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National interests are those important goals that are significant to the survival of states. National
interest has been defined by statesmen and scholars as the goals and aspiration of a sovereign
entity (ies) in its interaction with other states within the international system.
The term national interest is a controversial concept in the international system because a state
has variegated goals and purpose given their different views within the international system. The
common interest could be security, protection of human rights of citizens, economy, national
sovereignty, military, technological advancement and the welfare of the entire nation state.
Since national interests are important to state for their survival, states therefore relate with one
another for survival meaning that, in the international system there is has no permanent friend,
no permanent enemy. This study therefore examines the interest of states like Britain, France,
Russia and the United State during the Nigeria civil war (1967-1970) which broke out between
the Nigeria military government and the Biafra government.
This study, focuses briefly on the historical development of Nigeria and how it was colonized by
the British for its selfish interest, as well as the history of political development in Nigeria; how
it led to an unhealthy rivalry among ethnic groups, as well as the remote and immediate causes of
the civil war.
Furthermore, it is important to know that some domestic wars attract international response
which involves the external powers and could be seen as an opportunity to attain their interest.
This study therefore focuses discuss on the Great powers‟ involvement and the link between their
interests and the civil war in Nigeria.
Nigeria, which is said to be „homogeneous‟, ( Madiebo A.A, 1980) “ The Nigerian revolution
and the Biafra war” is not really what it is due to different ethnic groups and administrative set
up, the only thing they had in common is the name of the country which was an insufficient basis
for true unity. This obvious fact notwithstanding, the former colonial master decided to
amalgamate the country in order to have effectively control over its vital resources for British
economic interests. All these led to hatred, rivalry, and pronounced disparity in development. It
is this struggle that eventually degenerated into coup, counter coup and a bloody civil war.
The Nigeria civil war broke out on 6 July 1967 and did not end until January, 15 1970. The war
which was as a result of an uneasy peace, suspicion and instability can be traced to a chain of
events beginning with the 1964 general election and 1965 Western Region crisis to the secession
of Eastern Nigeria that affected the nation. The causes of the civil war in Nigeria can be
classified into two groups which are; the remote causes and the immediate causes.
Firstly, the remote causes of the war are; the inability to conduct a free and fair election which
witnessed massive rigging. The act of rigging and the subsequent reaction to it led to the
breakdown of law and order that resulted from the electoral malpractices which prepared the
ground for army to take over which resulted in the events that contributed to the civil war.
Another factor, was the January 15, 1966 coup d‟état which was tagged the Igbo coup this was
because most of the casualties were Northerners and Westerners compared to the Easterners and
it was said by some scholars that none of the civilians killed were Igbo or from the East. This led
to the allegation that the Igbo‟s wanted to dominate and colonize other ethnic groups.
Furthermore, was the declaration of decree 34 of 1966 that was promulgated by General AguyiIronsi a decree which abolished Federalism introduced since 1954 which he introduced a Unitary
system in place of Federal system. Many viewed this especially from the North as a way of
concentrating power in the hands of the Igbo, and still felt that they wanted to dominate the
country as well as the counter coup of July 29, 1966 which was a coup organised by the
Northerners that resulted into a wanton killing of Igbo people in the North to stop the domination
of the Easterners in the military.
Also was the immediate causes which were; the leadership crisis between Yakubu Gowon and
Ojukwu, the massacre of the Igbo in the North, and the Aburi conference.
International responses to the conflict were yet another aspect that was not ignored in this study.
External states responded to the conflict by different strategies in order to achieve their National
Interest in the crisis. For instance, it was stated that Great Britain official response to the conflict
was predicated upon the fact that the former colonial master would not stand for the breakup of
one of her prized colonies, especially one she had worked hard for. According to Cabinet papers
(1967), culled from „There was a country‟ a book written by Chinua Achebe, One of the
Commonwealth office briefing documents to the prime minister puts it: „the sole immediate
British interest is to bring the (Nigeria) economy back to a condition in which our substantial
trade and investment can be further developed‟.
