History of Nigeria

THE HISTORY OF NIGERIA,
1849 – 1960

The History of Nigeria from about 1849 until it attained independence in 1960 is largely the story of the transformational impact of the British on the people and cultures of the Niger-Benue area. The colonial authorities who came to these parts of West Africa in the years between 1862 and 1960, sought to define, protect and realize their imperial interests. The British were in the Niger- Benue area pursuing their interests which were largely economic and strategic. Steps taken in these pursuits resulted in many unplanned for and by-products, one of which was the socio-political aggregation which is known today in international law as the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The first critical step in this uncertain path was taken in 1849 when, as part of an effort to ‘sanitize’ the Bights of Benin and Biafra, which were notorious for the slave trade, the British created a consulate for the two Bights. One thing led to another for the British, especially from deepening their involvement in the political and economic life of the cities and states of the Bights to rivalry with the French who also began showing imperial ambitions in the area. This resulted in the British converting the coastal consulate and its immediate hinterland into the Oil Rivers Protectorate in 1885, which, in 1893, transformed into the Niger Coast Protectorate. The apparently irreversible logic of this development led to a deeper and closer involvement in the administration of the people and societies of this segment of Nigeria which, in the middle of the twentieth century, came to be  known as Eastern Nigeria.

The second step, along the same path, was taken about 1862 when the British annexed the Lagos Lagoon area and its immediate environs and converted them into a crown colony. The British claim that this was done to enable the abolishment of the slave trade which used that area as export point. However, Nigerian historians argue the contrary. They claim that the British, with this, aimed to protect their interest in the vital trade route that ran from Lagos through Ikorodu, Ibadan and similar communities, to the Niger waterway in the north and beyond into Hausaland. By 1897, British influence and power had overflowed the frontiers of Lagos and affected all of Yorubaland which was subsequently attached to Lagos as a Protectorate. The political and administrative unit which came to be known as Western Nigeria in the 1950s came at the end of this second step.

The third and final step in this uncharted path came in 1888. The British administered political ‘baptism’ on Greyne Goldie’s National African Company which had successfully squeezed out rivals, British and non-British, from the trade in the lower Niger, following a trade war of almost unprecedented ferocity. As a result of the ‘baptism’, Goldie’s company became the Royal Niger Company, chartered and limited. It also acquired political and administrative powers over a narrow belt of territory on both sides of the river from the sea to Lokoja, as well as over the vast area which, in the 20th century, came to be known as Northern Nigeria.

Thus, by about 1897, the three blocks of territory had emerged, as British colonial possessions, from moves made during the period of the scramble for Nigeria, best characterized as having been marked by fits and starts. The emergence of Nigeria is simply the story of how these three neighbouring and interlocked possessions were brought together by the British, first administratively and then politically.

The move towards administrative union or amalgamation (a term that was later to occupy a place of disproportionate importance in Nigerian history) began in 1898 with the appointment, by the British Government, of the so-called Niger Committee chairmanned by Lord Selborne. Its main term of reference was to look into and advise on the future management of the affairs of the three territories, i.e. on the form of administration that would best promote efficiency and economy in the pursuit of British interests in the region. The committee recommended that the administrative goal to be aimed at for the three territories was amalgamation, but that for the time being, such a course of action was premature and inadvisable because the experienced colonial administration to preside over the affairs of the large territory that would arise from the union did not then exist. It also felt that the infrastructure for communication, which alone would conduce to efficient administration, did not also exist.

In the event, 1900 saw only very minor changes in the ways and means the British administered these three blocks of territories. One change, perhaps the major one, was that the charter of the Royal Niger Company was withdrawn and the territory under its shadowy control was declared the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and brought under the Colonial Secretary. In addition, the narrow “strip of Royal Niger Company from Lokoja to the sea”, which had divided the Niger Coast Protectorate into two, was united with it, thus bringing the western and eastern halves of that administration together territorially.

