Independent Nigeria Faces Ethnic Conflicts
On Oct. 1, 1960, Nigeria gained independence,
becoming a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and joining the United
Nations. Organized as a loose federation of self-governing states, the
independent nation faced the overwhelming task of unifying a country with
250 ethnic and linguistic groups.
Rioting broke out in 1966, and military leaders,
primarily of Ibo ethnicity, seized control. In July, a second military
coup put Col. Yakubu Gowon in power, a choice unacceptable to the Ibos.
Also in that year, the Muslim Hausas in the north massacred the
predominantly Christian Ibos in the east, many of whom had been driven
from the north. Thousands of Ibos took refuge in the eastern region, which
declared its independence as the Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967. Civil
war broke out. In Jan. 1970, after 31 months of civil war, Biafra
surrendered to the federal government.