Updates Anne Pitsch, June 1998 Alexander Danso, October 1999 The Ibo of Nigeria

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Anne Pitsch, June 1998

Alexander Danso, October 1999

The Ibo of Nigeria


The Ibo, sometimes Igbo, make up about 17% (18,790,000) of the total population (110,500,000) of Nigeria and live mainly in the southern states of Rivers, Imo, Anambra, Cross River, and Akiwibom. They are mainly Christian and have had long-standing disputes with the Muslim Hausa/Fulani of the north.

The British practiced indirect rule in Nigeria as they had in much of the rest of their colonial states. The Ibo were early opponents to British rule. However, they took advantage of missionaries to become educated and many converted to Christianity, especially Catholicism. They were then selected by the British to fill low-level civil service and business positions, and military posts. Their favoritism by the British led to further conflict with other groups when the Ibo were placed in authority positions in the north and southwest.

As the press for independence intensified, the Ibo came to support the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. The Yoruba mainly supported the Action Group (AG), and the Hausa/Fulani supported the Northern People's Congress (NPC). The NCNC and NPC formed a coalition that led the country to independence in 1960. The AG was largely marginalized from the federal government during the early years of independence which led to a renewal of Yoruba factionalism. Ethnic rivalries intensified, and eventually the military, led by Ibo officers, took over the government in January 1966. After the coup, there were anti-Ibo riots, and many were killed in riots that pitted the Ibo against the Hausa/Fulani. In July, northerners staged a counter-coup and Yakuba Gowan became the country's leader. Ibo living in the north began to flee, and those who didn't flee were massacred by northern militias and civilians.

In 1967, disputes between the eastern Ibo region and the government led to a declaration of secession of the eastern region. The independent state of Biafra was declared on 30 May 1967. Led by Lt-Col Ojukwu, the Biafra war lasted until January 1970 when Biafran troops surrendered. It is estimated that 100,000 casualties resulted from the war itself, and that an additional 500,000-2,000,000 civilians died, mainly from starvation as a result of a blockade by the federal government. Following the Biafra war, the Ibo were further isolated from government positions, even though Yakuba Gowan attempted to re-integrate them into the greater Nigerian society. Civilian rule was restored for a brief time in the late 1970s and early 1980s. On 31 December 1983, Muhammad Buhari led a military coup and banned all political activity in the country. The new military government was popular with northern Muslims. It was soon overthrown, however, by Ibrahim Babangida in August 1985. During the 1980s, religious overtones became more and more important in the rivalries between the Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba and Ibo.

By 1987, Babangida announced that he was preparing to turn the government back to civilian rule. During the preceding two years, unrest was growing between Muslims and Christians, and there were sporadic outbreaks of violence. Babangida's promise of a return to civilian had not occurred by 1995, however, and prospects for a peaceful transition remain slim. In June 1993, presidential elections were held in the country. Voter turnout was reportedly low, but the election were thought to be free and fair. When it became apparent that Moshood Abiola, a prominent Yoruba businessman from the south, was going to be the victor, Babangida declared the elections null and void. Abiola declared himself president, but later fled the country in the wake of death threats against him. Violent protests and strikes took place over the next two years in an attempt to return Abiola to power. He eventually returned to the country and was subsequently arrested on charges of sedition. Babangida resigned in August 1993, and was replaced by General Sani Abacha, then secretary of defense. Unrest continues in the country as Abiola supporters continue to fight for his release and appointment as president. Northerners and southerners continue to fight over religion, and one ethnic group, the Ogoni, are attempting to gain greater autonomy for their oil-rich state. Violence against Ibo in the north continued, including one incident in which a man was beheaded for supposedly defaming the Koran.


1800s: The Fulani wars were fought. Missionary activities spread. Britain set up northern and southern protectorates and a colony in Lagos.

1914: Territories were combined to form Nigeria and were administered through four provinces - Northern, Eastern, Western and the colony of Lagos.

1922: The Clifford Constitution stipulated that a Legislative Council administer the eastern and western regions. This was regarded as the first step toward autonomy from British rule. The Ibo and Yoruba regions were affected by this change, causing further animosities between the north, which continued to be ruled indirectly by the British, and the potentially autonomous south.

1945-1950: The "Jos" riots occurred in the north which were minor riots in protest of the northern amalgamation with the southern regions. When oil was discovered in the Ibo dominated eastern region, the Emirs of Zaria and Katsina demanded fifty percent of the seats in the newly formed Central Legislature. The Emirs threatened to secede from Nigeria if their demands were not met. The acceptance of these demands signaled the beginning of northern domination of Nigerian national politics.

1953: Anti-Ibo riots broke out in the north in protest of Ibo domination of social, political, business and military institutions. Ibos were hunted down and attacked in Kano, 245 were injured and more than 52 were killed. The southern Yoruba did not participate in the fighting.

1954: The Federal Executive Council (FEC) was created to introduce the eastern and western regions to a system of greater autonomy. This caused further animosities between the northerners and their southern Ibo neighbors.

1959: A coalition between the Hausa-Fulani supported Northern People's Congress (NPC), the Ibo National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroon (NCNC) blocked the western Yoruba controlled Action Group (AG) party from gaining any significant share of central authority in the December elections. A northerner, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was named Prime Minister.

1 October 1960: Nigeria gained independence. A referendum added the territory of Northern Cameroon, called Gongola state, which was administered by Britain as part of Nigeria. Prior to independence, the Ibo dominated the political, social, military and business institutions of Nigeria. After independence, the Ibo lost their privileged status, while the Hausa/Fulani gained affluence and controlled the federal government.

1963: The Federal Republic of Nigeria was proclaimed and Nnamdi Azikiwe was named President.

1965: [***]The Yoruba riot in protest against what they saw as forced exclusion of the AG from the Federal government. Ibo attacks on AG followers in the west sparked off the violence. Federal troops had to intervene to bring calm to the areas affected.