The amalgamation of 1914 offered an opportunity for making changes in the unsatisfactory arrangement, but not much was achieved in this area. All that was created was a body known as the Nigerian Council which met once a year to listen to what may be called the Governor’s address on the state of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. The body had no legislative powers whatsoever. The same ambivalence based on imperial self-interest that characterized the Lugardian approach to seeing and treating Nigeria as one political entity and Nigerians as members of one political family was also evidenced in the constitutional development efforts of his successors. For example, while the Sir Hugh Clifford Constitution of 1922 introduced the elective principle for legislative houses for the first time, the Legislative Council which replaced Lugard’s Nigerian Council legislated only for the Colony and Southern Provinces while the Governor continued to legislate for the Northern Provinces through proclamations. The forty-six-member Council, presided over by the Governor, was dominated by ex-official and nominated members.

The Legislative Council system thus implied a division of responsibility to govern Nigeria between the United Kingdom-based British Government and the government established in the Colony. Besides, Nigerians were excluded from membership of the Executive Council.

The Richards Constitution of 1946, though it had among its objectives the promotion of the unity of Nigeria and securing greater participation by Nigerians in discussing their affairs, deliberately set out to cater for the diverse elements within The country, Significant provisions of this new constitution included the establishment of a re-constituted Legislative Council whose competence covered the whole country; the abolition of the official majority in the Council; the creation of Regional Councils consisting of a House of Assembly in each of the Northern, Eastern and Western Provinces, and creation of House of Chiefs in the North, whose roles were purely advisory rather than legislative. Significantly, however, the Richards Constitution was designed without full consultation with Nigerians which explains the hostility with which it was greeted, especially in the South.

Although the Richards Constitution was expected to last for nine years, opposition to it, especially from the political leaders, was so strong that a new constitution, the Macpherson Constitution, was promulgated in 1951. Unlike its predecessors, there was significant participation of Nigerians in its making from the village level up to the Ibadan General Conference of 195, The major provisions of the Constitution were as follows: the establishment of a 145-member House of Representatives, 136 of them elected, to replace the Legislative Council; a bicameral legislature for both the North and West, one being the House of Chiefs while the East retained the unicameral House of Assembly; the establishment of a Public Service Commission to advise the Governor on the appointment and control of public officers; the competence of the Regional Legislatures to legislate on a range of prescribed subjects while the central legislature was empowered to legislate on all matters including those on the Regional Legislative lists. Substantially, therefore, the 1951 Constitution was more or less a half-way house between regionalization and federation. Between 1951 and 1954, two important constitutional conferences were held in London and Lagos between Nigerian political leaders and the British government. These resulted in a new 1954 Federal Constitution whose main features were: the separation of Lagos, the nation’s capital, from the Western Region; the establishment of a Federal Government for Nigeria comprising three regions, namely, North, West and East with a Governor-General at the centre and three Regional Governors; the introduction of an exclusive Federal Legislative List as well as a Concurrent List of responsibilities for both the Federal and Regional Governments, thus resulting in a strong central government and weak regions; regionalization of the Judiciary and of the public service through the establishment of Regional Public Service Commissions, in addition to the Federal one.

From the point of view of the evolution of the Nigerian state, the most significant thing about the 1954 Constitution, which remained in force until Independence in 1960, was that the Lugardian principle of entralization was replaced by the formula of decentralization as a matter of policy in the administration of the Nigerian state.

EMPIRES

Benin developed into a major kingdom during the same period that Oyo was becoming dominant to the west. Although the people of Benin are primarily Edo, not Yoruba, they share with Ife and Oyo many of the same origins, and there is much evidence of cultural and artistic interchange between the kingdoms. The King (Oba) oE Benin was considered semi-divine and controlled a complex bureaucracy, a large army, and a diversified economy. Benin’s power reached its apex in the 16th Century.

