Fifty years ago, a devastating civil war that killed more than one million people in Nigeria came to an end. Most of those who lost their lives in what became known as the Nigerian Civil War died from fighting, disease and starvation during the two-and-a-half-year conflict. In 1967, the military governor of then Eastern Region, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, inhabited mainly by Igbo, accused the Federal Government of condoning the mass murder of thousands of ethnic Igbo living in the north after the botched coup of 1966 in what became the worse pogrom in the country.
On 30 May that year, Odumegwu-Ojukwu declared the former Eastern Region sovereign and independent Republic of Biafra – a unilateral move rejected by the federal authorities. A bloody civil war ensued, with federal troops deployed to stop the secessionist movement.
The Nigerian forces cut off aid and access to the area throughout the war, which ended with the surrender of Biafra in January 1970. The Republic of Biafra ceased to exist and General Yakubu Gowon, the leader of the Federal Government, famously declared ‘no victor, no vanquished’ in the war. But 50 years on, many Nigerians, especially those from the Southwest and Southeast of the country, are pained that there is a re-enactment of the events of 1966, with the wanton killings and glaring dominance of one small ethnic group over the others.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, two separate and significant events took place. In Lagos, Nzuko Umunna, an Igbo intellectual group and Nd’Igbo Lagos reached out to their Yoruba counterparts and held the ‘Never Again’ conference at MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos.