Subject:  US Diplomatic Archives: Nigeria (1964-1968)

Volume XXIV Africa  Department of State Washington, DC

357. Telegram From the Embassy in Nigeria to the
Department of State/1/
Lagos, March 25, 1964, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
International Meetings and Travel File, Africa, Box
31, Harriman's Trip, 3/64. Confidential; Priority;
Exdis. Passed to the White House.

1723. Personal for President and Secretary of State
from Harriman. In long talks with Prime Minister
Abubakar and Foreign Minister Wachuku, both expressed
great respect for President Johnson and his policies,
and manner in which he is giving leadership. They both
indicated grave concern over Congo, felt much time had
been lost by UN in failing to gain troops and police,
and otherwise help Congolese Government. Efforts must
now be made to assist Adoula attain stability after UN
leaves in June, which will be most difficult. They
want to work with us and are ready to consider leaving
troops and police if asked by Adoula. Would need,
however, burden sharing on formula used in
Tanganyika--Nigerians pay salaries but Tanganyikans
pay other expenses of troops. They urge we use our
influence with Belgian Government as well as Adoula to
have Belgians play leading role in every way possible
as only country which had needed knowledge and
ability. They are ready to work closely with us in all
aspects of problem. They fear Soviet and Chinese
efforts to undermine as well as Rhodesian, South
African and Portuguese support for possible Tshombe
military intervention.

Both expressed desire our support in achieving African
objectives but showed some understanding when I
explained difficulties with Salazar. Prime Minister
admitted Home had stated categorically that UK would
not support economic sanctions against South Africa.
Both indicated however they did not agree with Home
and felt it was European and US responsibility to
force change.

Both showed a suspicious attitude towards France and
French policy in Africa and also resented French
failure to assume any responsibility in Congo and
other African problems outside former colonies.
They expressed gratitude for our aid and although
intend to retain intimacy with UK feel they have much
in common with US including growing pains of a
federation and post colonial difficulties.
Both minimized concern I expressed for Communist
takeover in Zanzibar, assured me that if UK and US
gave needed help there was no danger of Communist
control. Karume was sensible and Babu was primarily
African nationalist and would not permit Communist
takeover. When I pressed Wachuku, he firmly insisted
he could guarantee Babu whom he had personally known a
long time.

They intended to play leading role OAU, and strongly
desire Lagos as headquarters.
They have no confidence in Nkrumah and expressed fear,
having failed to gain other support, he would fall
under Soviet and even more so Chinese Communist
Prime Minister expressed personal hostility to British
Labor leaders including Wilson because of their
criticism if Nigerian justice on Enahoro extradition
My last call was on President Azikiwe who received me
most cordially and informally. He then proceeded to
read an eloquent statement of Nigerian objectives and
friendship for US. (Statement in separate telegram
later released to press by President.) In conversation
that followed he confirmed his government's desire to
assist Congo. Also expressed appreciation US aid and
asked me to convey warm personal message of respect
and admiration to President Johnson.
Talks throughout showed a sober determination to take
leadership in African affairs and strong desire to
obtain our support. They recognized need for
moderating influence on impatient African leaders.
They are prepared to give help to other countries but
recognize their own shortage of trained personnel and
Detailed report follows./2/

/2/Further documentation on Harriman's trip to Nigeria
and other African countries during the last week of
March 1964 is in Department of State, Central Files,
358. Memorandum From Samuel E. Belk of National
Security Council Staff to the President's Special
Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/
Washington, December 30, 1964.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Country File, Nigeria, Vol. I, Memos & Miscellaneous,
6/64-8/67. Official Use Only.


The Situation in Nigeria

Both the Department and the acting Nigerian Ambassador
(who is a personal friend) insist that press reports
out of Nigeria (especially Garrison of the Times)
picture the situation as being far worse than it
actually is. That the country is passing through a
serious political crisis, no one can deny. There have
been irregularities in preparation for the elections
being held today. The three southern regions (Western,
Mid-Western and Eastern), which politically are
represented by the UPGA, contend that the vast Moslem
Northern region is returning, unopposed, 68 members of
the Legislature, and that this is both unlawful and
undemocratic. President Azikiwe (Eastern) has held
that, in view of these irregularities, the elections
should be postponed for a month; Prime Minister Balewa
(Northern) insisted successfully in an all-day
bargaining session yesterday that the elections should
be held today.

Very complicated African politics, in which tribes,
religion and economics all play a part, are involved
in the situation. The Northern Premier is at odds with
the Eastern Premier in whose region large oil deposits
have been discovered. In the heat of the election
campaign, there have been threats of secession by the
East; threats of violence "that would make the Congo
look like child's play" from the North; etc., etc. No
one believes these threats actually will be carried
out. What we are in for is a period of hard political
bargaining which, when they emerge from it, should
make the Nigerians more aware of the nature of the
internal forces of the country than they now are.
As of noon today, the UPGA (the three southern
regions) were boycotting the elections and some trade
unions controlled by the UPGA had gone on strike. But,
according to the Acting Ambassador, who talked to
Lagos at seven this morning, much bargaining is going
on in the background. He is as much worried about
press reports here as he is the situation in his own

359. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National
Security Council Staff to the President's Special
Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/
Washington, January 2, 1965.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Country File, Nigeria, Vol. I, Memos & Miscellaneous,
6/64-8/67. Secret.


I haven't bothered you on Nigeria, on a simple premise
that if nothing we should do no point in flapping. We
decided to take UK's counsel, rather than that of our
Lagos man, and not propose any LBJ intervention./2/
/2/Telegram 1107 from Lagos, December 30, recommended
that the President send a message to Nigerian
President Nnamdi Azikiwe declaring support for the
preservation of the federal republic. (Johnson
Library, National Security File, Special Head of State
Correspondence File, Nigeria--Presidential
Latest news is encouraging. The two sides have gotten
together; while a long period of bargaining (with
perhaps some minor violence) is in prospect, odds are
against Nigeria falling apart./3/ Of course it's
regrettable that Nigerians will be so wound up in
their own affairs as to be less useful on the Congo
than we had hoped.
/3/Telegram 02477 to Lagos, January 7, requested
delivery of Johnson's congratulations to President
Azikiwe and Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa
on their statesmanship and spirit of comprise in
averting a crisis. (Department of State, Central
Files, POL 15-1 NIGERIA)

360. National Intelligence Estimate/1/
NIE 64.2-65
Washington, August 26, 1965.

/1/Source: Central Intelligence Agency: Job
79-R01012A, ODDI Registry of NIE and SNIE Files.
Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to a note on the
cover sheet, the estimate was submitted by the
Director of Central Intelligence and concurred in by
the U.S. Intelligence Board on August 26.


The Problem

To estimate probable developments in Nigeria over the
next two to three years.


A. The salient question for Nigeria is whether the
federal structure can survive in the face of the many
internal strains and tensions. The facts of geography
and population assure that under the constitution, the
federal government will continue to be dominated by
the party representing the tradition-bound Moslems of
the North, who are generally contemptuous of the South
and unsympathetic to its problems. The southern
regions, which are deeply divided along tribal,
regional, and party lines, resent northern domination.
Some southern leaders cooperate with the North in
federal affairs realizing that only thus can they and
their interest reap the benefits of participation in
government. (Paras. 1-7)
B. The economy is based upon agriculture, the
beginnings of a modest industrial sector, and a
promising petroleum industry. Economic development is
hampered by regional and tribal parochialism, the
dearth of essential skills, and a high incidence of
corruption. There is considerable unemployment and
underemployment. At mid-course in a six-year
development plan, domestic financial resources are
inadequate, although foreign capital is flowing in,
particularly in the petroleum industry. Some modest
overall economic growth is expected, but the
government will be beset by rising pressures from
discontented jobless and urban workers. (Paras. 8-16)
C. We do not foresee any important lessening of the
internal tensions and resentments which threaten the
unity of the federation. If northerners and
southerners continue to think and act in terms of
narrow regional interests, there will be serious
danger of a critical North-South confrontation. We
estimate that the continuation of the federation and
the growth of an integrated nation cannot be taken as
assured. Nevertheless, we believe that the chances are
considerably better than even that Nigeria will be
able to avoid a breakup during the next two or three
years, through the disappearance of Prime Minister
Balewa from the scene would reduce these odds
significantly. Over the longer run, we expect a rise
of discontent and radical leaders in the South who
will challenge and probably replace present leaders
and place national unity in jeopardy. The security
forces appear capable of dealing with most disorders,
but it is doubtful if they could cope with a national
crisis which involved interregional or federal versus
regional issues./2/ (Paras. 17-25)

/2/The Director of Intelligence and Research,
Department of State, agrees that Nigeria is not likely
to break up during the next 2 to 3 years. He believes,
however, that the threat to continuation of the
federation is not so serious as the estimate suggests.
He considers that the estimate does not give due
weight to the accommodation to northern predominance
effected by southern leaders in the courses of major
trials of strength over the past 3 years and that
consequently it misinterprets present north-south
relations and undervalues the southern commitment to
maintenance of the federation. While agreeing that
social and economic grievances are becoming more
serious, he considers that the growth of southern
opposition to northern leadership will be slowed and
limited by southern disunity, division within the
labor movement, and the weakness of radical
organizations. On the basis of these considerations,
he also disagrees with a number of related points of
detail and presentation in the Estimate. [Footnote in
the source text.]
[Here follows the body of the paper.]
361. Editorial Note

On January 15, 1966, the Nigerian Government was
overthrown by a military coup. Major Kaduna Nzeogwu
and the other junior officers who led the coup,
however, failed to take power. Instead, on January 16,
Major General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi, Commander in
Chief of the Army, assumed power as Head of the
National Military Government. His government announced
the death of Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa
A Nigerian Ministry of External Affairs note of
January 20 informed the U.S. Government that the
Council of Ministers had "unanimously decided to hand
over voluntarily the administration of the country" to
the Army on January 16, that Nigeria would continue to
honor its treaty obligations, and that it hoped to
continue normal and cordial relations with the U.S.
Government. (Telegram 1060 from Lagos, January 20;
Department of State, Central Files, POL 16 NIGERIA)
The State Department responded by note to the Nigerian
Embassy on January 27 that the U.S. Government
continued to maintain diplomatic relations with the
Government of Nigeria, and expected to continue to do
so. (Telegram 1573 to Lagos, January 27; ibid.) The
Department issued a statement to this effect at the
regular noon press briefing on January 28, and added
that the question of recognition did not arise.
362. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for
Coordination, Bureau of Intelligence and Research
(Koren) to the Director of the Bureau (Hughes)/1/
Washington, January 18, 1966.

/1/Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical
Files, Nigeria. Secret. Prepared on January 21. The
memorandum was also sent to the Deputy Director of INR
George C. Denney, Jr., and to Deputy Director for
Research Allan Evans.


AF Meeting with CIA Representatives January 18, 1966


AF--Mr. Fredericks and Ambassador Trimble; AFW--Mr.
Clark; AFC--Mr. Brown; CIA--[names not declassified];
INR/DDC--Ambassador Koren and Mr. Ekern

1. Nigerian Coup

[less than 1 line of source text not declassified]
agreed with Mr. Fredericks that the chief problem at
the moment was the absence of adequate information on
what was happening in Nigeria, the identities behind
the coup,/2/ and what the significance was. Current
reporting was reviewed as well as the problems
associated with evacuation of Americans should this
become necessary.
/2/See Document 361.

Mr. Fredericks reported on his discussions with the
Nigerian Ambassador whom he described as being a
"shattered man." On his way out the Ambassador made
the remark that "he was no longer authorized to ask
for US intervention," but Mr. Fredericks was not sure
what the Ambassador was trying to tell him. The
Ambassador was very much in the dark as to happenings
in Nigeria and asked for information we might have on
the names of people involved in the coup.
Mr. Clark reviewed the E and E plan, and the status of
Mr. Fredericks was concerned over the role Ghana might
have played, or its intentions towards the coup. He
felt that Nkrumah would attempt to fish in troubled
waters, and in particular try to capture Nigerian
foreign policy. Should Nigeria go over to the radical
coup the loss to the US would be most serious. He
discoursed upon the stake the US had in Nigeria, the
biggest in Africa. [less than 1 line of source text
not declassified] recalled that during the recent
Commonwealth conference a Communist journalist had
been passing out funds in Lagos.
Mr. Fredericks phrased the prime questions that had
priority for intelligence acquisition purposes:

a. Who are the personalities behind the coup and what
is their coloration and motivation?
b. Can the Army run the government?
c. Can the Army hold together?
d. What would happen if Ironsi was assassinated?

Mr. Fredericks also thought it important that we
determine what we should say to other African leaders,
if anything. If Nigeria could fall victim to military
takeover, then it could happen anywhere in Africa. The
stage was set. What sort of advice could we give the
remaining civilian regimes? Ambassador Koren suggested
that INR and possibly CIA together prepare an agreed
assessment of the situation for information of our
Embassies, including whatever advice for other heads
of government seemed appropriate. [less than 1 line of
source text not declassified] gave him a preliminary
Agency report on this question of shock waves from
Nigeria (see attached Tab A)./3/
/3/Not printed.

[2 paragraphs (12 lines of source text) not

The meeting then turned to a wide-ranging discussion
of the consequences of a really chaotic situation in
Nigeria, and the effect on the rest of Africa.
363. Memorandum From Ulric Haynes of the National
Security Council Staff to the President's Special
Assistant (Rostow)/1/
Washington, May 30, 1966.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Country File, Nigeria, Vol. I, Memos & Miscellaneous,
6/64-8/67. Secret.

Comments on Nigeria Sitrep of 5/30/66/2/

/2/The attached situation report is not printed.


Last week the Nigerian Military Government prohibited
all political parties and abolished the four federal
regions. This action, taken in a climate of
unemployment, rising prices, food shortages, poor
administration, increased tribalism, etc., triggered
the current uprisings in Northern Nigeria.
Both the political parties and the former federal
regions were created and supported along distinct
tribal lines. They were important safety valves
because they provided an outlet for tribal expression
and a modern political basis to traditional tribal
homelands. The Military Government's action,
therefore, struck at the heart of those institutions
which preserved the shaky equilibrium in Nigeria.
It is significant that the current disturbances are
well-organized and that they broke out in the North. I
would attribute this to the fact that all of the
Northern politicians from the previous government got
off scot-free. (After the coup, the Military
Government did not arrest or detain any Northerners
for fear of arousing Northern sentiment over the
assassinations of the Federal Prime Minister and the
Governor of Northern Nigeria, both Northerners.) These
politicians have undoubtedly been involved in covert
activities against the Military Government.

Prognosis: Trouble for some time to come, with little
USG leverage to influence the situation.

364. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to
All African Posts/1/
Washington, August 2, 1966, 5:45 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL
23-9 NIGERIA. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by
Samuel Sloan and Roy W. Melbourne of the Office of
West African Affairs, cleared by Officer in Charge of
Nigerian Affairs Robert P. Smith, and approved by
Trimble. Also sent to CINCSTRIKE, Brussels, London,
USUN, Paris, Ottawa, Bonn, Canberra, Rome, and Moscow.

20025. Infotel: Nigeria Crisis. Circular 18771./2/
/2/Dated July 31. (Ibid.)

1. Following July 29 army mutiny in western provinces
Nigeria, former Army Chief of Staff LTC Yakubu Gowon
(a northern Christian)/3/ announced on August 1 that
he had assumed control of government at "request
majority members of National Military Government's
(NMG) Supreme Military Council." Upon assumption of
power, Gowon pledged to continue policies Ironsi
government as enunciated in January and made customary
assurances to effect all existing treaty obligations
and commitments and financial agreements and
obligations would be honored. Gowon referred to recent
events Nigeria, noted cryptically that "base for unity
not there" and said that issue of national standing
should be reviewed to see if country can be stopped
from drifting away into utter destruction. He stated
that a decree would soon be issued to lay a sound
foundation for resolution problems which have
disunited country in the past. Federal Chief Justice
has received assurances from some northern leaders
that north would take no action to secede for next six
/3/Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General) Yakubu
Gowon, the Army Chief of Staff under Ironsi and the
ranking northern officer, was named to head the
National Military Government (NMG) by northern Muslim
officers and Army units after their coup of July 29.
Ironsi and some other Ibo officers were killed in this
action. Gowon was a Christian from a small Middle Belt
northern tribe. He had not been involved in the coup,
but was very popular with the northern soldiers who
made up the bulk of the infantry. Gowon had been a
member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the
National Military Government and replaced Ironsi as
Supreme Commander with the approval of the majority of
members of the SMC. Shortly after taking power, Gowon
changed the name of the military government to the
Federal Military Government (FMG).

2. At present time NMG appears in control military
establishment, particularly in north and west,
although structure is fragile as result loss many
senior officers. Situation throughout country
reportedly generally quiet. Gowon has stated Ironsi
kidnapped and whereabouts unknown.

3. Following Gowon's assumption power, in an appeal
for cooperation with law enforcement authorities,
Eastern Mil Gov Ojukwu/4/ referred to Gowon only under
previous title as Chief of Staff of Nigerian Army.
Ojukwu said he not consulted regarding terms but had
agreed to following conditions for "ceasefire" laid
down by rebels: that Nigeria be split into component
parts and that Northerners and Southerners should be
repatriated to their home regions. While stating his
doubts that after events recent months, people of
Nigeria could ever live together as members same
nation, Ojukwu called for discussions among all
sections Nigerian people regarding form of future
association of Nigerian people in accordance ceasefire
terms. (NMG has subsequently denied it plans to
partition country or resort to repatriation.)
/4/Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was
appointed military governor of the Eastern Region,
homeland of the Ibo tribe, after the January coup.
Ojukwu, an Ibo, was a member of the Supreme Military

4. Both US Ambassador Mathews and UKHICOM
Cumming-Bruce have made strong representations in
opposition to secession of any area of Nigeria. We
consider such development would be major political and
economic disaster for Nigerian people and severe
setback to independent Africa. Approaches along
similar lines being made by our Consuls in provinces.

5. MinExtAff official August 2 read prepared statement
to Lagos Dip Corps reiterating assurances given
earlier by Gowon (para 1), stating that "this govt
being continuation of old mil govt, does not require
formal recognition." Dept in any case prefers await
more explicit indications of Gowon's intentions re
maintenance national unity before formally embracing
new regime./5/
/5/Telegram 1781 from Lagos, September 8, reported
that the Embassy had been conducting normal business
with the Government of Nigeria without taking any
formal step. (Department of State, Central Files, POL

6. So far no reports of any danger US citizens or
property. Gowon and MinExtAff have given explicit
reassurances of safety foreigners in Nigeria.

365. Telegram From the Department of State to the
Embassy in Nigeria/1/
Washington, September 28, 1966, 10:57 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 7
NIGERIA. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Robert P.
Smith, cleared by Roy M. Melbourne, and approved by
Palmer. Repeated to London, Bonn, The Hague,
CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA, Paris, Enugu, Ibadan, and
55552. Ref: Lagos' 2150, 2246 and 2278./2/ Assistant
Secretary Palmer received Sanusi Sept. 27,/3/ who
presented letter of introduction from Gowon to
President and offered following orally:

/2/Telegram 2278 from Lagos, September 27; telegram
2246 from Lagos, September 26; and telegram 2150 from
Lagos, September 22, all concerned approaches by
Nigerian special envoys to Washington and European
capitals. (Ibid.)

/3/Alhaji M. A. Sanusi of the Nigerian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs.

1. He on good will mission to bring personal greetings
from Gowon and to express appreciation for USG stand
in Nigeria and for understanding of American people
and government.

