Historical Facts About Nigeria
Nigeria is made up of a number of large ancient kingdoms and other independent small scale societies. Its boundaries were drawn as a result of trade and overseas territorial ambitions of some Western European powers in the nineteenth century. The territory was assigned to Britain. The name, Nigeria, was suggested in 1898 by Flora Shaw who later became Lady Lugard to designate the British Protectorate on the River Niger
Up to the middle of the nineteenth century, British trading activities were confined to Lagos and Delta ports of old Calabar, Brass and Bonny. However, the need to expand trade to the hinterland and to undermine the coastal middle men over led the British to some involvement in local politics. Thus, their interferences in Lagos politics following some internal squabbles among the ruling houses were necessitated by a desire to secure the territory in the interest of trade with the Yoruba hinterland. This interference resulted in Lagos being annexed in 1861 when it became a British colony. In the same way and in order to render the River Niger safe as a gateway into the interior. Protectorates were proclaimed in the Delta regions. In 1885, the Niger Protectorate was proclaimed oil rivers protectorate. These protectorate were initially administered by the Royal Niger Company and its sphere of influence reached as far as north as Idah.
When the Royal Niger Company’s Charter was withdrawn in January 1900, the whole of Nigeria came under direct Colonial administration. The territory was then divided into:
(i) The Lagos Colony (1861 – 1960)
(ii) The Protectorate of Southern Nigeria (1900 – 1914)
(ii) The Protectorate of Northern Nigeria
(1900 – 1914)
In 1960, Lagos colony was merged with the Southern Protectorate to form the new Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. In 1914 the Protectorates of South ern Nigeria were merged by Sir Frederick Lugard. The whole country then became known as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. Lugard became its first Governor general and ruled till 1919. He was succeeded by Sir Hugh Clifford (1919 – 25), Sir Arthur Richards (1943 – 48), Sir John McPherson (1948 – 54), and Sir James Robertson (1954 – 60).ad itself been proclaimed the Oil Rivers Protectorate, following the signing of a number of treaties between the local rulers and British consular officials. Finally, in 1914, the two British administrations were merged, to form a single territorial unit known as Nigeria.
In 1861, Lagos was proclaimed crown colony. And through the initiative of the United Africa Company, formed by George Goldie, through an amalgamation of British firms in 1879, most of the parts which became Northern Nigeria were preserved as British sphere to the chagrin of French and German competitors. Robertson Sir James Robertson The Company received a charter to administer it until 1899 when the charter was revoked, and tile British Government administered it directly, under the name “Protectorate of Northern Nigeria” The Delta Area had itself been proclaimed the Oil Rivers Protectorate, following the signing of a number of treaties between the local rulers and British consular officials. Finally, in 1914, the two British administrations were merged, to form a single territorial unit known as Nigeria. This territory was administered by the British until 1960 when the Union Jack (British flag) was lowered for the Nigeria flag to take its place.
After a series of negotiations, Nigeria finally got her independence Octorber, 1960
Contact between the peoples of Nigeria and Europe began in the fifteenth century through various commercial explorer. By early nineteenth century, the obnoxious trade in slaves which had flourished in the region was in the process of being abolished. Consequently, European traders began to turn their attention to trading in palm produce, pepper, ivory and other articles which provided raw materials for European industries.
Independence and Civil War: By an act of the British Parliament, Nigeria became an independent country within the Commonwealth on October 1, 1960. In 1963 Nigeria became a republic within the Commonwealth. The change in status called for no practical alteration of the constitutional system. The president, elected to a five-year term by a joint session of the parliament, replaced the crown as the symbol of national sovereignty and the British monarchy as head of state. Nnamdi Azikiwe became the republic’s first president.
Although the first postindependence parliamentary elections were held in December 1964, the nation’s leadership in the several decades following independence was determined by coup, not by election, and by military, rather than civilian government. One of the most important developments during the 1960s was the declaration of independence by the Eastern Region in 1967, followed by a 30-month civil war. In the face of increased sectarian violence, the Eastern Region’s military governor, Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, was under pressure from Igbo (also seen as Ibo) officers to assert greater independence from the Federal Military Government (FMG). Ultimately, on May 30, 1967, Ojukwu proclaimed the independent Republic of Biafra, named after the Bight of Biafra. He cited as the principal cause for this action the government’s inability to protect the lives of predominantly Igbo easterners and suggested its culpability in genocide.
Initially, the FMG launched “police measures” to restore the authority of Lagos in the Eastern Region, but soon full-scale civil war broke out. Finally, in January 1970 Biafran resistance collapsed, and the FMG reasserted its authority over the area. An estimated 1 to 3 million died from hostilities, disease, and starvation during the civil war, and more than 3 million Igbo became refugees. The economy of the region was shattered. In several years, however, the state government achieved the rehabilitation of 70 percent of the industry incapacitated during the war. The federal government granted funds to cover the state’s operating expenses for an interim period, and much of the war damage was repaired.
Coups and Mostly Military Government: In the postwar period, all significant political power remained concentrated in the FMG. The influence of Yakubu (Jack) Gowon, who had come to power in a 1966 coup, depended on his position as chairman of the Supreme Military Council, which was created in March 1967. The regime ruled by decree. In October 1970, Gowon announced his intention of staying in power until 1976, the target year for completion of the military’s political program and return to an elected civilian government. But many Nigerians feared that the military planned to retain power indefinitely. In 1972 Gowon partially lifted the ban on political activity that had been in force since 1966 in order to permit a discussion of a new constitution that would pave the way for civilian rule. The debate that followed was ideologically charged, and Gowon abruptly terminated the discussion.
