and Welsh’s Major Taffy Williams remained throughout the duration, Others deserted Biafra.
6. The unsung Biafran Agitator
On may 1969 a 20 year old Colombia University student by name of Bruce Mayrock set himself ablazed at the premises of the united Nations headquarters to protest the genocide against the people and nation of Biafra.
7. The Intervention of the pope
In May 1969 Biafrian commandos raided and captured 14 italians, 3 west germans, 1 lebanese and 3 europeans in an oil field in Kwale and Okpai who allegedly were fighting alongside Nigerians against buafran troops.
They were tried by a Biafrian court and sentenced to death, but they never went through with the execution because of a direct mail Ojukwu received from the then Pope asking for their pardon.
8. Buhari also played a vital role in the civil war
Although Buhari’s initial assignment was as Adjutant and Company Commander 2 battalion unit, he briefly served as commander of the 2 battalion’s unit (the 2 battalion was one of the units that participated in the first actions of the war) when he led the battalion to Afikpo to link with the 3rd Marine Commando and advance towards Enugu the rebel capital with the intention of capturing the city.
9. The Final Conflict
The final military conflict (Operation Tail-Wind) between Nigeria and Biafra took place in the towns of Owerri (imo state) and Uli (Anambra state) both of which were captured by Nigerian forces.
The operation ended with General Odumegwu Ojukwu fleeing into exile to the Ivory Coast and then president of Biafra Philip Effiong surrendering to Olusegun Obasanjo.
The operation lasted 5 days -January 7 – 12, 1970.
Although the war had cost both sides a great deal in terms of lives, money and infrastructure, the Biafran side suffered more.
It has been estimated that up to three million Biafrans may have died due to the conflict, most from hunger, disease and lack of medicine caused by blockade imposed deliberately by the Nigerian forces throughout the duration of the war.