[The factual errors can be found in the "Quick History of Nigeria" :

1965 and 29 July 1966. Ndiigbo did not attack AG members in Western Nigeria. Hausa
soldiers did not help Ndiigbo escape from Northern Nigeria. They attacked and
slaughtered them at airports (Kano), railway stations and along the roads. By Ekwe Nche]

15 January 1966: A military coup d'etat led by lower and middle-ranking officers, some of them Ibo, overthrew the NPC-NCNC dominated government. Prime Minister Balewa along with other northern and western government officials were assassinated during the coup. The coup was widely considered an Ibo plot to consolidate power and overthrow the northern dominated government.

General Johnson Ironsi, an Ibo, consolidated power in the military and used its power to restore order throughout Nigeria. Ironsi declared all political parties illegal and formed the Federal Military Government (FMG).

29 July 1966: A counter-coup was launched by mostly northern troops. General Ironsi and many others, mostly Ibo, were killed. Between June and July there was a mass exodus of Ibo from the north and west. Over 1.3 million Ibo fled the neighboring regions in order to escape persecution as anti-Ibo riots increased. The military aided some Ibo in their flight but many of those unescorted were massacred. The FMG, now under the control of Major General Yakubu Gowon, a middle-belt tribe member and a Christian, restored calm to Nigeria. The anti-Ibo riots led many to believe that the only way they could live securely was to secede an form their own country.

August-September 1966: Anti-Ibo riots gained momentum and voracity. The exodus gained greater impetus as hundreds of thousands fled the riot torn north. Armed bands of civilians and militia slaughtered Ibos indiscriminately. Over 30,000, mostly Ibo, were said to have died in the north and west. The eastern region was now flooded with Ibo refugees.

1967-1970: The Biafra civil war, an effort by eastern Ibo people to secede, fails with the surrender of Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Between 1.5 million and 2.1 million were killed, including many who died in the famine following the war. The end result of the Ibo war of secession was the deaths of a large portion of their more educated male members and the almost total removal of Ibo from government. After the war, many Ibo were permanently removed from government service.

1975: General Gowon was removed from office during a bloodless coup. Many attributed his downfall to his indefinite postponement of a return to civilian rule. The coup was seen as an attempt by middle-belt tribes to consolidate power in the FMG. Gowon was replaced by Brigadier Murtala Ramat Muhammad, a northern Moslem. Under Muhammad, the Ibos continued to be marginalized.

13 February 1976: Muhammed was assassinated in another counter-coup and General Olusegun Obasanjo was his successor. Under the new rule, seven more states were created to allow minority groups more say in the national political arena.

1979: After elections that once again resulted in northern Moslem dominance of Nigerian politics, there were increased claims of "forced Islamization" of the southerners and middle-belt inhabitants. The new government, with President Alhaji Shehu Shagari, had little legitimacy in the eyes of in the middle-belt and southern peoples.

1983: President Shagari was overthrown in a coup d'etat and the military one again intervened to restore order across Nigeria. General Ibrahim Babangida, a northern Moslem, took over to end the corruption and ethnic and religious tension that engulfed the Shagari regime. The FMG was dissolved and the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) was created to rule Nigeria.

1985: An attempted coup was thwarted and over 300 people were arrested. Many of those arrested were summarily executed.

1986: General Babangida allows the country to join the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). This sparks widespread rioting in universities throughout Nigeria and in many southern cities. At this point, the country is thought to be less than 50% Moslem. Clashes between Moslem and Christian students in the north lasted over a week in Kaduna state. The government declared a dusk to dawn curfew to restore calm. A decrease in the price of oil devastated the Nigerian economy which had become dependent on oil sales.

1987: Religious tensions increased as northern Moslems call for the imposition of Islamic law and courts for Nigeria.

1988: General Babangida announced that Nigeria will remain a secular state. However, to reduce religious tensions, he allowed Shari'a courts in Moslem dominated areas.

3 May 1989: President Babangida announced the promulgation of a new draft constitution. He also announced, in line with the 1987 timetable for a return to democracy in 1992, the lifting of the ban on political parties.

May-June 1989: More than 100 people were killed during widespread rioting which was sparked by student protests against strict economic austerity measures. The rioting spread through several cities and the army was called in to restore order in Lagos and Benin. The government announced that political activity would be temporarily banned in those cities. Eight universities were closed.

22 June 1989: The ban on political activity was lifted.

7 October 1989: President Babangida announced the dissolution of all 13 political parties which had applied for registration. He announced the creation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC). The members of the 13 parties were to merge with the newly created parties. The original members of the 13 groups were prohibited from recruiting new individuals to either party. Local elections were postponed.

December 1989: A wide-ranging reshuffle of the government left northern Moslems in the offices of the President, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Army and police chiefs, and the Ministers of External Affairs, Petroleum Resources, and Budget.

January 1990: In early January, Adamu M. Fika and Stephen B. Agodo were appointed to head the two national parties, the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) respectively.

1 January 1990: President Babangida, in an attempt to polish Nigeria's poor human rights record, ordered a general amnesty for those held in prisons for light offenses who had not yet been tried.

8 January 1990: In the wake of the Cabinet reshuffle, Christians demonstrated in the predominantly Moslem towns of Ondo on 8 January. On 11 January they demonstrated in Kaduna, Jos, Yola and Buachi.

22 April 1990: Dissident middle-ranking Army officers led by Maj. Gideon Orkar attempted to overthrow President Babangida. The mutineers implied that their motives were religious and regional (the mutineers being mainly from the south and Christian). Maj. Orkar stated that he had the backing of the Nigerian Labor Congress, the Bar Association and the unions of journalists and students. Heavy fighting was reported and 10 people were killed. General Sani Abacha, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Chief of Army Staff, reaffirmed the military's loyalty to the President and to the continuation of the transition to a multi-party, democratic, civilian ruled state. Major Orkar and 200 lower ranking soldiers were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the attempted coup.

