The architects of Biafra were correct in their frustration with the Nigerian government, which did not intervene as thousands of Ibos were massacred. But they were deluding themselves that Biafra was viable. The nascent state had virtually no chance of survival once the authorities in Lagos decided they were going to stamp out the secession in what they called a “police action.” Was Biafra ever really a “country,” as Achebe would have it? It had ministries, oil wells, a ragtag army, an often-shifting capital, official cars (Achebe had one) and a famous airstrip. But as a “country,” it was stillborn. Nonetheless, for over two brutal years, the Biafran war dragged on at the insistence of Ojukwu — described as “brooding, detached and sometimes imperious” in a 1969 New York Times profile by Lloyd Garrison — and meddling international players. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed. As many as 6,000 a day starved to death once the federal government blockaded the ever diminishing Republic of Biafra. But Ojukwu refused to give up. The final death toll was estimated at between one and three million people.

more from Adam Nossiter at the NY Times here.