Nigeria’s independence in 1960, can be compared to the opening up of cankerworms that has festered on the nation since its amalgamation, it did not take too long for the worms to start manifesting once it was opened by the lowering of the Union Jack and the raising of the Green-White-Green.
The nation was crumbling a few years post-independence, with a series of events leading to what could be called the crescendo of that era, the birth of Biafra. While Biafra does not exist as an independent republic, the idea and its history has remained fresh in many hearts.
Here are dates of major events that marked the brief stay of the country of the rising sun.
January 15, 1966
That fateful day was when the wheels were set in motion, the bloody coup of 1966 led by Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna picked up the motion that has been whirring.
The bloody coup of 1966 is still a major bone of contention to this day, it was and still referred to it as the Igbo coup by the northerners and some parts of the country.
The 1966 Nigerian coup d’état began on 15 January 1966, when Nigerian soldiers led by Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna killed 22 people including the Prime Minister of Nigeria, many senior politicians, many senior Army officers (including their wives), and sentinels on protective duty. The coup plotters attacked the cities of Kaduna, Ibadan, and Lagos while also blockading the Niger and Benue River within a two-day span of time before the coup plotters were subdued.
The General Officer Commanding the Nigerian Army, Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, was compelled to take control of the government of a country in upheaval. His coming to power was deemed a conspiracy by other countrymen as the coup plotters were mainly Igbo officers. it was believed to pave the way for General Aguiyi-Ironsi to be Head of State of Nigeria. This will lead to a chain of disastrous events.
September 29, 1966
The ripple effects of the January 1966 coup were unprecedented. From a counter-coup to the annihilation of Igbo people in the northern region, this will be a major force that precipitated the succession and declaration of Biafra.
There is no exact month that can be pinpointed as the beginning of the pogrom, but it was marked from May-September, 1966. It was led by the Nigerian army, surprised? The Nigerian army has always been dominated by the northerner, after what was termed as an Igbo coup they went on a revenge mission to rid the nation of the vermins as they referred to them.
Nothing less than 30,000 Igbos were killed, half of them were children. The killing got to an all-time high on 29th, September 1966. More than a million Igbos fled for their lives.
January 4-5, 1967
This marks the date of the famous Aburi Accord which could have been the saving grace to the impending civil war then.
Nigerian military leaders famously meet in Aburi, Ghana, to resolve the complications and disaffections created by the two coups. It was held between 4 and 5 January 1967. It seemed as if all the other members of the council from Nigeria had come to meet and reconcile with Ojukwu, as almost all the proposals put forward by him were adopted unanimously.
The council collectively avowed not to use force to settle the Nigerian crisis, they also agreed to a law of collective responsibility which vested all powers of the Federal Military Government (FMG) in the Supreme Military Council, making a unanimous concurrence imperative. It was agreed as well, that the Head of the Federal Military Government should assume the title of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria
May 27, 1967
On this day, Gowon reneged on the Aburi accord. He proclaimed the division of Nigeria into twelve states. This decree carved the Eastern Region into three parts: South Eastern State, Rivers State, and East Central State. Now the Igbos, concentrated in the East Central State, would lose control over most of the petroleum, located in the other two areas. This was the final straw
May 30, 1967
Following Gowon’s declaration, an emergency meeting of top eastern leaders was held where an official vote of secession took place.
On this day, Ojukwu declared the independence of the Republic of Biafra. This set off a 3-year long war against the eastern region, a total humanitarian disaster.
July 6, 1967
On July 6, 1967, the federal government in Lagos launched a full-scale invasion into Biafra.
It was five weeks after the secession, the Nigerian military government launched what was termed police actions. They advanced in two columns on the wee hours of that day. This was the beginning of one of the world’s goriest genocide.
The first Biafran city, Nsukka fell to the Nigerian forces on the 14th of July,1967 but the Biafran army pushed back strong at that time.
October 5-7, 1967
The federal troops pushed back Biafran troops advancement as far as Ore back to Onitsha, after crossing the bridge the troops blew up the only connection.
The Nigerian troops descended on the poor people of Asaba, accusing them of being Biafran sympathizers. They went on a killing spree that lasted two days, murdering at least 1,000 people.
January 28, 1968
The Biafran new currency went public on 28 January 1968, and the Nigerian pound was not accepted as an exchange unit. The first issue of the bank notes included only 5 shillings notes and 1 pound notes.
June 26, 1968: The government of the Republic of Biafra releases a “Charge to Humanity” statement outlining the deteriorating situation in Biafra and calling for foreign support.
In July of the same year, having been cut off from all sources ‘the save Biafra media campaign’ begins in Britain with a documentary on ITV and press coverage in the Sun.
31 March 1968
After repeated assaults and bombarded of Onitsha by Nigerian troops, the city fell in October 1967. Future Nigerian head of State Murtala Muhammed led the Nigerians. The Biafrans mobilized and recaptured Onitsha in November 1967. The Nigerians didn’t let go and continually bombarded Onitsha. When they succeeded in capturing Onitsha in December, the Biafrans let them have it.
The Biafrans resorted into guerrilla attacks.
With Onitsha in their hold, the Nigerian troopsin Onitsha decided to link up with the forces in Enugu to tighten the encirclement of Biafra.
Led by Major Jonathan Uchendu, the Biafrans ambushed the Nigerians in Abagana on March 31, 1968. They attacked the Nigerians with Biafra-made Ogbunigwe rocket missiles, started a fire, put them in disarray and were able to slaughter a majority of the 6000 men in the trip.
This attack known as the Abagana Ambush gave the Biafrans renewed hope and ceased the Nigerian advancement into the Biafran hinterland.
June 30, 1969
Nigeria bans International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid to Biafra; the American Jewish Emergency Effort for Biafran Relief had raised a total of $185,000.
January 12, 1970
On January 10, Ojukwu left Biafra for Ivory Coast leaving General Effiong as the new head of state and administrator o the battered country. On what was his first speech to the people, General Effiong announced surrender.
“I have therefore instructed an orderly disengagement of troops,” he told his people. “I am dispatching emissaries to make contact with Nigeria’s field commanders in places like Onitsha, Owerri, Awka, Enugu, and Calabar with a view to arranging armistice.”
Then he made a sentence that has remained enshrined in the annals of Nigeria: “I urge General Gowon, in the name of humanity, to order his troops to pause while an armistice is negotiated.”
January 15, 1970
Exactly five years from the day of the first bloody coup lead by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, the war officially ended. Biafran General Phillip Effiong, Ojukwu’s deputy, signed an official surrender paper to the Nigerian army in Lagos.
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