Overview of Nigeria History

Few things you need to know about Nigeria

Speaker 1

How it all started

Nigeria officially referred to as the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a federal state in West Africa. Although the name NIGERIA was christened on the vast lands by for colonial master's wife lady Lugard, Flora Shaw. Lady Lugard herself being of African blood(her mother is from Mauritius), suggested Nigeria from the words 'NIGER' 'AREA' (8, January, 1897), because the transactions that gave the British colonial masters our land was too long and could not ascertain it as a territory, THE ROYAL NIGER COMPANY.

The royal Niger company interestingly has metamorphosed to the present day UNILEVER, more on this in later gists. Nigeria has a lot of historic empires and cultures compared to other countries in Africa. The history of Nigeria can be traced back to as early as 1100 BC when a number of ancient African communities inhabited the area that is now called Nigeria.

The greatest and the well-known empires that ruled the region before the British arrived were;
  • The Benin Empire whose ruler was known as Oba of Benin.
  • The Nri Kingdom also settled in the country, especially in the Eastern side.
  • The Songhai Empire also settled in some of the country’s territory.
  • By the 11th century, Islam had arrived in Nigeria via the Hausa States.
  • In the late 17th to early 18th centuries, Oyo was at its zenith and was able to expand its influence from western Nigeria to present-day Togo. As early as the 9th century the Ife and Oyo had bloomed in the area.
  • The Benin Empire had sovereignty over the region between the 15th and the 19th centuries.
  • The Fulani Empire, also referred as the Sokoto Caliphate, was then developed at the beginning of the 19th century by Usman dan Fodio who led a successful jihad. The empire ruled over what is currently central and northern Nigeria and its sovereignty lasted until 1903 when it was broken up into a number of European colonies.


Nigeria and Africa as a whole got a reprieve from slave trade, thanks to the positive aftermath and euphoria that followed, in 1807 when Great Britain abolished the transnational slave trade. After the Napoleonic Wars, Britain created the West African Squadron in an effort to put an end to the transnational slave trade. A number of European states and non-state actors, for instance, Portugal, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and private organizations, as well as a number of African countries and non-states actors were actively involved in the slave trade business.

Speaker 1 In 1851, British bombarded Lagos while intervening in the Lagos Sovereignty power struggle, deposed Oba Kosoko who favored slave trade and in his place appointed Oba Akitoye. On 1 January 1852, the treaty between Great Britain and Lagos was signed and in August 1861 Lagos was annexed as a Crown Colony via the Lagos Treaty of Cession.

In 1856, Britain chartered the Royal Niger Company and in 1900 the company’s region came under the leadership of the British government which then consolidated its control over the area of present-day Nigeria. Nigeria was then made a British protectorate on 1 January 1901 thus becoming a section of the British Empire. Towards the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th centuries, the sovereign kingdoms that would later become Nigeria fought against Britain’s attempts to enlarge its territory. Benin was conquered by the British in 1897 who also overpowered other opponents in the Anglo-Aro War that took place from1901-1902.

The Niger was officially merged as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914. Nigeria remained administratively divided into the Southern and Northern Protectorates and Lagos Colony. Western learning institutions were established in the Protectorates by Christian missions. The Christian missions were, however, not encouraged to operate their missions in the northern region of the country which was Islamic.

After World War II there were demands for independence by the locals and consecutive constitutions established by Britain helped move Nigeria towards a self-government. Towards mid-20th century a big wave for sovereignty was sweeping across the African continent and Nigeria attained its independence on 1 October 1960.

The government was made up of an alliance of conservative parties: the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, dominated mostly by Christians and Igbo people, and the Nigerian People’s Congress (NPC) which was dominated by people of Islamic faith and Northerners. The opposition party was made up of the liberal Action Group (AG) which was dominated by the Yoruba.

Speaker 1 The first Federal Republic was created in 1963 and in 1965 elections were held. The results of the 1965 elections led to a number of military coups in 1966 due to the alleged corrupt electoral and political processes. In January 1966, the first coup was executed by soldiers from Igbo under the leadership of Majors Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna(an Olympian). A counter-coup took place in the same year, executed by military officers from the north, resulting in Lt. Colonel Gowon being head of state.

The Eastern Region, in May 1967, declared its sovereignty as a nation known as the Republic of Biafra and was led by Lt. Colonel Emeka Ojukwu. On 6 July 1967, The Nigerian Civil War started when the government attacked Biafra at Garkem. The war came to an end in January 1970 and it is estimated that between 1 and 3 million people in the former Eastern Region died from warfare, starvation, and disease.

In the 1970s Nigeria experienced an oil boom. The country joined OPEC and the oil revenues generated helped enrich the economy. Much was, however, not done to improve the standards of living for the locals; the military government did not invest in infrastructure or help businesses grow thus leading to a political struggle in the country. After the bloody civil war, where about 2million Nigerians lost their lives, with statistics showing more of the casualties were of the Biafran side, General Yakubu Gowon was overthrown in a bloodless coup, this brought General Murtala Mohammed as the Head of State of the federal republic of Nigeria.

Despite the economic boom, where 'eran Muri' flooded the market, in 1976 13 February Mohammed was assassinated on his way to work. His deputy, Lieutenant-General Olusegun Obasanjo , became Head of State and set a date to end military rule. Which he duly delivered, and this act helped Obasanjo to gather vote of confidence from the populace when he later contested and won as a civilian President 1979, power was returned to the civilian regime led by Shehu Shagari but his government was viewed as corrupt. In 1984, a military coup led by Muhammadu Buhari was executed and people thought of it as a positive development. Major reforms were promised by Buhari but his government was no better and he was overthrown in 1985 by another military coup. Ibrahim Babangida became the new president and in his tenure, he enlisted Nigeria in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. He also introduced the International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Program to assist in repaying the country’s debt.

On 12 June 1993, the first free and fair elections were held since the military coup of 1983 and the presidential victory went to the Social Democratic Party after defeating the National republican Convention. The elections were, however, cancelled by Babangida. This led to civilian protests which eventually led to the shutting down of the nation for weeks. On 5 May 1999, a new constitution was adopted and it provided for multiparty elections.

Democracy was regained by the county in 1999 after Olusegun Obasanjo was selected as the President of Nigeria. He was re-elected again in 2003. In the 2007 general elections, Umaru Yar'Adua came to power under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He passed on in May 2010 and was replaced by Dr Goodluck Jonathan who won the 2011 general elections but was defeated in the March 2015 general elections by Muhammadu Buhari.

Writer's column

Speaker 1
It's well documented in one of the holy books that; RIGHTEOUSNESS UPLIFTS A NATION...

As an African in the most populous African nation, Nigeria. Thus, my notion is well nurtured in culture and religion, although I'm not blinded by these two, instead it warms my heart that these DIVERSITY is 'here'.

Righteousness is needed, it's EMPTINESS is Corruption plus wickedness, then the UPLIFT that the 58year old Nigeria needs is in the oblivion, because Nigeria is bathed in unapologetic corruption. Uplift means lifting from "ground zero" and not the 'destination paradise' we are craving for. Finally, from that excerpt of the holy book, a nation is called that, because all of her being and aura have WILLpower, the willpower in Nigeria is so low, that we can say it's nonexistent, thus we are existing as more or less like the protectorates we were almagamated from in 1914 by Lord Lugard.
Finally, let the REVOLUTION begin and let us keep it fervent against CORRUPTION, so that we can begin to think of the needed UPLIFT from ground zero, then the WILLpower a true nation demonstrates should come afterwards, so that we can once again be the GIANT OF AFRICA.

God bless NIGERIA.
Writer: Adegbite Opeoluwa