2. Described current situation as difficult but not
impossible, expressed conviction that time on side
Nigerian unity. Said loose talk re secession had
annoyed and upset Gowon. Referred to useful talk with
Ambassador, subsequent diplomatic activity, and said
denial by Ojukwu of any thought of secession "most

3. Declared Gowon had no intention to impose
government on Nigeria. This up to people, and until
they decide, he had duty to protect country, including
minorities. During this "transitional period," Gowon
hoped for understanding of old friends like US while
time permitted Nigerians to forget and forgive.

Assistant Secretary Palmer in response: (1) Reiterated
our deep belief in Nigeria and its unity, expressed
sympathy and understanding re current difficulties and
said we convinced Nigeria's problems, while difficult,
not insurmountable with good will and understanding on
all sides. Said we had tried be helpful and would
continue efforts to support Nigeria and its unity.
(2) Noted we too concerned at talk of secession and
were relieved at denial. We also concerned, however,
at other reports of possible "forceful solution." We
convinced peaceful solution only viable one in long
run and believe it important that all peaceful means
continue to be explored. In last analysis, Nigeria
must solve problems itself.
(3) Said speaking both officially and personally,
Nigeria's problems cannot be so overwhelming as to
obscure great potential and prospects it has as
nation. He expressed hope and conviction that Nigeria
would succeed in coping with its problems.
Ambassador Martins, who accompanied Sanusi, raised
problem of minorities and asked Sanusi comment. Latter
said in addition to rumors of East's secession, FMG
had reports of possible "UDI within UDI" by Eastern
minorities. He added that FMG concerned about possible
communist infiltration in East, since it found most
fertile ground among "labor unions and intellectuals."
He added quickly that this fear largely buried by
Ojukwu's denial. Palmer reminded Sanusi of ULC's
history of resistance to commie infiltration, and
ended conversation with expression of hope that
dialogue now under way will continue and that
consensus will be reached.
Comment: Sanusi made no reference to possible
recognition of independent Eastern regime as reported
done in Bonn. Presentation very low-key as if going
through motions. He mentioned bomb explosion by
Easterners on eve Lagos conference but made no attempt
link them directly with Ojukwu. In response question
re security situation and specific examples
thereof,/4/ he downplayed it, asserting it much
improved and in any case alleged it greatly
exaggerated by rumors.

/4/ Telegram 55599 to Lagos, September 28, reported
that Palmer talked again that morning to Nigerian
Ambassador Martins, emphasizing U.S. concern at a
deteriorating security situation in the North and
reports of reprisals against Ibos. He stressed the
need to correct this situation or events might be set
in motion that could force the East into secession.
Martins told Palmer that he would inform Sanusi in New
York prior to the latter's return to Lagos.
(Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 NIGERIA)

366. Intelligence Memorandum Prepared in the Central
Intelligence Agency/1/
Washington, October 1, 1966.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Country File, Nigeria, Vol. I, Memos & Miscellaneous,
6/64-8/67. Secret; No Foreign Dissem.


/2/Note: This memorandum was produced by CIA. Aside
from the normal substantive exchange with other
agencies at the working level this paper has not been
coordinated outside CIA. It was prepared by the Office
of Current Intelligence and coordinated with the
Office of National Estimates and the Directorate for
Plans. [Footnote in the source text.]


Africa's most populous country (population estimated
at 48 million) is in the throes of a highly complex
internal crisis rooted in its artificial origin as a
British dependency containing over 250 diverse and
often antagonistic tribal groups. The present crisis
began to take shape shortly after Nigeria became
independent in 1960, but for some years the apparent
success of a federal parliamentary arrangement
concealed serious internal strains. It has been in an
acute stage since last January when a military coup
d'etat destroyed the constitutional regime bequeathed
by the British and upset the underlying tribal and
regional power relationships. At stake now are the
most fundamental questions which can be raised about a
country, beginning with whether it will survive as a
single viable entity.
At this time, even the immediate further evolution of
the crisis is most uncertain. In general, however, the
country has appeared in recent months, especially
since a second army coup last July, to be moving at an
accelerating rate along a downward slope with a
consequent diminution of its prospects for unity and
stability. Unless present army leaders and contending
tribal elements soon reach agreement on a new basis
for association and take some effective measures to
halt a seriously deteriorating security situation,
there will be increasing internal turmoil, possibly
including civil war.
367. Telegram From the Consulate in Enugu to the
Department of State/1/
Enugu, October 18, 1966, 0755Z.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15
NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate. Also sent to Lagos and
London and repeated to CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA, DIA,
Ibadan, and Kaduna. Passed to the White House, DOD,

107. Limdis from Ambassador.

1. In long private talk last night Ojukwu stated
flatly that East would not participate in resumed
constitutional conference Oct 24 or later unless all
northern troops removed from Lagos and various other
conditions met. Ojukwu also said that in view recent
atrocities against Ibos, East firmly determined to
accept nothing more than loose confederation. East
willing preserve "name of Nigeria" but on own terms.
Ojukwu obviously considers chances of continued
association East with rest of Nigeria very poor and
seems more than reconciled to secession.

2. Shall report in more detail upon return to Lagos
this afternoon./2/

/2/Telegram 2907 from Lagos, October 18, reported
details of Mathews' conversation with Ojukwu. It
concluded: "I regret am unable at this time suggest
any way in which USG can help in preventing seemingly
inexorable course of events." (Ibid., POL 23-9

368. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the
Department of State/1/
Manila, October 27, 1966, 0220Z.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL
23-9 NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Passed to the
White House.

4645. Secto 23. For Acting Secretary From Secretary.
Regarding Mathews' recommendations/2/ summarized in
Special Summary 18,/3/ I think we should be very
careful about nominating ourselves as the supervisor
of Nigerian federal unity. I do not object to full
persuasion in presenting to the East the great
advantages to them of remaining in the federation. I
would not, however, start applying threats or
sanctions of US initiatives as a means of pressure.
The proposed West Indian Federation and East African
Federation did not come off. French-speaking Africa
broke up into far more units than we expected or hoped
for. Singapore broke away from Malaysia. We regret all
such divisiveness but it is not up to us to go around
telling people how they should solve such problems
under pressure of US sanctions. I hope the East will
not secede; I hope that we can persuade Mfukwu and
Gowon to get together. But if anyone is to go beyond
persuasion into actual measures, the British and their
fellow Commonwealth members should be way out in

/2/Telegram 3120 from Lagos, October 26, reported
Mathews' recommendations that he be authorized to
inform Ojukwu that in the event of a unilateral
secession the East could expect neither recognition
nor support from the U.S. Government and that, unless
Ojukwu could give assurances that the East would not
secede, U.S. citizens would be advised to leave the
East and U.S. Government programs would be suspended
there. (Ibid., POL 15 NIGERIA)

/3/Special Summary No. 18, transmitted as Tosec 96 to
Manila, October 26, reported Mathews' recommendations
and his belief that political and economic sanctions
could be effective in thwarting any secession attempt.
(Ibid., S/S Conference Files: Lot 67 D 586, Box 59)

/4/Telegram 73734 to Lagos, October 26, sent prior to
the receipt of this cable, stated reservations about
Mathews' proposed actions, including the threat of the
evacuation of U.S. nationals and the curtailment of
the AID programs, and stated that any approach to the
FMG or to Ojukwu should be coordinated with the
British. (Ibid., Central Files, POL 15 NIGERIA)

369. Telegram From the Department of State to the
Embassy in Nigeria/1/
Washington, November 9, 1966, 5:44 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1
NIGERIA-US. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Drafted by
Melbourne, cleared by Trimble, and approved by Palmer.
Repeated to London.

82010. 1. USG seeks maintain Nigerian unity because it
realizes East's defection would cause grave problems
for rest of country as well as for East and because
prospects for further fragmentation would be high.
Obviously our continuing efforts must depend upon full
appreciation by influential Nigerian elements.

2. Department has been giving much thought to US
policy in event East should secede. US cannot be
expected to serve with UK as guardian of Nigerian
territorial integrity if, after long and arduous
effort in this direction, a powerful and cohesive
section of country should prove determined to disavow
its association with rest. Subject has been discussed
at IRG meeting in preliminary way. More intensive
discussion scheduled for November 17 and will revolve
around following general contingency situations and
their variants:

a. Eastern Nigeria proclaims UDI. FMG declares East in
state of rebellion and attempts invasion of East, in
conjunction with blockade, to restore its authority.
This contingency presents US with its most difficult
decisions and poses most serious threat to US citizens
resident in Nigeria.
b. East intensifies its drift into de facto
independence without UDI and is coupled with
disturbances and breakdowns in law and order in
various sections of country. Lack of adequate military
capabilities prevents FMG from invading East, but it
mounts general effective political and economic
c. There is prolonged period of continuing drift and
uncertainty during which negotiations between East and
other regions take place but without any definitive
solution being reached.

3. Current approach here to problem may be summarized
in these terms. If unity no longer possible despite
US-UK efforts, in such environment US must move to
protect its own interests, strive for as much
stability in area as possible, and seek to maintain
its presence in all regions of Nigeria to prevent
vacuum which others could enter and exploit.

4. It should be emphasized that outlined contingency
approach and brief resume above are tentative pending
serious examination. Prior to this on November 17 it
would be most helpful if you could give us your views
within such a context.

/2/Telegram 3675 from Lagos, November 16, reported the
Embassy's view of Nigeria's problems. It concluded
that the Embassy considered that the Nigerian
situation was "not yet hopeless" and that the most
urgent problem was to try to help avert the "worst of
all contingencies," namely the fragmentation of
Nigeria. (Ibid.)

370. Telegram From the Embassy in Nigeria to the
Department of State/1/
Lagos, November 11, 1966, 1510Z.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL
23-9 NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate; Limdis; Noforn. Also
sent to Enugu, and repeated to London, Ibadan, and
Kaduna. Passed to the White House, DOD, CIA, USIA, and
3562. Ref: State 81686/2/ and Enugu 146./3/

/2/Telegram 81686 to Lagos, November 9, advised that a
message that Mathews proposed to send to Ojukwu should
be delivered orally by Consul Robert J. Barnard,
suggested that Mathews telephone Gowon and convey
Ojukwu's concern at the recent 3-day silence in
communications, and requested his views on the
possible effectiveness of a visit to Nigeria by a
British emissary. (Ibid.)

/3/Telegram 146 from Enugu, November 11, reported
Barnard's view that while U.S. representatives should
make U.S. opposition to secession clear to Ojukwu,
they should also assure him that they were trying to
dissuade the Nigerian Government from attempting a
solution by force. (Ibid.)

1. I spoke to Gowon by telephone morning Nov 10, said
Ojukwu had told Barnard Nov 4 they not then in touch
and asked whether communications reestablished. Gowon
said he talked with Ojukwu by telephone Nov 9 and was
sending him letter Nov 10. I asked about prospects
Eastern attendance resumed Constitutional Conference.
Gowon replied he making suggestions to Ojukwu which he
hoped would solve attendance problem.

2. Of thoughtful suggestions Enugu 146, I have
incorporated substance of much of paragraph 4 in
revised message. Re paragraphs 5 and 6, however, I am
reluctant at this stage to extend discussion into
difficult area of terms of constitutional settlement.
If we did, it would be hard to avoid expressing view,
which unlikely please Ojukwu, that way to settlement
not eased by region designating elements its position
as not negotiable.

3. For Barnard: Following is my message to Ojukwu,
revised in light of reftels, to be conveyed orally
soonest. I leave it to your discretion whether you
paraphrase it in third person or dead it. Also, feel
free to amend or delete specific words or phrases
which you judge would be unhelpful:

A. I have been giving prolonged and troubled thought
to your conversation with Mr. Barnard on Nov. 4./4/
The general tenor of your remarks and particularly
your questions about military aid and recognition led
me to believe that you and your associates had moved
very far in the direction of unilateral secession
since our talk on Oct 17. Barnard assures me that I
read too much into your remarks and attach too much
importance to the strongly secessionist line of the
news media in the East. I hope he is right.

/4/Telegram 133 from Enugu to Lagos, November 4,
reported that Ojukwu had requested U.S. consideration
of military aid if the East was attacked by northern
troops and had asked Barnard whether the U.S.
Government would recognize Eastern sovereignty if the
East declared independence. (Ibid.)

B. In any case, it is only with the greatest
reluctance that I address myself to questions which
presuppose a complete breakdown of negotiations
between the East and the rest of the country. There
are many remaining avenues of negotiations, both
procedural and substantive, which should be explored
before any of us resigns himself to the tragedy of
secession. Gowon told me on Nov 10 that he was making
new proposals to you resumed constitutional

C. Your query to Barnard about military aid was in the
context of an invasion of the East by northern troops
before eastern secession. This is indeed an
hypothetical question. I still think, as I did on Oct
17, that such an invasion is only a remote
possibility. The folly and danger of any attempt to
solve Nigeria's problems by resort to force have
repeatedly been pointed out to Gowon and other
military and civilian leaders. Despite all the recent
rumors of troop movements, imminent new attacks on
tribal groups, etc., we have been unable thus far to
find confirming evidence and to the extent that the
rumors forecast specific events, these have not yet

D. Apropos of rumors, one other aspect of your talk
with Barnard that dismayed me was that you should have
believed on Nov 4 that Commodore Wey was not in Lagos
and that Gowon might have left Lagos. Wey's return to
Lagos on Nov 2 from his travels to Accra and Conakry
in connection with the Ghana-Guinea dispute was well
publicized. During the several days preceding Nov 4,
Gowon received various foreign and local visitors, and
these public activities were thoroughly reported by
press, radio and television. Your Lagos informants
should be able to give you reliable information on
such simple matters as the whereabouts of Gowon and

E. Since you have raised the question of recognition
in the event of unilateral secession, the candor of
our past exchanges requires me to tell you what I
think is likely to happen, despite widespread sympathy
for the sufferings of Easterners, if the East does
unilaterally secede. Most if not all African
governments would deplore the act, would refuse to
recognize the East as a sovereign state and would
refuse give political support to the Federal Military
Government. Non-African governments could be expected
to follow the African lead, as very few, in my
opinion, would consider that they could afford to
recognize or otherwise support Eastern Nigeria at the
expense of relations with the rest of Africa.

F. I once again urge you and your associates to give
continued careful consideration to the consequences
for yourselves, the rest of Nigeria and Africa as a
whole if you take the path of unilateral secession.
The prevailing emotional tensions and uncertainties
leave all of us apprehensive of the future, but I
earnestly hope none of us will be led into rash
actions by rumors however persistent and alarming.
Developments here and abroad since our talk on Oct 17
have only strengthened my conviction that dissolution
of the Nigerian union would perpetuate and even
intensify the problems and animosities that now plague

/5/Telegram 160 from Enugu, November 17, reported that
Barnard formally presented the Ambassador's message to
Ojukwu on that day, and that afterwards they discussed
key elements of the problem. Ojukwu said that he
interpreted the Ambassador's reply to his questions to
mean that if the East seceded as a result of an attack
by the FMG or the North, the U.S. Government would not
give military aid to or recognize the East. Barnard
responded that "this interpretation was not correct;
we simply were answering a hypothetical question." He
added that "no honest government would promise
recognition in advance of secession unless it favored
such a move, which we clearly did not." (Ibid.)

4. For Barnard: Neither Department nor Embassy has
previously dealt with question of emissaries to
Washington. I suggest you not reopen subject but
should Ojukwu do so take position that new emissaries
could add nothing to Onyerjula's effective
presentation Eastern views. FYI: Acting UK HICOM told
me Nov 10 London not eager receive Eastern emissaries
and proposing take stand that it could do so
officially only if FMG concurred. If emissaries
appeared in London without FMG concurrence, officials
would talk with them informally but only after
informing Nigerian HICOM. Acting UK HICOM has agreed
that Ojukwu be told FMG concurrence required but has
suggested that if emissaries arrive without FMG
blessing, they should either not be received or
received secretly. Acting UK HICOM also said London
not planning respond to Ojukwu's questions on military
aid and recognition. End FYI.

5. For Department: I fully agree that it would be
useful if UK emissary, preferably Malcolm
MacDonald,/6/ could soon be sent to undertake quiet
talks in Lagos and all regions to determine whether CW
mission could play useful role.

/6/Malcolm MacDonald was the British High Commissioner
for Kenya.

371. Telegram From the Embassy in Nigeria to the
Department of State/1/
Lagos, February 14, 1967, 1230Z.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15
NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Repeated to
London. Passed to the White House and USIA at 5:17
a.m. on February 15.

6143. 1. Distinguishing characteristics of current
developing Nigerian crisis are:

A. FMG Military and Eastern Military apparently
believe that their respective armies are equipped and
ready to fight, and acceptance of inevitability of
conflict is growing in both Lagos and Enugu.

B. Ojukwu's recent public pronouncements, whether or
not by design, have been of nature to goad FMG
northerners to force. It is possible that Ojukwu
wishes to precipitate crisis, fearing that time may
not be on his side.

C. Gowon's personal inclination against resort to
force is being eroded, and he may in any case be
unable to prevent initiation hostilities by FMG

D. Some FMG military and top civil servants are
concerned that time is against FMG and unless drastic
action is taken soon East will achieve de facto
independence. They tend to believe removal of Ojukwu
as Eastern Military Governor will end Eastern

E. Ojukwu and some of his advisers are convinced that
FMG is generally unpopular and administratively and
militarily ineffective.

F. Military Governors of West and Mid-West are
increasingly attracted to Ojukwu concept of greater
autonomy for regions.

G. FMG and Eastern Government are both becoming
increasingly aware of critical importance of control
of public revenues.

H. Confidence and trust between Gowon and Ojukwu at
lowest ebb yet and not likely improve significantly.

2. As against attitudes, beliefs and convictions
Nigerian contenders, my assessment is that:

A. Time is in fact on side of FMG as long as it avoids
resort to force and retains control of bulk of public
revenues, and general international acceptance as
legitimate GON.

B. Resort to force, regardless of which army--FMG or
East--won battles, would set off tribal violence in
many parts of Nigeria, but particularly in Lagos area
which still harbours mixture tribal people.

C. Consequence of this tribal violence rather than
clash between armies would almost certainly lead to
breakup of Nigeria into at least three new countries.

D. If resort to force can be averted, breakup of
Nigeria is unlikely.

E. Practicable constitutional settlement will have to
fall between retention same degree of federalism as
provided in 1963 Constitution being urged upon Gowon
by FMG top civil servants, and de facto independence
within nominal confederation being sought by Ojukwu.

3. In current circumstances, I reluctantly concluded
that intermediary between Gowon and Ojukwu would not
be able to accomplish much whether individual involved
is General Ankrah, Commodore Wey, Chief Adebo,
Ambassador Martins or Malcolm MacDonald. I believe
that what is now needed to prevent crisis coming to
climax in next six weeks is expression of concern at
Nigerian situation and support of FMG by foreign
governments. Objective would be to encourage Gowon to
continue opposing resort to force and to impress on
Ojukwu that he can expect no foreign support for
unilateral independence.

4. I propose therefore as matter of urgency that UK
with our full support give other African Commonwealth
members estimate of current Nigerian situation and
urge heads of state to send messages to Gowon (A)
Expressing concern at growing tension in Nigeria, (B)
Calling upon all Nigerians to abide by Aburi
renunciation use of force and to seek peaceful
solution their problems, (C) Stating that sender's
government would not recognize unilateral declaration
of independence by any part of Nigeria, and (D) Asking
that all members SMC be informed of message. Ankrah,
Kuanda and Kenyatta would be most effective voices.

