Nigerian Community in Peterborough

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The History of Nigeria

Situated on the west coast of Africa – on the shores of the Gulf of Guinea which includes the Bightsof Benin and Biafra, Nigeria lies between the parallels of 4 and 14 degrees north; and it is entirely within the tropics.

Historical Background

Contrary to the general impression that the country is made up of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba; the geographical area of present day Nigeria has always been occupied by very many different ethnic groups with their distinct ways of life, political administrations and religious beliefs/practices. It is
estimated that there are over (inclusive of dialectical variations) 500 languages in Nigeria; and there are nothing less than 250 ethnic groups. Interestingly, all forms of traditional/native religious practices/beliefs (despite some questionable practices) had always held the concept of an all-
powerful and awesome Supreme God who could only be approached via lesser “gods”. There existed native systems of governance before the advent of European explorers as evidenced by many artefacts from different parts of the country. There were the kingdoms of Bini, Oyo, Nri, Fulani and Bornu Empire to name a few. They engaged in commerce as well as warfare at different times for various reasons.

Prior to the amalgamation (the north with the south) of 1914, Lagos used to be the only area administered as a British colony; while the remaining vast expanse of present day Nigeria was under the administration of various European (mainly British) trading companies. Following the cancellation of the Charter of the Royal Niger Company, the British on January 1, 1900, replaced the company’s flag with the Union Jack at Lokoja. This was the establishment of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. On the same day (January 1, 1900) “the delta of the Niger and the land on either bank of the river as far north as Idah being included”1 (History of Nigeria, by Sir Alan Burns p.214) was renamed the Southern Nigeria Protectorate.


Nigeria is a mixed economy; and it is among the first ten largest producers of crude oil in the world. The country is endowed with abundant human and material resources. It is the most populous country in Africa and the second largest economy in the continent. According to the World Bank Reports, the country is an emerging market with the potential to become a regional economic power in the nearest future. This would only be possible if Nigeria gets a responsible leadership of transparent accountability that could provide prudent management of the country’s stupendous oil
revenue in tandem with her vast human and other material resources. Nigeria remains the only country in the world to have paid off her entire debt to the Paris Club.

Political History

On January 1, 1914, the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria were amalgamated to become a colony of Great Britain by Sir Fredrick Lord Lugard. Nigeria gained political independence from British colonial rule on October 1, 1960. The Prime Minister was Sir Abubakhar Tafawa Balewa and Dr. Namidi Azikiwe was Governor General. The country became a Federal Republic on October 1, 1963 with Dr. Namidi Azikwe as the President.

Physical Features and Climate

Thus, it experiences the dry and rainy seasons for climate. The area of the country is 356,667 square miles, more than four times the size of Great Britain. As would be expected of a country this size, the physical conditions vary considerably. There are great highlands, lowlands, undulating plateaux and extensive plain land and more than a fair share of very large rivers, the two most prominent of which are the Niger and the Benue. The mangrove swamp gives way to the tropical rain forest as one moves hinterland from the coast. The rain forest leads to the guinea savannah
which in turn leads to savannah grassland before finally culminating to Sahel savannah. Nigeria is a vast area of spectacular biodiversity endowed with enormous resources and natural beauty.

Political History Continues

Political unrest and violence of 1964/65 led to the first military coup of January 15, 1966, which claimed the lives of Tafawa Balewa, Amhadu Bello, Samuel Akintola, Festus Okotie Eboh and some other key military officers. Unable to garner robust support within the Armed Forces, the young military officers who were primarily responsible for the coup surrendered to their senior officers, thus ushering in Major General Aguyi Ironsi as the first military Head of State. This marked the end of the First Republic. Another coup in July 1966 ushered in then Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon as the Military Head of State. Meanwhile the political situation in the country remained tense. There were “cracks” and strife within the Armed Forces. Mutual suspicion, fear, disillusion and bitter ethnic resentments, on account of the coups and other factors, were running deep. In the ensuing political fog began the riots in the North which culminated to the pogrom against the Igbos. The pogrom continued unabated to the effect that very many Igbos residing in different parts of the country fled home for safety. The situation gradually spiralled out of control, leading to a political stalemate. It was in the wake of this impasse that the Republic of Biafra was declared under the leadership of Lt. Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu in May 1967. Further degeneration of affairs and hostility plunged the country into the “darkness” of three and a half years of civil war.

General Yakubu Gowon was later toppled in another coup on July 29, 1975 bringing then Major General Murtala Mohamed as the military Head of State. The assassination of Murtala Mohamed in the abortive coup of February 13, 1976 paved the way for then Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo to become the military Head of State.

Nigeria began an era of second Republic on October 1, 1979 with Alhaji Shehu Shagari as the president. However, the second Republic was sacked by the Armed Forces with a coup on December 31, 1983, thus ushering in General Muhamadu Buhari as military Head of State. Another military coup in 1985 toppled General Muhamadu Buhari and replaced him with General Ibrahim Babangida who opted to be addressed as president.

Following the controversial annulment of the June 1993 election results in which Chief Moshood Abiola emerged a winner of the presidency, General Ibrahim Babangida relinquished his office as Military President and installed Chief Ernest Shonekan as the Head of an interim government for Nigeria. The interim government was soon pushed out; and General Sanni Abacha became the military Head of State. General Mohamed Abdulsalami became the last military Head of State following the death of General Sanni Abacha in office. Thus, the onus fell on General Abdulsalami to organise and conduct the elections that ushered in the third Republic in 1999. Former military Head of State- General Olusegun Obasanjo became the president of the Third Republic on the ticket of the Peoples’ Democratic Party. He was succeeded by late Alhaji Umaru Yar’ardua who into was succeeded by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Today, the President of Nigeria is Mr. Muhammed Buhari.


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