Nigeria: History of Nigeria
Nigeria or The Federal Republic of Nigeria as the name is officially pronounced is a country in the western region of Africa. Nigeria is by far the most populated of Africa’s countries, with more than one-seventh of the continent’s people. The historical facts about Nigeria date back to 9000BC. In the early centuries ad, kingdoms emerged in the northern savannah region of Nigeria, prospering from trade ties with North Africa.
At roughly the same time, the southern forested areas of Nigeria yielded city-states and looser federations sustained by agriculture and coastal trade. These systems changed radically with the arrival of Europeans in the late 15th century. The historical facts about Nigeria could be categorised into pre-colonial history of the savannah i.e. northern part and the pre-colonial history of the southern part (the rain forest region) of Nigeria.
Pre-colonial History of the savannah; northern part of Nigeria:
The earliest form of civilisation in the northern part of Nigeria is the Nok culture. The Nok culture was prominent and thrived between 500BC and 200AD. The Nok people in north central Nigeria produced terracotta sculptures that have been discovered by archaeologists. Their symbols reflect authority associated with ancient Egyptian pharaohs, and the god Osiris, and suggests that an ancient Egyptian style of social structure, and perhaps religion, existed in the area of modern Nigeria during the late Pharonic period. The Nok are also the earliest of West Africa’s known ironworkers.
(The Nok are named for a village where miners first unearthed their artifacts.) Their famous figurines in terra cotta have influenced centuries of central Nigerian sculpture. Today the art of several central Nigerian peoples continues to reflect Nok culture and style.
As part of the northern Nigeria’s history, the first well-documented state was the kingdom of Kanem, which emerged east of Lake Chad in what is now southwestern Chad by the 9th century ad. Kanem profited from trade ties with North Africa and the Nile Valley, from which it also received Islam. The state, however, failed to sustain a lasting peace. During one particular period sometime between the 12th and 14th centuries, the Saifawas were forced to move across Lake Chad into Bornu, in what is now far northeastern Nigeria.
There, the Kanem intermarried with the native peoples, and the new group became known as the Kanuri. The Kanuri state centered first in Kanem and then in Bornu, is known as the Kanem-Bornu Empire, hereafter referred to as Bornu. Hausa kingdoms and the Kanem-Bornu Empire prospered as trade thrived between North and West Africa. The Kanuri eventually returned to Chad and conquered the empire lost by the Saifawas. In the late 16th century, the Bornu king Idris Alooma expanded the kingdom again and Bornu exerted considerable political influence over Hausaland to the west. In the mid- and late 18th century, severe droughts and famines weakened the kingdom, but in the early 19th century Bornu enjoyed a brief revival under al-Kanemi, a shrewd military leader who resisted a Fulani revolution that swept over much of Nigeria. Al-Kanemi’s descendants continue as traditional rulers within Borno State. The Kanem-Bornu Empire ceased to exist in 1846 when it was absorbed into the Wadai sultanate.
The Fulani became the leaders of a centralized Fulani Empire which continued until 1903 when the Fulani were divided up among European colonizers. Between 1750 and 1900, between one- to two-thirds of the entire population of the Fulani jihad states consisted of slaves. As early as the 7th century ad were smelting iron ore, arose in what is today north western and north central Nigeria, to Bornu’s west. The origin of these cultures, however, is a mystery. Legend holds that Bayajidda, a traveler from the Middle East, married the queen of Daura, from whom came seven sons. Each of the sons is reputed to have founded one of the seven Hausa kingdoms in Nigeria: Kano, Rano, Katsina, Zazzau (Zaria), Gobir, Kebbi, and Auyo.
