History of Nigeria Before and After Independence

Can you confidently tell the history of Nigeria? Most Nigerians do not have the slightest idea about the History of Nigeria. This is not so good and the excuse most give is that they did not offer history in secondary school. It is important to know tits and bits about the history of your country.

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This was the case of a young boy by name Aminu. He was given an assignment to write an essay on the history of Nigeria. Aminu had no single idea on where to source for information about the history of Nigeria.

He had no option than to ask his father but the father equally had no idea. So, he directed him to neighbor who happens to be a student of history and a professor.

Aminu gladly took the assignment to the Prof and below were the brief history of Nigeria Aminu went home with.

How Did Nigeria Get Her Name?

Nigeria was named after the River Niger which passed through the country. The name Nigeria was coined by Flora Shaw in the 19th Century. Flora Shaw was a British journalist and the wife of Baron Frederick Lord Lugard. No one could actually tell how the name River Niger came about though.

Let me tell you about the first ethnic groups that are said to have formed what we have today as Nigeria.

The Nri Kingdom and the Yorubas

History has it that the first tribal group to inhabit Nigeria was the Yorubas. However the first ethnic group to have an established monarchial system was the Nri. The Igbos originated from the Nri Kingdom and  were very influential after their establishment in 948 AD.

The Nri people were quite unique and their government was very organized as the rulers made use of political, religious and economic authority in governing their people. People who were ostracized or running from slave trade found the Nri Kingdom as a safe haven.

The Benin Empire

This Empire was formed by the Bini people of Western Africa in the 15th century. The Benin Empire rose to become a very economically important Kingdom in Nigeria. This was majorly because of the artworks from Benin that were sold to Europe through Trans Saharan trade.

The Benin Kingdom was highly organized and it was the first to rival any European powers in Nigeria. In fact in the 19th century when the Europeans came the Empire was intact.

The Hausa Kingdom

The Hausa Empire was predominantly Islamic and was formed by ancient city States which lay between Lake Chad and Niger River. Hausa land was not just influenced by Islam it was a center for commercial services. The city that acted as the main economic hub of the Hausa Empire was the Old Kano.

The Hausas became a major economic threat to large empires across the Nigerian coast. One of such empires was the Malian Empire. Though the Hausas fell to the Fulanis in 1808 the British helped them regain their empire in 1880.

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Nigeria Conquered by The British

Still on history of Nigeria, a remarkable event in Nigeria was when the country was declared as a British Protectorate in 1901. Prior to this the British had subtly entered into the then “Niger Area” in the 1880s. They came in under the guise of forming trade relations.

The moment the British took full control of Nigeria they began enslaving part of the population and dictating the affairs of the nation by their own constitution. Through this they were able to rule the country for a span of about 50 years by enforcing colonial rule. This period of colonial rule was quite advantageous as they were able to introduce Western culture and modernize the people of the land.

The Activities of Christian Missionaries in Southern Nigeria

As the British invaded Nigeria Christian missionaries followed to evangelize the country as well. This singular act influenced the religious lives of most people of Southern Nigeria. A lot of Nigerians were consequently introduced to Christianity, a religion other than what their parents knew. With time Christianity waxed stronger and today is a major religion in Nigeria.

The Decolonization and Independence of Nigeria

A few years after the Second World War nations in Africa began to agitate for their independence from colonial powers. Just like in other protectorates the people of Nigeria were tired of British rule and began to seek ways of gaining independence. In the 1950s Britain had begun to lose hold of most of her foreign territories and had no choice than to begin to grant them independence. Nigeria gained independence in 1960.

The First Republic

Britain pulled out all of her power from Nigerian soil in 1963 and thus the people of Nigeria were able self-govern her affairs. It was at this point Nigeria became a republic. Despite the fact that the British were out of the country they still had quite a hold on the governing affairs of Nigeria. Till date the British still have a stake in Nigeria as several British citizens run businesses within the shores of Nigeria. The prof asked, hope you are understanding this brief history of Nigeria after independent?

The First Elections in Nigeria

A short while after Nigeria gained her independence and became a republic the country held her first elections. The elections were held in December 1964. Through this election process the country put in place the first government for the people and by the people in Nigeria.

The Civil War

Several military coups resulted from the first elections because it was believed that the elections were not free of corrupt practices. By 1966 Nigeria experienced her first major military coup led by Majors Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna. That same year military officers from the north organized a counter coup which led to a new government led by Lt. Colonel Gowon.

The next year saw the Eastern part of the country declare itself as a sovereign State known as Biafra. The Republic of Biafra was led by Lt. Colonel Emeka Ojukwu. In July of the same year a civil war started which lasted for 3 years and close to 3 million individuals from the Eastern part of the country lost their lives to starvation, warfare and disease.

History of Nigeria -Military Rule

The history of Nigeria will not be complete without the activities of the military. Between 1970 and 1999 several military leaders rose to lead the people of Nigeria. Though within this period power was returned to civilians briefly twice. The first time in 1979 to Alhaji Shehu Shagari who was overthrown by Muhammadu Buhari in 1984 for allegedly being corrupt. The second time was in 1993 when the first Nigerian free and fair elections were held.

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The results were later cancelled by the incumbent Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida. Ernest Shonekan was installed as interim president but another coup was organized by Lt. Gen. Sani Abacha. Finally in 1999 power was handed back to civilians.

History of Nigeria-Return to Democracy

In 1999 former Head of State Olusegun Obasanjo was democratically elected into office and this was the beginning of the democracy we enjoy today in Nigeria. Since then three other Presidents have been elected into office. They include the Late Umar Yar’adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari.

In conclusion the prof asked Aminu if he had any questions about the history of Nigeria till date. Aminu shook his head signifying a No and left satisfied. I believe this discussion between Aminu and the professor has exposed you to some truths about Nigeria.

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