Nigerian History

Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, is situated in west Africa with a coast line on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean.

It shares land borders with Benin to its west, Chad and Cameroon to its east and Nige to the north. The history of what is now Nigeria can be traced back to around 800 BCE when the area was settled by a Neolithic civilisation known as the Nok although archaeological remains have been found dating back to 9000 BCE. Over the ensuing centuries, city states and kingdoms emerged including the Hausa and Borno kingdoms in the north and the Oyo and Benin kingdoms in the south.

As ever, our understanding of the area developed with the arrival of Portuguese explorers and traders in the fifteenth century after they reached the mouth of the River Niger in 1470 and sent stories home of amazing African artefacts and the splendour of Benin's oba or king (right)

From 1806 until the end of that century the British were busy exploring the area, charting its territory and rivers and preparing it for trade, mainly in palm oil which it was hoped would provide financial compensation for the loss of the slave trade that had Ancient Nigerian Historyseen millions of Nigerian slaves shipped to America during the 16-18th centuries. (Ironically, local chiefs went on to enslave more Nigerians to meet the demand for this palm oil trade.)

After the Napoleonic Wars had ended, Britain once again turned its attention to expansion within Nigeria. Given its involvement in the area, The Berlin Conference of 1884, effectively rubberstamped the area as ripe for British control and development (although there were ongoing tensions with France over Nigeria's western border with French controlled Dahomey) and, as such the British government established the Royal Niger Company in 1885, then on 1st January 1901 made Nigeria a British protectorate.


Nigerian History

Nigerian History

Nigerian History

Nigerian History


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Nigerian History

Just 14 years later the area was formally titled the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria, whereby Nigeria was subject to indirect rule through tribal leaders; a status it held until 1st October 1954 when, as momentum for independence was sweeping across Africa, the colony became the autonomous Federation of Nigeria. In 1922 a section of the German colony Kamerun was added to Nigeria under League of Nations mandate.

Jaja Anucha WachukuThe colony was finally given full independence as The Federation of Nigeria on the 1st October 1960 with Jaja Anucha Wachuku (right) as the Nigerian Parliament's first black speaker after independence (Wachuka was a close friend of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson.) Then, in October 1963, Nigeria became the Federal Republic of Nigeria with Nnamdi Azikiwe (below) as its first President.

President Nnamdi AzikiweWithin seven years the country's first Prime Minister had been assassinated, his successor killed in a counter-coup and a bloody civil war had broken out when three of Nigeria's eastern states seceded from the country in an attempt to establish themselves as the Republic of Biafra.This video documentary charts recent Nigerian history after independence from the UK and how its 250 ethnic/tribal groups continued to provide not just powerful forces after independence but also strong tensions in a multi layered society, tensions that even today spill over into religious violence particularly between Muslim and Christian communities with often fatal outcomes.

Many in Nigeria see themselves as belonging to an ethnic/religious groups rather than as a citizen of Nigeria itself. The three areas most Nigerians align themselves to are the Yoruba (westerners), Igbo (easterners) and Hausa (northerners). The video above also explores how, despite the billions of dollars created by Nigeria's vast oil reserves in the Niger Delta, this wealth was squandered through corruption, with little of the riches flowing into wider society, fuelling ethnic tensions and unrest amongst Nigeria's poorer communities.


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