5. Consideration should also be given to proposing to
Emperor and Tubman that they send similar messages to

6. In context these African approaches which would
certainly become public, UK HICOM and I should be
authorized separately to explain positions our
governments to Gowon and other members SMC privately
along following lines:

A. We consider use of force could only result in
breakup of Nigeria, regardless of "military victory"
by FMG or Eastern forces.

B. If there is to be resort to force, we require
advance notice so that our nationals can be removed to
places of safety as we do not believe that law and
order could be maintained in many parts of Nigeria if
FMG and Eastern forces clash. (We would tell Gowon
that one of main concerns is safety of our nationals
in Lagos itself.)

C. We would not recognize unilateral declaration of
independence by any part of Nigeria.

D. We believe constitutional settlement should be
sought in practical accommodation of interests rather
than in rigid adherence to doctrinaire "confederal" or
"federal" positions.

7. We and British should be prepared to give substance
to foregoing position by:

A. Advising our companies operating in eastern Nigeria
not to acquiesce in demands for payment of federal
revenues to Eastern Government. Effect of refusal to
pay federal revenues obviously stands or falls on
position Shell-BP as largest single source federal
revenue in East.

B. Complying with FMG decrees closing seaports and
airports in East and otherwise seeking restrict
international contacts of eastern regions.

C. Urge that Department authorize Embassy London to
explore this proposal with HMG.

372. Telegram From the Department of State to the
Embassy in Nigeria/1/
Washington, February 14, 1967, 8:09 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15
NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by Smith
and Melbourne, cleared by Trimble, and approved by
Palmer. Repeated to London.

137143. Ref: Lagos 6143./2/

/2/Document 371.

1. Department appreciates timely analysis in reftel
and agrees with Embassy's outline of major features
(para. 1) and assessment (para. 2) of current crisis.

2. Re paras. 3 and 4, Dept. shares doubts on what
either Wey or Adebo might accomplish as intermediary
between Gowon and Ojukwu. Yet there could be merit in
utilizing every potential Nigerian for such role
before calling on AF heads of state. In this
connection does Wey still plan to visit Enugu?

3. Sufficient time should be available to (1) await
results, if any, of Wey's trip; (2) bring in Adebo,
who has just returned Lagos, if Wey fails; and (3)
then possibly proceed along lines para. 4 reftel.
Dept. recognizes, of course, Embassy may have new info
which militates against use of either Wey or Adebo.
However, in light widespread agreement that Nigerian
crisis must in last analysis be solved by Nigerians
themselves, would welcome your views on exploring use
of Wey and Adebo/3/ more fully before turning to other
AF states.

/3/Telegram 6190 from Lagos, February 15, reported
that no Nigerian would be trusted in East as an
intermediary. (Department of State, Central Files, POL

4. Agree encouragement of Gowon to continue oppose use
of force is of prime importance. While equally
important to impress on Ojukwu that he could not
expect immediate foreign support for unilateral
independence, Dept. believes some AF commonwealth
states would boggle at bald statement suggested para.
4C. Perhaps rephrasing to eliminate recognition aspect
but to include thought that FMG will continue to enjoy
full support of international community would be more
palatable. In light Shell-BP's exposed position, it
possible HMG itself might prefer less exact language.

5. Dept. concurs in thought expressed para 6a. It
believes 6b could be modified to say that if there
prospect of resort to force, US would be gravely
concerned over safety its nationals. Their removal to
places of safety would be imperative. Para would
continue with your phrasing "as we do not believe,
etc." Re 6C phrasing similar to that in para 4 above
might be more suitable.

6. Para 7 requires further study and, at appropriate
point, discussion with UK.

7. Would appreciate your additional thoughts on above
before Dept. authorizes London to explore with HMG.
373. Telegram From the Department of State to the
Embassy in Ghana/1/
Washington, February 22, 1967, 3:27 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL
23-9 NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by
Robert Smith in AF/AFW, cleared in substance for EUR
by Country Director for Canada Rufus Z. Smith, and
approved by Trimble. Repeated to Lagos and London.

142128. Ref: Accra's 2350./2/ Nigerian Crisis.

/2/Telegram 2350 from Accra, February 22, stated that
Ankrah would not wish to take sides in the Nigerian
dispute but was eager to be helpful as a mediator.

1. Other pertinent messages between Lagos and
Department being repeated septels FYI.

2. Department concurs in assessment contained paras. 1
and 2 Lagos 6143/3/ and is deeply concerned at rumors
of resort to force by either side. First reports of
Benin meeting of secretaries to MilGovs are
encouraging, but we believe Nigerian situation still
extremely dangerous. Dept therefore welcomes apparent
Ghanaian initiative reported Lagos 6334./4/

/3/Document 371.

/4/Dated February 21. (Department of State, Central
Files, POL 23-9 NIGERIA)

3. Department and Embassy Lagos strongly concur in
British view that Ankrah is key figure who should be
encouraged take lead in efforts mediate Nigerian
dispute. These efforts apparently already underway
although we uncertain of their scope and results.

4. Department agrees that we should defer any new
initiative re African leaders pending more detailed
report of Benin meeting and possible new meeting of
SMC (para 2, London 6788)./5/ Instead of making
specific proposal to Ankrah at this time, therefore,
request you outline to him our concern and probe for
NLC view of Nigerian situation. You should stress that
we believe Ankrah might again be instrumental in
reducing Nigerian tensions and encourage him to
continue his efforts. Despite our own concern, we
recognize Ankrah's special knowledge of situation and
his earlier helpful intervention make him most logical
choice to play useful role. We would of course
discreetly support his efforts but would prefer remain
in background./6/

/5/Dated February 21. (Ibid.)

/6/Telegram 2359 from Accra, February 23, reported a
conversation that day between Ambassador Williams and
General Ankrah, in which the latter expressed
confidence that civil war could be avoided. Ankrah
stated that he was sending letters to all the military
governors asking for their adherence to the Aburi
agreements. (Ibid.) The Aburi agreements were made on
January 4 and 5 by the members of the Supreme Military
Council (SMC) at their meeting in Aburi, Ghana, the
first such meeting attended by Eastern Military
Governor Ojukwu since July 29. The four Military
Governors (East, North, West, and Mid-West Regions)
and Gowon were considered the principal members of the
SMC, which also included the Navy Commodore, the
Police Inspector General, and the Lagos Administrator.

5. Presume you keeping UKHICOM fully informed.

374. Telegram From the Department of State to the
Embassy in Nigeria/1/

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF
12-5 NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by
Smith, cleared by Melbourne and Trimble, and approved
by Palmer. Repeated to London and CINCSTRIKE.

Washington, February 23, 1967, 4:56 p.m.
142433. Ref: Lagos 6071./2/ For Ambassador from

/2/Telegram 6071 from Lagos, February 11, urged
reconsideration of the "long-standing" Nigerian
request for ammunition, and noted that Ojukwu's claim
that the Aburi decisions included agreement not to
import arms and ammunition was denied by other SMC
participants, and that the British policy was to be as
responsive as possible to FMG arms requests. (Ibid.)

1. As requested reftel, IRG on Feb 21 carefully
considered FMG's request to purchase 106 mm ammunition
with full appreciation and discussion your position
this subject.

2. In light dangers of present Nigerian situation,
with positions of both FMG and GOEN hardening and
possibility of attempted solutions by force of looming
in background, we have reluctantly and unanimously
concluded the approval of sale under present
circumstances not possible. This is based in part on
your penetrating 6143 which gave major characteristics
and your assessment of current crisis. We agree that
next several weeks may be critical period and believe
our approval of ammunition sale at this time could
have unfortunate consequences not only in Nigeria but
in our Congressional relations.

3. In light our large AID, Peace Corps and other
programs in Nigeria, we believe it unfair and
unrealistic for FMG military officers or other
officials to attempt make our affirmative action on
ammunition request test of good faith. Our support of
FMG has been clearly demonstrated and unwavering, but
we believe our supplying ammunition during present
period of high tensions goes beyond bounds of such

4. We are deeply concerned at present rumors of resort
to force by either side. Such a course would be
disastrous, and we unwilling to be placed in position
in which we appear to be contributing to preparations
for such action. Also believe that even with spaced
shipments, informing FMG now of basic decision to
provide ammo could be misunderstood and contribute to
rise in level of tension. Such action would also
complicate pending critical AID hearings and cause
serious domestic criticism.

5. Our fervent hope is that Nigerian situation may
soon improve to point where such requests might be
approved. Unfortunately, our own analysis of evidence
available at present indicates situation deteriorating
rather than improving.

6. In lieu of informing FMG of this decision, you may
wish consider conveying discreetly to appropriate FMG
officials our hope that FMG would refrain from
pressing us on this request. To do so could, as
indicated above, lead to turn-down and embarrassment
of both USG and FMG. We recognize military officers
may not be able to grasp our domestic problems, but
civilian officials should be able to do so. Would
appreciate your recommendations on above, recognizing
you may also prefer simply to defer any response to
FMG request.

7. I fully appreciate difficulties this decision may
cause you but am confident you will understand

375. Telegram From the Department of State to the
Embassy in Nigeria/1/
Washington, March 3, 1967, 5:13 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15
NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by Smith,
cleared by Trimble, and approved by Palmer. Also sent
to London and repeated to Accra.

148032. Ref: Lagos' 6586, 6620; London's 7046./2/

/2/Telegram 6586 from Lagos, March 1, relayed Gowon's
requests through the assembled Chiefs of Mission for
their governments' reaffirmation of support for the
FMG and of Nigerian unity. (Ibid., POL 15-1 NIGERIA)
Telegram 6620 from Lagos, March 1, not printed.
(Ibid.) Telegram 7046 from London, March 2, not
printed. (Ibid., POL 23-9, NIGERIA)

1. Ojukwu's provocative broadcast, release of Aburi
documents in Lagos and broadcast of Aburi tape
recording in Enugu have heightened Department's

2. Re Gowon's appeal of March 1, Dept. concurs in UK
view that our response should be in general terms. We
would prefer, however, that US response be oral and
informal (Lagos 6714)/3/ particularly since we
unwilling respond affirmatively to all Gowon's
requests and he apparently prepared accept oral
response (Lagos 6586 para 3 A). Believe Ambassador
Mathews' expected meeting with Gowon on March 4
appropriate occasion and consequently we would wish to
give him urgent instructions.

/3/Dated March 3. (Ibid., POL 15-1, NIGERIA)

3. For London: Request you discuss reftels and
substance this message with HMG. Department's
thinking, subject to comments from Lagos and London,
along lines succeeding paras.

4. Ambassador would inform Gowon that in light
well-known position of US in support for Nigerian
unity, our assumption is that his request of March 1
to diplomatic corps directed primarily at governments
other than US. However, Ambassador happy to reaffirm
our long-standing support for FMG and Nigerian unity
as requested.
As we have stated in past, however, form of
association is for Nigerians themselves to decide.

5. Re Gowon's specific references to possible blockade
and recognition, we unwilling respond in advance to
such hypothetical questions. With respect to request
not to receive delegations from East, Ambassador could
remind Gowon Dept. has already refused receive Oji.

6. In light recent events, Ambassador should also
emphasize our deep concern at recurring reports of
possible use of force and make clear USG would deplore
such action by either FMG or East. While recognizing
Ojukwu's broadcast probably considered by FMG highly
inflammatory, we believe resort to "police action"
would probably not solve problem but only plunge
Nigeria into chaos. It would also endanger lives of
American citizens, whose safety is primary
responsibility of Ambassador as Gowon has already

7. US is aware that FMG has made real effort to accept
many of East's demands in face East's insistence on
full execution of its interpretation of Aburi
agreements. Should Gowon respond that US appears be
advising FMG capitulation to East, Ambassador would
state this not the case. It earnest US hope that Gowon
will fully support Ankrah's initiative, since it
currently appears to have best chance of pulling
Nigeria back from brink. Ambassador also would ask
Gowon what other outside initiatives, i.e.,
Commonwealth or other, might serve useful purpose
should Ankrah fail for some reason.

8. Believe it desirable that Embassy Lagos instruct
Consul Enugu urgently to approach Ojukwu with similar
appeal to avoid further provocative actions and inform
Gowon he doing so. Consul could also inform Ojukwu of
Ambassador's expression of support of FMG. HMG may
wish DHC in Enugu make similar approach.

376. Telegram From the Consulate in Enugu to the
Department of State/1/
Enugu, March 10, 1967, 1925Z.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL
23-9 NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate. Also sent to Lagos,
London, and Accra. Repeated to CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA,
DOD, Ibadan, and Kaduna. Passed to the White House,
445. Lagos 6847,/2/ 6753,/3/ Enugu 434./4/

/2/Telegram 6847 from Lagos, March 7, instructed
Consul Robert J. Barnard to impress upon Ojukwu that
his repeated references to an anticipated invasion
might cause a wholesale evacuation of foreigners.
(Ibid., POL 15 NIGERIA)

/3/Dated March 4. (Ibid.)

/4/Dated March 7. (Ibid.)

1. Saw Ojukwu Friday March 10 and made points Lagos
reftels. He responded that once again I had been
instructed to "deliver lecture" to him. I said I not
delivering lecture but simply restating USG
position--that way must be found other than use of
force to settle crisis and that we continued believe
in holding Nigeria together as one nation.

2. Ojukwu asked if we so serious about this why is
U.S. so unwilling intervene to help bring settlement?
I referred to Congressman Resnick's meeting with him
in which Resnick spoke of increasing reluctance in
U.S. become involved in other people's problems; said
this part of answer, but more important in terms
Nigerian situation, intervention as Ojukwu seemed to
be thinking of it was actually adjudication of issues
in dispute. Said we remain convinced that crisis is
purely Nigerian in nature and must be solved by

3. Although I had not ever alluded to question of
recognition if East separated Ojukwu then said USG had
shown ability adjust rather quickly to de facto
situations in Nigeria over past year and half. He said
events January 25 and July 28 could hardly be termed
constitutional yet USG seemed have no trouble
accepting de facto positions of Ironsi and Gowon.
Could not USG be expected do same, he asked, if East
were separate?
4. I ducked by pointing out his consistent avowal to
me that East did not want and was not planning to
secede but sincerely desired find peaceful solution to
crisis within framework One Nigeria.

5. Ojukwu said this true but East could not wait
forever for others to realize negotiation only
acceptable means solve problem; said Easterners very
impatient with failure implement Aburi agreements and
that East had to have money now for its heavy

6. I replied that Eastern financial problems not
disputed but it clear that settlement will take more
time than permitted by March 31 deadline; question
seemed to be what needs be done persuade him not take
unilateral action on finances before end of March
which almost certainly would lead to armed conflict.
Ojukwu said Yugoslav Amb Karapafdza made same point
earlier in week.

7. Then Ojukwu said he would not take unilateral
action on finance if Gowon would commit himself
publicly to implementation of Aburi agreements as
amplified by the (January) meeting of Solicitors
General, and set publicly a reasonable time limit "for
implementation." Ojukwu said "reasonable time" could
mean as little as three months or as much as a year.
He said the critical issue is financial arrangements;
agreement on "crash program" meet urgent Eastern needs
from internal resources should be possible within very
short time. If however, Gowon had to seek foreign
assistance to meet longer term financial needs this
could take a year.

8. Ojukwu said first step to implement Aburi must be
issuance of new decree returning powers to regions.
Said draft now circulating is step in right direction
and East has sent its comments to Lagos. Second step
would be agreement on financial "crash program." Third
step would be to "formalize" military reorganization
which already largely accomplished on de facto basis.
Fourth step would be for SMC to meet and
"reconstitute" itself--"to decide who shall be
chairman and all that jazz." (Comment: Ojukwu's
position is that when Aburi implemented it immaterial
who is Chairman SMC, CINC, and titular head of state.)
Fifth and final step would be summon ad hoc
constitutional conference and write new constitution.

9. We then talked on various points. I said in present
situation it inevitable that doubts arise whether
stated intentions are same as real ones. Said some
people saying again that East really intends secede
and that Ojukwu attempting provoke Gowon into action
which would give East excuse for going out. Ojukwu
said without hesitation or equivocation that he
sincerely wants negotiate settlement by which all can
live together in one Nigeria. Categorically denied
that East regarded separation as any but last resort.

10. I said we aware that Ghanaians had been talking to
Gowon and him and asked if anything coming of this.
Ojukwu said that following Aburi Ghanaians had assumed
Nigerian crisis on road to settlement and had turned
attention to other matters. Said when they discovered
Aburi not being implemented they asked Gowon for
explanation which they "found unimpressive." Then sent
General Ocran to Enugu to see what could be done avoid
head-on collision. Ojukwu did not say what discussed
with Ocran, but presumably he repeated Eastern

11. On Nigerian Navy moves in Eastern waters Ojukwu
said ships 30 miles offshore and that Commodore Wey
had assured him by phone today that ships would not
come closer without Ojukwu being informed.

12. I mentioned growing anxieties expatriate community
because of fear possible invasion. Ojukwu conceded
this serious problem for me but said as long as there
talk about using force against East he had no choice
but take all measures possible be ready.

13. Session concluded with Ojukwu saying as he has
many times before that so far as East concerned
settlement crisis by peaceful means which would
preserve integrity Nigeria hangs on implementation,
Aburi added that Gowon appeared either unwilling or
unable implement agreements however and had no right
therefore claim he supreme commander. I said if Gowon
not sitting in Lagos, alternative would be much worse
for East. Ojukwu said this not so. Said when he
believed North capable overrunning East he was glad to
have Gowon in Lagos acting as deterrent to Northern
hotheads. Said now that he knows North quite incapable
launching successful attack on East, it different
matter. If hothead replaced Gowon and attacked East, a
clear solution would come much quicker and cheaper
than the costly stalemate which has developed under

377. Telegram From the Department of State to the
Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/

Washington, March 11, 1967, 3:44 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL
23-9 NIGERIA. Confidential; Priority; Limdis. Drafted
by Smith and Melbourne, cleared in substance by Thomas
M. Judd in EUR/BMI, and approved by Trimble. Repeated
to Lagos and Accra.
153489. Nigerian Crisis.

1. We had agreed with UK on need to allow Ankrah
initiative re easing of Nigerian tensions to run its
course before urging him to broaden it in any way or
we and UK attempt new ones. However, failure Ojukwu to
attend Benin meeting and his scheduled press
conference March 13 indicates events have seemingly
overtaken Ghanaian initiative.

2. Recent developments have led Dept to reluctant
conclusion that if Nigeria is to retain unity in any
form, a loose confederation with virtually autonomous
powers residing in regions is realistically most that
can be hoped for. We of course had hoped that stronger
center would be able emerge from present crisis, view
which we believe British shared. Evidence accumulating
that West and Mid-West leaning more towards East's
position on confederation. In its deepening conflict
with East, FMG would be essentially dependent on
North, which sharply raises perennial problem of
single region seeking to dominate center. This offers
increasing prospect of armed conflict as Gowon
subjected to stronger urgings of northern military and
advisers for drastic action. End result likely be
bloodshed and disintegration of country. Such resort
to force must be avoided if at all possible.

3. Would appreciate your informing HMG officials of
these tentative views and soliciting their own
thinking this subject./2/ We have not yet formulated
what next step by US and UK might be, but believe
frank exchange with UK now called for. In this
connection, would also appreciate any ideas UK may

/2/Telegram 7534 from London, March 17, reported that
the British believed that Ankrah had the best chance
of bringing about a peaceful settlement. (Ibid.)

4. You should also inform UK of our growing concern re
safety Amcits and obtain current UK thinking on safety
their subjects in Nigeria.

