1966 anti-Igbo pogrom

The 1966 anti-Igbo pogrom was a series of massacres committed against Igbo people and other people of southern Nigerian origin living in northern Nigeria starting in May 1966 and reaching a peak after 29 September 1966.[1] These events led to the secession of the eastern Nigerian region and the declaration of the Republic of Biafra, which ultimately led to the Nigeria-Biafra war . The 1966 massacres of southern Nigerians have been described as a holocaust by "Greene -1975 . The Struggle for Secession 1966–70: A Personal Account of the Nigerian Civil War by N. U. Akpan. The Nigerian Civil War 1967–70. The Royal African society in January 1975 and others have variously been described as genocide.


The events took place in the context of military coups d'etat and in the prelude to the Nigerian Civil War.[2] The perceived lack of Igbo humility has been identified as one of the factors that sparked the pogroms,[1] resulting in popular hostility toward the Igbo.[3]

The immediate precursor to the massacres was the January 1966 Nigerian coup d'etat led mostly by young Igbo officers.[4] Most of the politicians and senior army officers killed by them were northerners,[4] including the Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna of Sokoto. The coup was opposed by other senior army officers. An Igbo officer, Aguiyi-Ironsi stopped the coup in Lagos while another Igbo officer, Emeka Ojukwu stopped the coup in the north. Aguiyi-Ironsi then assumed power, forcing the civilian government to cede authority.[5] He established a military government led by himself as supreme commander .[4] In the months following the coup it was widely noted that four of the five army Majors who executed the coup were Igbo and that the General who took over power was also Igbo. It was feared that the Igbo had set out to take control of the country and in the North of Nigeria the fear of Igbo dominance became intense. On 29 July 1966 Northern officers carried out a countercoup in which 240 Southern officers and men, three-quarters of whom were Igbo,[6] including Ironsi as well as thousands of civilians of southern origin living in the north were systematically killed.[7] In the aftermath, Yakubu Gowon, a northerner assumed command of the military government.[6] It is with this background that increasing ethnic rivalries led to further massacres.[4] The massacres were widely spread in the north and peaked on the 29 May, 29 July and 29 September 1966. By the time the pogrom ended, virtually all Igbos of the North were dead, hiding among sympathetic Northerners or on their way to the Eastern region. The massacres were led by the Nigerian Army and replicated in various Northern Nigerian cities.[8] Although Colonel Gowon was issuing guarantees of safety to Southern Nigerians living in the North, the intention of a large portion of the Nigerian army at the time was genocidal as was the common racist rhetoric among Tiv, Idoma, Hausa and other Northern Nigerian tribes.[8] With the exception of few Northern Nigerians, mostly army officers who were not convinced that the Igbo were innately evil,[8] the Southern and Eastern Nigerians were generally regarded at the time in the North of Nigeria as described by Charles Keil:

The Igbo and their ilk...vermin and snakes to trod underfoot...dogs to be killed.[8]

Northern Nigerians were however also targeted in the Igbo dominated Eastern Nigeria.[9] Thousands of Hausas, Tiv and other Northern Tribes were massacred by Igbo mobs, forcing a mass exodus of Northerners from the Eastern Region.[10]

One factor that led to the hostility toward Southern Nigerians in general and Igbo in particular was the attempt by the Aguiyi Ironsi regime to abolish regionalisation in favor of a unitary system of government which was regarded as a plot to establish Igbo domination in the Federation. On 24 May 1966 Ironsi issued a unitary decree, which led to an explosion of attacks against the Igbo in Northern Nigeria on 29 May 1966.[11] The British press was unanimous in its conviction at the time that these 29 May killings were organized and not spontaneous.[11] The Ironsi regime was also perceived to have been favoring Southern Nigerians in the appointment to key positions in government, thus heightening the inter ethnic rivalries.[11] The failure of the Ironsi regime to punish the army mutineers responsible for the January 1966 coup further exacerbated the situation.[12] The May 1966 pogrom was carried out by rampaging mobs with the connivance of local government.[13]