27 July 1990: Forty-two soldiers were executed by firing squad after being found guilty of staging the coup in April. Major Orkar, the organizer of the failed coup, was among those executed. Altogether over 800 people stood trial.

5 September 1990: Several senior government appointees were retired from the armed forces in a major restructuring of the military. The move was in alignment with the process of drastically downsizing the armed forces for the move to civilian rule.

13 September 1990: Twenty-seven soldiers involved in April's coup attempt were executed. The total coup related executions stood at sixty-nine.

8 December 1990: Local elections were held for the first time since the military coup of 1983. A low voter turnout was cited in the south of the country. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) won 232 chairmanships of local government and had a total of 2,934 councilors elected. The National Republican Convention (NRC) won 206 chairmanships and had 2,558 councilors elected.

April 1991: Several weeks of riots in the northern state of Katsina by a group loyal to the local Shi'ite Moslem leader, Mallam Yakubu Yahaya, came to a head in April. The sect was rioting in protest of an article published in a local magazine in December 1990, which they considered blasphemous. Up to 246 people were killed.

2-3 September 1991: Mallam Yakubu Yahaya, a Shi'ite Moslem leader, and 65 members of his sect were convicted following religious rioting in April. Yahaya was among 160 people arrested during the riots. Most received prison sentences between six and nine months.

14 October 1991: A curfew was declared and all religious gatherings were banned after a major outbreak of religious rioting began in Kano, a principal Moslem center in northern Nigeria. Over 200 were killed. The riots began when 10,000 Moslems marched in the town center, protesting that permission had been granted for a five-day Christian revivalist rally, whereas some weeks previously permission had been refused for a Moslem imam to speak in Kano.

12 December 1991: Abuja, a more politically neutral city in central Nigeria, formally became Nigeria's federal capital.

14 December 1991: State elections took place peacefully. The NRC, right wing party, won 16 of the 30 state governorships and gained control of 13 state assemblies. The SDP won control of 16 assemblies, including those in three states- Lagos, Katsina and Cross River, where the NRC won the gubernatorial poll. The results were thought to hail the end of the regionalization of Nigeria.

19 December 1991: The government, in a surprise move, lifted the ban on former politicians taking part in the transition to democracy. On 20 December, eleven former politicians, earlier detained for contravening the ban, were released.

8 January 1992: At least 10 people were killed in rioting by Shi'ite Moslems in Katsina state . The rioting was linked to the arrest of 263 Moslems described by the state governor as "fundamentalists".

March 1992: Over 200 were killed in Taraba state in a dispute between Muslims and Christians over the use of two fishing ponds for a fishing festival.

16-18 May 1992: Clashes occurred between Christians and Moslems in Kaduna state, which is evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. What began as a land dispute between the minority Christian Datafs and the mainly Moslem Hausa people, and quickly turned into a religious conflict. Churches were destroyed and thousands of Christians converged on a military academy and police stations in the town to seek protection. As many as 800 people were killed in the violence. Christian and Muslim leaders blamed the government for fomenting ethnic violence as a means of retaining power in the region. On 18 May, state authorities imposed a curfew on the affected areas.

19 May 1992: The federal government announced an immediate ban on all associations with "religious, ethnic, tribal, cultural, social group, or individual interests".

21 May 1992: Fresh rioting was reported in Lagos after the 18 May arrest of Beko Ransome Kuti, Chairman of the Campaign for Democracy (CD), and of other leading CD activists. The CD, an umbrella organization of 25 opposition groups, had called for the resignation of the government on 10 May. Kuti accused the government of instigating the violence to delay the transition to civilian rule.

4 July 1992: The SDP won 52 seats and the NRC won 37 seats in the Senate elections. The SDP won 314 seats, the NRC 275 seats in the House of Representative elections. SDP support came from Lagos, the Yoruba-speaking region of the south-west and the middle-belt states. NRC support came mainly from Moslem Hausa and Fulani-speaking states in the north. Fighting was reported at polling stations in several states, mainly in the southeast, and a few elections were postponed in other areas for various reasons.

September 1992: Primary elections were held and appeared to be bedeviled by corruption, in spite of a decree which imposed severe penalties on anyone found guilty of electoral corruption.

16 October 1992: President Babangida announced the cancellation of the presidential primary election and the dissolution of the leadership of the two government-created political parties, the NRC and SDP.

16 November 1992: President Babangida announced a delay in the transfer from military to civilian rule. Presidential elections were to be held on June 12, 1993 instead of December 5, 1992. The 23 prospective presidential candidates who had contested the discredited primaries would not be permitted to run again and were prohibited from joining the political parties.

15 December 1992: A civilian Transitional Council was appointed to form a temporary administration until the return to civilian rule currently scheduled for August 1993. Power still resided with the president and National Defence and Security Council.

22 January 1993: At least 60 people were reported killed in three days of clashes between rival Muslim sects in Funtua, in the northern state of Katsina.

April 1993: In the past three years, 3000 people have been killed in the north in Christian/Muslim clashes. Christian Ibo live in the Muslim-dominated north as traders.

12 June 1993: Presidential elections took place as scheduled. The voting went smoothly but there was a low voter turnout.

15 June 1993: The Association for a Better Nigeria (ABN) won a ruling in the Abuja High Court directing the NEC to halt the publication of election results. The NEC complied on June 16. Both political parties issued demands for the release of election results. As tensions increased the military tightened security in the main cities.