The Gowon regime came under fire because of widespread and obvious corruption at every level of national life. Inefficiencies compounded the effect of corruption. Crime also posed a threat to national security and had a seriously negative impact on efforts to bring about economic development. The political atmosphere deteriorated to the point where Gowon was deposed in a bloodless military coup in July 1975. The armed forces chose as Gowon’s successor Brigadier (later General) Murtala Ramat Muhammad, a Muslim northerner. Muhammad was assassinated during an unsuccessful coup in February 1976, but in a short time his policies had won him broad popular support, and his decisiveness elevated him to the status of national hero. He had sought to restore public confidence in the federal government, reduce government expenditures on public works, and encourage the expansion of the private sector. He also set in motion the stalled machinery of devolution to civilian rule by a commitment to hand over power to a democratically elected government by October 1979.
Lieutenant General Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba, succeeded Muhammad. Keeping the established chain of command in place, Obasanjo pledged to continue the program for the restoration of civilian government in 1979 and to carry forward the reform program to improve the quality of public service. In 1979 under Obasanjo’s leadership, Nigeria adopted a constitution based on the Constitution of the United States that provided for a separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The country was now ready for local elections, to be followed by national elections that would return Nigeria to civilian rule. Obasanjo also initiated plans to move the federal capital from Lagos to a more central location in the interior at Abuja. Ultimately, Abuja became the country’s capital in December 1991.
The Second Republic, 1979–83: In 1979 five revamped parties competed in national elections, marking the beginning of the Second Republic. The presidential succession from Obasanjo to a civilian, President Alhaji Shehu Shagari, was the first peaceful transfer of power since independence. Nigeria’s Second Republic was born amid great expectations. Oil prices were high, and revenues were on the increase. It appeared that unlimited development was possible. Unfortunately, the euphoria was short-lived. A number of weaknesses beset the Second Republic. First, the coalition that dominated federal politics was not strong, and in effect the victorious National Party of Nigeria (NPN) led by Shagari governed as a minority. Second, there was a lack of cooperation between the NPN-dominated federal government and the 12 states controlled by opposition parties. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the oil boom ended in mid-1981, precisely when expectations of continuous growth and prosperity were at a height. The recession that set in put severe strains on the Second Republic.
Return to Military Rule: On December 31, 1983, the military seized power once again, primarily because there was virtually no confidence in the civilian regime. Allegations of fraud associated with Shagari’s re-election in 1983 served as a pretext for the takeover, although the military was in fact closely associated with the ousted government. Ominously, the economy was in chaos. The true cost of the failure to use earlier revenues and foreign reserves to good effect now became apparent. The leader of the coup d’état was Major General Muhammadu Buhari, a Hausa whose background and political loyalties tied him closely to the Muslim north and the deposed government. The military regime tried to achieve two goals. First, it attempted to secure public support by reducing the level of corruption; second, it demonstrated its commitment to austerity by trimming the federal budget. In a further effort to mobilize the country, Buhari launched a “War Against Indiscipline” in the spring of 1984. This national campaign, which lasted 15 months, preached the work ethic, emphasized patriotism, decried corruption, and promoted environmental sanitation. However, the campaign achieved few of its aims.
The economic crisis, the campaign against corruption, and civilian criticism of the military undermined Buhari’s position, and in August 1985 a group of officers under Major General Ibrahim Babangida removed Buhari from power. The Babangida regime had a rocky start. A countercoup in December 1985 failed but made it clear that not everyone in the military sided with the Armed Forces Ruling Council, which succeeded the Supreme Military Council. The most serious opposition centered in the labor movement and on university campuses. There was also considerable controversy over Nigeria’s entry into the Organization of the Islamic Conference, an international body of Muslim states, in 1986. Buhari’s regime had initiated the application, which Babangida allowed to stand. The strong reaction among many Christians proved to be an embarrassment to the regime.
Babangida addressed the worsening recession through the structural adjustment program of 1986. However, despite US$4.2 billion of support from the World Bank and the rescheduling of foreign debt, the recession led to a series of currency devaluations, a decline in real income, and rising unemployment during the second half of the 1980s. Babangida remained in power until 1993, when he ushered in an Interim National Government under the leadership of Chief Ernest Shonekan. This step followed the military’s annulment of election results in June 1993.
In November 1993, General Sani Abacha seized control from the caretaker government and served as military dictator until his death in 1998. During his rule, Abacha suppressed dissent and failed to follow through with a promised transition to civilian government. In 1995, as a result of various human rights violations, the European Union, which already had imposed sanctions in 1993, suspended development aid, and Nigeria was temporarily expelled from the Commonwealth. Corruption also flourished, and Abacha was later found to have siphoned off oil revenues into personal bank accounts in Switzerland. In 2005 Nigeria began to recover US$458 million of illicit funds deposited in Swiss banks during the Abacha regime.
Nigeria Civilian Rule
Obasanjo succeeded in establishing civilian rule based on a multiparty democracy and launched a campaign against corruption, but despite a surge in oil revenues that buoyed the federal coffers, his administration faced a number of serious challenges. In 2000 religious tensions spiked following the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law, in 12 northern, predominantly Muslim states. These tensions hindered cooperation between the president and the National Assembly, among the states, and between the states and the federal government. In 2004 religious strife forced the government to declare a state of emergency in centrally located Plateau State. Ethnic strife further complicated matters, notably in the southeastern state of Benue, where tribal warfare broke out in 2001, and in the oil-rich Niger Delta, where the Ijaw tribe continues to conduct an insurgency against international energy facilities and workers. Nigeria’s image of playing a constructive role in regional stability was tarnished in 2002 when the International Criminal Court granted Cameroon control over the disputed Bakasi Peninsula, but Nigeria refused to comply with the ruling.