The unprofessional attitude of some elements of the international press are also known to have added to the existing tension. J.D.F. Jones, the diplomatic correspondent of the Financial Times had on 17 January 1966 already predicted that the Northerners might "already have begun to take revenge for the death of their leader the Sardauna of Sokoto on the large number of Igbo who live in the North", which at the time they were not doing. This has been criticized as an irresponsible and for a journalist unprofessional, self-fulfilling prophecy which would lead the Northern elite to assume that the Financial Times was in possession of information that they were not aware of, and that the world expected them to react in this way.[11] Later tactics were engineered by Northern elites to provoke violence such as fabricated news stories submitted to radio Cotonou and relayed by the Hausa service of the BBC detailing exaggerated attacks against Northerners in the East, which led to the furious killings of Eastern Nigerians on 29 September 1966.[3] According to British newspaper reports at the time, about 30,000 Igbo were killed in September 1966,[11] while more conservative estimates put the casualties at between ten and thirty thousand for that month.[13] This spree of killings carried on into early October and was carried out by civilians sometimes aided by army troops and swept the entire north.[13] It has been described as the most painful and provocative incident leading to the Nigeria-Biafra war.[13]


The pogroms led to the mass movement of Igbo and other Eastern Nigerians back to Eastern Nigeria (it is estimated that more than one million Igbos returned to the eastern region). It also was the precursor to Ojukwu's declaration of Eastern Nigeria's secession from the federation as the Republic of Biafra, and the resulting Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970), which Biafra lost.


  1. ^ a b Last, Murray (October 2005). "Poison and Medicine: Ethnicity, Power and Violence in a Nigerian City, 1966–1986 by Douglas A. Anthony Review by: Murray Last". The Royal African Society. 104 (417): 710–711. JSTOR 3518821.
  2. ^ Van Den Bersselaar, Dmitri (3 March 2011). "Douglas A. Anthony Poison and Medicine: ethnicity, power, and violence in a Nigerian city, 1966 to 1986. Oxford: James Currey (hard covers £45.00, ISBN 0 85255 959 3; paperback £17.95, ISBN 0 85255 954 2) Portsmouth NH: Heinemann (hard covers US$67.95, ISBN 0 32507 052 0; paperback US$24.95, ISBN 0 32507 051 2). 2002 265pp". Africa. 74 (4): 711–713. doi:10.2307/3556867. JSTOR 3556867.
  3. ^ a b Abbott, Charles; Anthony, Douglas A. (2003). "Poison and Medicine: Ethnicity, Power, and Violence in a Nigerian City, 1966–86". The International Journal of African Historical Studies. 36 (1): 133–136. doi:10.2307/3559324. JSTOR 3559324.
  4. ^ a b c d Post, K. W. J. (January 1968). "Is There a Case for Biafra?". International Affairs. 44 (1): 26–39. doi:10.2307/2613526. JSTOR 2613526.
  5. ^ Gamji.com "Operation Aure".
  6. ^ a b Nixon, Charles (July 1972). "Self-Determination: The Nigeria/Biafra Case". World Politics. 24 (4): 473–497. doi:10.2307/2010453. JSTOR 2010453.
  7. ^ Vickers, Michael (1970). "Competition and Control in Modern Nigeria: Origins of the War with Biafra". International Journal. 25 (3): 630. JSTOR 40200860.
  8. ^ a b c d Keil, Charles (January 1970). "The Price of Nigerian Victory". Africa Today. 17 (1): 1–3. JSTOR 4185054.
  9. ^ Nnoli, Okwudiba. "ETHNIC VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE" (PDF). www.inidiana.edu. Indiana.edu. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  10. ^ Ojo, Bamidele A. (2001). Problems and Prospects of Sustaining Democracy in Nigeria. Nova Science, 2001. ISBN 978-1-56072-949-5.
  11. ^ a b c d e Akinyemi, A.B. (October 1972). "The British Press and the Nigerian Civil War". African Affairs. 71 (285): 408–426. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.afraf.a096282. JSTOR 720847.
  12. ^ Nafziger, Wayne (July 1972). "The Economic Impact of the Nigerian Civil War". The Journal of Modern African Studies. 10 (2): 223–245. doi:10.1017/s0022278x00022369. JSTOR 159964.
  13. ^ a b c d McKenna, Joseph C. (1969). "Elements of a Nigerian Peace". Foreign Affairs. 47 (4): 668–680. doi:10.2307/20039407. JSTOR 20039407.