18 June 1993: Defying the Court ruling, the Lagos-based Campaign for Democracy (CD) released what it claimed to be the final banned election results. According to them, SDP candidate, Moshood Dashimawo Olawale "MKO" Abiola, who is a Muslim Yoruba, had easily defeated NRC candidate, Bashir Othma Tofa, a Moslem from the north, winning outright in 19 of the 30 states. About one-third of northerners voted for Abiola, seeing him as being more independent of the military than Tofa. After the following months of Yoruba protests, however, Abiola loses support in the north as the Hausa/Fulani began to fear southern domination.

19 June 1993: After three high courts and the elected Federal Parliament demanded that the junta publish election results, the SDP candidate, Moshood Abiola, declared himself the winner of the election and demanded the publication of the results by the NEC. Supporters of the more conservative NRC held peaceful protests in northern towns. A high court in Lagos restrained the ABN from further campaigning for an extension of military rule.

23 June 1993: Two days after the NEC had lodged an appeal against the Abuja High Court ruling with the Federal Court for Appeal in Kaduna, the NDSC announced that the presidential elections had been annulled.

24 June 1993: Moshood Abiola, a Muslim Yoruba and member of the SDP, proclaimed himself President of Nigeria and urged the international community to support him against the military. The CD called for mass disobedience until the NDSC rescinded their annulment.

25 June 1993: President Babangida promised that the transfer to civilian rule would occur as scheduled but a new poll would be held and new rules written so that Abiola and Tofa would be banned from the new election.

Also in June, outbreaks of unrest, in which over 100 were killed in northern and western states, were reported.

5 July 1993: Political unrest brought Lagos to a halt as thousands heeded a strike and civil disobedience call. Protesters cordoned off the business district with burning barricades and called for the immediate installation of SDP candidate Abiola as president.

7 July 1993: Tanks were dispatched to quell the violence in Lagos, calm was reportedly restored.

13 July 1993: The NDSC formally withdrew its offer of setting up an interim government and called for new elections. The new election date of August 14, was announced a few days later. The SDP repeated its refusal to participate in the new elections stating that the June elections were free and fair. The NRC accepted the new dates.

27 July 1993: Hundreds of northern and eastern Nigerians began to flee their villages after rumors of war began to circulate. The Hausa, Kanuri and Ibos feared that despite Lagos' calm, a new wave of unrest could explode if Babangida reneged on his promise to relinquish power. Within the next few weeks, 10,000 will have fled Lagos.

31 July 1993: President Babangida resurrected the idea of an Interim National Government (ING), that would consist of members of both parties and military personnel. The proposal was rejected by Abiola.

4 August 1993: Abiola fled Nigeria after receiving death threats. He began a trip to seek international support.

9 August 1993: Security forces arrested several leading members of the CD, and the government threatened to impose a state of emergency in an attempt to thwart civil disobedience.

12-14 August 1993: A three day strike was called by the CD and was heeded in Yoruba areas. Lagos, the country's main economic area, was once again deserted and idle. The government put tight restrictions on the publishing of papers and tougher penalties on those papers that print "false statement, rumors, or reports".

20 August 1993: After visiting Washington and Paris, Abiola spoke from London promising to return to Nigeria to install his new Cabinet. However, Justice Minister Clement Akpamgbo warned that such a move would be regarded as "insurrection".

25-27 August 1993: The CD organized another round of strikes and the country's economic heartland came to a standstill.

26 August 1993: President Babangida stepped down, handing over power to a non-elected Interim National Government (ING). Two advisory bodies were created, the National Defence Council (NDC) and the National Security Council (NSC). The NDSC became obsolete, but several of its members joined the new Cabinet and Councils.

27 August 1993: The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), a federation of 42 main unions, rejected the ING and demanded the installation of a constitutional administration headed by Abiola. An indefinite strike began the following day. They were joined by the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (Nupeng), which said its 50,000 workers would bring production to a halt.

19 September 1993: The NEC announced that presidential elections would be held on February 19, 1994. Following the announcement, the CD called for a national strike between September 29-October 1. There were mixed reports on the success of the strikes. Nigerian radio reported that the strike call had gone largely unheeded. However, Pan-African News Agency (PANA), reported that the streets of Lagos were empty and that most businesses and banks were closed.

24 September 1993: SDP leader, Abiola, returned to Nigeria and was greeted by over 100,000 supporters.

3 October 1993: The SDP, previously divided over support for Abiola, reconciled and announced that they would boycott any new elections. They viewed the June 12 elections as free and fair and demanded the installment of Abiola as president. In contrast, the NRC, on 19 October, rejected the June 12 elections and embraced the idea of new elections.

10 November 1993: The Lagos High Court declared the ING unconstitutional and illegal in a ruling of a case filed by Moshood Abiola.

15 November 1993: Shonekan's plans to hold new elections appeared non-viable after a voter registration campaign met with a complete boycott in the south-west, a stronghold of Abiola.

17 November 1993 : Nigeria came once again under the control of the military. The Defence Minister, Gen. Sanni Abacha, took over as Head of State after forcing the resignation of Chief Ernest Adegunle Shonekan, head of the Interim National Government. Abacha took over the positions of Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

18 November 1993: General Abacha announced the dissolution of the main organs of the state and established the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC). Almost every political appointment or governmental structure created under Babangida was dismissed and dissolved. Abacha called on the unions to return to work immediately. He lifted the bans on the media and promised to establish a constitutional conference with full constitutional powers.

20 November 1993: The NLC agreed to call off the general strike after the new regime agreed to reduce the scale of the fuel price increase. This move further solidified Abacha's power.

21 November 1993: Abacha reinstated the 1979 Constitution (of the Second Republic) and formally establishing the PRC. The government included several prominent supporters of Abiola in its Cabinet.

23 November 1993: Moshood Abiola met with Abacha but no details of their discussion were made public.

1 February 1994: Traditional rulers from the five Yoruba states of the 30-state confederation announced that any future election would fail if the "injustice done to Yoruba through the annulment of the June 12 election" was not corrected.