5. We recognize much may depend on specific results
Benin conference and contents Ojukwu press conference.
Since events likely move rapidly in coming days and
weeks, however, would urge earliest consultations with
HMG to make certain our views of situation are

378. Telegram From the Department of State to the
Embassy in Nigeria/1/
Washington, March 24, 1967, 11:55 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15
NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate. Drafted by Smith on March
23, cleared by Trimble, and approved by Palmer.
Repeated to London, Accra, and Enugu.
161782. For Ambassador.

1. Department impressed by extent to which Decree No.
8 appears meet many of East's fundamental demands for
much greater regional autonomy./2/ While recognizing
it stops short of granting everything Ojukwu wants,
Dept. considers decree represents genuine effort by
FMG and other MilGovs to implement Aburi agreements
and to retain Nigerian unity in form which least
objectionable to East.

/2/Telegram 7193 from Lagos, March 17, informed the
Department of the details of Decree No. 8, and
telegram 7231 from Lagos, March 17, explained Eastern
opposition to the decree. (Ibid.)

2. Consulate Enugu has reported that some prominent
and moderate Easterners may incline toward above view.
Other advisors to Ojukwu, however, are undoubtedly
pressing him to continue hard line with FMG. We
consider this dangerous and believe we might be able
assist moderates in convincing Ojukwu he should not
reject Decree No. 8 out of hand.

3. While secession sentiment in East undoubtedly
strong, it may be attributable at least in part to
hopeful assumption that USG, despite public posture in
support of FMG and unity, would not be able to
withstand pressures to recognize independent East.
Such assumption also dangerous and Dept believes this
could be hammered home to Ojukwu. Dept would
appreciate your comment on following proposal.

4. You have long-standing invitation to visit Ojukwu
which, with our support, you have not accepted.
Issuance of Decree No. 8 has altered circumstances to
point where advantages of your visit to Enugu for
frank talk with Ojukwu could well outweigh possible

5. If you saw Ojukwu you would orally inform him of
following major points; (a) you acting under
instructions; (b) USG has deep sympathy for, and
understanding of, Eastern emotions in light of events
since July 29; (c) tell Ojukwu substance para (1)
above; (d) we believe that East's failure to accept
intent of Decree No. 8 and to build thereon would
seriously erode understanding East now enjoys. It
could cause USG, as well as other governments, to
begin question whether East really wants to remain in
Nigeria under any circumstances. Additionally, and on
personal basis, you would tell Ojukwu, in same spirit
of frankness that has characterized past exchanges,
that you fear East making serious mistake if it under
assumption that international recognition of
independent East would be easily obtained; our info
clearly to contrary.

6. Above would be accompanied by appropriate
statements making clear our demarche undertaken only
reluctantly and as sincere friend of Nigeria. We have
no desire or intention to interfere in Nigeria's
internal affairs but believe honesty compels us to
ensure there no Eastern misunderstanding of USG views.
Gowon would of course have to be informed in advance.

7. Believe similar UK approach could be useful but
recognize UK HICOM saw Ojukwu only recently.

379. Telegram From the Embassy in Nigeria to the
Department of State/1/
Lagos, April 12, 1967, 1500Z.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL
23-9 NIGERIA. Confidential; Immediate. Repeated to
CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA, DIA, Accra, London, Monrovia,
Yaounde, Enugu, Ibadan, and Kaduna. Passed to the
White House, CIA, DOD, NSA, and USIA.

8014. Ref: Lagos 7981./2/

/2/Telegram 7981 from Lagos, April 11, reported that
the Ambassador was en route to talk to Ojukwu, and
that Ojukwu and the East were losing support in the
West and Midwest. (Ibid.)

1. Following brief session with photographers and
notetaker present in which Ojukwu and I made standard
statements of position, Barnard and I talked privately
with Ojukwu over hour.

2. I opened by saying I had instructions convey
certain views USG to him and covered points B, C, and
D (first two sentences) of paragraph 5 State
161782./3/ In doing so I read closely paraphrased
versions of paragraph 1 and first two sentences
paragraph 5 (D) Deptel. I also said in view prevailing
tension and difficulties travel to and from East, USG
temporarily suspending travel its personnel and
dependents to East/4/ and advising US companies do
same. We hoped Nigerian developments would permit
early cancellation this temporary measure.

/3/Document 378.

/4/Telegram 171192 to Lagos, April 7, concurred in the
recommendation to temporarily suspend travel to the
East. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 23-9

3. I added personal comment with respect post-Aburi
disagreements to effect that prominent world statesmen
skilled in negotiation sometimes left meetings or
conferences thinking they understood each other only
to find later that they had widely divergent views as
to results of meeting. Was it not therefore possible
that meeting at Aburi of military men who not skilled
negotiators had resulted in honest misunderstandings.

4. Ojukwu replied there could be no misunderstanding
as to what agreed at Aburi. Neither he nor Eastern
people would go back from their understanding of Aburi
agreements which was only correct understanding.
Decree No. 8 does not fulfill Aburi and was therefore
not acceptable to East which would not compromise.
Ojukwu regretted that USG had "taken sides" by
expressing favorable view of Decree No. 8.

5. I asked what specifically was wrong with Decree No.
8. Ojukwu mentioned emergency provisions, composition
SMC and timing. Ghanaians, he remarked, had found
forty divergences from Aburi agreements in Decree No.
8. Ojukwu said Decree was now only incidental as
events had overtaken it and Nigerians had more
important issues to resolve. Early resumption of
discussions among military leaders was essential to
prevent breakup of Nigeria by default.

6. Ojukwu made usual comments to effect he does not
recognize Gowon as "leader of Nigeria" and does not
consider East in any way subordinate to FMG. He also
said Nigeria ceased to exist as federation on July 29.
Since then country has in fact been divided in
separate parts and now very close to complete split.
Only question remaining is how and to what extent
parts should work together in future. He reiterated
his view that parts could be only loosely associated.

7. I said that it appeared from Ojukwu's remarks that
East was unwilling compromise. If this so, how could
there be negotiations with rest of country. Ojukwu
replied in effect that there could be no compromise
between right and wrong; East was right, and rest of
country must see this.

8. I several times raised question of and urged need
for another full SMC meeting. Ojukwu carefully avoided
saying he would not attend meeting, but consistently
responded that he doubted meeting would achieve much,
and that each day that passed reduced prospects for
and value of meeting. He reviewed reasons why meeting
in Nigeria not practicable and mentioned conditions he
has recently been attaching to his participation
anywhere. He thought Ghanaians getting discouraged and
merely going through motions of trying to arrange
meeting in Ghana. He had agreed to cooperate with
Ankrah's efforts by withholding major Eastern action
until after April 14. He expressed doubt that Gowon
really wanted meeting.

9. I asked Ojukwu what he thought African heads of
state would do if they participated in SMC meeting. He
said he wanted them to mediate. He was confident that
even most reactionary heads of state would recognize
that East acting in good faith and FMG in bad faith.
He also thought they would have restraining effect on
"other side." I asked whether their presence would
also have restraining effect on him. Ojukwu replied
seriously that he always acted with restraint.

10. Ojukwu reverted to temporary suspension travel US
citizens to East and said with emphasis he considered
this "discriminatory and another evidence USG 'taking
sides.'" I said our action consequence of special
circumstances now affecting East only and we had taken
similar action in other parts of Nigeria in past. I
re-emphasized temporary nature of action. I took
occasion to point out that in present atmosphere of
preparedness East was not pleasant place for
foreigners, and US citizens in region were showing
increasing concern about situation. Their concern was
not eased by speeches such as that Ojukwu had recently
given at ABA which identified unspecified foreign
governments as potential "enemies of the East."

11. Ojukwu said it evident to him that USG and other
Western governments would comply with FMG actions such
as blockade of East. Eastern people would regard
governments so complying as enemies. He foresaw
possibility that most foreigners might leave region.
He would regret this but East would have to get along
without these foreign friends and would look forward
to their eventual return.

12. Ojukwu laid great stress on financial aspects and
growing economic warfare. He accused FMG of stalling
on payments to East and of refusing enter into serious
discussions or negotiations on financial problems. He
said Ghanaians had tried unsuccessfully to persuade
FMG pay statutory debt to East. Ojukwu reiterated that
blockade would force East to "strike out alone." He
claimed Lagos progressively tightening screws and
situation would soon reach point of no return.

13. In view Ojukwu's hard line and apparent
expectation of early confrontation leading to Eastern
secession, I said I greatly depressed by grim prospect
he offering and wondered whether he had weighed
consequences of Eastern withdrawal from Nigeria. If
one could foresee peaceful separation East from rest
of country, it might be deplored but accepted. We all,
however, knew manifold tribal frictions within
Nigeria. I thought Eastern withdrawal would set off
process of dissolution throughout Nigeria that was
hardly likely to remain peaceful and could
disintegrate into situation worse than Congo. East
obviously would not be unaffected by such development.

14. Ojukwu made obvious response that Nigeria not
Congo, implied tribal situation not so dangerous in
Nigeria and went on to say Nigerian problems could not
be solved by foreign formulas. While he recognized
economic advantages of one Nigeria with large land,
resources and population, political considerations
were much more important than economic. As far as East
and Easterners were concerned, they now motivated by
Eastern nationalism and wanted to build Eastern
nation. Moreover, federated Nigeria had been block to
Pan-Africanism as many other countries feared such
large nation. Some African countries think it might
not be bad thing if Nigeria broke up into smaller
nations and might be willing enter into closer
relations with successor states.

15. I pointed out that I had not offered any formula
for solution and noted that some propagandists writing
for "Outlook" who presumably Nigerian appeared share
my view of potential tribal trouble throughout Nigeria
as their output seemed directed toward stirring up
such trouble. Ojukwu did not attempt deny this. I also
said according our information it was not just Western
nations who wanted Nigeria to remain one country; this
was also view of African countries. I expressed view
it would be some time before other African countries
would be inclined enter into close relation with
states emerging from Nigerian dissolution, in light
conditions that would probably prevail here. I dwelt
also upon likely reaction of US public and Congress
which would be inclined draw back from aid and other
involvement in Africa. Ojukwu commented that USG could
not withdraw from involvement in Africa no matter how
distasteful it found Nigerian dissolution. I responded
that I agreed with him in long run, but for medium
term popular US reaction would inhibit USG.

16. I remarked that related matter was prospect of
international recognition should East secede. I had
asked Department for available information in this
regard. I concluded from this information that
recognition would come very slowly. Ojukwu responded
that he assumed US recognition would be slow although
in time US national interest would counsel
recognition. I rejoined that I was thinking more of
recognition by other African countries which would be
slow. USG would of course be greatly influenced by
what African governments did.

17. Ojukwu suggested twice that USG and other Western
governments were more tolerant of North than of East
and perhaps thought North more amenable to their
interests. I said emphatically this unfounded, USG was
impartial as between Nigerian regions and obviously
had no special interests in North.

18. As variant of foregoing theme, Ojukwu also
remarked he beginning believe Western Nigeria not
averse to Eastern secession on assumption it then
easier for Yorubas to exploit North in rump

19. At one point in conversation Ojukwu had casually
thrown out comment that he might have to order his
troops to take Lagos. I later took occasion to observe
that I thought it unlikely either Ojukwu or Gowon
would order their respective forces to undertake
offensive action. I had impression both of them and
their senior military advisers were aware of
limitations their forces for such action. Ojukwu did
not argue point.

20. Discussion ended on note of mutual unhappiness and

380. Telegram From the Embassy in Nigeria to the
Department of State/1/
Lagos, April 13, 1967, 1723Z.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15
NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate; Limdis (Noforn except
London, Accra, Enugu, Ibadan, and Kaduna. Passed to
the White House, USIA, DOD, NSA, AND CIA.

8088. Ref: Lagos 7981/2/ and 8039./3/

/2/Dated April 11. (Ibid., POL 23-9 NIGERIA) See
footnote 2, Document 379.

/3/Telegram 8039 from Lagos, April 12, transmitted
Mathews' estimate that Ojukwu would probably seek
early independence, but that the East would probably
submit quickly if foreign governments complied with
FMG economic measures and otherwise continued to
support Nigerian unity. (Department of State, Central
Files, POL 23-9 NIGERIA)

1. I talked almost hour with Gowan and PermRep Extaff
Ogbu this noon.

2. Re visit to Ojukwu, I reported he reiterated
opposition to Decree No. 8, expressed doubt as to
utility SMC meeting but did not say would not attend
if Ghanaians able to arrange. Seemed to realize and
discount that if East seceded prospects for early
international recognition would not be good and took
generally pessimistic and hard line re prospects for
Nigerian unity.

3. I then asked Gowan how he saw future. He responded
that in view increasing intransigence of and
provocation by Ojukwu he did not believe SMC meeting
would be productive. He was however willing make
another attempt and would attend meeting arranged by
Ghanaians. He thought this would take place in
relatively near future and all members SMC would be
present. He dismissed participation other African
heads of state. I expressed hope that despite gloomy
prospects meeting would be successful.

4. Gowan said bitterly that East continuing to import
arms and in view population pressure probably planning
to expand North and West. He cited China as parallel.
I expressed doubt that East had military capability
seriously to contemplate such course. He agreed this
true now but if permitted Ojukwu would continue
military buildup for future effort.

5. I asked Gowon whether he thought Ojukwu would soon
issue formal declaration of secession or independence.
Gowan talked around this question, but gist of his
remarks was he thought it more likely Ojukwu would
continue for time being to move toward de facto
independence. Gowon reiterated that it was his
responsibility to prevent Ojukwu from breaking up
Nigeria and that FMG would have curb East. I commented
that I assumed he had only economic measures in mind
and urged him to avoid measures that would do lasting
damage to Nigerian economy. Gowon nodded assent.

6. Gowon went on to say that except for Ojukwu and
some other Ibos, all Nigerians wanted to remain
together in one country. This definitely included
minority tribes in East who "did not want to be left
alone with Ibos." He had therefore been considering
various ways of meeting wishes of most Nigerians. He
had thought of possible course of action which he
might adopt if upcoming SMC meeting proved abortive.
He would then offer Ojukwu and Ibos option of seceding
and establishing their own "little Switzerland" within
Nigeria. From care with which Gowon led up to this and
unusual precision of his language, and keen interest
with which Ogbu listened and watched me, it was
evident that they regarded this as major if not
brilliant gambit.

7. I commented that this was new idea to me and asked
whether his reference to Switzerland meant that he had
in mind landlocked Iboland. He said yes. I wondered
whether this move might not lead other Nigerian groups
to seek similar independence along tribal lines and
thus end in disintegration Nigeria which he wanted
prevent. Gowon stoutly rejected this possibility. He
said Ojukwu's intransigence and arrogance had
dissipated sympathy which most Nigerians had had for
Ibos after events of last year. Other Nigerians now
swinging to view there no living with Ibos and if they
want to go let them, but without Eastern minorities.

8. I said I strongly hoped it would not be necessary
to take such radical step, and urged that every effort
be made to find other solution at SMC meeting.

9. Foregoing interview has not caused me to change
analysis in Lagos 8039. Only new element is Gowon's
Iboland idea which Ojukwu would reject out of hand. As
psychological warfare ploy, however, it could mobilize
anti-Ibo sentiments of many Nigerians and increase
Ojukwo's problems in Eastern minority areas.

381. Telegram From the Department of State to the
Embassy in Nigeria/1/
Washington, April 14, 1967, 2:34 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL
15-1 NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate. Drafted by Melbourne
on April 13 and approved by Trimble. Repeated to
London, Accra, Enugu, Ibadan, Kaduna and

175217. Ref: Lagos 8039./2/ Nigerian Crisis.
/2/See footnote 3, Document 380.

1. Assessment has received careful study and
Department accepts substance of evaluation concerning
likelihood East's and Ojukwu's intentions as given in
first 4 paras. However, some reservations arise here
in weighing effect of Eastern secession on rest of
country and possible success of economic sanctions
against East. Divisive elements in other Nigerian
regions could erupt within measurable time after
secession by East. Department uncertain that
continuing foreign recognition of FMG would alone
suffice to deter serious internal trouble while FMG
seeks to bring East to heel by economic means. Also
less certain that East would collapse within six
months or longer.

2. It has been consensus of Department and Embassy
that Nigerian association could only be maintained by
mutual agreement of regions. It highly questionable
whether one region could be coerced by others to
remain in association. Department considers severe
economic sanctions would only feed Eastern flames at
time when FMG does not present convincing picture of
its ability effectively and unitedly to press toward
envisaged goal. In view stage crisis has reached,
believe it would be most useful if Embassy and UK
HICOM could discuss and evaluate situation and for
Embassy to report extent of common conclusions.

3. Because of developments, prospects for SMC meeting
to include Ojukwu would appear bleak, wherever held
and under whatever auspices. Department considers only
prospect now is Ghanaians who may still have
sufficient joint credit with disputants to get them
together. Commonwealth Secretariat mediation,
presumably extending over time, seems unlikely. Thus
any proposals which you and UK HICOM might have would
indeed be welcome.

382. Telegram From Department of State to the Embassy
in Ghana/1/
Washington, April 19, 1967, 10:08 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15
NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by
Melbourne and Country Director for Ethiopia Matthew J.
Looram, cleared by Trimble, and approved by Palmer.
Also sent to Addis Ababa, Lagos, and London.

177827. 1. Coup attempt in Ghana may upset plans for
meeting there of Nigerian SMC in second Aburi
conference under Ankrah auspices. On other hand Ankrah
may be spurred to keep meeting on early schedule to
use it as clear evidence of stability of NLC. In order
to keep momentum of Nigerian mediation efforts,
however, request views of Embassies Lagos and London
on utility of seeking more active intervention by
Emperor of Ethiopia in Nigerian picture.

2. For Addis Ababa. Appreciate in light of Addis 6397
Notal/2/ that this may not be most appropriate time
seek Emperor's intervention. Realize moreover that
only few days remain (April 22) before his trip
Bermuda, US, Canada and West Germany. Nevertheless, in
light Ghana developments, Emperor may be only African
figure who can still make significant contribution
toward prevention disintegration Nigeria. However we
would not wish undercut Ghana efforts if there still
possibility of success.

/2/Reference is presumably to telegram 3697 from Addis
Ababa, April 18. (Ibid., POL 15-1 ETHIOPIA)

3. Embassy Lagos requested discuss possible role of
Emperor with UK HICOM and Embassy London with CO re
validity of suggested actions by Emperor:

a. Emperor would address communication to Ankrah
encouraging him to proceed with projected second Aburi

b. In above message to Ankrah he would ask if there
were any way he could be helpful during Aburi Two and
affirm his willingness to assist mediation in any way
possible at beginning of or following his return from

c. Send separate message to Nigerian SMC. In this he
could state that recent instances of instability in
Africa have been damaging to its reputation and future
prospects for development and progress. It would be
tragedy for entire continent if Nigeria, a key country
with bright potential for itself and rest of Africa,
should be shattered or if Ghana should fail in this
major reconciliation effort. Accordingly he would urge
Nigeria's leaders make major urgent effort resolve
their differences in spirit of reason and
accommodation at Accra or elsewhere.

4. Embassy Accra's comments requested on prospects for
early meeting there and possible reaction to suggested
HIM initiatives. However our possible intervention
with Emperor should not be mentioned to GOG.

5. If reactions favorable, Ambassador Korry would seek
immediate appointment with HIM or FonMin in order
solicit views as to what they or we might do to
preserve Nigeria. In such interview talking points
would include context suggested message from Emperor
to Ankrah, supplemented by our fears of delay in
second Aburi meeting. They would be told we recognize
Gowon's sensitivities if he and Ojukwu were singled
out as sole disputants. If Ojukwu given equal status
with Gowon, latter might well be cool to any
initiatives. Among various moves which we think might
occur to Ethiopians, three points of Para. 3 above
would be raised. Substantive action would be urged as
having salutary effect on relationships between
Nigerian regions. Hence US making this approach to HIM
as a recognized leader of Africa and peacemaker.