External links

1966 Nigerian counter-coup

The 1966 Nigerian counter-coup, or the so-called "July Rematch", was the second of many military coups in Nigeria. It was masterminded by Lt. Colonel Murtala Muhammed and many northern military officers. The coup began as a mutiny at roughly midnight on July 28, 1966 and was a reaction to the killings of Northern politicians and Officers by mostly Igbo soldiers on January 15, 1966 (see 1966 Nigerian coup d'état.) The July mutiny/counter coup resulted in the murder of Nigeria's first military Head of State General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi and Lt Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi (who was hosting a visiting Aguiyi-Ironsi) in Ibadan by disgruntled northern non-commissioned officers (NCOs). Upon the termination of Ironsi's government, Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon was appointed Head of State by the July 1966 coup conspirators.

Anti-Igbo sentiment

Anti-Igbo sentiment refers to the existence of hostility against Igbo people, or their culture.

Egedege Dance

Egedege Dance is one of the most renowned traditional dance outfits and an Igbo traditional Royal-styled cultural dance in the whole of South Eastern Nigeria. Founded in 1985, it is a reincarnation of an old version originally performed by the ancestors of the present-day Unubi. In those days, it was a moonlight dance, performed by youths. It has however been remodeled to fit modern trends. Their performance is a combination of songs, dance, Instrumentation and colorful traditional outfits. Their performance is introduced by elaborate fluting which is the entrance cue that heralds the group, led by the queen. The singing only begins when the queen reaches the stage and takes the microphone. She arrives under a big umbrella, carried by one man, with another fanning her from behind. She sings but sometimes dance to the rhythm of the instrument. Egedege dance was made popular by Mrs Theresa Onuorah in unubi Town. She is happily married and lives in unubi till date.

The name Egedege stems from a local slang for richness and bravery which explains why the dance is considered Cultural classics and are only played in a royal homes or rich families.

Igbo people

The Igbo people (English: ; also Ibo, formerly also Iboe, Ebo, Eboe,Eboans, Heebo;

natively Ṇ́dị́ Ìgbò [ìɡ͡bò] (listen)) are an ethnic group native to the present-day south-central and southeastern Nigeria. There has been much speculation about the origins of the Igbo people, as it is unknown how exactly the group came to form. Geographically, the Igbo homeland is divided into two unequal sections by the Niger River – an eastern (which is the larger of the two) and a western section. The Igbo people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa.The Igbo language is a part of the Niger-Congo language family. It is divided into numerous regional dialects, and somewhat mutually intelligible with the larger "Igboid" cluster.

The Igbo homeland straddles the lower Niger River, east and south of the Edoid and Idomoid groups, and west of the Ibibioid (Cross River) cluster.

In rural Nigeria, Igbo people work mostly as craftsmen, farmers and traders. The most important crop is the yam. Other staple crops include cassava and taro. The Igbo people are also highly urbanized, with some of the largest metropolitan areas, cities and towns in Igboland being Onitsha, Enugu, Aba, Owerri, Orlu, Okigwe, Nsukka, Nnewi, Umuahia, Abakaliki, Afikpo, Agbor, Asaba, Port Harcourt and Arochukwu.

Before British colonial rule in the 20th century, the Igbo were a politically fragmented group, with a number of centralized chiefdoms such as Nri, Arochukwu, Agbor and Onitsha.Frederick Lugard introduced the Eze system of "Warrant Chiefs". Unaffected by the Fulani War and the resulting spread of Islam in Nigeria in the 19th century, they became overwhelmingly Christian under colonization. In the wake of decolonisation, the Igbo

developed a strong sense of ethnic identity.

During the Nigerian Civil War of 1967–1970 the Igbo territories seceded as the short-lived Republic of Biafra. MASSOB, a sectarian organization formed in 1999, continues a non-violent struggle for an independent Igbo state.Small ethnic Igbo populations are found in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, as well as outside Africa.

Kano riot of 1953

The Kano riot of 1953 refers to the riot, which broke out in the ancient city of Kano, located in Northern Nigeria, in May 1953. The nature of the riot were clashes between Northerners who were opposed to Nigeria's Independence and Southerners made up of mainly the Yorubas and the Igbos who supported immediate independence for Nigeria. The riot that lasted for four days claimed many lives of the Southerners and Northerners and many others were wounded.

List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll

This is a list of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll.

It covers the name of the event, the location and the start and end of each event. Some events may belong in more than one category. In addition, some of the listed events overlap each other, and in some cases the death toll from a smaller event is included in the one for the larger event or time period of which it was part.