14 April 1994: In the central Nigerian city of Jos, a dusk to dawn curfew was imposed in reaction to several days of tensions between the Hausa-Fulani minority and the Berom majority. Tensions arose over the appointment of the local government chair. First, a Hausa was appointed, sparking the initial Berom demonstrations. Later, the government caved in to the pressure and appointed a Berom, which ignited Hausa-Fulani demonstrations.

15 May 1994: A newly formed political organization, the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, issued a statement asking Abacha to invite Moshood Abiola to form a government of national unity. NADECO gave the head of state until May 31 to effect its order.

NADECO also called for the formation of a national government which would restructure the Nigerian polity in order to establish true federalism, introduce more power sharing and revenue allocation, as well as encourage respect for the fundamental human rights of all Nigerians.

23 May 1994: Nigerians were given the day off to vote on a new Constitutional Conference to sit from June to October to debate how to convert the state to civilian rule. There were neither parties nor issues. Only 10% of the voters turned out.

The 273 delegates elected to the constitutional conference were mainly Hausa-Fulani from the north and some Ibo from the southeast. Yoruba politicians did not take part in the conference. In addition to the elected delegates, the military reserved the right to name 96 delegates to the conference.

6 June 1994: Notable politicians and many regional organizations boycotted the ward election. Instead they asked Abacha to release the result of the June 12, 1993 elections and swear in the winner as president. The government was further jolted when Abiodun Adetiloye, archbishop of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, called on Abacha to "bow out honorably". The National Unity Promoters (NUP) formed which, like the Association for Democracy and Good Governance (ADGG), is a proponent of the June 12, 1993 election. The NUP is headed by Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria's former head of state. In a surprise move, the Catholic Church also gave its support for the release of the June 12 election results.

23 June 1994: Moshood Abiola was arrested on charges of sedition.

August 1994: The crisis facing Nigeria after the failed elections was the worst since the Ibo attempted to secede in the Biafra war. Over 100 have been killed in pro-democracy protests. There were some reports of clashes between Yoruba youth and Ibo shopkeepers as the Yoruba attempted to force the Ibo to comply with anti-government strikes.

Abiola's trial was put on hold, and he was reportedly suffering from ill-health.

January 1995: Clashes were reported again in Kano between students and Muslim fundamentalists. Fundamentalists, including a radical group known as the Muslim Brotherhood, are funded by Iran and are gaining support in the north.

Ibo leaders renewed charges of discrimination and victimization.

May 1995: Religious riots erupted in Kano and at least 30 people were killed. Kano is the town in which an Ibo was beheaded by Muslim extremists for supposedly demeaning the Koran. More than 50 people are standing trial before a special federal governemtn tribunal on civil disturbances.

June 1995: An Ibo man in Kano was beheaded for supposedly defaming the Koran by Muslims who took him out of the local police station. Christians and Muslims fight, and 30 were reported killed. It was widely thought that the man was unjustly accused.

August 1995: Sporadic outbreaks of ethnic and religious violence were reported in Kano.

May 1996: Former Biafra leader Emeka Ojukwu has declared himself king of the Igbo (Ibo) people after a Nri red cap chief Ahedrack Mbanefo conferred the title upon him. On 19 May, the Oha-na-Eze, the highest power wielding body in Igboland denounced his adoption of the title, claiming there is no king of the Igbo. Critics of Ojukwu contend that no traditional ruler of any of the autonomous communities has the right to confer an all-encompassing chieftancy title on anyone. Ojukwu has presidential ambititions and may use his new title for political gains.

September 1995: Sani Abacha dispatched an emissary to Europe for meetings with Washington officials to discuss the return to democracy in Nigeria. Abacha proposed a transition period of four years and the U.S. representatives responded that 18 months should be enough.

16 September 1996: There was a new outbreak of violence between Muslim fundamentalists and Christians which left two dead and several wounded at Kafachan in Kaduna state in northern Nigeria. Two similar incidents occurred in June in Kaduna and Niger states in which at least four people were killed. Fifty Muslim fundamentalists were arrested followin these incidents.

1 October 1995: In a speech, Sani Abacha pledged to institute a program under which the country's top six political positions would be rotated among six regions in an effort to minimize ethnic tensions.

He also commuted the death sentences of 14 people convicted of plotting a coup against him. Others given life imprisonment sentences had their sentences reduced to fifteen years' imprisonment. The human rights group Campaign for Democracy's leader Beko Ransome-Kuti and former president Obasanjo were among those whose sentences were reduced to 15 years

11 November 1995: Since coming to power in November 1993, Sani Abacha has jailed Moshood Abiola, winner of the 1995 multiparty elections, Beko Ransome-Kuti, leader of the pro-democracy movement, General Olusengun Obasanjo, the only military leader in Nigeria's history to freely give up power to a civilian government. The three are from the Yoruba ethnic group. He has also jailed a powerful northern politician General Sehu Musa Yar'Adva and senior members of the military.

After 25 years of extracting oil worth over $200 billion, Nigerians enjoy the same per capita income of $300 that they earned in pre-oil days. During the regime of Ibrahim Babangida, 1985-1993, $12 billion in oil revenues could not be accounted for.

17 November 1995: NADECO ( National Democratic Coalition, a pro-democracy umbrella group) stated that the international community's isolation of Nigeria was not enough to bring real change to the military-ruled country.

25 January 1996: The 15 member European Union has accepted Nigeria's three-year transition to democracy plan in a sudden change of policy from its former demand that the period be shortened.

12 June 1996: The Nigerian government reformed two decrees, including the one under which nine Ogoni were executed in November 1995. Effective immediately, no military person would sit on special disturbances tribunals such as the one that convicted the Ogoni nine. Further, verdicts from these tribunals would from now on be open to appeal. The other decree to be amended deals with detention without trial. The amendment provides hope that some of the dozens of detainees under the decree will be released through the courts which are now allowed to hear their suits against the detention.