While there is no direct evidence to link the people of the Jos Plateau with the Nok culture, or the Eze Nri of today with Igbo Ukwu, the history of Borno dates back to the 9th Century when Arabic writers in north Africa first noted the kingdom of Kanem east of Lake Chad. Bolstered by trade with the Nile region and Trans-Saharan routes, the empire prospered. In the next centuries, complex political and social systems were developed, particularly after the Bulala invasion in the 14th Century. The empire moved from Kanem to Borno, hence the name. The empire lasted for 1,000 years (until the 19th Century) despite challenges from the HausaFulani in the west and Jukun from the south.

To the west of Borno around 1,000 A.D., the Hausa were building similar states around Kano, Zaria, Daura, Katsina, and Gobir. However, unlike the Kanuri, no ruler among these states ever became powerful enough to impose his will over the others. Although the Hausa had common languages, culture, and Islamic religion, they had no common king. Kano, the most powerful of these states, controlled much of the Hausa land in the 16th and 17th Centuries, but conflicts with the surrounding states ended this dominance. Because of these conflicts, the Fulanis, led by Usman Dan Fodio in 1804, successfully challenged the Hausa States and set up the Hausa-Fulani Caliphate with headquarters in Sokoto, commanding a broad area from Katsina in the far north to Ilorin, across the River Niger.

In the west, the Yoruba developed complex, powerful city-states. The first of these important states was Ile-Ife, which according to Yoruba mythology was the center of the universe. Ife is the site of a unique art form first uncovered in thel93Os. Naturalistic terracotta, bronze heads and other artifacts dating as far back as the 10th Century show just how early the Yoruba developed an advanced civilization. Later, other Yoruba cities challenged Ife for supremacy, and Oyo became the most powerful West African kingdom in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The armies of the Oyo king (Alafin) dominated other Yoruba cities and even forced tribute from the ruler of Dahomey. Internal power struggles and the Fulani expansion to the south caused the collapse of Oyo in the early 19th Century.

IGBO AND THE DELTA STATES

igbo womenMany Nigerian cultures did not develop into centralized monarchies. Of these, the Igbo are probably the most remarkable because of the size of their territory and the density of population. Igbo societies were organized in self-contained villages, or federations of village communities, with a society of elders and age-grade associations sharing various governmental functions. The same was true of the Ijaw of the Niger Delta and people of the Cross River area, where secret societies also played a prominent role in administration and governmental functions. But by the 18th Century, overseas trade had begun to encourage the emergence of centralized systems of government.

SOUTH WEST NIGERIA

on Lagos Island, has been settled since the 15th Century, when Yoruba groups used it as a refuge from outside attacks. It was a trading post between the Benin Kingdom and the Portuguese until the arrival of British traders in the 19th Century, presaging the colonization of the interior. Lagos is divided into several parts, each with its distinctive character. The heart of the city is Lagos Island (Eko), containing most of Nigeria’s commercial and administrative headquarters. It is linked to the mainland by three road bridges, and to Ikoyi Island and Victoria Island by road. The latter are mostly residential areas with palatial houses, expansive gardens and five star hotels in a gorgeous setting. Tourist attractions in the city include The National Museum, The National Theater and miles of beautiful beaches (see pages 26 & 27). Finally, Oba’s Palace sits majestically on Lagos Island, portions of which are over 200 years old with a newly contructed extension.

Ondo area has many fascinating tourist attractions including the Ikogosi Warm Spring, Idanre Hills, Ipolo-Iloro Water Falls, Ebomi Lake and the Museum at Owo. The most popular are Ikogosi Warm Spring and the Idanre Hills. The Ikogosi Warm Spring, located in a valley in Ikogosi Town, northeast of Akure, is ideal for camping or picnics. The Idanre Hills, with curious dome-shaped peaks, are located in Idanre, southwest of Akure. The hills have a socio-religious significance, having protected inhabitants from invaders during inter-ethnic wars in the distant past

Abeokuta means ‘under the rock’, derived from the Olumo Rock, the town’s most famous landmark. Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, lies on the Ogun River amid rugged, rocky hills, offering excellent photo opportunities. Home of adire cloth, Abeokuta has an intriguing array of markets which sell a wide range of exotic goods. Olumo Rock, sacred to the Egba people, is on the east side of the Ogun river. Visitors should engage a guide from the tourist center at the bottom of the rock where one can explore the caves used as sanctuary during the Yoruba civil war. At the rock’s summit, visitors can enjoy a tremendous view of Abeokuta and the Ogun River.

