Peacebuilding and National Integration in Nigeria: The Biafra and Boko Haram Challenge

Emeka Iloh's picture
September 22, 2017
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Government and Public Service, Historic Preservation, Political Science, Social Sciences

African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage)

2017 Conference Announcement

Peace Building and National Integration in Nigeria: The Biafra and Boko Haram Challenge

In his 1992 report titled An Agenda for Peace, former United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali defined peacebuilding as an action to solidify peace and avoid a relapse into conflict. Likewise, the 2000 Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations (popularly known as the Brahimi Report) defined peacebuilding as “activities undertaken on the far side of conflict to reassemble the foundations of peace and provide the tools for building on those foundations, something that is more than just the absence of war.” On the other hand, national integration is the process of creating a sense of national consciousness, identity and loyalty among the citizens of a country despite belonging to different races or castes, ethnic groups, religions, regions, and speaking different languages. The definitions above were provided to illustrate that the concepts of peace building and national integration go hand-in-hand with the goal of nation-building.

For Nigeria, peace and national integration have been elusive since independence due to an enduring variety of factors despite efforts and resources committed to peace and integration projects. Indeed, the saliency and dominance of centrifugal forces (tearing the country apart) over centripetal elements (working towards homogeneity or unity) is exemplified by the 30-month fratricidal Biafra-Nigeria civil war between 1967 and 1970 over the quest to keep the country one. Despite General Gowon’s post-conflict policy, which emphasized reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction, Nigeria has continued to drift towards increased social, regional, and ethno-religious cleavages.

Beyond communal tensions and conflicts, which have remained commonplace across the country, Nigeria is battling a range of very serious challenges with potentially significant implications for its corporate existence; they range from the still smoldering issues in the Niger-Delta region, the growing disaffection by Oduduwa activists, the unfinished and percolating tensions and contestations between Christians and Muslims and the growing radicalization of Shia Moslems to the hugely damaging agitations over marginalization and demands for a secessionist Biafra, and the Boko Haram insurgency that has already resulted in thousands of deaths and millions of refugees and internally displaced persons. Of those, the resurgent agitation by a section of peoples from the old Eastern region of Nigeria (reputedly, largely Igbo speaking) for separation from the Nigerian federation and the insurgency orchestrated by the Islamist Boko Haram in the Northeastern part of the country (primarily)  currently constitute two of the gravest challenges to the territorial integrity of the Nigerian state.

On Biafra, a chain of events had culminated in the initial pogrom in the North, the first coup, the Igbo massacre after the counter-coup of July 1966, failed international efforts to broker peace (especially in Aburi, Ghana), and the declaration of Biafra as a sovereign state on May 29, 1967, by the Military Governor of the Eastern Region, Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Thus began a 30-month fratricidal war between the separatist Biafra and the Federal Government of Nigeria with variegated international partnerships on both sides. The war ended in January 1970 after the surrender of Biafra and the forced return of the East as an integral part of Nigeria.

However, 47 years after the war, perceived feelings of injustice, marginalization and persecution (for which the Igbos went to war in the first place) still persist. Consequently, agitations for self-determination have resurfaced in the region – particularly in the Igbo-speaking areas of the Southeast -- further driving a wedge into decades-old peacebuilding and integration efforts of the country. Presently, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has not only been the most vociferous, resilient and determined advocate of Biafra secession, but also has been undeterred by threats and clampdown efforts by state security organizations. It also enjoys wide and vocal solidarity, especially among the youths, in the region. Although the group espouses a non-violent approach notionally, it has been known to be very violent and destructive in the very recent past, which has served to ensure high levels of compliance to its recent public orders “suggestions” in the Southeast. As such, IPOB’s activities may constitute an imminent threat and present danger to peacebuilding and national integration efforts in Nigeria.

On the other hand, Boko Haram, which has been the single most lethal terrorist group in the world over the last four years, has maintained a culture of extreme violence since 2009 when its founding leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed by Nigerian security forces. The terrorist group has been waging a war against the Nigerian state in its effort to carve out a section of the country as an independent Islamic state. In the wake of its activities, more than 20,000 people have lost their lives and over two million people have been displaced internally. Properties worth billions have been destroyed and businesses closed down. Thus, the group has also shattered the fragile peace and cohesion that existed before its birth.

Presently, the two greatest threats to peace, unity and cohesion in Nigeria are the Biafra agitation and Boko Haram insurgency. Effective solutions have remained elusive despite attempt by the Nigerian government to find lasting solutions. For the IPOB, the state has clamped down and killed its members, but they have remained steadfast. Its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, has been arrested and thrown into prison. After his release almost two years later, he has become even more determined to achieve the restoration of Biafra, and has garnered more supporters. Thus, the agitation has polarized both the Southeast and the country. For Boko Haram, the Nigerian military has waged a serious war against them, particularly since 2015. Despite losing its headquarters in the Sambisa Forest area as well as its territories in Northeastern Nigeria, the group has retained its determination and lethality as it embarks on a guerilla-based tactics. 

The above raises various interesting questions: Under what terms should state entities or groups associate freely in Nigeria?  How negotiable is Nigerian unity? What should be the nature and conditions of citizenship across Nigeria?  What constitutional or institutional reforms are needed to delimit citizenship rights across communities, states, and zones in Nigeria?  How can individual and group equality be ensured constitutionally in Nigeria? What institutional arrangements or constitutional rules should be emplaced to ensure the rule of law without fear or favor? Is restructuring the panacea for the problems of nationhood in Nigeria? How best can Nigeria be restructured? What is the relationship between Nigeria’s internal constitutional arrangements and international law on the issue of self-determination?  How should land and natural resources be owned or shared in Nigeria?

On the basis of the fore-going, therefore, we welcome abstracts that include, but are not limited to, the following thematic areas:

Theoretical Issues

  • Peace Building and National Integration: Theoretical and Methodological Issues

  • Agitation for Self-Determination and the National Question in Nigeria

  • Ethnic Nationalism and Identity Politics in Nigeria

  • Calls for Referendum, Nigeria’s Extant Laws and the International Legal System

  • Containing Agitations for Self-Determination: Examples from Other Climes

  • IPOB and Boko Haram: Anything in Common?

  • Separatist Agitations in Nigeria: Media Propagandization, Peace Journalism versus the Real War




Agitation for Biafra and National Integration

  • Nigerian State and the Resurgence of Biafran Agitation

  • Agitation for Separation from Nigeria: What Went Wrong?

  • Biafra in Historical Context

  • Biafra and the Future of the Igbos

  • Igbo Elite and the Agitation for Biafra

  • Biafra in the Eyes of Other Ethnic Nationalities

  • Implications of Agitation for Biafra on National Integration


Boko Haram and National Integration

  • The Nigerian State and the Fight against Insurgency

  • Boko Haram: An Ideological Creation or a Political Weapon?

  • Boko Haram in Historical Context

  • The North after Boko Haram

  • The North, Boko Haram and Identity Politics

  • Implications of the Boko Haram Menace on National Integration

  • Environmental Impacts of the Boko Haram Menace


Venue: Conference Hall, African Heritage Institution, 54 Nza Street, Independence Layout, Enugu

Date: Friday, September 22, 2017

Time: 9.00 AM

Critical Timelines/Dates

Last Date for Submission of Abstracts: 12 noon, Monday, August 7, 2017

Notification for Accepted Abstracts: Friday, August 11, 2017

Last Day for Submission of Full Manuscripts: Friday, September 15, 2017


Submission: All submissions and enquiries should be sent to





Contact Info: 

Emeka C. Iloh

African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage)


Contact Email: