History of Nigeria
History of Nigeria: Virtually all the native races of Africa are represented in Nigeria, hence the great diversity of her people and culture. It was in Nigeria that the Bantu and SemiBantu, migrating from southern and central Africa, intermingled with the Sudanese. Later, other groups such as Shuwa-Arabs, the Tuaregs, and the Fulanis, who are concentrated in the far north, entered northern Nigeria in migratory waves across the Sahara Desert. The earliest occupants of Nigeria settled in the forest belt and in the Niger Delta region.Today there are estimated to be more than 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. While no single group enjoys an absolute numeric majority, four major groups constitute 60% of the population: Hausa-Fulani in the north, Yoruba in the west, and Igbo in the east. Other groups include: Kanuri, Binis, Ibibio, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Efik, Nupe, Tiv, and Jukun.
History of Nigeria: Empires
Long before the creation of the entity called Nigeria, the various peoples that existed independently then had established their own indigenous systems of administration. There were recognized political entities such as the Benin Empire, Kanem Bornu Empire, Sokoto Caliphate, Oyo Empire, to mention a few. The Empires and Kingdoms had established contact with one another and with other peoples, through trading activities.
Kanem-Borno: While there is no direct evidence to link the people of the Jos Plateau with the Nok culture, or the Eze Nri of today with Igbo Ukwu, the history of Borno dates back to the 9th Century when Arabic writers in north Africa first noted the kingdom of Kanem east of Lake Chad. Bolstered by trade with the Nile region and Trans-Saharan routes, the empire prospered. In the next centuries, complex political and social systems were developed, particularly after the Bulala invasion in the 14th Century. The empire moved from Kanem to Borno, hence the name. The empire lasted for 1,000 years (until the 19th Century) despite challenges from the HausaFulani in the west and Jukun from the south.
Hausa-Fulani: To the west of Borno around 1,000 A.D., the Hausa were building similar states around Kano, Zaria, Daura, Katsina, and Gobir. However, unlike the Kanuri, no ruler among these states ever became powerful enough to impose his will over the others. Although the Hausa had common languages, culture, and Islamic religion, they had no common king. Kano, the most powerful of these states, controlled much of the Hausa land in the 16th and 17th Centuries, but conflicts with the surrounding states ended this dominance. Because of these conflicts, the Fulanis, led by Usman Dan Fodio in 1804, successfully challenged the Hausa States and set up the Hausa-Fulani Caliphate with headquarters in Sokoto, commanding a broad area from Katsina in the far north to Ilorin, across the River Niger.
Yoruba: In the west, the Yoruba developed complex, powerful city-states. The first of these important states was Ile-Ife, which according to Yoruba mythology was the center of the universe. Ife is the site of a unique art form first uncovered in thel93Os. Naturalistic terracotta, bronze heads and other artifacts dating as far back as the 10th Century show just how early the Yoruba developed an advanced civilization. Later, other Yoruba cities challenged Ife for supremacy, and Oyo became the most powerful West African kingdom in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The armies of the Oyo king (Alafin) dominated other Yoruba cities and even forced tribute from the ruler of Dahomey. Internal power struggles and the Fulani expansion to the south caused the collapse of Oyo in the early 19th Century.
Benin: Benin developed into a major kingdom during the same period that Oyo was becoming dominant to the west. Although the people of Benin are primarily Edo, not Yoruba, they share with Ife and Oyo many of the same origins, and there is much evidence of cultural and artistic interchange between the kingdoms. The King (Oba) oE Benin was considered semi-divine and controlled a complex bureaucracy, a large army, and a diversified economy. Benin’s power reached its apex in the 16th Century.
IGBO AND THE DELTA STATES: Many Nigerian cultures did not develop into centralized monarchies. Of these, the Igbo are probably the most remarkable because of the size of their territory and the density of population. Igbo societies were organized in self-contained villages, or federations of village communities, with a society of elders and age-grade associations sharing various governmental functions. The same was true of the Ijaw of the Niger Delta and people of the Cross River area, where secret societies also played a prominent role in administration and governmental functions. But by the 18th Century, overseas trade had begun to encourage the emergence of centralized systems of government.
History of Nigeria During the 19th Century
Earlier in the 19th Century, the British had conquered the different parts of the present Nigeria at different times, and established control and authority over them. These areas were grouped into Protectorates namely Lagos, Niger Coast (also known as Oi1 River Protectorate), and the Northern Protectorate. For ease of administration and control, the Northern Protectorate, and the Southern Protectorate (made up of Lagos and Niger Coast) were amalgamated in 1914 by the British. Thus come into existence the country presently known as NIGERIA.
As time went on, British colonial rule, with its attendant alienation and subjugation of the indigenous people, resulted in agitation for self-government. The history of Nigeria was therefore dominated by ‘struggle for freedom’ between 1922 and 1959. Notable Nigerians like Sir Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnnmdi Azikwe, Chief Sire Ahmadou Bello, Chief Anthony Enahoro, to mention but a few, are known as the founders and fathers of Nigerian NATIONALISM.
Given this struggle, the British gave some concessions to Nigerians. This gave rise to the series of constitutions that come into existence, to assuage the feelings of the people. The constitutions included the Clifford Constitution of 1922, the Richards Constitution of 1946, the Macpherson Constitution of 1951, and the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954.
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Although, with these constitutions, Nigerians were allowed limited contributions in the affairs of their own land, this could not stop the continuous clamour for total independence from colonial rule which had engendered social sufferings, as well as discrimination in the areas of employment, education, health, creational facilities, coupled with unjust and high taxation.
On 1st October 1960, Nigeria became self-governing from British colonial rule and was administered at the center by the Federal government and three regions Governments in the East, West and North of the country. In 1963, the Midwest Region was carved out of the Western Region making a federation of four Regions. During this First Republic, a parliamentary system of government was in operation. This lasted till January 1966.
The first military intervention in Nigeria occurred in January 1966 when the civilian government was overthrown in a military coup. This effectively marked the beginning and succession of military governments in the nation’s political history. Military-rule continued till 1979 when the then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo handed over power to the civilian government of President Shehu shagari.
In the second Republic of President Shehu shagari, Nigeria adopted the Presidential system of government with an Executive President as the Head of the Federal Government. The administration was in power until 1983 when it was overthrown in a coup and the military once again come into governance. Nigeria again witnessed another round of military governments until 1993 when General Ibrahim Babaginda the head of the military government, put in place an interim civilian administration charged with conducting elections. This interim administration lasted for only three months when it was replaced in a palace coup by the military. The new military administration was headed by General Sani Abacha.
General Sani Abacha’s Government ruled the country from 1993 to 1998 when the Head of State suddenly died in June 1998. It must be pointed out that during this particular regime, Nigeria faced tremendous opposition from the International Community over human rights abuses, culminating in Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth. Indeed, at this period, Nigeria was treated like a pariah nation, tolerated only by a few and abandoned by other countries, including her traditional allies like Britain and Canada.
With the sudden death of General Abacha in June 1998 General Abdulsalami Abubakar headed the new military administration, and was immediately confronted with the Herculean task of drawing Nigeria back from the brink of collapse and restoring her image. Admirably, this administration rose up to the occasion. The issue of human rights abuses was immediately addressed with the release of all political detainees and prisoners. The Government also announced and implemented a political transition program that ushered in a new civilian government in May 1999. Precisely in less than one year. Thus, General Abubakar administration was able to restore democracy back in Nigeria. Within that period too, Nigeria gradually regained her voice in the comity of nations. The administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was inaugurated on May 29, 1999. Simultaneously, executive governors were also sworn-in in the 36 states constituting the present Federal Republic of Nigeria.