Psychological Explanations of Bargain Failure: 1968 Civil War in Nigeria

Recently in class, we discussed the concept of using psychological explanations for bargaining failures. I will discuss a bargaining failure that occurred in Nigeria that led to a devastating civil war in 1968.

Like most African countries, Britain carved an area out of West Africa containing hundreds of different ethnic groups and unified it, calling it Nigeria. The three major ethic groups of this area were Igbos in the southwest, Hausa-Fulani in the North and Yoruba in the southeast.  The British had different ways of ruling all three tribes. The Hausa-Fulani people were predominantly Muslim and had an emir, therefore, the British had indirect control and the people had less Western influence. With indirect rule, the British government ruled the people by ruling the emirs.  However, the British had a mix of direct and indirect rule over the Yoruba. However, they had direct rule Igbo people due to the tribes’ smaller political structures. The difference between direct and indirect rule is with direct rule, colonial powers have more control and influence in the country they rule. The Igbos had the most British influence and were forced to speak English and adopt Western traditions and religion. British interaction with all three tribes affected the Nigerian society and how the civil war emerged.

On October 1st 1960, Nigeria gained its independence from Britain and the country was ready for unity, however, seven years later a civil war occurred between the Nigerian government and Eastern Nigeria.  Although there were a variety of ethnic groups in the East, the Igbo people had the more employment opportunities due to their Western education from the British. Due to economic tensions, a military takeout and the massacre of 300,00 Igbo’s led to the declatation of the Republic of Biafra by the leader of Eastern Nigeria, Colonel Emeka Ojukwu. Whenever a group of people seem to dominate the economic system, tension between ethic groups increase.  In pursuit of safety and peace for Igbo people, the government of Biafra promised all Igbo people entrance into the new independent state due to the harshness they faced from the Nigerian government.

As we learned in class, attempted error is when a person sees internal ideas of another individual to explain their behavior or the persons upcoming action in the future. Stein also mentions that group identities that have historical tension can lead to bargaining failure.

Before the war occurred, the Aburi Accord was held in 1967  in Aburi, Ghana  as a way to reduce tension and prevent war. The two oppositions were the Colonel Ojukwu, head of Eastern Nigeria and Gwon, leader of the Nigerian government. Gwon was mostly favored by the Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba people. The accord was suppose to reorganized armed forces, constitutional agreement and discuss the displaced people within the country.  Due to historical ethnic issues, both parties could not trust each other enough to proceed with negotiations with one another. Especially because of the lack of Igbo representation Nigerian government. Ojukwu believed if he did not break away from Nigeria, the Eastern region would not be able to play a role in the government that had a majority of opposition ethnic tribes. Due to constant violence and lack of goverment, Ojukwu would have came to the idea Gwon would not be willing to do two things. First, allow Eastern Nigeria to play a huge role in the government. Second, protect the rights of the Igbo’s who were being killed due to economic and ethnic tensions. These reason would have led a leader like Ojukwu to declare the state of Biafra and go to war with Nigeria.



2 thoughts on “Psychological Explanations of Bargain Failure: 1968 Civil War in Nigeria

  1. Thank you for writing on this topic; it is something I was not aware much about. I know that Nigeria had civil war during that time but do remember much about what exactly happened. I definitely see how ethnic tensions could lead to mistrust and how that would lead to lack of cooperation.


  2. Also I did not know much about this topic, so thank you for writing on this topic! In this article, the points were focused on the reason the bargain failure occurred from the viewpoint of ethnic groups. I know there was civil war in Nigeria called “Biafran War” which was the conflict between the government, supported by primarily Britain, and Biafran group supported by mainly France, whose leader was Ojukwu. During the war, the government group surrounded the Biafran group to stop the supplies of adversaries. Although Non-Governmental Organization attempted to give a supplies to the Biafran, the government group at last attacked them to stop. As a result, the large scale of famine occurred in Biafra groups, which made it famous for tragedies in the world.


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