August 1996: Sani Abacha has reportedly dismissed all 30 State Administrators in a purge of regional bureaucrats, and replaced them with middle-ranking military officers.

Eighty people have been killed in ethnic clashes between the Karimjo and Fulani in eastern Nigeria. More than 400 Karimjo houses have been razed and over 6000 people have fled their homes in the violence which was reportedly started by an attempted rape of a Karimjo woman by a Fulani man.

September 1996: The leader of the Muslim Brothers, a group of young Islamic fanatics from the minority Shiite sect in Nigeria, Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, was arrested for questioning about his organization's activities.

February 1997: The Nigerian government said it has uncovered fresh plans by pro-democracy groups to destabilize the country using university students. The government alleges the plot to disrupt local governmental elections slated for March involves the National Liberation Council of Nigeria (NALICON), led by exiled writer Wole Soyinka, MOSOP, NADECO and the United Democratic Association (UDA).

April 1997: Ethnic violence has erupted in Warri in southwestern Nigeria. The Urhobo (a subgroup of the Edo ethnic group), Itsekiri (a sub-group of the Yoruba), and Ijaw (an ethnic group unrelated to any other) have been fighting since March when a local government headquarters was moved from the Ijaw town of Ogbe-ijoh to the Itsekiri area of Ogidigben. More than 100 have been killed and hundreds injured. Warri is the headquarters of a number of oil companies, and Shell has pulled out some of its staff, cut production by 20%, and delayed exports. The distribution of wealth from the oil revenues appears to flow unevenly among the three groups. The Urhobos and Ijaws complain that oil royalties are paid to the Olu of Warri, the traditional ruler of the Itsekiris. Ijaws are a relatively large ethnic group (>5 million) in Nigeria, but they are spread out over six states and are not the majority in any of them. Over the past couple of years while the Ogoni in the region protested, the Ijaws were quietly arming themselves. Similar protests have taken place all over Nigeria since the restructuring of local councils took place in March.

May 1997: Elections in Nigeria are scheduled for 1998.

Moshood Abiola remained jalied for a third year.

The United Congress party is growing in power and has been lobbying for Sani Abacha to be its presidential candidate. Abacha has indicated he may step down from power in order to run for president with a political party.

The main umbrella opposition group the National Democratic Coalition is thought to be behind a recent spate of bombings in the country, many of which are aimed at military targets.

Nigeria pumps about $40 million worth of oil per day and the most politically explosive question is what has become of the money? Partly because the north has been hardest hit by economic troubles, religious strife is beginning to spread, and Muslim militants have been verbally attacking the government with charges of corruption.

7 May 1997: A bomb exploded on an army bus in Lagos wounding several people. A second blast followed. It was the fifth bomb attack in Lagos targeting the military since December 1996. Police have blamed the blasts on NADECO, the pro-democracy movement of Nigeria. NADECO denies involvement.

7 June 1997: Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who led the Biafra secessionist movement in the 1960s criticized those campaigning for Sani Abacha and said it is the turn of the Igbos to present the next civilian president. His political leadership of the Igbos has come under stong challenge recently.

17 June 1997: Washington officials launched informal discussions about reviewing U.S. policy on Nigeria. Human rights and environmental groups have been pressuring the U.S. government to take stronger action against the Abacha regime because current sanctions have had no noticeable effect on the Nigerian government. Almost half of Nigeria's oil exports are shipped to the United States and provides Nigeria with 90% of its export earnings.

March 1998: Opposition groups,including NADECO and the Eastern Mandate Union, plan to organize protests against Abacha as the sole presidential candidate in elections slated for later this year.

The Pope met with Muslim leaders in northern Nigeria and spoke of religious tolerance. Over the past three years, there have been lynchings against Christians and others by Islamic fundamendalists in northern Nigeria.

29 April 1998: Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya and 11 others were sentenced to death for their alleged participation in a coup plot against Abacha. All 12, and most of the 24 other defendants are Yoruba. Diya was not popular in the Yoruba community because of his close ties to Abacha, yet the sentence handed down has exacerbated tensions between the Yoruba community and the government. The Eastern Mandate Union, NADECO and other pro-democracy and human rights groups denounced the death sentences. The Ibo have long since been purged from high-ranking positions in the military.

4 May 1998: Pro-democracy and human rights groups, including Eastern Mandate Union and NADECO, met in secret to form an umbrella opposition organization-Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (Jacon).

8 June 1998: Military leader Sani Abacha died of a heart attack. Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar became the new head of state.

7 July 1998: Chief Moshood Abiola, the millionaire Nigerian opposition leader, had been in solitary confinement for four years before he met United Nations Secretary, Kofi Annan, last week. During his time in jail, he had virtually no contact with the outside world and was surprised to learn that Annan was the new U.N. chief - not his predecessor Butros Butros Ghali.

8 July 1998: The death of a suspected heart attack of Chief Moshood Abiola caused a stir in the Yoruba communities of Nigeria as violence reupted. In Lagos, Abeokuta and Ibadan the outbreak of violence was so serious that about twelve people were reported dead and properties running into millions of naira were destroyed.

10 July 1998: Violence erupted in Nigeria's south-western university town of Ibadan, as supporters of the late opposition politician Moshood Abiola clashed with ethnic northern Nigerians. Witnesses told the BBC that the university and polytechnic in Ibadan had been closed after troops were brought in to restore order. The ruling military Provisional Ruling Council, in a move to promote calm, commuted the death sentences against six former officials accused of trying to overthrow the former regime.

