History of Nigeria

Published on 25th October 2005

Little is known of the earliest history of Nigeria. By 2000 B.C. most of the country was sparsely inhabited by persons who had a rudimentary knowledge of raising domesticated food plants and of herding animals. From 800 B.C. to 200 A.D the neolithic Nok culture flourished on the Jos Plateau; the Nok people made fine terra-cotta sculptures. The first important centralized state to influence Nigeria was Kanem-Bornu, which probably was founded in the 8th century A.D., to the north of Lake Chad (outside modern Nigeria). In the 11th century, by which time its rulers had been converted to Islam, Kanem-Bornu expanded south of Lake Chad into present-day Nigeria, and in the late 15th century its capital was moved there.

Beginning of the 11th century seven independent Hausa city-states were founded in North Nigeria—Biram, Daura, Gobir, Kano, Katsina, Rano, and Zaria. Kano and Katsina competed for the lucrative trans-Saharan trade with Kanem-Bornu, and for a time had to pay tribute to it. In the early 16th century all of Hausaland was briefly held by the Songhai Empire. However, in the late 16th century, Kanem-Bornu replaced Songhai as the leading power in N Nigeria, and the Hausa states regained their autonomy. In southwest Nigeria two states—Oyo and Benin—had developed by the 14th century. The rulers of both states traced their origins to Ife, renowned for its naturalistic terra-cotta and brass sculpture. Benin was the leading state in the 15th century but began to decline in the 17th cent., and by the 18th cent. Oyo controlled Yorubaland and also Dahomey. The Igbo people in the southeast lived in small village communities.

In the late 15th century Portuguese navigators became the first Europeans to visit Nigeria. They soon began to purchase slaves and agricultural produce from coastal middlemen. The slaves had been captured further inland by the middlemen. The Portuguese were followed by British, French, and Dutch traders.

In 1804, Usuman dan Fodio (1754–1817), a Fulani and a pious Muslim, began a holy war to reform the practice of Islam in the north. He soon conquered the Hausa city-states, but Bornu, led by Muhammad al-Kanemi (also a Muslim reformer) until 1835, maintained its independence. In 1817, Usuman dan Fodio\'s son, Muhammad Bello (1837) established a state centered at Sokoto, which controlled most of N Nigeria until the coming of the British (1900–1906). Under both Usuman dan Fodio and Muhammad Bello, Muslim culture, and also trade, flourished in the Fulani empire. In Bornu, Muhammad al-Kanemi was succeeded by Umar (reigned 1835–80), under whom the empire disintegrated.

In 1807, Great Britain abandoned the slave trade; however, other countries continued it until about 1875.

In order to stop the slave trade, Britain annexed Lagos in 1861. In 1879, Sir George Goldie gained control of all the British firms trading on the Niger, and in the 1880s he took over two French companies active there and signed treaties with numerous African leaders. Largely because of Goldie\'s efforts, Great Britain was able to claim S Nigeria at the Conference of Berlin held in 1884–85.

In the following years, the British established their rule in SW Nigeria, partly by signing treaties (as in the Lagos hinterland) and partly by using force (as at Benin in 1897).  In 1886 Goldie\'s firm was given a British royal charter, as the Royal Niger Company, to administer the Niger River and N Nigeria.

In 1900 the Royal Niger Company\'s charter was revoked and British forces under Frederick Lugard began to conquer the north, taking Sokoto in 1903. By 1906, Britain controlled Nigeria, which was divided into the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. In 1914 the two regions were amalgamated and the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria was established.

The administration of Nigeria was based on a system devised by Lugard called “indirect rule”. Under this system, Britain ruled through existing political institutions rather than establishing a wholly new administrative network. In some areas new African officials were set up and in most cases they were not accepted by the mass of the people. They were able to rule only because British power stood behind them. All important decisions were made by the British governor, and the African rulers, partly by being associated with the colonialists, soon lost most of their traditional authority.