383. Telegram From the Embassy in Nigeria to the
Department of State/1/
Lagos, April 21, 1967, 1500Z.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15
NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Repeated to Accra,
Addis Ababa, and London. Passed to the White House,

8348. Ref: State 179138./2/ Emb shares Dept's concern
over deteriorating Nigerian situation. We have
consulted with UK HICOM on proposals for joint
intervention set forth in reftel and we agree that any
such initiative at this time would not only be
resented but probably rebuffed especially by Gowon's
closest supporters and advisers. Feeling among FMG
members is said to be that each admonishment by US and
UK is in effect a request that FMG accept each new
provocation of Ojukwu without reacting; and thus
serves to prove to FMG that US and UK pro-East.
Several sources close to FMG have indicated that SMC
members have become very impatient with external
intervention in present situation. Yesterday Edward
Enahoro, number three officer in Extaff (who very
pro-West and has English wife) informed UK diplomat
that FMG fed up with outside gratuitous advice and
mentioned US and UK in particular. Embassy, therefore,
reluctantly concludes that only outside intervention
which likely to receive consideration now is that of
the Emperor (Addis 3749)./3/ We further conclude as
result of information contained in Datt 1130 and ANL
1552/4/ that FMG no longer interested in Aburi Two and
that today's meeting of SMC likely to be decisive on
courses of action to be pursued by FMG against Eastern
acts of insurrection. Information available UK HICOM
basically confirms reports transmitted in above

/2/Telegram 179138 to Lagos, April 20, reported the
Department's concern over the possibility that the FMG
might try to isolate the Ibos by breaking up the East
into mini-states, with the Ibos in the center, before
a possible Aburi or comparable meeting could alleviate
the FMG-East dispute. (Ibid.)

/3/Telegrams 3749 and 3752 from Addis Ababa, April 21,
reported Emperor Haile Selassie's intention to send
telegrams to Ankrah and the Nigerian FMG. (Ibid.)

/4/Not further identified.

384. Telegram From the Department of State to the
Embassy in Nigeria/1/
Washington, May 5, 1967, 4:01 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL
NIGERIA-US. Confidential; Priority. Drafted and
approved by Melbourne and cleared by Trimble.

188570. Following is FYI noforn based on uncleared
memcon subject to revision on review:

1. Ambassador Martins accompanied by his Counselor met
with Secretary for 40-minute talk immediately prior to
his departure for Lagos on consultation. AFW Director
Melbourne also present. Ambassador presented under
instructions aide-memoire outlining events since
January 1966 from FMG perspective. Martins in lengthy
exposition covered ground of aide-memoire whose main
theme dwelt on relations between FMG and East, and
outlined program adopted April 22 by Supreme Military
Council. Document concluded, "in order to successfully
implement this program, FMG would appreciate moral
support, sympathy and understanding of all friendly
governments particularly Government of USA." Text
being pouched.

2. Ambassador explained he returning Nigeria under
instructions to talk with Gowon and key SMC officials
and that he intends travel in all regions on personal
mission to speak in behalf single Nigeria. He knew
Ojukwu well and felt he should make every effort with
him. Before his return he thus wished get Secretary's
views on Nigeria.

3. Secretary responded that because of great trials in
US history it could understand tensions arising from
maintenance of unity in diversity. US had no
prescription for Nigerians, who would have to settle
problem themselves. However, he wanted to emphasize
great importance of finding their way to unity.
Perhaps their representatives should stay in
conference until they found agreement in manner
analogous to Catholic Cardinals' selection of Pope. He
cited great loss to Nigerian people if their
experiment should fail including their national
safety, decline in world confidence, and loss of their
leadership in Africa. Nigeria had real responsibility,
for what happens in Africa if Nigeria fails? This
great responsibility ramifies externally into deep
realities. Therefore, it desperately important
Nigerian problems be solved.

4. Martins, gratified at Secretary's remarks, said he
could go to Nigeria with every assurance of US
interest. To this Secretary replied we were following
situation with interest mixed with affection since we
felt very close to Nigeria. Historical importance of
crossroads for country could not be over-estimated.
Nigerians should understand that it takes much time
and effort to make constitution work.

5. On new tack, Martins stated that Department had
behaved impeccably and responsibly during course of
Nigerian troubles. He did wish to raise on personal
basis suggestion for US public statement. In view
great US world responsibilities, he suggested US say
it believes united Nigeria would be best for Nigerian
people and for all of Africa. To Secretary's query as
to effect of such statement in Nigeria, Ambassador
asserted he had met no Nigerian from any region who
thought a break-up would be beneficial. Secretary
simply replied that suggestion would be studied with
aide-memoire and he hoped comments would be available
to US Embassy Lagos while Martins in Nigeria.

6. In final observation, Secretary emphasized that no
Nigerian solution by violence is conceivable.
Consequences of such action could be tragic. He only
hoped those in Nigeria with responsibility would rise
above their short-term differences and in behalf their
country's future let their dreams take over.

385. Memorandum From Edward Hamilton of the National
Security Council Staff to the President's Special
Assistant (Rostow)/1/
Washington, May 25, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Country File, Nigeria, Vol. I, Memos & Miscellaneous,
6/64-8/67. Secret.


I suspect that events are about to take a nasty turn
in Nigeria. I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow, but,
on the whole, I think we have played our own hand
well. (We simply don't hold many high cards.)
Nevertheless, the fact is that the dissolution of
Nigeria is imminent--barring miracles. The primary
operational questions we now face are:

--Can we salvage the most useful tokens of unity--a
common currency, a single representative at the UN,
etc? (A common army is clearly out of the question.)

--Can we avoid civil war?

--Can we provide reasonable assurance of the safety of
the 7,000 Americans in Nigeria, and/or evacuate them
efficiently if necessary?

Let me preface my answers with a brief analysis of the
present situation.

Where we are

There are four major political actors on the Nigerian
scene: (1) Colonel Gowon, chief of the central
government; (2) Colonel Ojukwu, military governor of
the East; (3) Chief Awolowo, leader of the Yoruba
tribe which controls the West; and (4) General
Katsina, military governor of the North. As you know,
the main lines of conflict are between the North and
the East. The North is large, populous, and backward;
the East is smaller, relatively rich (oil, etc.),
relatively well-educated, and dominated by the Ibo
tribe which has a long-standing feud with the northern
Hausas. The North wants a strong northern-controlled
central government; the East favors the loosest
possible confederation of autonomous regions.

After a long, dreary slide, the parties are now at the
following positions:

1. Ojukwu has laid all the groundwork for secession,
right down to the name of the new country ("Biafra").
He probably could not stop the train now if he wanted
to. Our intelligence indicates that he may be planning
either to declare independence within the next few
days or to propose tomorrow that the regions form a
"confederation" which would leave each with "an
international personality." The federal government
would be reduced to a secretariat to nurture economic
relations between almost totally separate states.
Ojukwu has fomented so much independence fever that he
probably couldn't accept a tighter federal arrangement
at this point without threatening his political

2. Awolowo has paved the way for secession of the West
if the East secedes. He would probably still prefer a
federation--the West will have a difficult economic
time of it alone. But he thinks the West would be
better off on its own than in an unequal partnership
with the North. He has persuaded the western Military
Governor to demand that Gowon remove all northern
troops now stationed in the West. Gowon has agreed to
do so by the end of May. It remains to be seen whether
he has enough control to carry it off. If he doesn't,
there may soon be fighting in the West.

3. The North is run by a loose collection of Moslem
emirs, under the rather precarious control of Katsina.
(It is never quite clear who controls whom.) We have
solid intelligence that the northern segments of the
army are preparing to fight the East if Ojukwu
secedes. Katsina's role in this is uncertain. He may
not be able to keep the army quiet in the face of
secession even if he wants to, and there will
certainly be strong forces at work to dissuade him
from wanting to. Aside from tribal hatred, the most
powerful northern fear is that dissolution of the
federation would cost them their route to the sea.
(They are already at work on arrangements for trade
routes through Dahomey.)

4. Gowon remains the most reconstructed leader of
northern origin, but he is rapidly fading as a major
influence. The history of his problems is not entirely
to his discredit. But, as things now stand, Ojukwu
refuses to have anything to do with him; the
northerners are extremely unhappy with his "softness"
toward the East; he is distrusted in the West; and he
has largely shot his bolt in bargaining terms. He may
have sealed his own fate last week with an abortive
proposal that British troops guarantee the security of
a meeting of the regional Military Governors; Ojukwu
dismissed the suggestion out of hand and made it clear
that the British are finished as mediators as far as
the East is concerned. Gowon made a last-ditch effort
to save the day over the weekend by rescinding the
economic sanctions against the East, but it now seems
that Ojukwu will not reciprocate, and that the only
effect of Gowon's announcement was to multiply his
problems in the North.

In summary, the probabilities now argue for: (1) an
Ojukwu ultimatum calling for a very loose
confederation on pain of immediate secession; (2) a
wishy-washy answer from Gowon which will not satisfy
anybody; (3) a public statement by Awolowo favoring
Ojukwu's proposal, but promising that the West will
secede if Gowon drags his feet; (4) serious pressure
in the North, probably reflected in the army, for
military action against the East--perhaps resulting in


My own considered judgment is that no foreign power
can assert anything like decisive influence on the
Nigerian situation without commitment of major
resources--troops and money. On balance, I don't think
it is worth such a commitment on our part.
Three outside influences are relevant to the Nigerian
problem: other African states, particularly Ghana; the
British; and the U.S. (All Nigerian factions are
opposed to taking this matter up in the U.N. Unless
and until there is widespread violence, most
Afro-Asians will probably agree.) The Ghanaians have
been heavily involved in mediation. General Ankrah has
been to see all of the Nigerian leaders several times,
and Ghana was the site of the last meeting of Military
Governors. Ankrah is not persona non grata with them
now; he simply has run out of things to sell--and
Ojukwu has built up secession pressure to the point
where there is no more time to develop new solutions.

Unfortunately, mediation by other African leaders has
become a cause celebre, with Ojukwu pushing for a
conciliation panel of Nasser, Haile Selassie, etc.,
and Gowon opposing any non-Nigerian influence. Both
sides have made clear that they want nothing to do
with the OAU, although Diallo Telli has visited
Nigeria several times of late.
The British, always viewed with some suspicion, seem
now to have ruined themselves entirely by their tacit
support of Gowon's proposed meeting guaranteed by
British arms. Both sides have also rejected the idea
of a Commonwealth peace mission.
Our own situation is by far the best of the three. We
have been very strong for unity, but have generally
managed to keep from being tarred by either side with
favoritism for the other--although we are suspected by
both. We also have $15 million per year in technical
assistance to use as leverage. The truth is, however,
that unless we are prepared to risk another Katanga,
we don't have the bilateral tools to affect the
outcome. We can marginally influence the method of
change--particularly, I hope, limit violence--but the
unity question is beyond us. Our real choice is
whether to go all out now with some sort of grandstand
diplomatic play, or to keep our powder dry so as to
have the best possible start with the successor

Our best diplomatic play would probably be a
Presidential emissary to all the regional
capitals--with or without fanfare--carrying a personal
Presidential request for a new try at preserving
unity. For my own part, I would vote against this, and
I am confident Secretary Rusk and Joe Palmer would
agree. My principal objection is that it wouldn't
work. We are simply beyond the stage at which anybody
with a solely diplomatic mandate could get any of the
sides to about-face. We might gain a month; there
might even be a new meeting of the Military Governors.
But the cost would be much greater U.S. involvement;
correspondingly greater subsequent pressure for U.S.
intervention when the talks broke down and/or
degenerated into violence; and, almost certainly, some
feeling in the East that the United States had chosen
sides against her.

Thus, painful as it is, my advice is that we sweat it
out and prepare to deal with whatever configuration of
autonomous states emerges. In the meantime, of course,
we should continue to press for whatever tokens of
unity are possible. I think there is considerable hope
that we can preserve a common currency and common
public utilities. But we should take no action which
would indelibly identify us with any of the factions.

Violence and Evacuation

We have an elaborate joint evacuation plan with the
British. I think it is adequate. We have also worked
out detailed contingency plans for all the specific
problems which would arise from any of the likely
degenerative processes. Of course, any action to
evacuate will increase instability and probably
enlarge the chances of violence. Thus, the critical
question will be when to begin. This should be a
Presidential decision.
You should know that the evacuation plan does call for
the use of one rifle company to guard the C-130s while
they land, load, and take off. The British will make a
similar commitment. This is the minimum military
involvement (about 200 U.S. soldiers) we will be able
to get away with if evacuation is necessary.
I know this is a bleak picture. I paint it in this
detail to demonstrate that the fact that we are not
pushing for some Presidential action now reflects
neither disinterest nor optimism. It flows from the
fundamental fact that we are marginal to the deepest
problems in Nigeria, and that it would take an
enormous--and unwarranted--investment to become an
important influence.
You may want to give the President a precis of this
situation if opportunity should arise.

(You might also remind him that African politics have
a way of charging headlong to the very edge of the
cliff and then unaccountably drawing back. With luck,
we may be treated to another such experience.)

386. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to
Certain Posts/1/
Washington, May 30, 1967, 6:05 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL
23-9 NIGERIA. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by
Smith, cleared by Assistant Legal Adviser for African
Affairs Charles Runyon and Palmer, and approved by
Katzenbach. Sent to all posts in Africa and Europe,

204937. Ref: State 204502./2/ Nigerian Crisis.
/2/Dated May 30. (Ibid.)

1. In early hours May 30, Military Governor of Eastern
Nigeria formally proclaimed Eastern Nigeria sovereign
independent Republic of Biafra. Federal Military
Government (FMG) has declared state of national
emergency and is reacting vigorously to Eastern

2. FYI: Since FMG use of military force against East
is distinct possibility, our most immediate concern is
protection Amcits throughout Nigeria. End FYI. As
reported reftel, we advising against unnecessary
travel to any part of Nigeria or within that country.
To date, Embassy Lagos has not believed that Amcits
are in imminent danger or that they should consider
leaving country. Further deterioration in situation
would of course raise questions of additional steps.

3. It remains our basic position that problem of
Nigeria is a matter of primary concern to the
Nigerians, to Africa and to the Commonwealth. We
continue to support a peaceful resolution of this
problem. While continuing maintain our relations with
FMG, we intend to maintain consular presence and
functioning in East, which is of course not to be
construed as USG recognition of Biafra.

4. If queried on Nigerian developments and USG
recognition of Biafra posts may draw on above for
guidance, avoiding comments on substance of Nigerian
crisis and any speculation on recognition question.
FBIS report quoting Eastern Nigeria radio to effect
USG (as well as other nations) has already recognized
Biafra is false and has been denied by US Embassy in

5. FYI: We consider attitude of other AF states,
Commonwealth countries and perhaps OAU an important
factor in determining US position on status and
recognition of Biafra and wish await clearer
demonstration their intentions, as well as
developments in Nigeria. In any event, we wish
maintain friendly relations with all parts of Nigeria,
including East and any other entities which might
emerge. End FYI.

387. Memorandum From Edward Hamilton of the National
Security Council Staff to the President's Special
Assistant (Rostow)/1/
Washington, May 31, 1967, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Memos to the President, Aides File, Walt W. Rostow,
Vol. 29. Secret. The memorandum was passed to
President Johnson with a May 31 covering note from
Rostow at 7:50 p.m.


Nigeria situation report

1. After eleven months of slow deterioration--in which
we played every card in our limited hand to maintain
unity--the Eastern region declared itself the
independent Republic of Biafra yesterday morning.

2. Gowon responded with a public statement that the
East had committed an "act of rebellion" which "must
be crushed." (He later softened "crushed" to
"contained.") He reimposed the economic blockade of
the East, and ordered full mobilization of the Federal
army. (In practice, mobilization will add little to
the 9,000 troops now under Gowon's command; there are
no reserves to call up. The Eastern army totals about
7,000 men--better trained and positioned than Gowon's

3. Gowon called in the U.S. and British Ambassadors
yesterday afternoon. He said that he planned to take
action against the East, and asked for military help,
apparently implying troops. Both Ambassadors
immediately replied that this was out of the question.
Gowon retreated to a request for tactical aircraft and
a naval presence. Again the Ambassadors refused. As a
final shot, Gowon asked what the U.S./British would do
if "others" intervened on the side of the East. The
Ambassadors replied that this was a hypothetical
question which they could not answer./2/

/2/Telegram 9607 from Lagos, May 30, reported these
exchanges and other details of the two Ambassadors'
discussion with Gowon. (Department of State, Central
Files, POL 23-9 NIGERIA)

4. Gowon did indicate in the above conversation that
he would cooperate in any evacuation of British and
American citizens.

5. Late yesterday afternoon we instructed our
Embassies in London and Lagos to approach the British
urgently to set in motion our joint evacuation plan
for dependents and non-essential personnel. This first
stage involves a commercially-operated airlift (PanAm
and the British airlines). The instruction reflects
our unanimous judgment (Katzenbach included) that we
can no longer give reasonable assurance of the safety
of more than 7,000 American citizens in Nigeria, and
that an evacuation order will not bring on
substantially greater instability.

6. HMG (Saville Garner) replied this morning that they
can give us no final answer until tomorrow, but that
they lean toward the view that the threat is not yet
serious enough to justify evacuation. In any event,
Garner said, HMG will be heavily influenced by the
views of the British Ambassador to Nigeria.

7. The approach to the British in Lagos was even less
fruitful. We have the full text of what the UK
Ambassador recommended to London. Essentially, he
advised against any evacuation of the whole of
Nigeria--now or in the future--and against immediate
evacuation of the East. His arguments are (1) it isn't
clear whether we face a prolonged conflict or a
"foray;" (2) evacuation would seriously disrupt the
Nigerian economy, particularly in the East, and would
bring the British into disfavor with Biafra; (3) many
Brits would refuse to leave; and (4) British citizens
might well be safe in a successful attack on the East
if they followed instructions and "kept their heads
down." He summarized that he would not recommend
evacuation until "British subjects become a target."

8. At this point, which is about 2:30 this afternoon,
the story trails off. We know there are several
messages which have been sent from Lagos, but not
received. We have received word that our Ambassador
has instructed our Consul in the East to advise U.S.
dependents to leave that region. We do not know
whether he has done the same in the other regions.
(This is of great political importance in terms of
U.S. even-handedness, which will largely determine the
nature of our post-independence relations with
Biafra.) Joe Palmer has sent a flash inquiry to find
out what is going on. We assume our man is moving
forward with a Nigeria-wide evacuation.

9. Whatever the present facts, as I reported to you
yesterday we propose to proceed--with or without the
British--with commercial evacuation of dependents and
non-essential personnel from all regions. We shall
probably have to let this be known publicly tomorrow
if Lagos has not already announced it. I will furnish
George Christian with guidance and stand by to help
with the briefing if necessary.

388. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant
(Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, June 6, 1967, 4:15 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Special Head of State Correspondence File,
Nigeria-Presidential Correspondence. No classification

Mr. President:

At Tab A,/2/ for your approval, is a brief reply to a
message from General Gowon of Nigeria. Gowon wired you
and many other heads of government urging against
recognition of the newly-proclaimed Republic of
Biafra--formerly the eastern region of Nigeria. The
incoming message is at Tab B./3/

/2/The attached tabs are not printed.

/3/Tab B is a copy of Gowon's May 30 message.

None of your advisers would recommend recognition of
Biafra until the Nigerian situation is clarified.
However, we did hope to avoid answering this message
so as to not appear to favor either the Central
Government or the Biafrans. (How we handle the
recognition question will greatly affect the tone of
our relations with these states in whatever
configuration emerges.)