Benin City is steeped in history. World-renowned Benin bronze scuptures date back to the 15th Century when the Oba of Benin ruled the large and powerful Edo kingdom, a period when bronze casting was an art used to glorify the Oba. In 1897, a British expeditionary force sacked Benin and hauled off many of the bronzes to London. Still, several good examples of the bronze artifacts remain in both the Benin and Lagos Museums. Today, bronze casting is still continued in several streets in the city, including Igun and Oloton streets. Another attraction in Benin is Chief Ogiamen’s House, a prime example of Benin traditional architecture built before 1897. The house miraculously survived the “Great Fire” during that period which destroyed most of the city.

SOUTH EAST NIGERIA

ANAMBRA STATE offers many exciting attractions throughout the area, including the Ogbunike caves, Agulu Lake, Igbo-Ukwu archaeological excavations and the Aguleri Game Reserve. Onitsha, located on the Eastern bank of the River Niger, is famous for its robust market and commercial activity. The traditional Ofala festivals, performed by royalty in Anambra, are rare pageants of color and fanfare. Calabar is an attractive city on the bank of the New Calabar River, near its confluence with the Cross River, which has a long history as the regional port of eastern Nigeria. Residents here trace their ancestots back to Babylon before the time of Christ.

OWERRI is predominantly inhabited by the Igbo penpIe. The Igbos are renowned for their music and dancing, especially the colorful masquerades in which the dancers wear elaborate masks. Places of interest include an amusement park, the Nekede Botanical and Zoological Gardens, the Palm Beach Tourist Village at Awomama and the Oguta Lake Holiday Resort, which has recently developed into an international tourist center.

Port Harcourt is the capital of River State and is the center of the oil industry in Nigeria. It is called “The Garden City” because of its abundance of trees and parks. Now the second most important port in Nigeria, Port Harcourt did not exist before 1913. Nearby are the two historic ports of Bonny and Brass, formerly connected with the slave trade, but which now serve as oil ports and terminals. The town is a good base from which to explore the local creek villages and towns. The local people include Elk, Kalabari and Ibos, not to mention British, French, American and Dutch, who work in the oil fields.

Sites include the State Museum, which features many examples of local culture including masks and carvings. The Cultural Center on Bonny Street has a stage and auditorium for plays, dancing and a shop where tourists can purchase local handicrafts. The Azumint Blue River sports beautiful clear water with sandy beaches. Tourists can rent canoes for a ride down the river to stop at a beachside picnic site, outfitted with wooden chairs, tables and grills for a pleasant riverside barbecue.

Umuahia is home to the National War Museum where relics of the Nigerian civil war are on display, including weapons and fascinating local inventions. Other attractions include the Akwette Blue River Tourist Village and Uwana Beach. Visitors to Akwette will be impressed with its unique weaving industry.

CENTRAL NIGERIA

abujaABUJA, in 1976, was selected by the Federal Government to become the new seat of government; and in 1992, the first of four stages of this move to Abuja was launched with most of the senior government officials now in Abuja. Besides being the administrative seat of government, Abuja is a beautiful city surrounded by rolling hills, with ample mountaineering potential. The Gwagwa Hills, near Suleja, the Chukuku Hills, the Agwai Hills and the famous Zuma rocks are just some of the awe-inspiring manifestations of nature’s beauty in the area.