Under the British, railroads and roads were built and the production of cash crops, such as palm nuts and kernels, cocoa, cotton, and peanuts, was encouraged. The country became more urbanized as Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Onitsha, and other cities grew in size and importance. From 1922, African representatives from Lagos and Calabar were elected to the legislative council of Southern Nigeria; they constituted only a small minority, and Africans otherwise continued to have no role in the higher levels of government. Self-help groups organized on ethnic lines were established in the cities. A small Western-educated elite developed in Lagos and a few other southern cities.

In 1947, Great Britain promulgated a constitution that gave the traditional authorities a greater voice in national affairs. The Western-educated elite was excluded, and, led by Herbert Macaulay and Nnamdi Azikiwe, its members vigorously denounced the constitution. As a result, a new constitution, providing for elected representation on a regional basis, was instituted in 1951.

Nigeria was granted full independence in October 1960, as a federation of three regions (northern, western, and eastern) under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary form of government. Under the constitution, each of the three regions retained a substantial measure of self-government. The federal government was given exclusive powers in defense and security, foreign relations, and commercial and fiscal policies. In October 1963, Nigeria altered its relationship with the United Kingdom by proclaiming itself a federal republic and promulgating a new constitution. A fourth region (the midwest) was established that year. From the outset, Nigeria\'s ethnic, regional, and religious tensions were magnified by the significant disparities in economic and educational development between the south and the north. 

On January 15, 1966, a small group of army officers, mostly southeastern Igbos, overthrew the government and assassinated the federal prime minister and the premiers of the northern and western regions. The federal military government that assumed power was unable to quiet ethnic tensions or produce a constitution acceptable to all sections of the country.

In a move that gave greater autonomy to minority ethnic groups, the military divided the four regions into 12 states. The Igbo rejected attempts at constitutional revisions and insisted on full autonomy for the east. Finally, in May 1967, Lt. Col. Emeka Ojukwu, the military governor of the eastern region, who emerged as the leader of increasing Igbo secessionist sentiment, declared the independence of the eastern region as the \"Republic of Biafra.\" The ensuing civil war was bitter and bloody, ending in the defeat of Biafra in 1970. 

Following the civil war, reconciliation was rapid and effective, and the country turned to the task of economic development. Foreign exchange earnings and government revenues increased spectacularly with the oil price rises of 1973-74. On July 29, 1975, Gen. Murtala Muhammed and a group of fellow officers staged a bloodless coup, accusing Gen. Yakubu Gowon\'s military government of delaying the promised return to civilian rule and becoming corrupt and ineffective. General Muhammed replaced thousands of civil servants and announced a timetable for the resumption of civilian rule by October 1, 1979. Muhammed also announced the government\'s intention to create new states and to construct a new federal capital in the center of the country. 

A constituent assembly was elected in 1977 to draft a new constitution, which was published on September 21, 1978, when the ban on political activity was lifted. Political parties were formed, and candidates were nominated for president and vice president, the two houses of the National Assembly, governorships, and state houses of assembly. In 1979, five political parties competed in a series of elections in which a northerner, Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), was elected President. All five parties won representation in the National Assembly. 

In August 1983, Shagari and the NPN were returned to power in a landslide victory, with a majority of seats in the National Assembly and control of 12 state governments. But the elections were marred by violence, and allegations of widespread vote rigging and electoral malfeasance led to legal battles over the results. 

On December 31, 1983, the military overthrew the Second Republic. Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari emerged as the leader of the Supreme Military Council (SMC), the country\'s new ruling body. He charged the civilian government with economic mismanagement, widespread corruption, election fraud, and a general lack of concern for the problems of Nigerians. He also pledged to restore prosperity to Nigeria and to return the government to civilian rule but proved unable to deal with Nigeria\'s severe economic problems. The Buhari government was peacefully overthrown by the SMC\'s third-ranking member, Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, in August 1985. 