17 July 1998: At the Paki Trading and Transport company, a crowd methodically brought down its towering concrete wall, stripped and burned 16 big rigs inside, incinerated the offices and looted the warehouses. In the tin-roofed shelter that serves as a workplace mosque, security guard Garda Ali Paki was sliced to death. Company co-owner Alhaji Abdullahi Usman Dan Inn stood beside the bloodstain and announced: "The whole problem here is ethnic. We are from the Hausa tribe. They came here attacking our people."

24 September 1998: A group of political leaders from the south of the country has threatened to boycott Nigeria's local government elections unless the government of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar reforms the army and scraps a set of draconian laws used to silence political opponents. The decision to boycott the Dec. 5 polls was taken at a one-day meeting, chaired by Abraham Adesanya, in the Nigerian city of Lagos this week.

21 0ctober 1998: Irregularities of the voter registration process portends a great danger for the success of the transition program. When the exercise came to an end, pages of the national newspapers were awash with criticisms by party chieftains, political pundits and prospective voters who were calling for either a suspension or an outright cancellation of the exercise.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the body vested with the responsibility of carrying out the exercise, was accused of incompetence.

26 October 1998: Fighting, pitting the Itsekiris against the Ijaws, began in the south-eastern town of Warri last week. Police said at least ten people were killed during the disturbances, and more than 90 houses were set on fire. Media reports in Lagos said "a number of buses" belonging to the Shell and Texaco oil companies in the town have also been attacked, with the youths pulling out the passengers and forcing them to identify their ethnic group. A village of 4,000 people nearby has also been torched. A number of oil installation workers, detained three weeks ago, were still being held by Ijaw youths. Diplomats have warned that the clashes will affect foreign investment. (Inter Press News)

16 December 1998: Violence erupted in Gboko, Benue State on 9 December as some Tiv youths attacked Igbo over the killing of a Tiv man. (Africa News Service Inc)

30 December 1998: Dr. Godson Nnaka, one of the major speakers at the World Pan- Igbo Conference held in Enugu, warned the old generation of Nigerian political leaders to ensure the success of the current transition program or face a generational war from the the country's youth who hold the elders responsible for the failure of Nigeria since independence. (Africa News Service Inc, Africa News)

15 January 1999: Nigerians were concerned over the state of health of former Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya who was convicted of an attempted coup in 1997 to overthrow the regime of the late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.(Africa News Service Inc, Africa News)

10 February 1999: Nigeria’s political parties face problems of choosing their presidential candidates for the presidential elections as each party wanted to hold it’s congress after its rival. The Chief of General Staff Admiral Akhigbe said that the regime was not going to allow the derailment of the transition program. He announced that the Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie had been mandated to forestall any breakdown in law and order during the period. (Africa News Service Inc, Africa News)

17 February 1999: The People’s Democratic Party held its convention to nominate a candidate for the presidential elections. General Olusegun Obasanjo was elected as the presidential candidate of the party. However, his election was interpreted by some Ibo political leaders as a rejection of an Ibo, Dr. Alex Ekueme. Some Ibo leaders urged their kinsmen not to support General Olusegun Obasanjo candidacy. (Africa News Service Inc, Africa News.)

19 February 1999: Ibos were urged to reject General Olusegun Obasanjo by voting massively for the APP/AD alliance led by former finance minister, Chief Olu Falae. Chief Falae urged the Igbos to reject General Olusegun Obasanjo whom he described as a representative of the military. He said that support for AD/APP coalition will adequately address the Igbo agenda of restructuring the federation and devolution of power. (Africa News Service Inc)

22 February 1999: Nigeria's Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) scored an overwhelming victory in the national assembly elections. Preliminary results gave the PDP, which had swept the local council, state assemblies and governor elections, more than 50 percent success in the federal legislative contest. The Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the All People's Party (APP) won 36 of a total 109 senatorial seats contested Saturday. (Africa News Service Inc, Africa News)

22 February 1999: The Ohana-Eze Ndi- Igbo, a pan- Igbo cultural association comprising a highly influential conservative Igbo, adopted Chief Olu Falae as the association's president to lead Nigeria into the next millennium. After the rejection of Dr. Ekwueme as the PDP presidential candidate, the PDP is said to be grossly splintered in the South-East, giving room for the Alliance for Democracy to make in-roads into the South-East. (Africa News Service)

22 February 1999: The Igbo community in Abuja, said they deliberately boycotted last week's legislative elections to protest what they described an "injustice against the Ndi- Igbo" during the convention of the People Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primaries in which Obasanjo was given the presidential candidacy for the party. While the F.C.T. recorded a low turnout of electorate in some areas during the elections, it was a total boycott in some areas mostly dominated by the Ndi-Igbo. One trader said the Ibo decided not to waste their time voting as they were convinced that Igbo interest is not being taken into consideration in the on-going transition program. (Africa News Service Inc, Africa News)

25 February 1999: Intelligence reports have revealed the arrest of 40 persons suspected to be "area boys" who allegedly unleashed mayhem early yesterday on Igbo traders at Oyingbo, Lagos. Police have confirmed mounting ethnic tensions in the area. Commercial shops owned by Igbo traders were said to have been violently attacked by "area boys while the traders were beaten and injured and their goods were looted and destroyed by the area boys. (Africa News Service Inc, Africa News)

26 February 1999: The Igbo Solidarity Movement (ISM) called on all Igbo across the country to rebuff the choice of Gen. Obasanjo as president in order to protest against their perceived lack of consultation in the national transition process. (Africa News Service Inc, Africa News)

1 March 1999:General Olusegun Obasanjo won the presidential election, after his PDP crushed Chief Olu Falae of the AD/APP alliance in every zone except the West. (Africa News Inc, Africa News)

17 March 1999: Chief Oluyemi Falae, the defeated presidential candidate went to court to challenge the victory of General Obasanjo in the presidential elections.( Tempo, (Lagos) in Africa News)