boy selling metalware, Bida, Nigeria, West Africa

boy selling metalware, Bida, Nigeria, West Africa

BIDA is a lively town, famous for its handicrafts and colorful market, and is the principal city of the Nupe people. Bida is famous for its glass beads, cloths, silver and brass work, it’s carved 8-legged stools made from a single piece of wood, and decorative pottery. Bida’s market truly stands out as a traditional showcase of local commerce in Nigeria.

gurara-fall111206095417GURARA FALLS is on the Gurara River in Niger State, on the road between Suleja and Minna. Particularly impressive during the rainy season, the falls span 200 meters across with a sheer drop of 30 meters, which creates a dazzling rainbow effect as the water cascades over the top into a cloud of spray below.

ilorin_central_mosqueILORIN, an ancient city, is the southernmost point of Fulani expansion and bears characteristics of both north and south. It has often been described as the gateway between the two because of its strategic location, and as a result offers a good base for visiting the surrounding area. Tourist sites in Ilorin include the Mimi’s Mosque and residence built in 1831, the first mosque in Ilorin, and the magnificent new Central Mosque, built during the reign of Zul-Gambari, the late Emir of Ilorin. Both attest to the Islamic culture of the city. Another attraction is the Dada pottery workshop in Okelele quarters, the largest pottery factory in Nigeria. Other local tourist sites in Kwara State include the Esie Museum of stone figures. Over 1,000 soap stone figures of men and women, sitting on stools or kneeling, with elaborate hairstyles and facial marks. Little is known about the figures, being products of a very old civilization. Esie museum houses the largest collection of stone figures in sub-saharan Africa.

 

NORTH EAST NIGERIA
Bauchi, Nigeria: Emir's  Palace

Bauchi, Nigeria: Emir’s Palace

BAUCHI is an old Hausa town surrounded by an appealing range of rolling hills, is close to both the Yankari Game Reserve, approximately 1½ hours away to the southeast, and the site of the Geji Rock Paintings, located on the Bauchi-Jos road. In Bauchi, tourists may also visit a memorial and library dedicated to Sir Abubakari Balewa, the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, who was assassinated in 1966. The library houses many of Balewa’s personal papers.

The BULATURA OASIS are on the western side of Borno State northeast of Nguru. This is the desert in a Hollywood film set: dunes, camels and palm trees around an oasis. The severe beauty of this place offers a special treat to visitors who have yet to experience such a daunting landscape. The oases are also excellent for bird-watchers; in the dry season there are thousands of palaerartic migrants which congregate there.

RiyomJOS has always been a popular destination for tourists due to its height above sea level (4062 feet). Jos has two golf courses, Rayfield and Plateau, plus a polo club and other sports/entertainment offerings. The National Museum in Jos is one of the best in Nigeria, especially for archaeology and pottery, where many fine examples of Nok heads and artifacts, circa 500 BC – 200 AD, are displayed. The Pottery Hall has an exceptional collection of finely crafted pottery from all over the country. On the same grounds, the Museum of Architecture contains life-size replicas of Nigerian architecture, from the walls of Kano to the Mosque at Zaria to a Tiv village. Other attractions in the area include the wildlife park, nestled amid 8 sq. km (3.09 sq. miles) of unspoiled savanna bush, where the rare pygmy hippopotamus is successfully being bred in ‘hippo pool.’

The Shehu's palace

The Shehu’s palace

MAIDUGURI is a handsome, impressive town with broad streets and plentiful trees, presiding over strong traditions and a culture dating back more than 1,000 years. Maiduguri is an ideal place for seeing the Kanuri people, with their fine tribal markings, and the Shuwa women, adorned with plaited hairstyles and flowing gowns.

