Republic of Benin (1967)

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Not to be confused with the current Republic of Benin, contemporarily known as the Republic of Dahomey, or the Kingdom of Benin from the Benin City area.
Republic of Benin
Puppet state of Biafra

1967


Flag

Motto
"Unity and Strength"
Location of the Republic of Benin (green) next to Biafra (light green) and in the larger African context
Capital Benin City
Languages English (official)
Edo · Igbo · Ijaw · Urhobo
Government Republic
Governor Albert Nwazu Okonkwo
Historical era Nigerian Civil War
 -  Established September 19, 1967
 -  Disestablished September 20, 1967
Population
 -  1967 est. 3,000,000 
Currency Biafran pound
Nigerian pound

The short-lived Republic of Benin, in Nigeria's coastal Bight of Benin, was named after its capital Benin City. Previously Nigeria's Mid-Western region, it was controlled by Biafran forces during the early stages of the Nigerian Civil War. The state was declared on 20 September 1967, even as Federal Nigeria was completing its reconquest of the region.[1]:369

In the lead-up to the Civil War, Mid-Western attempted to take a neutral position; shortly before Biafra announced its secession from Nigeria, Mid-Western leaders sponsored a peace conference near Benin City,[1]:367 and state officials refused to permit federal troops to invade Biafra through Mid-Western.[1]:368 In August 1967, Biafran forces took control of Mid-Western, and American-educated doctor Albert Okonkwo was made the new head of government.[2] Initially, the Igbo population welcomed Biafran control, while non-Igbos generally were unhappy but decided to wait for a restoration of federal control; initial relations between the administration and non-Igbos were peaceful but uneasy. In order to improve relations with the non-Igbo segments of the population, Governor Okonkwo's administration saturated homes and streets with news from the Biafran position, and the mass media began to fill the state with news about the oppression of the Igbo in Federal Nigeria. As the days passed, the state's ethnic divide quickly became evident: the endless public relations campaign succeeded in changing non-Igbos' minds, but instead of converting them from pro-Biafran sympathy to outright support, it destroyed their sympathy for the secessionist cause.[1]:377 As relations continued to deteriorate, President C. Odumegwu Ojukwu visited Mid-Western to raise support and met with leaders of the previously banned National Convention of Nigerian Citizens. Although the visit prompted increased support among former NCNC partisans, their former intra-party discord reawakened. At the same time, NCNC partisans began to clash with supporters of other parties, and non-Igbos' rejection of the invasion solidified.[1]:378

As Okonkwo's administration continued to lose the support of the populace, they became desperate, and the Republic of Benin was proclaimed as a last-ditch effort: even if it could not win non-Igbo support, the proclamation might at least divide them from the federal forces.[1]:379 Citing the deaths of MidWesterners in the northern riots and the region's antebellum support for a confederal government, Okonkwo declared that the new state would support Biafra in all causes and would participate in organisations such as the Commonwealth of Nations and the Organisation of African Unity.[1]:380 However, Okonkwo knew that the new state could not last: he and other officials had discussed an independence declaration on 5 September without coming to agreement, and the announcement was recorded in a short lull as he and his military forces retreated in the face of a federal military advance.[1]:381 Later in the same day, federal forces reached Benin City, and the British High Commissioner reported crowds lining the streets to celebrate the reconquest.[2] Meanwhile, President Ojukwu offered no comment on the declaration, concentrating instead on Biafran soldiers' failure to stop the enemy.[1]:381 His attention to Okonkwo's military failures and lack of comment on the independence declaration suggests that Biafran officials may have been planning for the declaration of the Republic and that their objections referred to its timing, rather than its occurrence. Biafra ultimately won outside recognition from some foreign states, but all gains were unrelated to the proclamation of Benin, and the Biafran occupation of the region ultimately failed to achieve its objectives while goading the federal government into full-fledged war.[1]:382

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Orobator, S.E. "The Biafran Crisis and the Midwest". African Affairs 86.344 (1987): 367-383.
  2. ^ a b "Breakaway Nigerian Area Lasts Only One Day". Gadsden Times 1967-09-21: 1

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 6°19′N 5°37′W / 6.317°N 5.617°W / 6.317; -5.617