Midwest Invasion of 1967

The Midwest Invasion of 1967 (August 9 – September 20, 1967) was a military operation between Nigerian and Biafran military forces. The invasion began when 7,000 Biafran soldiers led by General Victor Banjo crossed the River Niger Bridge into Asaba. The Biafran retreat from Ore is considered the turning point of the war.


The Ngwa (Ṅgwà IPA: [ŋɡʷa]), an Igbo group, constitute the largest and most populous sub-ethnicity, or clan, in southeastern Nigeria. They occupy an area of about 1,328 square kilometres (513 sq mi), although some accounts read at least 2,300 km2 (900 square miles). In 1979, their population was held at an estimate of approximately 1.5 million people. Their ethnonym Ngwa is used to describe the people, their indigenous territory, and their native tongue. King Josaiah Ndubuisi Wachuku, who died on Friday 2 June 1950, was Eze, paramount chief and servant leader head of the Ngwa people during British colonial times. The Ngwa land is divided in the modern day into different lands, examples are ; Obingwa, Abangwa, Isialangwa, Osisiomangwa, etc. It is widely spread that during the Nigerian Civil war, the Ngwa people ate each other to survive, although the validity of this information is yet to be verified.

It is said that during the Nigerian Civil war, the Ngwa people suffered a lot like every other person who is of Igbo origin. The children suffered from kwashiorkor which came from malnutrition and the adults struggled to survive. In the struggle for survival, parents were reported to have caught and killed strangers who came into their home. The struggle for healthy eating continued until a chief reported to be ; Josiah Duruem Nwangwa began to collect supplies from various organisations , making his home a relief station.


It is said that during the Nigerian Civil war, the Ngwa people suffered a lot like every other person who is of Igbo origin. The children suffered from kwashiorkor which came from malnutrition and the adults struggled to survive. In the struggle for survival, parents were reported to have caught and killed strangers who came into their home. The struggle for healthy eating continued until a chief reported to be ; Josiah Duruem Nwangwa began to collect supplies from various organisations , making his home a relief station.

Beyond the stories of the war that divides the country Nigeria, it is important to note that there is no record whatesoever about the Ngwa people.

Although there is no written prove , many say that Chief J.D Nwangwa helped the Ngwa people to survive during the Civil War.

Beyond the stories of the war that divides the country Nigeria, it is important to note that there is no record whatesoever about the Ngwa people.

In the absence of a documented account of the origin of the word ‘Ngwa’ in the pre-colonial era, one source of information appears to be booklet written a few years ago by a prominent historian and archivist, His Royal Highness: Eze J.E.N. Nwaguru. His proximity to the National Archives in Enugu made his work an acceptable source of information.

Operation UNICORD

The Operation UNICORD (July 2 – July 12, 1967) was an offensive launched by the Nigerian Army at the beginning of the Nigerian Civil War. It involved the capture of 6 major Biafran towns near their northern border.


A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at the massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group, particularly one aimed at Jews. The Russian term originally entered the English language in order to describe 19th and 20th century attacks on Jews in the Russian Empire (mostly within the Pale of Settlement). Similar attacks against Jews at other times and places also became retrospectively known as pogroms. The word is now also sometimes used to describe publicly sanctioned purgative attacks against non-Jewish ethnic or religious groups. The characteristics of a pogrom vary widely, depending on the specific incidents, at times leading to, or culminating in, massacres.Significant pogroms in the Russian Empire included the Odessa pogroms, Warsaw pogrom (1881), Kishinev pogrom (1903), Kiev Pogrom (1905), and Białystok pogrom (1906), and, after the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Lwów pogrom (1918) and Kiev Pogroms (1919). The most significant pogrom in Nazi Germany was the Kristallnacht of 1938 in which 91 Jews were killed, a further 30,000 arrested and subsequently incarcerated in concentration camps, 1,000 synagogues burned, and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged.Notorious pogroms of World War II included the 1941 Farhud in Iraq, the July 1941 Iaşi pogrom in Romania – in which over 13,200 Jews were killed – as well as the Jedwabne pogrom in Poland. Post-World War II pogroms included the 1945 Tripoli pogrom, the 1946 Kielce pogrom and the 1947 Aleppo pogrom.

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