 

NORTH WEST NIGERIA

abujaABUJA, in 1976, was selected by the Federal Government to become the new seat of government; and in 1992, the first of four stages of this move to Abuja was launched with most of the senior government officials now in Abuja. Besides being the administrative seat of government, Abuja is a beautiful city surrounded by rolling hills, with ample mountaineering potential. The Gwagwa Hills, near Suleja, the Chukuku Hills, the Agwai Hills and the famous Zuma rocks are just some of the awe-inspiring manifestations of nature’s beauty in the area.

boy selling metalware, Bida, Nigeria, West Africa

boy selling metalware, Bida, Nigeria, West Africa

BIDA is a lively town, famous for its handicrafts and colorful market, and is the principal city of the Nupe people. Bida is famous for its glass beads, cloths, silver and brass work, it’s carved 8-legged stools made from a single piece of wood, and decorative pottery. Bida’s market truly stands out as a traditional showcase of local commerce in Nigeria.

gurara-fall111206095417GURARA FALLS is on the Gurara River in Niger State, on the road between Suleja and Minna. Particularly impressive during the rainy season, the falls span 200 meters across with a sheer drop of 30 meters, which creates a dazzling rainbow effect as the water cascades over the top into a cloud of spray below.

ilorin_central_mosqueILORIN, an ancient city, is the southernmost point of Fulani expansion and bears characteristics of both north and south. It has often been described as the gateway between the two because of its strategic location, and as a result offers a good base for visiting the surrounding area. Tourist sites in Ilorin include the Mimi’s Mosque and residence built in 1831, the first mosque in Ilorin, and the magnificent new Central Mosque, built during the reign of Zul-Gambari, the late Emir of Ilorin. Both attest to the Islamic culture of the city. Another attraction is the Dada pottery workshop in Okelele quarters, the largest pottery factory in Nigeria. Other local tourist sites in Kwara State include the Esie Museum of stone figures. Over 1,000 soap stone figures of men and women, sitting on stools or kneeling, with elaborate hairstyles and facial marks. Little is known about the figures, being products of a very old civilization. Esie museum houses the largest collection of stone figures in sub-saharan Africa.

 

NORTH EAST NIGERIA
Bauchi, Nigeria: Emir's  Palace

Bauchi, Nigeria: Emir’s Palace

BAUCHI is an old Hausa town surrounded by an appealing range of rolling hills, is close to both the Yankari Game Reserve, approximately 1½ hours away to the southeast, and the site of the Geji Rock Paintings, located on the Bauchi-Jos road. In Bauchi, tourists may also visit a memorial and library dedicated to Sir Abubakari Balewa, the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, who was assassinated in 1966. The library houses many of Balewa’s personal papers.

The BULATURA OASIS are on the western side of Borno State northeast of Nguru. This is the desert in a Hollywood film set: dunes, camels and palm trees around an oasis. The severe beauty of this place offers a special treat to visitors who have yet to experience such a daunting landscape. The oases are also excellent for bird-watchers; in the dry season there are thousands of palaerartic migrants which congregate there.

RiyomJOS has always been a popular destination for tourists due to its height above sea level (4062 feet). Jos has two golf courses, Rayfield and Plateau, plus a polo club and other sports/entertainment offerings. The National Museum in Jos is one of the best in Nigeria, especially for archaeology and pottery, where many fine examples of Nok heads and artifacts, circa 500 BC – 200 AD, are displayed. The Pottery Hall has an exceptional collection of finely crafted pottery from all over the country. On the same grounds, the Museum of Architecture contains life-size replicas of Nigerian architecture, from the walls of Kano to the Mosque at Zaria to a Tiv village. Other attractions in the area include the wildlife park, nestled amid 8 sq. km (3.09 sq. miles) of unspoiled savanna bush, where the rare pygmy hippopotamus is successfully being bred in ‘hippo pool.’

The Shehu's palace

The Shehu’s palace

MAIDUGURI is a handsome, impressive town with broad streets and plentiful trees, presiding over strong traditions and a culture dating back more than 1,000 years. Maiduguri is an ideal place for seeing the Kanuri people, with their fine tribal markings, and the Shuwa women, adorned with plaited hairstyles and flowing gowns.