The seven city-states developed into strong trading centers that were surrounded by a wall and with an economy based on intensive farming, cattle raising, craft making, and later slave trading. In each Hausa state, a monarch, probably elected, ruled over a network of feudal lords, most of whom had embraced Islam by the 14th century. The states maintained persistent rivalries, which at times made them easy prey to the expansion of Bornu and other kingdoms. The immigration of Fulani pastoralists, who came from the west to make a home in the Nigerian savannah and who permeated large areas of Nigeria’s Hausa land over several centuries became a strong threat to the Hausa kingdom. In the year 1804, Usman Dan Fodio declared a jihad (holy war) against the Hausa states in Nigeria, whose rulers he condemned for allowing Islamic practices to deteriorate. Local Fulani leaders, motivated by both spiritual and local political concerns, received Usuman’s blessing to overthrow the Hausa rulers in the then Nigeria. The Fulani eventually overthrew the Hausa rulers and also conquered areas beyond Hausa land, including Adamawa to the east and Nupe and Ilorin to the southern part of Nigeria. At the beginning of the 19th century under Usman dan Fodio the Fulani became the leaders of a centralized Fulani Empire which continued until 1903 when the Fulani were divided up among European colonizers.
Precolonial history of the southern (rain forest) region of Nigeria:
The precolonial historical facts about the southern and coastal (rainforest) part of Nigeria could be subdivided into the Yoruba and the Ibo history.
Yoruba people date their presence in the area of modern republics of Nigeria, Benin and Togo to about 8500 BC. The kingdoms of Ifẹ and Oyo in the western block of Nigeria became prominent about 700–900 and 1400 respectively. Ife houses the history of what is now the south-western Nigeria. Ife was the first of the Yoruba Kingdoms dating back to the 11th – 12th century. Ife culture and sculpture portrayed that of highly skilled artworks on terra-cotta, ivory and wood. In the coming centuries, Ife’s influence spread well beyond its borders.
The Benin Kingdom was the next to arise after Ife though it was different from the Yoruba kingdoms in Nigeria. Its power lasted between the 15th and 19th century. Their dominance reached as far as the well known city of Eko, which was later named Lagos Nigeria by the Portuguese. Benin was a large, well-designed city sustained by trade (both within the region and, later, with Europe). Its cultural legacy includes a wealth of elaborate bronze plaques and statues recording the nation’s history and glorifying its rule. To the northwest of Ife, Oyo which is another Yoruba city state arose replacing Ife as the Yoruba land’s Political seat while Ife continued to serve as the spiritual centre of Yoruba land.
Oyo controlled trade with the Portuguese when they first arrived, goods traded include: pepper, and later slaves hence when Britain banned the slave trade in Nigeria in the early 19th century, Oyo found it difficult to maintain its prosperity. The Oyo state of Ilorin broke away from the empire in 1796, and then joined the northern Sokoto caliphate in 1831 after Fulani residing in Ilorin seized power. The Oyo empire collapsed with all of Yoruba land—Oyo, Ife, and other areas dragging them into a bloody civil war that lasted for decades.
The Historical facts about south eastern Nigeria dates back to 900AD as suggested by some degree of civilisation from archaeological sites. The early people of Igbo land had developed trade links.
Their artworks include fine bronze statutes. There was no centralised form of empires and kingdoms in Nigeria’s south eastern region like the types that was obtainable in the northern states. A few clans maintained power, perhaps the strongest of which was the Aro; the Aro lived west of the Cross River, near present-day Nigeria’s southeastern border, and rose to prominence in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Aro were oracular priests for the region and used this role to secure large numbers of slaves. The slaves were sold in coastal ports controlled by other groups such as the Ijo.
The Colonial Era in Nigeria:
The Europeans who were mostly British penetrated Nigeria though slowly unlike other parts of West Africa like Ghana and Senegal. At that time , trade between them and Nigerians involved weapons, alcohol and some other goods in exchange for slaves. Estimate of slaves traded from West Africa ranged from 10 to 30 million. Eventually, slave trade was abolished in 1807 by Britain. Britain’s motivations were partly humanitarian as there was a reform movement at home and partly economic: The British Empire no longer had American colonies whose economic growth depended on slaves, and moreover the rise of industrialization meant Britain needed Nigeria’s and Africa’s raw materials more than its people.
