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The First Military Era and the Nigerian Civil War 1966 - 1979

Today:Saturday, May 28, 2016

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The Military Coup and the Ironsi Regime, 1966:

The Military coup of January, 1996 had antecedents in the socio-economic and political conditions in Nigeria in the colonial and post-independence periods. For example, neither the Regions into which Nigeria was divided, nor the diverse ethnic groups had been sufficiently integrated into a united nation before Independence. After Independence, Nigerian politicians and administrators themselves lacked the political experience and skill to run the novel parliamentary system of government borrowed from the British. They made grave errors of omission and commission which were compounded by political intolerance, inter ethnic antagonism, corruption, political repression and injustice (Sklar, 1967: 6-7; Sklar, 1971:54).

Between 1960 and 1966, a series of fortuitous events including an election crisis in Western Nigeria, continued agitation by the minority ethnic groups for states of their own, disputed national census, a nation-wide strike, a controversial federal election, and politically inspired rioting, looting, arson and murder across the country, doomed the First Nigerian Republic. .They gave the Nigerian Army the grounds to overthrow the government on January 15, 1966 (Arnold, 1977; xii.).

Following the coup, Major-General Ironsi assumed leadership of the Federal Military Government and appointed Military Governors for the nation's four regions. Ironsi's regime was, however, soon truncated . Among other things, his abolition of the nation's regions and federal structure in favour of a unitary provincial system alienated educated Northerners who argued that it opened the nation's entire civil service to thousands of educated Southerners. Moreover, although the military coup had received some initial popular support, the selective killings of mostly non-lgbo politicians by the predominantly lgbo military officers who staged the coup, led to reprisals in the wide-spread killings of lgbo and other Easterners in the North in May, 1966. More serious, in July 1966, some northern officers, notably Murtala Mohammed, Joe Akahan and T. Y. Danjuma, overthrew the Ironsi regime in a military coup, killing Ironsi himself. Simultaneously, more killings of Easterners, both military and civilian, occurred in Lagos and the North, causing numerous "refugees" to return to the East. (Azikiwe, n.d: 3-7; Isichei, 1983: 471 - 4772).


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