However, Harold Wilson has now responded to Gowon's
message to him with a non-committal hope that Nigeria
can find her way out of her present difficulties. (A
copy of the Wilson response is at Tab C.) If we don't
say at least this much, we will probably wear out some
of our welcome with the central government. Thus, the
proposed reply takes very much the same non-committal


Speak to me

/4/This option is checked.
389. Memorandum for the Record/1/
Washington, June 28, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Country File, Nigeria, Vol. I, Memos & Miscellaneous,
6/64-8/67. Confidential. Prepared by Rostow.


Meeting with Nigerian Chief Enahoro, Minister of
Information and Labor in the Federal Military
Government (June 28-10:30 AM)

Enahoro had requested a meeting with the President to
present a "personal message" from General Gowon. He
was persuaded that the message would reach the
President if he gave it to me and to Nick Katzenbach,
whom he saw later in the day./2/

/2/Telegram 219423 to Lagos, June 29, described
Katzenbach's meeting with Enahoro. (Department of
State, Central Files, POL NIGERIA-US)

There was no written text to Enahoro's message. The
points he made were as follows:

1. General Gowon feels "let down" by the USG. As the
defender of Nigerian unity, he believes he deserves a
more sympathetic and understanding attitude from us.

2. The USG should take steps to keep the United States
from being used as a base for Biafran activity--either
propaganda or money-raising. Several Nigerians and
Americans are now carrying on such operations here;
the State Department knows who they are. As
demonstrated in the case of Katanga, the USG does have
the legal means to suppress this sort of thing if it
has the will.

3. Payments of royalties and taxes by foreign oil
companies operating in Nigeria must continue to be
made to the FMG, notwithstanding the recent Biafran
decree that companies operating in the East must pay
the Biafran government.

4. Some Americans seem to have accepted the notion
that the FMG is a bloodthirsty leviathan bent on
annihilating the gallant and peace-loving Easterners.
The truth is that the FMG bears no malice towards the
citizens of Eastern Nigeria, and it intends to use no
more force than is necessary to maintain Nigerian
unity. If the situation evolves to the point where
civilians deal with civilians, there is no doubt in
Gowon's mind that the secession would end and peaceful
unity be restored.
I did not attempt to argue the specifics of Enahoro's
case. I questioned him at several points to clarify
his argument, but left detailed response to Under
Secretary Katzenbach. I did remark that we are most
hopeful that a peaceful solution to Nigeria's
difficulties could be found, and that it is very
difficult for us to be helpful in a family quarrel.

390. Memorandum From Edward Hamilton of the National
Security Council Staff to the President's Special
Assistant (Rostow)/1/

Washington, July 3, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Country File, Nigeria, Vol. I, Memos & Miscellaneous,
6/64-8/67. No classification marking.


Gowon's Arms Request

As I am sure you know, Gowon sent identical wires to
the President and Harold Wilson yesterday asking for
immediate sale to the FMG of 12 fighter-bombers, 6
PT-boats, and 24 anti-aircraft guns. He wanted
deliveries to begin within 48 hours. He added that if
the U.S. and UK were unable to supply these weapons,
he would be forced to get them from any source which
would make them available--an obvious reference to the
Soviets and/or Eastern Europeans.

We do not know whether Gowon already has a deal with
another arms supplier. We do know that the FMG had a
mission in Moscow last week which the Easterners
claimed (and the FMG denied) was negotiating for arms.
We also know that there has been some traffic in words
with the Czechs. The AF judgment is that if there is
not yet an agreement in being, there soon will be.

Our latest report is that the British are having a
Cabinet meeting on this subject today, but that their
preliminary disposition is to agree to sell the
anti-aircraft guns, but nothing else.
Wayne Fredericks (acting for Joe Palmer, who is on
leave) and I have worked out the following suggested
U.S. position for submission to Nick Katzenbach as
soon as possible:

1. The U.S. has consistently maintained that the
Nigerian problem is an internal problem in which it
could not appropriately interfere. This continues to
be our view.

2. Given the prospect that the supplying of these arms
could well lead to civil war, the U.S. cannot agree to
supply them.

3. We are gravely concerned at the security situation
implied by General Gowon's message. Therefore, we are
asking our Ambassadors to approach Kenyatta, President
Diori and General Ankrah as possible mediators. (Each
is agreed by both sides to be neutral in the Nigerian
dispute.) The Kenyatta suggestion dovetails with an
imminent meeting of the East African heads of state
who plan to take up the Nigerian problem as an agenda

If Katzenbach buys our recommendation, he would give
this position to the Nigerian Ambassador in the form
of an aide-memoire./2/ It would not be done in the
President's name. It seems best to us to keep the
President out of it as long as possible.

/2/Katzenbach gave Martins an aide-memoire on July 3
stating that the United States could not accede to
Gowon's request because of the U.S. policy of
non-intervention in Nigerian internal affairs. It
reiterated the U.S. hope that all possibilities of
reaching a peaceful solution would be fully explored.
It did not refer to any approaches to possible
mediators. The text was transmitted in telegram 817 to
Lagos, July 3. (Department of State, Central Files,

The judgment behind this position is that the prospect
of Communist arms sales to the FMG--to the extent they
are avoidable--is not so forbidding as to make it
worth our feeding the flames by selling arms to the
FMG. We think the Czechs have also been dickering with
the East about arms sales. The Soviets have behaved
very correctly throughout the crisis, pressing for
unity at every opportunity. It does not appear that
the Communists are involved in any campaign to gain
political control of Nigeria--and the Nigerian
political milieu makes that an unlikely objective, at
best. Even if it were otherwise, the political cost of
taking sides in Nigeria in the present post-Middle
Eastern atmosphere would be very great indeed,
particularly to the AID bill. In the present mood of
the Congress, I would not be at all surprised if we
got a quick resolution banning any such sales and
perhaps abolishing MAP at the same time. (Apart from
other problems, there are several strong
pro-Easterners in the Congress, led by Mr. Resnick.)
In summary, we just don't believe the U.S. can or
should forsake our even-handed stance now.

I drag you through all this because there is a chance
Katzenbach will call you this afternoon. When Wayne
talked to him yesterday, he seemed to lean toward an
equivocal answer to Gowon indicating that we would be
willing to talk, though we obviously could do nothing
in 48 hours. Fredericks, Bert Mathews (our Ambassador
to Nigeria) and I are all firmly convinced that it
would be a great mistake to give Gowon any reason to
believe that we might grant his request unless there
is some real chance we might actually do so. It would
ruin us forever with the Easterners, and it would set
us up for a very hard fall with Gowon if, as I
strongly suspect, we couldn't deliver.

At a minimum, I think the President should know about
any reply other than a clear "no." It is he who will
be stuck with the consequences in Nigeria and face the
music on the Hill. Fredericks will (1) try to talk
Nick out of the "maybe" tactic and (2) if Nick remains
unconvinced, ask him to check with the President
before he goes ahead. I suspect that would lead to a
call to you.

I will keep you informed. I am supposed to be taking
some time off this week but I will keep up with events
and be available if you need more detail.

Edward K. Hamilton/3/

/3/An unidentified hand initialed above Hamilton's
typed signature.

391. Telegram From the Department of State to the
Embassy in Nigeria/1/
Washington, July 20, 1967, 6:57 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27
BIAFRA-NIGERIA. Confidential; Priority. Drafted and
approved by Melbourne and cleared by Hamilton at the
White House.

10593. Following is FYI noforn based on uncleared
memcons subject to revision on review:

1. Ambassador Martins, with Counselor, met with Mr.
Walt Rostow in White House during morning July 20 for
half-hour talk to discuss Nigerian situation and
US-Nigerian relations. He gave rationale for FMG
"police action" against East as last resort after
every effort to find peaceful solution. Ambassador
added that he understood official US position, but
could not correlate it with special position of
affection Nigeria accords US and vice-versa. Nigeria
had come to US prepared to pay for arms since it
trying to put down insurrection. US refused, yet it
had assisted Congo. Also Nigerians were active in US
in behalf Biafra. N.Y. Times correspondent, after
being expelled from Nigeria, had gone to Biafra and
filed stories against country with which US had good
relations. FMG needed a statement from "right US
source" which would declare it wished Nigeria to
remain united.

2. Mr. Rostow replied that he would look into
activities of Nigerians in US hostile to their
government. He knew wide latitude accorded under US
law, but wished to be assured that every possible
action had been explored. There no doubt US would like
to see Nigerian unity, but it hardest for third party
to get involved in family quarrel. From 1961, when
Rostow had helped set up development assistance
program for Nigeria, he believed country had great
future and that USG prepared to do what it could in
this direction. This hope still holds. US not prepared
to put Nigeria in any other power's sphere of
influence and has not been passive in leaving
development assistance to others./2/ As for Congo and
Nigeria, there were great differences. In former there
was external threat disrupting unity and we had sent
three C-130's in carefully limited action in
continuity with earlier UN resolutions. Nigeria has
not brought its problem to UN. As Ambassador can see
from press, Congress does not wish US to be involved
in other countries' affairs unless there is clear
external threat. Finally, our margin of influence with
foreign countries on vital issues frequently proves
quite small. Rostow cited examples of this, which
Ambassador agreed supported case for FMG and Biafra
settling problem themselves.

/2/Circular telegram 216694, June 26, noted the desire
to continue existing assistance programs in all parts
of Nigeria and discussed efforts to accomplish this
goal. (Ibid., AID (US) BIAFRA) However, all Peace
Corps volunteers and staff were withdrawn from the
East by mid-August, and all Eastern loan projects and
the Calabar-Ikom road project were suspended by the
end of September.

3. In afternoon, Ambassador Martins, with Counselor,
talked with Under Secretary Katzenbach for 40 minutes
and covered ground similar to morning. He sought
advice of Under Secretary in explaining US actions
concerning Nigeria to his government and public in
this "crisis of belief." The Under Secretary inquired
what happened if Ojukwu were eliminated. It hard to
understand Ojukwu acting without support and would not
same problem exist? Martins briefly said FMG intended
first to restore its authority in minority states of
East and adopt containment policy for Ibo state, which
would have opportunity to be member of federation with
full rights. As far as Times correspondent in Biafra
is concerned, Under Secretary said, Ambassador could
count in any issue of that paper how many editorials
were favorable to policies of USG. If USG could not
influence paper in behalf its own interests, how could
it do so for Nigeria? Activity of correspondent was
not US responsibility. If Ambassador pursued matter
with Times, he might find there even more

4. In long run, said Under Secretary, Nigerian people
should not have real difficulty in accepting
explanations of US arms policy or difference between
Congo and Nigeria. Over past five years US had given
primacy to Nigerian development over other African
states. Articles in US press on American arms policy
should make clear to Nigerians why USG had not been
able to license sales to that country. Congo was
external problem stirred up by non-Congolese. He knew
no African, European or Asian non-Communist state
criticizing US for its policies and actions toward
Nigeria. He believed that if we were wrong, others
would recognize this. As for any Nigerians agitating
here for Biafra, Nigerian public really would not
expect us to change our Constitution or internal laws.
Americans and foreigners here have right to speak up.

5. To help explain US policy to Nigerians, Under
Secretary suggested Ambassador could state (a) USG has
sought to correct through appropriate comment any
false or misleading statements, (b) US not treating
Eastern Nigerians in this country working for Biafra
any differently than it is doing for its own people,
and (c) we cannot be responsible for US manufactured
items of military equipment which may be found in
East. As matter of fact, US arms can be bought from
Communist countries. USG does not possess legal and
constitutional powers to halt or impede actions of
which Ambassador complained. Under Secretary cited
examples of Americans traveling to North Vietnam and
Cuba who have reportedly spoken there critically of
their country and written critically of US policy on
return. Yet, USG unable to take any action against

6. Conversational tone in both meetings was frank and


392. Telegram From the Embassy in Nigeria to the
Department of State/1/
Lagos, August 8, 1967, 1700Z.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 7
NIGERIA. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Repeated to
CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA, London, Enugu, Ibadan, and

1294. 1. At Gowon's behest I met with him and
Adegoroye, Deputy Permsec Extaff, for hour this
afternoon. Gowon said he wished assure me that he
considered misunderstandings which had recently
beclouded Nigerian-US relations were now removed. He
was still disappointed that USG had been unable permit
FMG buy arms in US but he accepted that USG had good
and not unfriendly reasons for this position. He
referred in this connection to personal letter which I
had sent him on first anniversary of his assuming
office as head of FMG and to personal letter he had
recently received from his good friend, Commander
Sommers at CINCSTRIKE. Sommer's letter had helped him
understand why USG could not permit sale of arms to

2. Gowon then told me that since FMG unable to buy
aircraft in US and UK, he had had to get planes where
he could. He had concluded deal for Czech aircraft.
This was straight commercial purchase for cash and had
no overtones of ideology or alignment. He was
painfully earnest in urging that USG read nothing into
this purchase beyond military necessity. He did not
want this development to cast new cloud on Nigerian-US
relations and asked USG to recognize his necessities
as he had recognized ours. He was fully aware that
Czechs would sell as readily to Ojukwu as to FMG and
said that Ojukwu had been bidding for planes FMG

3. Gowon pointed out that he had to provide effective
air cover for his troops and for civilian population
against aircraft which Ojukwu had acquired. Although
these aircraft had not been very effective against FMG
troops, no soldier liked to have enemy planes flying
above him uncontested. Aircraft had bombed and strafed
civilians. Latest incident was bombing of marketplace
in Benue village. Gowon did not want fight this kind
of war himself, but had warned Ojukwu that if latter
persisted in such tactics, FMG would have to

4. Gowon stressed once again that he conducting police
action with limited objectives of removing Ojukwu and
restoring Nigerian unity. He was not seeking to
overrun or occupy Iboland or to subjugate Ibos.

5. Gowon deplored role of press and radio, in both US
and Nigeria, in inflating misunderstandings. He said
he was confident that recent spate of anti-Americanism
in Nigerian press and radio at end and that normal
friendliness between Nigerians and Americans

6. As evidence Ojukwu's desperation and perfidy, Gowon
showed me photostat of document which purported offer
Rothschilds of France exclusive exploitation Eastern
mineral resources including petroleum for ten years
for six million pounds. CAS reporting this in more

7. Main purpose of conversation emerged when Gowon
asked me to inform Department that because of
misunderstandings which had arisen between Nigeria and
US, he would like to send one of his civilian
commissioners as personal spokesman to deliver letter
to President from Gowon and to explain orally to
President FMG's objectives in police action and FMG's
views on Nigerian-US relations. Gowon said he regarded
Nigerian-US relations of such importance that he
wanted ensure that President in no doubt as to FMG's
attitude toward US. He knew President very busy and he
could promise spokesman would not take much of
President's time and would not "waffle." Commissioner
would come at President's convenience but Gowon hoped
could be soon.

8. I urge that arrangements be made for President to
receive Gowon's spokesman./2/ Gowon obviously wants
very much to restore US-Nigerian relations and has
convinced himself that direct contact with President
is essential element this process. He would feel
rebuffed and deeply wounded if we should fail to
respond to his sincere desire to pre-sent his
government's case to President.

/2/Telegram 021552 to Lagos, August 8, reported that a
Presidential appointment would probably not be
possible due to the pressures of his schedule. (Ibid.)

9. Gowon had received UK HICOM Hunt just before my
appointment. I have not had chance to check with Hunt
but I assume Gowon covered much same ground with him,
excepting request to receive spokesman. As Department
aware, PM Wilson has already seen Chief Enahoro.


393. Memorandum From Edward Hamilton of the National
Security Council Staff to the President's Special
Assistant (Rostow)/1/
Washington, November 27, 1967, p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Hamilton Files, Nigeria. Confidential. A note in
Rostow's handwriting on the source text reads: "You
sound sensible, as usual. R."



Comments on State's proposed itinerary for a Vice
Presidential trip to Africa

1. I think it is a very close question whether the
Vice President should go to Nigeria while the civil
war is going on. Joe Palmer thinks he should go, and I
am not comfortable arguing against a man who has spent
three years as Ambassador to Nigeria. But I think we
would have to realize that--however carefully the Vice
President's speeches are drafted--his visit would be a
clear and unmistakable political signal that we have
moved off the hands-off position in the civil war. At
the very least, the rebels would broadcast strong
statements to the effect that we have abandoned our
peace-making role and lined up with the Russians and
the British in support of the "neo-colonialist puppet
regime in Lagos."

Of course there is a case for doing just that. Our
hands-off posture rests in large part on a strong
suspicion that the feds can't lick the rebels, and
that we will have to deal with the sovereign state of
"Biafra" in the years ahead. The first few months of
the war seemed to confirm this prediction. The last
few months--since the arrival of Soviet weapons in
Lagos--suggest that Gowon's forces will prevail. Thus,
there is an argument that now is the time to repair
our relations with the winning side by a gratuitous
and newsworthy political gesture such as a Vice
Presidential visit.

But, on balance, I still think it is more trouble than
it is worth:

(i) It still isn't at all clear when or if the Ibo
rebels will be put out of business. They are in bad
trouble, but they could bounce back fast in the event
of a number of plausible contingencies ranging from
outside military help (probably Portugal, South Africa
and Rhodesia) to collapse of the Gowon regime (which
always suffers some level of internecine strife).

(ii) If we make this gesture and somehow Gowon does
get into trouble, we will be in a more difficult
position to refuse him military help. (We will, of
course, be in a difficult position anyway if a Biafran
revival is based on help from the Portuguese and/or
the white supremacists.)

(iii) Even if the feds win, the Vice President's visit
would make us fair game as negotiators and financiers
of the sticky problems of peace--a large group of
refugees (perhaps in the millions) fleeing across the
border to Cameroon, arrangements for the safety of the
conquered Ibos, etc.

(iv) There is an excellent chance that a Gowon victory
would bring bloody violence ranging from tribal
massacres of Ibos to summary trial and execution of
the rebel leaders. It may not be a pretty thing to be
associated with.

(v) There is the added danger that this violence may
occur while the Vice President is in Nigeria, or after
his public itinerary had been announced, making it
politically difficult for him not to go.

For these reasons--and recognizing that it is a 51-49
bet--I come out against a Vice Presidential visit to
Nigeria in January./2/

/2/Nigeria was dropped from the Vice President's
proposed itinerary.

[Here follows discussion of other aspects of the
proposed itinerary.]


394. Memorandum for the Record
Washington, February 7, 1968.

[Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files,
303 Committee, January-June 1968. Secret; Eyes Only. 1
page of source text not declassified.]

395. Airgram From the Embassy in Nigeria to the
Department of State/1/
Lagos, March 7, 1968.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1
NIGERIA-US. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by
Ambassador Mathews on February 29.


Nigeria: Annual U.S. Policy Assessment, 1967: A Candid

REF  Lagos A-419, February 11, 1968/2/

/2/Airgram A-419 from Lagos, February 11, transmitted
the 1967 annual U.S. policy assessment. (Ibid.)

"A deterioration of relations between the U.S. and
Nigeria in 1967 was inevitable." This sentence opening
the section on Nigeria and the West in the 1967 Policy
Assessment does not mean that the degree of
deterioration which actually occurred was inevitable.
To the contrary, I believe that much of the damage to
our position in Nigeria during 1967 could have been
avoided. I offer the following personal analysis of
the reasons for this avoidable damage in the hope that
it may contribute to preventing similar reverses in
future in Nigeria or elsewhere.

This analysis focuses on the psychology of our
approach to Nigerian developments, on certain aspects
of our short range policy and on selected USG actions.