According to the same book written by the same author Chinua Achebe, stated that “the BBC‟s
Rick Fountain in a story on Monday, January 3, 2000, reveals that oil interest and competition
between Britain, France, USSR and the United States (although the United State was on a neutral
ground as it neither supported the Nigerians nor the Biafrans) played a far more important role
than the unified Nigeria position”. External powers supported both the Federal military
government and Biafra government through different means that serves as the strategies for
their interest especially the big oil holdings which interested the Soviet Union which saw a
chance to increase its influence in West Africa by sending arms to boost the Federal military
government under Gowon‟s regime while France sent large weapon shipment through Ivory
Coast and Gabon to the Biafrans because according to the UK intelligence service, it was
reported that French objective „ appears to be the breakup of Nigeria, which threatens , by her
size and potential to overshadow France‟s client Francophone states in West Africa.
The USSR now (Russia), had no significant role in the region prior to 1966 but greatly took
greater interest in Nigerian affair after the Aguyi-Ironsi coup d‟état and the emergence of Nigeria
as an important oil exporter. They (USSR) also announced their intention to expand their bilateral trade agreement with Nigeria to include military and economic assistance.
In conclusion, the whole points stated above gave a brief summary of the civil war in Nigeria and
how the external powers played a role to the cause of the war as well as the remote and
immediate causes and the strategies of extra-Africans to attain their interests.
This study is about the civil war and the Extra-African interests. Since some domestic conflict
involves international response, the civil war in Nigeria was not an exception. This was because
it involved the great powers and other African countries with the use of various strategies to
achieve their interests, and such interests can be linked to the war as some supported the Biafrans
while others supported the Federal Military government. And also, that most African country
believes in the involvement of Great powers for peace.
As such, this study focuses on studying the interests of other states during national conflict using
the Nigerian Civil War as a linkage perspective.
 To examine the roles played by the Great powers; strategies and interests as a link to the
civil war.
 To examine the involvement of Great powers in the Nigerian civil war
 To analyse the interests of Great powers in the Nigeria‟s project.
1. What were the specific roles played by the Great powers in the Nigerian civil war
2. What motivated the Great powers‟ involvement and how did external role shape the
outcome of the war
1 H1- the specific roles played by the Great powers and strategies applied were for their
own national interests.
 Ho- the specific roles played by the Great powers and strategies applied were not for their
own national interests.
2 H1- the Nigerian civil war motivated the Great powers‟ involvement which shaped the
outcome of the civil war
 Ho- the Nigerian civil war never motivated the Great powers‟ involvement and didn‟t
shape the outcome of the civil war
This study is of importance as it will make the readers aware of interests of states, and clashes of
interest both at the domestic level and the international level linked to the war.
Also, to give us the understanding on how external states got involved and reasons why these
states supported these two parties and the strategies involved.
Finally, this study will make us to know if the involvement of Great powers has an impact in
Nigeria. I hope it will be a source of reference to other researchers in similar area.
This study focuses on the interests of foreign states, the strategies and linkage to such war and
focuses on the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970) to enable accurate and careful examination of the
There is the challenge of accessibility to the living actors who engaged in the war subsequently
the external powers that were involved during the war. This is because I was not born during this
period and everyone involved will want to write on how they feel in which some can be biased
about it.
This research is divided into five chapters: chapter one focuses on the background of the study,
statement of problem, objectives of study, research question, research hypothesis, methodology ,
significance of study, scope of study, will serve as guidance during the course of studying.
Chapter two of the study focused on existing literatures. Chapter three is on the methodology and
research design. Chapter four is about the extra- African powers‟ interests. Chapter five focuses
on the summary of the study so far, conclusions and recommendations.
a) Civil war: civil war is basically a war of conflict; it is mostly violent since it is termed a
war taken into action for different purpose like other conflicts arising from opposing
ideas or inability to come to a purpose by two or parties.
b) Interest: interest of state can be defined as the variegated goals of state in the
international system as well as the means at which a state strive for these goals.
According to Padelford Et al (1976) documented that “national interest are centred on
core values of the society, which include the welfare of the nation, the security of its
political beliefs, national way of life, territorial integrity and self preservation”.
Morgenthau (1952) also sees national interest as aimed “at promoting national image,
prestige and respect both at home and abroad”.
c) Strategy: strategy has different definitions by scholars, but all centres around attaining a
particular objective(s). Strategy therefore is the art and science of developing and using
the political, economic, socio-psychological, and military powers of the state in
accordance with policy guidance to create effects that protects or advance national
interests to other states, actors, or circumstances.
d) Extra-Africans: in this research, they are referred to the external powers that were
involved in one way or the other and also played different roles and strategy for their
states interest. The countries in this work were: France, Britain, United State and the
Soviet Union now Russia.


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