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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 Aguyi-Ironsi 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 bi-lateral 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

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