This resulted in trade in products such as palm oil, which Europeans valued highly as an industrial lubricant, replacing the trade in humans. Most of Nigeria’s former slave-trading states were weakened by the loss of income. A few of Nigerian states managed to continue a much-reduced contraband slave trade until the 1860s. Others used slave labour to farm plantations of oil palm.
1884 through 1885 marked the period when Britain mapped Africa into spheres of influence during the Berlin West Africa Conference. Britain consolidated its territory in Nigeria. The Lagos Nigeria Colony was first declared in 1861 and in 1887 a new protectorate, Oil Rivers (later the Niger Coast Protectorate), was created in the Niger Delta. The British waged bloody and ruthless war on resisting coastal and forest peoples of Nigeria, particularly in Benin, Nupe, and Ilorin and they were able to get their hold in the south by 1897. Treaties were signed with several African states, including Nupe, Sokoto, and Gwandu, thus depriving French and German rivals access to the northern region.
In 1990, Britain declared that a colonial government would rule Nigeria as two protectorates: one in the south and one in the north. (Lagos was incorporated into the southern Nigerian protectorate in 1906) Simultaneously, Britain went to war against the Sokoto caliphate in the northwest, conquering it by 1903. Remaining pockets of resistance within the caliphate and elsewhere in northern Nigeria were conquered over the next few years. In 1914 Britain joined the two protectorates into a single colony, and in 1922 part of the former German colony of Kamerun was attached to Nigeria as a League of Nations-mandated territory. Western education and the development of a modern economy proceeded more rapidly in the south than in the north, with consequences felt in Nigeria’s political life ever since.
The Era of indirect rule in Nigeria
Indirect rule is a system of government in which an indigene of a country or state rules the state but under the order and supervision of a foreign person or government. In the case of Nigeria during the colonial era, native Nigerian leaders continued to rule their traditional lands so long as they collected taxes and performed other duties ensuring British prosperity. Uncooperative or ineffective leaders were easily replaced by others who were more compliant or competent, and usually more than willing to enjoy the perks of government. Britain was thus saved the huge economic and political cost of running the then Nigerian government. Indirect rule thrived in the northern Nigeria because of their already existing centralised system of government. However, in the southern part of Nigeria, traditions were less accommodating. In Yoruba land indirect rule disrupted historical checks and balances, increasing the power of some chiefs at the expense of others. Few of the Yoruba chiefs had collected taxes, and citizens resisted their right to do so under British mandate. In the south eastern Nigeria, especially in Igbo land, many of the societies never had chiefs or for that matter organized states, this resulted in little or no respect for the chiefs appointed by the British. In Nigeria’s diversified middle belt, small groups were forcefully incorporated into larger political units and often ruled by “foreign” Fulani, who brought with them alien institutions such as Islamic law. Britain carried out some positive reforms which included Provision of western education for Nigerians though school was not easily accessible. They equally abolished slave trade gradually though the issue of Slavery was not finally outlawed in northern Nigeria until 1936. Britain further contributed to Nigeria’s economy by introducing new crops and expanding old ones, such as oil palm, cotton, groundnuts, and cacao, almost all of which were sold for export. Iron and tin were also mined, and railroads were built to transport products.
Nigeria’s opposition to the British
During World War I, Nigeria’s opposition against the British intensified, these occurred more in the middle belt of Nigeria and occasionally involved local armed revolts, workers often went on strike due to poor wages. There was one particular action that involved about 30,000 workers stopping work for 37 days. Aba women’s riot was in 1929 due to over taxation. Other forms of action against the British included avoiding being counted in the census, working at a slow pace, telling stories ridiculing colonists and colonialism. A few political groups also formed to campaign for independence, including the National Congress and the National Democratic Party, but their success was slight. In 1937 the growing movement was given a voice by Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo nationalist from south eastern Nigeria. Following World War II, in response to demands for independence, successive constitutions legislated by the British Government moved Nigeria toward self-government on a representative and increasingly federal basis. In 1947 the British responded by introducing a new constitution that divided Nigeria into three regions: the Northern Region of Nigeria, the Eastern Region of Nigeria, and the Western Region of Nigeria. The Northern Region of Nigeria was mainly Hausa-Fulani and Muslim; the Eastern Region of Nigeria, Igbo and Catholic; and the Western Region of Nigeria, Yoruba and mixed Muslim and Anglican. The regions each had their own legislative assemblies, with mainly appointed rather than elected members, and were overseen by a weak federal government. This system was short-lived though the constitution had serious long-term impact through its encouragement of regional, ethnic-based politics. In 1954, a constitution was made. By the middle of the 20th century, the great wave for independence was sweeping across Africa.