22 April 1999: Dr. Fredrick Fasheun, chairman of the Oodua People Congress (OPC) said that the Yoruba will not keep quiet and watch their continuous marginalisation by the few in government. Dr. Fasheun insisted that the OPC was not a violent organisation but that people in government should know that "violence begets violence." (Africa News)

9 June 1999:Lagos - Over 400 angry Igbo watch and jewelry dealers who ply their trade at Mile One, Diobu in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, stormed the Government House in Port Harcourt protesting against the looting of their property and their wares by Ikwere youths.(Africa News)

11 June 1999: Ethnic tension in the Niger Delta Region has led to heavy clashes among three main ethnic groups in the are a leaving over two hundred people dead. The immediate spark for the latest clashes were demands by Ijaw for the return to their area of a local council headquarters that then military ruler General Sani Abacha relocated in 1997 to an Itsekiri settlement. Since then, the two groups have fought intermittently. Behind the restiveness in the region fester deep-seated feelings of neglect and rivalry for power among impoverished local communities. (Africa News)

23 June 1999: A trend of violent communal conflict spreading throughout Nigeria in recent years has intensified in the past months, leaving hundreds of people dead and thousands displaced. From Warri in the south to Kafanchan in the north and from Aguleri-Umuleri in the east to Ife-Modakeke in the west, communal contenders have engaged in violent conflict in order to settle old rivalries or obtain advantages within the community. (Africa News)

26 July 1999:Authorities in Nigeria's northern state of Kano have imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the ancient state capital following ethnic clashes that reportedly killed some 30 people at the weekend. State governor Rabiu Kwankwaso announced the restriction of movement in a special broadcast in the aftermath of riots involving the Hausa and Yoruba people. (PANA in Africa News)

30July 1999:Calm is gradually returning to the Nigerian cities of Sagamu and Kano, where more than 130 people have been killed in ethnic violence following clashes between the Yoruba and Hausa. (Interpress Service)

2 August 1999: The Nigerian Navy warned militant Ijaw youths in the Niger-Delta to steer clear of military establishments in order to avoid a bloody clash with military personnel. Out-going Commanding Officer of the Naval Base Warri. Navy Captain Ekpeyong Ita gave the warning at the weekend. (Africa News)

10 August 1999:Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo appealed for an end to the ethnic violence raging in parts of the country, which has claimed more than 1,000 lives since last month. Obasanjo was touring Sagamu, a strife-torn town located some 40 kilometers north of the commercial hub of Lagos. ( Inter Press Service)

The Igbo National Council of Chiefs threatened yesterday that the Igbos would pull out of Nigeria should the Obasanjo administration fail to correct what they called the present imbalance in ministerial and other political appointments. An Igbo leader, Chief Philip Umeadi speaking in London, accused President Obasanjo of harbouring hatred for the Igbos. (Africa News)

9 September 1999: Chief Debo Akande, former secretary of the defunct National Constitutional Conference Committee (NCCC), said the first hundred days of Nigeria’s democratic rule has been successful. ( Africa News Services Inc)

19 September 1999: Zamfara State governor, Alhaji Ahmed Sani Yarima, announced the introduction of Shari'a law. Many residents have been apprehensive over how the government decision would have on their lives. (Africa News Services Inc, 10/18/1999)

Risk Assessment

The Ibo remain at risk in Nigeria because of past and present discrimination. Under colonial rule, the Ibo held a privileged position in the country and were resented by their northern and western neighbors. From independence until mid-1999, the country was led mainly by military governments with a northern support base. Increasingly, the ethnic tensions in Nigeria are taking on religious overtones. The south is mainly Christian and the north, Muslim. During the past few years, Ibo in northern towns have been harassed and sometimes killed by the Muslim Hausa/Fulani. And the Ibo have retaliated with violence against the Muslims. Religious leaders feel the situation was exacerbated by the government's refusal to intervene.

The death of Sani Abacha in June 1997 has opened up the opportunity for opposition groups to gain some political ground. Within a month of taking power, the new military leader Abdusalam Abubakar released some political prisoners, held talks with opposition groups, and announced that general, multi-party elections would be held in order for a civilian president to take over. Presidential elections were held in March 1999 in which former military leader Olusegun Obasanjo was declared the victor. The Ibo boycotted the legislative elections in February 1999 and urged their kin to vote against Obasanjo in the presidential elections claiming that he could not represent Ibo interests.

Since the elections, the Ibo feel they continue to be marginalized from the central government and are in danger because of their anti-government views. There is evidence, however, that the situation for all opposition within the country has improved with the elimination of Abacha's regime. The Ibo still feel that their interests are not being met, but they also have not been patient with the new regime, demanding immediate improvements in their access to local and federal power. Obasanjo has difficult work ahead of him trying to accommodate prominent ethnic groups within this country of fifteen million people. Ethnic tensions continue to surface, especially in the Delta region and the Muslim north where thousands have been killed in communal conflict or anti-state activity during the 1990s. The situation in Nigeria for all ethnic groups seems to be improving, but whether the government can act quickly enough and fairly enough to balance the many communal groups remains to be seen. If the Ibo and others continue to perceive themselves to be marginalized, they will continue to fight the state and one another for greater political power.

[***] Corrigendum by Ekwe Nche:
The factual errors can be found in the "Quick History of Nigeria" :
1965 and 29 July 1966. Ndiigbo did not attack AG members in Western Nigeria. Hausa
soldiers did not help Ndiigbo escape from Northern Nigeria. They attacked and
slaughtered them at airports (Kano), railway stations and along the roads.


Africa South of the Sahara. 1995. Published by Europa.

Lexis/Nexis. 1990-1999. Reports from various news services including BBC, Reuters, Inter Press Service, Africa News Service, Xinhua News Service.

Nigeria, A Country Study. 1992. Helen Chapin Metz (Ed.). Library of Congress.
Source: http://www.bsos.umd.edu/cidcm/mar/ngeaibo.htm

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