Our approach to the conflict between the FMG and
"Biafra" has been colored by our revulsion, both
official and personal, against the brutalities
inflicted on the Ibos in 1966. Our sympathies have
been with the Ibos. In addition, many Americans admire
Ojukwu. We like romantic leaders, and Ojukwu has
panache, quick intelligence and an actor's voice and
fluency. The contrast with Gowon--troubled by the
enormity of his task, painfully earnest and slow to
react, hesitant and repetitive in speech--led some
Americans to view the Nigerian-"Biafran" conflict as a
personal duel between two mismatched individuals.

The most serious effect of these attitudes on our
approach to the conflict has been a consistent
underrating of FMG capabilities and overrating of
"Biafran" capabilities. This was particularly marked
in late 1966 and early 1967 when we were most
skeptical of the capabilities of the FMG, most
impressed with Ojukwu's prospects and, consequently,
most neutral toward the conflict. It is ironic that in
this same period Gowon was anxiously pursuing the same
short range objectives as the USG--i.e. the
preservation of some kind of a Nigerian nation and the
avoidance of civil war--while Ojukwu was whipping up
secessionist sentiment in "Biafra"-to-be and
accumulating arms.

In assessing the FMG's ability to maintain national
unity we concentrated too much on evidences of
discontent and disarray and too little on basic
factors favoring the FMG. First among these was the
strength of the concept of national unity among
non-Ibo Nigerians. Others were that Gowon and his
immediate associates controlled the only organized
power in the country--the military establishment and
the police--and that there were no effectively
functioning political organizations to oppose the FMG
or national unity. The record of Awolowo, the only
major political leader left in Nigeria, made it highly
likely that his stand would be strongly influenced by
his antipathy toward the Ibos and that he would opt
for unity if offered a leading role in the FMG.

Even after it became apparent that Nigeria was not
going to fall apart as a consequence of Eastern
secession and civil war, we tended to disregard the
wide disparity in available manpower and resources
between the FMG and "Biafra." We were surprised when
the FMG captured Nsukka and amazed when it seized
Bonny. Only in its short-lived occupation of the
Mid-West did "Biafra" measure up to our expectations.
We are still prone to cry, "stalemate," whenever FMG
forces suffer reverses or are slow in taking their
next objective.

Ojukwu and his associates in deciding on their course
of action in late 1966 and early 1967 were undoubtedly
influenced by awareness of American attitudes. To cite
my own case, I have often thought that if when I saw
Ojukwu in mid-October 1966 I had shown less sympathy
and stressed even more than I did the necessity of
keeping Nigeria together, he might subsequently have
given greater weight to the difficulties in the way of
successful secession. Many other Americans, official
and private, with whom "Biafrans" had contact were
more swayed by sympathy and admiration than I. The
result was that most Ibos convinced themselves that
the USG would regard "Biafra" with at least benevolent
neutrality. Even now some of them seem to believe that
if only they can find the right formula, the USG can
still be brought to support their cause.

Thanks to the American press and the reactions of
individual Americans, Nigerians supporting the FMG are
fully aware of our attitudes. They are baffled and
resentful. While many of them understand our revulsion
against the brutal treatment of the Ibos in 1966, they
believe we tend to overlook prior and subsequent
events and particularly Ojukwu's intransigence which
in their view is mainly responsible for Nigeria's
present situation.


A passive USG policy of non-involvement in situations
like the Nigerian crisis is not enough. It did not
prevent open involvement of private American citizens
in the delivery of obsolete U.S. made bombers to
"Biafra" and in the organization and operation of the
vital Lisbon-Port Harcourt airlift. By the time the
USG tried to discourage these activities, serious
damage had already been done to the U.S. position.
Many Nigerians simply do not believe that the USG
cannot prevent such activities by American citizens
and consequently accept charges that these are CIA

I have previously urged that we tighten our controls
on the removal of aircraft from the U.S. and on the
activities of USG licensed pilots and other air crew.
Although I still believe we should do this, the
experience of the past year makes me fear that the
smart operators would even then be at least two jumps
ahead of the USG.

It seems likely that we could more effectively inhibit
American involvement by pressing the hopeful
beneficiary rather than American citizens. If we had
told Ojukwu in October 1966 after the Warton crash in
Cameroun that we would publicly denounce any
subsequent attempts on his part to involve American
citizens in the Nigerian situation and would take
steps to ensure that the FMG was not put at a
disadvantage by any military materiel of U.S. origin
he might acquire, this active pursuit of
non-involvement might well have restrained Ojukwu's
attempts to give his secession an American aura.

A related problem arose from Ojukwu's skillful and
persistent efforts to enlist American journalists and
other potential publicists in the "Biafran" cause. He
was so successful, in part because of the magnificent
ineptitude of most FMG propaganda efforts, that the
American press usually gave the impression that the
U.S. strongly favored "Biafra." This made it difficult
to persuade Nigerians that the USG really was
non-involved. We could have helped ourselves by a more
active effort to dissociate the USG position from that
of the U.S. press.

Although apparently regarded in Washington as but one
aspect of the policy of non-involvement, our policy of
even-handedness during the first half of 1967 had a
separate, marked impact on the Nigerian situation. As
seen by Nigerians, it was a policy of involvement.
Equal treatment of an internationally accepted
national government and a dissident and subsequently
rebellious regional government could only redound to
the advantage of the latter. This was clearly
appreciated by Nigerians and "Biafrans", whose
reactions were understandably different. Nigerian
reactions ranged from outrage to nonplused dismay, and
the resulting scar tissue will abrade U.S.-Nigerian
relations for some time to come. The "Biafrans" were
delighted. It may be doubted, however, that we have
gained lasting credit even with the Ibos whose
eventual recollection of our role in their struggle
for independence will probably be that we fell far
short of their expectations.


Refusal to Sell 106mm Ammunition.

Our final refusal in early 1967 to fill long-standing
FMG orders for ammunition for the 106mm recoilless
rifles we had earlier sold Nigeria still rankles in
the minds of important FMG military figures who
considered the decision unfriendly and our
explanations evasive. I am mindful of the domestic
considerations which led to our refusal, but the cost
in terms of trust and understanding between the USG
and the FMG was heavy. I can think of no remedy for
this kind of situation except that we refrain from
supplying arms to any country unless the U.S. national
security interest is so compelling and continuing that
we are sure that we shall be willing to provide
follow-on support.

Resistance to Terminating AID and PC Projects in
Former Eastern Region.

We came close in June of last year to taking the
position that the USG could continue AID and PC
projects despite requests from the host government for
termination. Certainly the circumstances were
difficult and unusual, but unless we were prepared to
extend at least de facto recognition to Ojukwu's
government in the former Eastern Region, we had no
legal justification to resist the demands of the FMG
that we cease our operations in that area. Our brief
resistance served only to arouse deep suspicion of our
motives on the part of key FMG civil servants and many
other Nigerians.

Statement concerning FMG Request for Arms.

The uproar over the Department's press statement of
last July concerning the FMG request to the USG for
arms focused on the mischance that the statement used
the words "military assistance" in referring to a
request to buy arms. This was fortunate as it obscured
a much more important issue--namely, that the USG had
breached the confidence of the FMG. It will be
recalled that the FMG had classified its requests to
the USG and HMG as "Top Secret." While it was true
that the press in the U.S. and the U.K. had got wind
of the requests, this did not justify our public
disclosure without prior warning to the FMG. Had we
told the FMG in advance that we would have to admit to
the press that we had received its request, we could
have worked out a mutually satisfactory statement. We
would thus have avoided much of the public outcry and,
of more importance, the memory of our breach of
confidence now fixed in the minds of Gowon and other
senior FMG figures.

Statement concerning the Soviet Supply of Arms to the

In this instance we again disregarded our normal
practice of informing a friendly government in advance
when we found it necessary to make a public statement
affecting its interests. It is hardly likely that the
FMG would have given its approval to any USG public
pronouncement on the Nigerian purchase of arms from
the U.S.S.R., but we could at least have explained our
position before rather than after the event. Moreover,
if our statement had castigated the Communists for
supplying arms to both sides in the civil war, we
would have scored more effectively against the
Communists, made a greater impact in Africa and given
much less offense to the FMG.


The foregoing analysis has obviously not produced any
penetrating new insights. It does, however, suggest
the continuing truth of some old platitudes about the
conduct of foreign relations. I cite three which seem

1. Sentiment beclouds policy.

2. Great powers cannot avoid involvement; they can
only seek to ensure that it serves their interests.

3. Diplomacy is more effective before than after the


396. Information Memorandum From the Western Africa
Country Director, Bureau of African Affairs
(Melbourne) to the Assistant Secretary of State for
African Affairs (Palmer)/1/
Washington, April 18, 1968.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1
NIGERIA-US. Secret. Drafted by Alan M. Hardy of AFW.


Comments on Lagos A-469 (Postscript to Annual Policy
/2/Document 395.

Summary and Conclusion

Lagos A-469 questions some basic assumptions which
went into the formulation of U.S. policy toward
Nigeria in 1967. It also questions the policy itself
and how it was carried out, concluding that "much of
the damage to our position (in Nigeria) during 1967
could have been avoided."

In the Department's view our course of action in
Nigeria has been, even in retrospect, the right one.
The questions raised concerning it seem to flow
primarily from disagreement with the basic premise of
that policy, that the United States should not become
involved in the Nigerian civil war.

Behind our policy has been: (1) a determination not to
interfere in the internal affairs of Nigeria; (2) a
desire to promote a peaceful, and hence more durable,
resolution of the conflict between Biafra and the FMG;
(3) a reluctance to follow any course which might lead
to an increase in our international commitments; and
(4) a desire to maintain the best possible
relationships with all the major ethnic groups in
Nigeria, particularly those which might have emerged
as independent states. This policy of non-involvement,
especially as regards arms sales to the FMG has been
consistent with Congressional sentiment as expressed
in foreign aid hearings and such legislative acts as
the Conte-Long and Symington Amendments.

The hands-off attitude of the United States was of
course strongly objected to by the FMG. The FMG tended
to disregard the fact that we considered it to be the
only legal government in Nigeria. It also did not
appreciate fully that the U.S. still intended to make
a positive economic contribution to Nigeria so long as
that did not mean taking sides in the civil war. Most
of all, the FMG greatly resented the U.S. refusal to
license the sale of arms and the U.S. statement of
August 21, 1967, deploring its purchase of Soviet
arms./3/ Given these U.S. actions, which stemmed from
our policy, it is doubtful whether much, if any, of
the deterioration of our relations with the FMG in
1967 could have been prevented. This deterioration has
to be weighed against our avoidance of the risks of
intervention in Nigeria's internal affairs, our
demonstration to other Africans of our desire to avoid
big power interference in the affairs of African
states, and of not compromising our aid program with

/3/For text of the statement, see the Department of
State Bulletin, September 11, 1967, p. 320.

Four major reasons for our policy of non-involvement
in the Nigerian conflict are discussed below, as well
as the following comments on certain aspects of that
policy: the refusal to sell arms to the FMG; the U.S.
statements on arms sales to the FMG; and, our
even-handed approach to the conflict between the FMG
and "Biafra".


To some extent, "non-involvement" is a misnomer but it
has been used to describe our policy for the lack of a
better word. Recognition of the FMG and refusal to
recognize "Biafra," continuation of the AID program in
the West and North, urging of negotiations, and even
the refusal to supply arms are all forms of
involvement. But the real issue was whether the USG
was right in trying to minimize its role through its
policy of non-involvement and especially in preventing
in so far as possible U.S. arms reaching either side.

A decision to override the generally applicable
principle of non-interference in the case of Nigeria
would have required very strong justification in the
Department, to Congress and to the American people.
Our vital interests were not threatened by the
"Biafra" secession. We were not being requested to
intervene in behalf of a friendly government which an
internal minority, terrorist or otherwise, threatened
to take over. Nor were we requested to help combat
external aggression or an internal revolt abetted by
external assistance. Involvement on the FMG's side
would have needlessly antagonized those opposed to
U.S., Soviet, and other foreign interference in
Africa. It would have set a precedent to which other
African nations would have referred when, in analogous
or not so similar straits, they too wanted to enlist
us in their cause.

Promoting a Peaceful Settlement

Prior to "Biafran" secession, the U.S. attempted to
persuade both sides to negotiate their differences and
to reach agreement on an advantageous form of
political association. Unless the FMG and the Ibos
became reconciled there was little prospect for
stability and economic growth in Nigeria. After the
civil war broke out, we continued to urge a negotiated
settlement. Now, while sticking to this line in
anticipation of an FMG victory, we are urging national
reconciliation and magnanimous treatment of the Ibos
on the Federal Government. A negotiated settlement
before secession did seem possible, but we could not
have worked for it with both sides if we had
vigorously supported the FMG. It is difficult to see
how selling arms to the FMG, for example, could have
helped influence it toward a peaceful solution of its
differences with the East. On the contrary, it might
have had the opposite effect by appearing to condone
efforts for a military solution. Now that the civil
war is in progress, it is also difficult to see how
U.S. material support for the FMG's prosecution of the
war effort could help contribute to a negotiated
settlement or could help moderate FMG goals and action
in such a manner as to lead to national

Avoiding Increased International Commitments

The possibility that the United States would be drawn
into an ever-increasing role militarily and
politically in Nigeria did not have to be a
probability to make us wary of granting export
licenses for arms to the Federal Government of
Nigeria. Wholehearted support of the FMG would have
required risks we were not prepared to take given our
limited military and economic resources and our
commitments elsewhere. Moreover, the United States has
always preferred to let the British carry the major
burden in Nigeria--both militarily and economically.
To substitute for them could have increased the load
on us with no net gain to Nigeria. These arguments are
particularly applicable over the long run.

Not Alienating the East

A corollary to maintaining the best possible
relationship with whatever political entities might
come to the fore in Nigeria was retaining American
influence in Nigeria and with the Ibos, in order to
protect or further our interests there. Although this
was only one of the factors behind the Department's
desire not to become enmeshed in the civil war, it had
obvious advantages, especially when it appeared that
the Biafrans might achieve independence. As late as
mid-May 1967, reports from the field were reinforcing
the Washington assessment that the Yorubas under
Awolowo might secede from the FMG should the East
decide to pull out of the Nigerian federation. It was
predicted that this event would lead, perhaps after an
interval of chaos, to the establishment of three or
four independent Nigerian states. Although this danger
has ultimately subsided, it was real and could not be
ignored. We do not believe that this danger was
overrated or unduly influenced our policy.

In 1967 the Department may have underrated the
strength and cohesion of the Federal military.
However, as long as it appeared that the West and
North might not hold together within the FMG (i.e.
until the early summer of 1967), an evaluation of the
comparative strength of the Federal and "Biafran"
armies was only of secondary importance.

In August 1967, soon after the outbreak of fighting,
the Department, while not considering stalemate
impossible, began to appreciate that the FMG military
was much stronger than the "Biafrans" and by the
year's end had come to the view that FMG victory was
probably inevitable. Yet our basic policy with respect
to the Nigerian conflict--non-interference beyond
encouraging both sides to negotiate a peaceful
settlement--was not changed because that policy was
not determined by our estimates of FMG military

A desire to protect our interests in "Biafra" did not
lead to a pro-"Biafran" and anti-FMG attitude, but an
attitude of relative impartiality with respect to the
conflict between the two. Ojukwu was told many times
that the U.S. would not support his secessionist
effort. Unfortunately, without abandoning our policy
of non-involvement, there was no way to eliminate
entirely any wishful thinking that the U.S. might
eventually aid the Ibos. Even had we embraced the
Federal Government more warmly, however, it is
extremely doubtful that Ojukwu and the Ibos would have
changed their minds on secession.
An additional consideration on our attitude of
relative impartiality toward the FMG and "Biafra" is
relevant. While sentiment, wherever it is found, does
becloud policy, a natural repugnance against taking
sides in a struggle between two friendly parties is
not purely sentimental or unreasonable. Nor is a
refusal to take sides unreasonable for having taken
into account the fact that neither adversary has a
markedly better case to justify its actions than the
other. While we could not expect the FMG to welcome
our policy of non-involvement, we could have expected
them to respect the motives behind it and not require
that the sole, or even chief, criteria of friendship
should have been the willingness to license arms
sales, declare ourselves unequivocally for Lagos and
come out against its eastern opponents. Both General
Gowon and Foreign Affairs Commissioner Arikpo have
stated that the FMG has come to understand the
consistency of our position.

Refusal to Sell Arms to FMG

The principal reason the USG gave for not responding
to the FMG request to permit it to buy arms from U.S.
sources was put forth in an Aide-Memoire given
Ambassador Martins on July 3, 1967: the USG wished to
maintain its position of non-intervention in Nigeria's
internal affairs. This reasoning was also behind the
earlier denial of the request for 106mm recoilless
rifle ammunition. The amount of ammunition requested
in that instance was small and military confrontation
with the East was only emerging as a possibility.
However, the U.S. did not want to be wooed by the FMG
into adopting an arms policy that was a little bit
pregnant. While the adverse effects of refusing to
supply follow-on ammunition for the recoilless rifles
we had previously sold the FMG had to be considered,
they did not outweigh other factors in the scales. It
is questionable whether governments should reasonably
expect nations supplying them with arms to maintain
follow-on supplies when it is no longer in their
interest to do so.

The refusal to permit the sale of U.S. arms to
Nigeria, first the 106mm ammunition, and later jet
aircraft, defense boats and anti-aircraft guns, was
probably the biggest single irritant in our relations
with that country, but given our basic policy was

U.S. Statements on Arms Sales to the FMG

The FMG resentment over the Department's press
statement concerning the FMG request to buy arms in
the United States was of less significance and is
likely to be a more ephemeral irritant in our
relations with the FMG than the refusal to sell arms.
However, had it been shorter, had the term "military
assistance" not been uttered inadvertently, and had
the press not generated pressure for an early
statement, it might have been possible for information
on the arms request to have been released to the
public in a manner less apt to offend the FMG.

The FMG, playing its own domestic politics, was
apparently only too glad to seize upon the phrasing of
our statement and twist it so as to use the United
States as a scapegoat for its decision to buy Soviet
arms. It cannot be forgotten that Gowon over Memorial
Day weekend 1967 gave a virtual 72-hour decision
ultimatum to the USG in seeking its approval for
export licenses if he obtained aircraft, anti-aircraft
guns, and patrol boats in the U.S. This also had the
earmarks, with Ogbu then in Moscow, of an effort
planned to justify domestically the obtention of such
material from the USSR. The U.S. statement on Soviet
arms sales to the FMG has been of value in calling to
the attention of Nigerian leaders to our views
concerning Soviet arms supplies, making clear what our
reaction is likely to be should they mortgage
themselves to the Soviet Union. It was, however,
designed to call the Soviet intervention to the
attention of other African states and at the same time
clarify our position to Congress and the American
It is highly doubtful whether consulting with the
Nigerians prior to issuing the declaration would have
softened their reaction. Indeed, our refusal to make
alterations in the text to meet FMG objections could
have provoked greater FMG resentment. Again, however,
pressures in Washington may have resulted in a less
ideal statement than would otherwise have been

There is little basis for criticizing the purport of
the declarations we made concerning FMG arms
procurement. It was the purport, not the manner, of
those statements which has caused the far greater
portion of the deterioration of our relations with the


Our policy on the Nigerian civil war was based in part
(1) on recognition that the East was not totally at
fault in its conflict with the FMG; (2) on the
political advantage which might be harvested at a late
date if we retained the goodwill of all political
entities likely to become independent; and (3) on
encouraging FMG moderation. This called for an
even-handed approach in our treatment of the two
belligerents on other matters. Thus, we have been
careful not to give all-out vocal support to the FMG,
although we have firmly declared we sympathize with
its desire to maintain Nigerian unity. We have
particularly refrained from giving any endorsement to
the FMG conduct of the war. At the same time, we
attempted to retain our aid program in Eastern Nigeria
as long as possible. The cost of these and other
attempts at even-handedness seems bearable in the
light of the difficulties we might have encountered
had we lined up with the Federal Government only to
see it disintegrate and "Biafra" establish its

In this connection, it is especially important not to
confuse the damage to our relations with the FMG
caused by the refusal to agree to licensing sales of
arms with the relatively minor harm done by our other
attempts to maintain an unantagonistic position with
respect to the Ibos. In our relations with the FMG the
refusal of arms sales licenses was damaging but
unavoidable. The attempt at even-handedness, in so far
as it went beyond our arms policy, was avoidable but
much less damaging. It was worth pursuing in view of
other considerations--principally maintaining our
position in "Biafra," reinforcing our posture of
non-intervention and, prior to the outbreak of
hostilities, trying to use influence with both sides
to induce them to negotiate their differences. These
considerations were in harmony with Congressional and
public sentiment.