On October 1, 1960, Nigeria gained her independence from the United Kingdom. Ethnic segregation began to spread fast causing tension in the newly created Nigeria. In 1963 an eastern section of the Western Region that was ethnically non-Yoruba was separated into a new region, the Midwestern Region. Within the same year, Nigeria parted with its British legacy by declaring itself a Federal Republic, with Azikiwe as the first president.
Nigeria’s Civil war
Matters deteriorated during the violence-marred elections of 1964, from which the NPC (Nigerian Peoples Congress) emerged victorious. Early in 1966 (January), junior army officers revolted and killed Balewa who was the then prime minister and several other politicians, including the prime ministers of the Northern and Western regions. Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, the commander of the army and an Igbo, emerged as the country’s new leader. In 1966, Aguiyi-Ironsi changed the control of public civil service in Nigeria transferring it to the federal government from the regions. This caused some degree of upheaval. A countercoup was staged in July 29 of that same year by some army officers, assassinating Ironsi. Lt Col Yakubu Gowon became the new Nigerian Leader. The Northern coup, which was mostly motivated by ethnic and religious reasons was a bloodbath of both military officers and civilians, especially those of Igbo extraction.
The violence against the Igbo increased their desire for autonomy and protection from the military’s wrath. By May 1967, the Eastern Region declared itself an independent state called the Republic of Biafra under the leadership of Lt Colonel Emeka Ojukwu in line with the wishes of the people. Nigerian Civil war broke out in July 1967 when Nigerian forces (western and northern) moved south in a 30 month was that ended in January 1970. Biafran troops crossed the Niger River, pushing deep into the west in an attempt to attack Lagos, then the capital. Gowon’s forces repelled the invasion, imposed a naval blockade of the south eastern coast, and mounted a counterattack into northern Biafra. A bitter war of attrition followed. It was estimated that about 1 million peoples died in the Nigerian civil war.
The Military era in Nigeria
There was coup against Gowon in which Brigadier Murtala Muhammed replaced him. He went ahead to change corrupt state governors. He purged incompetent and corrupt members of the public services. He instigated a plan to move the national capital from industrial, coastal Lagos to neglected, interior Abuja. Civilian rule, he declared, would be restored by 1979, and he began a five-stage process of transition. He was assassinated in February 13th, 1976. And Olusegun Obasanjo became the Nigerian leader. Nigeria became the fifth largest producer of petroleum in the world by 1970. Although a national development plan resulted in some redistribution, the bulk of Nigeria’s income remained in the hands of an urban few. Obasanjo created seven new states in addition to the existing ones to help in equitable distribution of Nigeria’s resources. He equally began a massive reform of the local governments. Started a constitutional assembly in 1977, he equally instituted a system in which the president has to win at least 25% of all the votes in at least 19 of the Nigerian States. This reform was tagged Nigeria’s Second republic.
In 1979, there was a partial return to democracy in Nigeria when Obasanjo Handed over power to Shehu Shagari. His government was corrupt in all facets of Nigerian economy. This led to a coup overthrowing his government and Mohammadu Buhari took over the government. Buhari’s government was only slightly better than Shagari’s.