President Babangida promised to return the country to civilian rule by 1990; this date was later extended until January 1993. In early 1989, a constituent assembly completed work on a constitution for the Third Republic. In the spring of 1989, political activity was again permitted. In October 1989 the government established two \"grassroots\" parties: the National Republican Convention (NRC), which was to be \"a little to the right,\" and the Social Democratic (SDP), \"a little to the left.\" Other parties were not allowed to register by the Babangida government. 

In April 1990, mid-level officers attempted to overthrow the Babangida government. The coup failed, and 69 accused coup plotters were later executed after secret trials before military tribunals. The transition resumed after the failed coup. In December 1990 the first stage of partisan elections was held at the local government level. While turnout was low, there was no violence, and both parties demonstrated strength in all regions of the country, with the SDP winning control of a majority of local government councils. 

With the country sliding into chaos, Defense Minister Sani Abacha quickly assumed power and forced Shonekan\'s \"resignation\" on November 17, 1993. Abacha dissolved all democratic political institutions and replaced elected governors with military officers. Abacha promised to return the government to civilian rule but refused to announce a timetable until his October 1, 1995 Independence Day address. 

Following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election, the United States and other nations imposed various sanctions on Nigeria, including restrictions on travel by government officials and their families and suspension of arms sales and military assistance. Although Abacha\'s takeover was initially welcomed by many Nigerians, disenchantment grew rapidly. A number of opposition figures united to form a new organization, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which campaigned for an immediate return to civilian rule. 

Abacha, widely expected to succeed himself as a civilian president on October 1, 1998, remained head of state until his death on June 8 of that year. He was replaced by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, who had been third in command until the arrest of Diya. The PRC, under new head of state Abubakar, commuted the sentences of those accused in the alleged 1997 coup in July 1998. In March 1999, Diya and 54 others accused or convicted of participation in coups in 1990, 1995, and 1997 were released.

During the Abacha regime, the government continued to enforce its arbitrary authority through the federal security system--the military, the state security service, and the courts. Under Abacha, all branches of the security forces committed serious human rights abuses. After Abubakar\'s assumption of power and consolidation of support within the PRC, human rights abuses decreased. Other human rights problems included infringements on freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and travel; violence and discrimination against women; and female genital mutilation. 

In August 1998, the Abubakar government appointed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections for local government councils, state legislatures and governors, the national assembly, and president. INEC successfully held these elections on December 5, 1998, January 9, 1999, February 20, and February 27, 1999, respectively. For the local elections, a total of nine parties were granted provisional registration, with three fulfilling the requirements to contest the following elections. These parties were the People\'s Democratic Party (PDP), the All Peoples Party (APP), and the predominantly Yoruba Alliance for Democracy (AD). Former military head of state Olusegun Obasanjo, freed from prison by Abubakar, ran as a civilian candidate and won the presidential election. In 2003, Nigeria re-elected Obasanjo as president.

Below is an analysis of Zimbabwe according to The 2005 Index of Economic Freedom, The Heritage Foundation Heritage and The Wall Street Journal:

Rank: 141

Score: 3.95

Category: Mostly Unfree

Population: 132, 785, 000

Total area: $ 923, 768 sq. km

GDP: $32.9 billion

GDP growth rate: -0.9 %

GDP per capita: $248

Major exports: petroleum, coca, rubber

Exports of goods and services: $10.8 billion

Major export trading partners: US 37.4%, Spain 8.3%, Indonesia 6.8%, France 6.4%

Major imports: machinery and transport, chemicals, food and live animals

Imports of goods and services (fob): $20.6 billion

Major import trading partners: UK 9.4%, US 9.3%, China 9.1%, France 8.6%

Foreign direct investment (net): $1.1 billion

REFERENCES

www.historyofnations.net/africa/nigeria.html

www.infoplease.com/ce6/world/A0860005.html

www.electionworld.org/history/nigeria.htm

The 2005 Index of Economic Freedom, The Heritage Foundation Heritage and The Wall Street Journal


This article has been read 2,106 times
COMMENTS