The Department of State has done everything it could
to discourage U.S. citizens from aiding "Biafra" and
to keep U.S. manufactured arms and aircraft out of
"Biafran" hands. Our legal authority has been severely
limited, but there are many documented instances where
we have headed off confirmed or probable arms and
aircraft sales to "Biafra" by refusing licenses. We
have tried to convince American citizens to cease
trafficking in arms. We have used every legal means
available to discourage them. This is evidenced

(1) by our efforts to have the licenses of certain
individuals revoked when they violated FAA regulations
in connection with their illicit arms deliveries, and

(2) by our cooperation with Maltese authorities who
impounded an illegally registered aircraft used in the
"Biafran airlift."

We believe that the approach and content of our policy
of non-interference in the internal affairs of Nigeria
have not done irrevocable damage to the Western
position in Nigeria. It can be argued that over the
long run the effect might be salutary. For a limited
and temporary setback in our relations, we think we
have avoided the many risks of involvement and perhaps
caused increasing appreciation among African nations
for our efforts to minimize big power intervention on
that continent. We believe we have also avoided the
possibility of compromising our ongoing AID program
with Congress.

397. National Intelligence Estimate/1/
NIE 64.2-68
Washington, May 2, 1968.

/1/Source: Central Intelligence Agency: Job
79-R01012A, ODDI Registry of NIE and SNIE Files.
Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to a note on the
cover sheet, the estimate was submitted by Director of
Central Intelligence Richard M. Helms, and concurred
in by the U.S. Intelligence Board on May 2.



A. The Federal Military Government's (FMG) forces
clearly hold the upper hand in the Nigerian civil war
and a military victory for Biafra seems highly
unlikely. We cannot, however, rule out a settlement
which left a Biafra with a large degree of autonomy.
The Ibos, who dominate Biafra, are resisting
stubbornly because they believe that Federal forces
are intent upon exterminating them or at least
reducing them to subjugation in a reunited Nigeria.

B. Whatever the outcome of the war, we believe that
political instability will plague Nigeria for some
considerable time to come, and that traditional tribal
and regional dissension throughout the country will
persist. The new internal division of the country into
12 states will exacerbate the divisive trends.
Moreover, we see no national leadership in sight
capable of winning the broad popular support or
otherwise exercising the national control needed to
deal effectively with the complicated tasks of
political, social, and economic reconstruction.

C. The civil war and the preceding months of confusion
have virtually halted economic development in areas
controlled by the FMG, and have drastically disrupted
Biafra's economy. If the FMG achieves a military
victory, it would face complex problems of economic
and political reconstruction, and would seek
considerable outside help. Although it could expect
large petroleum earnings, resumption of economic
development will depend on political and security
conditions. The economic outlook for a reunited
Nigeria over the next several years appears dimmer now
than it did a few years ago.

D. The position of the Soviets has improved as a
result of Moscow's promptness in providing military
equipment to the FMG; this is likely to persist. The
US has lost influence primarily because the FMG
resents the US policy of noninvolvement in the civil
war. After the war, Nigeria is likely to follow a
foreign policy more nonaligned and less pro-Western
than in the past, and the competition among foreign
powers will be a disruptive factor on the Nigerian

[Here follows the Discussion section of the estimate.]

398. Memorandum From Edward Hamilton of the National
Security Council Staff to the President's Special
Assistant (Rostow)/1/
Washington, August 12, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Country File, Nigeria, Vol. II, Memos & Miscellaneous,
8/67-1/69. Secret.


Status Report on Nigeria

I thought it might be useful if I elaborated on the
points I was making this morning. The Nigerian problem
has not changed much in your absence, except to get
progressively worse. It now stands as follows:

1. The two sides are in conference in Addis under the
auspices of the OAU and the Chairmanship of Haile
Selassie. The Feds have tabled a 9-point peace plan
which, though still demanding that the Biafrans
renounce secession, is by far the most realistic
proposal yet offered. The proposal promises outside
truce supervision by a neutral force (perhaps composed
of Indians, Canadians and Ethiopians) an Ibo-dominated
government for the Ibo heartland, a largely Ibo police
force in Ibo areas, guarantee against a flood of
Federal troops into Iboland, and a somewhat qualified
promise of amnesty for the rebels. The Biafrans have
flatly and publicly rejected this scheme, because it
would require them to give up secession. As of Friday
night, our people in Addis thought there was little
hope that the talks would survive this week.

2. However, H.I.M. took things in hand and made it
very difficult for either side to walk out. They are
meeting again today on the basis of his secret
proposals (to which we are not privy). Our betting is
that Selassie is trying to get agreement on relief as
a separate matter from the political settlement, which
apparently is not yet possible.

3. We are doing everything we can--which is really
very little--to help the Addis talks along. The
President approved and sent a public message to H.I.M.
before the start of the talks, as well as a
confidential message to Houphouet-Boigny, who is
likely to be the strongest influence on the rebels. We
also made a demarche with Gowon in Lagos. We have now
sent contingency messages from Rusk to H.I.M., to be
delivered if the talks break down, which press for
agreement on relief whatever the status of the
political issues.

4. On the relief front, there has been little but
frustration. Estimates of the extent of suffering
vary, but the range (e.g., 400-600 per day passing the
point of no return of protein starvation) are
sufficiently horrible to make the differences
meaningless. The Red Cross has been flying 16-20 tons
of food a night in its lone DC-4 (3 more DC-4's are
due soon). Even these flights have now been stopped,
however, because Biafran arms planes have taken
advantage of the reduced flak Gowon puts up against
mercy flights, so that Gowon has stopped making any
special provisions and the Red Cross has had some near
misses. Thus, at the moment there is no relief food at
all getting into Biafra.

5. Nor, I am afraid, is there a dependable mechanism
for getting food in if the political settlement came
tomorrow. The Red Cross has been woefully slow and
ineffective in arranging the logistics, and I am
afraid our Mission in Lagos is too sensitive to the
feelings of the Federal Government to have done much

6. Today, therefore, we launched Bob Moore, Joe
Palmer's Deputy, to Geneva to try to (a) get the Red
Cross thinking in terms of the airlift proposition I
mentioned this morning, and (b) get the machine built
which could provide the food if the politics will
allow. Moore's dispatch was made with a reasonable
fanfare, which should help some at home.

7. The constraints on relief remain unchanged. The
Nigerians will allow a land corridor, but not an
airlift unless we can guarantee it won't be used to
aid arms shipments to Biafra. Biafrans will accept
food by air but not by land, on the ground that any
food which passes through Federal territory is likely
to be poisoned. The Red Cross will not engage in any
relief operation which does not have the explicit
approval and full cooperation of both sides.

8. There is one possible break this afternoon. The Red
Cross thinks Ojukwu is about to agree to set aside a
particular airstrip solely for relief use. The Red
Cross has instructed its Lagos man to try that out on
Gowon. This may work, although Gowon is under immense
pressure from his hawks (which include almost the
entire Hausa population) not to allow any relief,
particularly any which involved air traffic into

9. All of this is happening in the shadow of what is
pretty clearly a buildup for a new Federal offensive
designed to take the 10,000 square miles still held by
the rebels. Joe Palmer, who has just returned from
Nigeria, thinks this will happen within the next
couple of weeks. There are also mounting reports on
increased Biafran military activity, allegedly (though
probably falsely) led by French officers. If either or
both sides take the offensive, the relief problem
becomes almost impossible. We have had a strong go at
the Feds on this point, but their answer is a
forbidding "The other side has left us little choice."

10. The public pressure here mounts daily. Biafran
starvation has been front page news almost constantly
while you were away, and I have learned this afternoon
that Time now plans to do next week's cover story on
this problem. American opinion is heavily pro-Biafran,
though without much knowledge of the facts. Both the
Vice President and Senator McCarthy have issued very
strong statements urging that we "cut red tape" and
"do more than futile gestures."

Unless Haile Selassie can bring off a miracle, we're
clearly down to the nitty gritty on this one with no
solution in sight. Gowon cannot accept Biafran
secession and hold his Government and the rest of the
Federation together. Ojukwu, bolstered by De Gaulle
and Houphouet-Boigny, still believes he is better off
holding out than allowing his troops to be disarmed
and risking slaughter of the Ibos. The Red Cross is
slow, timid and inept. The Brits are acting as though
they have decided that the only solution is a military
solution imposed by Gowon. The French are actively
pro-Biafran. The OAU is pro-Nigerian but split by the
fact that four of its members recognize Biafra. The
Russians are largely disinterested and identify with
the Nigerians to the degree that they are interested.
U Thant and the Pope make strong statements but are
largely powerless.

Our own approach has been and is to (a) stimulate the
Red Cross to serve as the international cover for a
relief operation; (b) press, largely confidentially,
on both sides to agree to a settlement, or at least to
a relief agreement; (c) offer any and all help
necessary to make a relief operation work; (d) push
particularly hard on Gowon to dramatize the fact that
it is not the Federal Government that is keeping the
food out of Biafra; and (e) work out the logistics of
the relief scheme so that it is ready to move as soon
as political arrangements are made.

As I told you this morning, my own view is that our
best hope is to persuade Gowon to permit air drops of
food from planes departing from Federal territory.
This would allow him to inspect cargoes to be sure
there are no arms; dramatize the fact that he wants to
aid the hungry; and it would actually move sizeable
amounts of food into Biafra. From here on in it's a
race between this scheme and the military offensive we
think is planned.

399. Telegram From the Department of State to the
Embassy in Nigeria/1/
Washington, August 15, 1968, 1553Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Special Head of State Correspondence File,
Nigeria-Presidential Correspondence. Confidential;
Flash. Drafted by Smith, cleared by Hamilton at the
White House and Katzenbach, and approved by Palmer.
Also sent to London. Repeated to Addis Ababa and the
U.S. Mission at Geneva.

221355. Please deliver urgently following personal
message from President to General Gowon./2/

/2/Telegram 11748 from Lagos, August 15, reported the
delivery of the President's message to Gowon that day.
Gowon told the Ambassador that he had already decided
that the FMG could not accept the ICRC's proposal for
a relief airstrip because the airstrip that Ojukwu had
offered was already under attack and likely to fall
into FRG hands soon and because he did not like the
way the ICRC had handled the matter, attempting to
"face the FMG with fait accompli." (Department of
State, Central Files, POL 27-9 BIAFRA-NIGERIA)

1. "Your Excellency: I have been kept fully informed
of the efforts of the International Committee of the
Red Cross to make arrangements for the supply of
urgently needed food and other relief supplies to the
civilian victims of the Nigerian war. We have
supported those efforts in the past and continue to do
so now.

"Knowing that you share my own deep concern over the
suffering of those innocent persons, I feel justified
in addressing this personal appeal to you to give your
urgent agreement to the ICRC proposals for an air
mercy corridor. Hopefully, this can be followed by
rapid agreement on a land corridor.

"Your Excellency, the conscience of the world has been
deeply moved by reports of starvation in Nigeria, and
tons of food are already in position near the most
needy areas. The world will not easily understand any
failure on the part of those most concerned to agree
to effective, international, humanitarian arrangements
to alleviate this suffering. I therefore most
earnestly urge you to make it possible for relief
supplies to move rapidly into the hands of the needy
by facilitating the establishment of this relief
corridor on an urgent basis.

"I trust that I need hardly add, Your Excellency, that
in sending you this message I am motivated solely by
compelling humanitarian concerns.

Sincerely yours, LBJ."

2. For London: Inform appropriate HMG officials of
above message and urge that UK make parallel demarche.


400. Editorial Note

At a meeting of the National Security Council on
September 25, 1968, Representative to the United
Nations George W. Ball briefly reviewed issues likely
to arise at the forthcoming meeting of the U.N.
General Assembly. Notes of the meeting prepared by W.
Thomas Johnson of the White House staff record Ball's
comments under the heading of "Biafra" as follows:

"Hardships and suffering are enormous.
"Both sides are willing to sacrifice millions of lives
to win political position.
"Very little food getting in.
"Africans do not want the U.N. in on it--they say it's
an African problem.
"I propose the President designate somebody to deal
with humanitarian problems.
"There is great pressure to do something on it. We
must help the ICRC and other international agencies."

There was no further discussion concerning Nigeria.
(Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings,
September 25, 1968, National Security Council)

401. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the
National Security Council Staff to the President's
Special Assistant (Rostow)/1/

Washington, November 14, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Country File, Nigeria, Vol. II, Memos & Miscellaneous,
8/67-1/69. Confidential.


The Next Step in Nigerian Relief

It is worth a moment of your time to catch up on the
Nigerian situation. Joe Palmer is back from Africa and
Nick Katzenbach is engaging himself more deeply than
ever. They may be approaching a sharp policy
For the past several weeks, we have been struggling
with a situation with two major elements:

1. The great humanitarian concern for starving people,
mostly in Biafra. Our body politic from Ted Kennedy to
the major religious-relief organizations has shown
increasingly vocal concern not only over the present
situation but over a possible major carbohydrate
famine beginning in December. Against this background,
we in the White House and people at the Katzenbach
level in State have become deeply concerned over the
thought of Lyndon Johnson leaving the White House with
this kind of seemingly preventable disaster at its

2. The work-a-day problems of getting aid to the
people who need it. AF and AID have pointed all along
to the very real difficulties of getting the relief
agencies to pull together and of persuading the two
sides in the civil war to let them operate as freely
as necessary. However, we seem to have reached a point
where it is impossible to get either AF or AID to
think beyond current limitations, so our recognition
of real practical problems has assumed an overtone of
pure negativism, at least in the public eye.
Nick Katzenbach's response to this dilemma has been to
set up this morning a working group that will report
directly to him its analysis of a wide-range of new
ideas--some wild, some not so wild./2/ The group will
be mostly AF and AID types but Roger/3/ will sit in
for us.

/2/The working group submitted a memorandum from
Palmer to the Under Secretary on "U.S. Alternatives in
the Nigerian Crisis," December 1. (Department of
State, Central Files, POL 27 BIAFRA-NIGERIA)

/3/Roger Morris of the National Security Council

We don't predict startling success because the problem
really is a tough one. However, I think we have done
about as well as we could hope to in getting the
Department to take a fresh look at what is already a
tragic situation and could get a lot worse.
You should be aware that Roger deserves full credit
for having pushed the issue to this point. Using me as
a sounding board, he has carried the ball in engaging
the Katzenbach staff and in letting AF know that we
just couldn't afford to let this go on any longer.


402. Memorandum From Roger Morris of the National
Security Council Staff to the President's Special
Assistant (Rostow)/1/
Washington, December 24, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Country File, Nigeria, Vol. II, Memos & Miscellaneous,
8/67-1/69. Secret.



Nigeria at Tuesday Lunch

Secretary Rusk may raise Nigerian relief at lunch
today, recommending that we provide 8 Globemaster
transports (1948-vintage) to the international relief
effort. Here are the facts:

1. We have a formal request from the church voluntary
agencies--Catholics, Protestants and Jews--for 6 of
these aircraft. Their application has political clout
behind it, including Senators Kennedy, McCarthy,
Mondale, Pearson; Speaker McCormack, and several other

2. Excess Globemasters are available, and Defense is
ready to turn them over to anybody who can use them.
The relief agencies have people to fly these planes.
The airfields they are now using can easily
accommodate Globemasters (where C-130's are a
problem); and these planes would roughly double their
current transport capacity per flight.
The voluntary agencies and their champions on the Hill
are quite aware of all these facts.

3. Providing the planes would be a straight transfer
of ownership. (Defense would "sell" the aircraft to
the agencies at scrap prices, and we would juggle
relief contributions, in effect, to pay ourselves.) No
U.S. military personnel would be involved in any part
of the relief operation of the aircraft in or around
Nigeria. The transaction would be entirely routine on
the grounds that these aircraft are available to any
reputable buyer. Our sales contract would stipulate
pro forma that the planes would not be used for
military purposes.

4. The only real problem here is with the Federal
Military Government. They are bound to object to our
giving planes, if only because they regard the
voluntary agencies as pro-Biafran and sometime gun
runners. But everyone agrees that this is manageable:

(a) We have come up with 8 planes rather than 6 and
can afford to split the contribution between the
voluntary agencies and Red Cross, which puts a better
face on it for the Feds.

(b) The voluntary agencies are ready to accept
reasonable inspection arrangements to ensure that
their Globemasters are flying strictly relief.

In any case, we are persuaded that it is much easier
to justify Globemasters to the Feds than to explain
the refusal to Kennedy, McCormack et al. And it's
certainly preferable to explain to anybody a simple
transaction now of old airplanes rather than
U.S.-manned C-130's a month from now.

This deal makes eminent good sense. It will cost us
nothing, can save lives, and will, for the time being
at least, lessen the Congressional heat here at home.
Having nursed this thing personally through the
bureaucracy, I recommend you add a strong second to
the Secretary, if he raises it./2/

/2/An attached memorandum from Katzenbach to the
President, dated December 24, indicates Johnson's

Where We Stand Otherwise

Our first priority is to try to get some food in
during this Christmas truce. But the prospects are
bleak. The Feds have flatly turned down the Emperor's
appeal, and Gowon is "too busy" to see our man today
in Lagos. I'll be huddling again today with Katzenbach
and his people to go over ways to break (or publicly
condemn) this logjam in Lagos. Meanwhile, there is
also the following:

--Haile Selassie has asked us for our advice and help
in following up his cease-fire plea. We are telling
him today (i) he should lean hard once more on Gowon
to reciprocate Biafra's de facto acceptance of the
truce; (ii) the Emperor should push both sides on the
opening of daylight relief flights and a land corridor
(there are up to 2-3,000 tons of food we might get in
overland in a matter of hours if both sides
cooperate); and (iii) the Emperor might consider
calling a conference of interested powers--the U.S.,
U.K., France, Soviet Union, relief agencies, the Feds
and Biafrans--to get more resources and more
coordination for the relief problem. The idea of a
conference is just a long shot, but it has the
advantage of putting some parties--the Soviets and in
part the Feds--on the hook.

The Emperor can't do much, of course, so long as the
Feds are absolutely inflexible on the cease-fire

The Biafrans have come to us quietly about outfitting
an airfield to be used exclusively for relief, in
addition to the one they now have, which takes both
relief and arms flights. There are manifold problems
with this. But we're quietly offering to send in an
expert from one of the relief agencies to see what
they have in mind. We're telling the Biafrans, as we
tell everybody, that we are closing no options on
saving lives.

If the situation goes true to form, everything above
will be over-taken by events 24 hours from now. But
I'll keep you informed as sensibly as possible over
the next few days.