Nigeria Recent History

The country takes its name from Niger, the great river, third of Africa after the Nile and Congo. According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Nigeria, the Portuguese were the first to arrive in Nigeria in 1500 but stopped along the coast, because the country inside was simply scary.

Starting from the early nineteenth century, the British began penetrating the territory. Indeed, in 1805, one of the greatest English explorers, Mungo Park, died drowned in Niger.

Before the arrival of the Europeans, who came from the sea, the population spread, in this part of western Africa, by land and from the north, but almost nothing is known of how all this happened.

JD Falconer, the Scottish traveler, famous botanist, geologist and paleontologist, described in his main work “Fauna Antiqua Silvanensis”, how he found a fossil desert surface here and how the desert, in its advances and retreats, has greatly influenced climate change.

For this reason, it was not possible to understand the relationships that existed in West Africa between human currents and changes in the territory.
Among the various populations that made it up, two races prevailed in Nigeria: the Haussa in the north and the Yoruba in the southwest.

The populations of the north, more evolved, organized themselves into emirates and immediately built their stone buildings. They plowed the land, cultivated cotton, indigo and fodder. And in addition they left written memoirs of their civilization.

The emir had a residence in the city, with a wall around it, and a holiday residence, outside the city and this house was later occupied by the English president, as a counselor to the emir.
Until the end of the 19th century, no Europeans were allowed to live in Kano, the most advanced city in the north, and the emirs, in order to defend their profitable slave trade, resisted tenaciously until the city was occupied by the British in 1903 and the slave trade abolished.

England then handed over the emirate to the brother of the defeated ruler and the new offspring departed from him.

The British who occupied the area found their businesses favored by the export of oil; in fact, the coast of Nigeria was known as the “oil riviera” and the “oil rivers”.
In 1861 the British occupied the islet of Lagos, attempted to found a base for the hunting of black farmers. But the treacherous climate prevented them from developing the colony.

Nigeria Recent History

In 1879 you founded the “United African Company” (UAC), which eliminated French competition by buying all its shares and acquired vast territories on Lower Niger. In 1884, after the Berlin Congress, he proclaimed Nigeria an English “Protectorate” and took possession of the famous “oil rivers” in 1885.

In 1886 the region became autonomous and took the name of “English Colony and Protectorate of Lagos”. Then, this Protectorate, together with Lower Niger and the Oil Rivers, constituted the “Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria” which, after having subdued the rebel natives, also annexed Benin.

Meanwhile England continued its penetration in the north until the emirates of Kano and Sokoto were subdued.
In 1909 the French and the English agreed definitively and in 1912 the two Nigeries, north and south, had a single English governor and this was the first step towards unification, which took place in 1914.

During World War I Nigeria collaborated with the French against the Germans in the colonial struggle for the conquest of Cameroon. War that lasted until 1916, the year in which peace was signed and therefore also the northernmost part of Cameroon became part of the English Protectorate.

The whole of Nigeria was made up of three territories: the North with the inhabitants Hausa and Fulani, the West with the Yoruba and the East with the Ibo, plus a Federal Territory, Lagos.

Although this Federation contained a great variety of races, languages, religions and systems, it soon showed a high degree of maturity and goodwill, especially in knowing how to contain the conflicts that inevitably arose between the various regions. So that between 1957 and 1959 full self-government in internal affairs was achieved. And through the subsequent constitutional stages, gradually agreed with the GB, on 1st October 1960 the independence was proclaimed. Six days later Nigeria was admitted to the UN.

In February 1961 the issue of former British Cameroon was also resolved, which opted for union with Nigeria, while the southern part joined the former French republic of Cameroon.

Constitutionally Nigeria was a monarchy, headed by the Queen of England, who was represented in the country by a Nigerian governor general and other governors, one from each region. A bicameral Parliament, formed by the Assembly of Representatives and the Senate, and an Executive Council chaired by a Premier worked with the governor general.

In each of the three regions, a bicameral Parliament and an Executive Council assisted the government. The General Parliament was responsible for dealing with matters relating to the general interests of the country and the three regional parliaments dealt with local issues.

Already in 1959 elections were held to establish the Federal Assembly, and then the day of the proclamation of independence
became the first legislature of the new Kingdom of Nigeria.
To enhance the country, extensive development projects were initiated which included an expense of as much as 339 million pounds, which, more or less 33 million as a contribution from the International Bank and the “Colonial Development and Welfare Fund”, represented the proceeds from the sale of: cocoa, cotton, peanuts and oil palm products.

There were three major dominant parties: the NPC, Northern People Congress, in the north, Muslim and traditionalist; the NCNC, “National Convention of Nigerian Citizens”, to the east, with strong democratic tendencies; the AG, “Action Group”, to the west.

The federal government was composed of the coalition of the NPC, to which Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa belonged, with the NCNC, whose leader, the intellectual N. Azikiwe, had become governor general representing the Crown.