Ibrahim Babangida’s Tenure in Nigeria
In August 1985, Major General Ibrahim Babangida overthrew him announcing himself as the new Nigerian head of state. Babangida rescinded several of Buhari’s most unpopular decrees, initiated a public debate on the state of the economy, and eased controls over business. These actions set the stage for negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for aid, a new round of austerity measures, and better relations with the country’s creditors. For a time, Nigeria achieved a measure of economic recovery under Babangida. He also inflamed religious tensions in the nation and particularly the south by enrolling Nigeria in the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
In early 1989, Babangida approved a new constitution that introduced only minor changes to the 1979 constitution. In May he lifted the ban on political organizations but refused to recognize any of the new parties, instead he channelled politics into the government-formed Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republic Convention (NRC). Federal legislative elections were finally held in July 1992, with the SDP winning a majority in both houses of the legislature. The presidential elections were delayed, it was finally held in June 1993, then annulled by the military when initial election results indicated that SDP candidate Moshood Abiola had won by a large majority. Babangida, however, claimed he still supported a transition to democracy and in August transferred power to an interim government. headed by Ernest Shonekan The new government lasted all of three months then General Sani Abacha, the powerful secretary of defence, overthrew it and assumed control. He immediately terminated all political activities going on in Nigeria then.
General Sani Abacha’s tenure in Nigeria
Abacha’s assumption of office in Nigeria was marked by pressure from all nooks and crannies including The Nigerian labour Congress’ strike action protesting Abacha’s coup, other groups such as Campaign for Democracy equally protested. Abacha lifted the ban on political activity in October 1995 and promised a transfer to civilian power in 1998, however, he continued his repression and violation of human rights, the most notorious instance of which was the hanging of writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists in November 1995. Saro-Wiwa and his fellow dissidents were critics of the oil industry, which had brought a range of environmental ills to their Ogoni land in the Niger Delta. The government dubiously accused the activists of murdering government supporters, gave them a hasty, unfair trial, and executed them. The Abacha government imprisoned many people, among the most prominent being former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former vice president Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (died in prison in December 1997), and the 1993 president-elect, Moshood Abiola. Some other prominent Nigerians, including Nobel prize winner: Wole Soyinka, left Nigeria into exile. The manner in which Abacha operated his government and other violations of human rights intensified international pressure on Abacha and resulted in Nigeria’s suspension from the British Commonwealth of Nations. In 1995 a Nigerian constitutional commission presented a draft constitution and Abacha promised to implement the constitution and return the country to civilian rule after a presidential election in 1998. He had planed to continue his rulership as a civilian after the election by handing over to himself before he suddenly died of a heart attack in June 1998.
Recent Nigerian History:
Transition to Democracy in Nigeria
Abacha was succeeded by Major Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar as the president of Nigeria and he pledged to return civilian rule to Nigeria. It was believed that the civilian rule would be returned to Moshood Abiola that was imprisoned, however, Abiola died suddenly in Prison just as he was about to be released. Some other political prisoners held in prison by Abacha were released including Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba and former military head of state. Legislative and presidential elections were held in February and march of 1999 respectively and in may 29, civilian/democratic rule was established in Nigeria with Obasanjo as the new Nigerian president and the country adopted a new constitution. The Commonwealth of Nations lifted its suspension of Nigeria’s membership.
Although the elections which brought Obasanjo to power in 1999 and again in 2003 were condemned as unfree and unfair, Nigeria has shown marked improvements in attempts to tackle government corruption and to hasten development. While Obasanjo showed willingness to fight corruption, he was accused by others of the same. In April 2003 Obasanjo was re-elected to another term in Nigeria, he claimed to have won the election by a wide margin. International observers criticized the election for widespread incidents of electoral fraud in some states. Obasanjo tried to amend the constitution and wanted to remain in office but the attempt failed. In April 2007, Umaru Yar’Adua succeeded Obasanjo in another election that was perceived as unfree and unfair by international observers. Presently inadequate infrastructure and incessant strike actions by the Nigerian Universities are part of the challenges facing the Nigerian Government.