Courtesy Reuters

One Nigeria

In February 1972, just two years after Biafra's sudden collapse, a news- magazine cover featured "Africa's Forgotten War." Nigerians who saw it thought: now at last the world may learn what has been happening here. In fact, the article was on the Sudan, but the reaction meant something. For all the keen and colorful attention to the civil war by the foreign press, there has been scant interest since the secessionist surrender. Because there was no genocide, the world's attention wandered. But while there has not been reconciliation in, say, Northern Ireland, Bangladesh or Burundi, there has been in Nigeria. This is one thing that makes Nigeria important; another is that, taught by world reaction, Nigeria really does want to go it alone, quietly and without much rhetoric, within a 12-state structure that gives her new opportunities.

To understand the reconciliation and reconstruction, at least a glimpse of the causes of the conflict is essential. In 1967 the phrases "Ibo domination," "Hausa domination" and sometimes "Yoruba domination" were commonplace in political discussions among Nigerians, as they had been for many years. The three regional governments set up by the British-West, East, North, with Lagos as the federal capital-encouraged many to think that the only people who counted in Nigeria were the Yoruba, who were predominant in the West, the Ibo, who controlled the East, and the Hausa, who ruled the North.[i] The political juggling before and after independence rested on that assumption. Each major group worried about being dominated at the federal center by a coalition of the other two.

Except as counters in electoral politics, the Nigerian people who are not Hausa, not Ibo, not Yoruba scarcely figured in the thinking either of Nigeria's leaders or the British. Yet, despite the lack of reliable statistics, it is clear that these dozens, even hundreds, of "minority" groups speaking their own languages numbered close to 50 percent of the population. Thus almost every sizable ethnic group had its own particular fear of domination by

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