Nigeria: A Short History

Nigeria / Key Facts / Timeline / History / Quiz

Nigeria is a multinational state today with its multicultural and multilingual paradigms acquired from the country’s multi-layered evolution. Nigeria’s history can be briefly studied under following periods of its civilizational growth.

Classical History
Nations are in fact the minor parts of a greater civilization. Africa has its distinct civilization in the world with its unparalleled diversity. Among this diverse hub of civilizations, Nigeria, in its classical history, finds the stamp of ‘Nok Civilization’. This civilization flourished and declined in the Northern Nigeria round about hundreds of years Before Christ. During this period, the territory was ruled by several chieftains belonging to different ethnic peoples i.e. Igbo People.

During the ‘Middle Ages’ (17th to 19th century)
A greater part of Southern Nigeria remained under the hold of Benin Empire. At the start of 19th century, the Nigerian territory came in subjection of ‘Sokoto Caliphate’ – a religion based state conquered and developed by Usman Dan Fodio during his Jihad against the rulers.

British Colonialism (19th & 20th centuries)
British incursion in Nigeria was gradual and effective. British came in the name of liberating the slaves from the chains of Sokoto Caliphate. The slaves were kept in concentration camps and were brought into forced labor primarily in agriculture. It is also noted that the slave were shipped from West Africa into European countries particularly into the French territories. British brought three-pronged strategy to overwhelm the region;

  1. Introduced its anti-slavery rhetoric at the start of 19th century and began to halt the international trafficking of slaves from Nigeria and other African states.
  2. British incorporated ‘Royal Niger Company’ 1880s and by the beginning of 20th century the British Government took over the territories under the company’s hold.
  3. Beginning with invasion of Lagos 1851, the British troops colonized Benin in 1897 and formally annexed the territory of Nigeria into ‘Colony & Protectorate of Nigeria’.

20th Century Independent Nigeria
British had divided Nigeria into three administrative units;

  1. Northern Nigeria
  2. Southern Nigeria
  3. Colony of Lagos

The country sought independence from the British rule in 1960 amid all the efforts of the latter to snub the people as long as possible by giving them the bone of ‘Self-Government’. Even after independence the impact of the administrative division made by the British rulers remained apparent. Nigeria’s post-independence politics was marked by regional, cultural ethnic and lingual differences. This led country into civil war, from 1967 to 1970, just six years after independence and then a three-decades of rule by several military juntas. The country however revived democracy in 21st century.