In 1962 the AG split into two groups: one led by O. Awololo, of a pan-Africanist socialist tendency, and not inclined to participate in the federal government, as had been offered, and one led by SL Akintola, in favor of government cooperation. Later Akintola formed the UPP, “United People Party” and became premier in the western region.

In July 1963 a new region was created, the “Mid West”, detached from the western region, and on October 1, 1963 Nigeria assumed a republican constitution with President Azikiwe.

In December 1964 the elections gave birth to a coalition government between the various parties but also gave rise to tensions and hostilities between the elite of the eastern region and the political prevalence of the north.

In January 1966 some Ibo officers killed all the general rulers and those of the other regions, and General J. Aguiyi Ironsi took over and in July he was killed in turn by northern soldiers. Power passed into the hands of Colonel Yabubu Gowon, a Christian from the north, who attempted to remedy all disagreements with the restoration of the general government.

This was not possible due to the refusal of Colonel O. Ojukwu, commander of the eastern region, who first asked for full political and economic autonomy of the region, and then, on May 30, 1967, proclaimed secession as the Republic of Biafra. The Lagos government condemned the rebellion, resulting in a bloody civil war that lasted until the 1970s. The government then pursued a policy of reconciliation, an amnesty was granted, and most of Biafra’s military and bureaucrats were reinstated.

In 1970, a vast state development and modernization plan began; plan that would then be implemented over several years, with the task of enhancing transport, education, communications; which was supposed to cancel inflation, reform bureaucracy, level prices and conduct a census.

On this last rumor, at the regional level heated controversies arose that in July 1975 resulted in a coup that deposed Gowon, who had not kept his promise to restore the civilian government, and handed over the power to the SMC “National Youth Service Corps “, chaired by Murtala Mohammed who, after having reconstituted a government with military supports, announced, in October, the return to civilian government for 1979.

While the new government was fully committed to a modernization and moralization of the country and also to the elaboration of a new Constitution, a subversive attempt occurred in February 1976, in which Murtala lost his life, regretted by almost all Nigerians.

General Bisalla, head of the coup, was executed together with a group of conspirators, while head of state became the 40-year-old general Olusegun Obasanjo. In the course of all these internal events, Nigeria proved, however, coherent in international relations.

In the meantime Nigeria had conquered the 7th place in the world oil production, and had promoted the birth of the Ecowas, that is: “Economic Community of West African States”. In 1977 relations with the United States were consolidated, where President Obasanjo visited in October.

And, as announced, on 1 October 1979 the civilian government was reestablished in Nigeria with a new constitution, chaired by
Alhaji Shehu Shagari.

This had been possible through an agreement reached by all regional bodies. But this agreement lasted until 1981, when protests began and economic development was endangered not only by the drop in the world oil price but also by an emerging Islamic movement.

With the elections of October 1, 1983, Shagari was confirmed as president, but stories of corruption and illicit means dismissed him immediately after taking the oath. Power returned to the military in December of the same year, General M. Buhari was head of the Supreme Military Council. In 1985, another coup brought General I. Babangida to power.

To avoid falling back into regionalism, two parties were created: one center-right and one center-left. The capital moved from Lagos to Abuja.

In June 1988 the new Constituent Assembly was installed which in 1989 approved the new Constitution.

In 1992 new elections were held; the center-left party won with its candidate M. Abiola, a Muslim from the west.

But the elections were canceled; the reasons were never spelled out. General Babangida reiterated his firm intention to restore civilian rule for the subsequent Fourth Republic.

In July 1993 there were unrest, with a hundred deaths, by the supporters of Abiola, gathered in the
“Campaign for Democracy” movement.

In August Babangida retired and was replaced by E.Shonekan, former president of the most important Nigerian industry, who assumed
“interim” power with the precise aim of reuniting the whole country and bringing it to peace in future presidential elections.

And this temporary worker had a very short and difficult life. In fact, in November 1993, following the cut in state subsidies to petroleum products which, consequently, caused the price of the same to rise, further strikes and unrest occurred and Shonekan resigned.

General A. Abacha, chief of staff of the Armed Forces, assumed full power and immediately prohibited any political activity in the country. Then he established special temporary bodies and finally promised to convene a special conference with the aim of formulating the future constitutional structure of the nation. He also stated that he would stop all the economic reforms previously decreed.

And while it made economic concessions, in the political one it applied increasingly restrictive and repressive measures. So he made completely unjust arrests, including that of Abiola, who in June 1994 was imprisoned on charges of treason. He sentenced death sentences to opponents, abolished newspapers and completely ignored human rights. For this he was reported to Amnesty International.

Meanwhile, in the first months of 1994, religious and ethnic clashes broke out, between Christians and Muslims in the center and some groups in the south-eastern states.

In June 1995 it appeared that General Abacha was collecting appeals from various western states and, in fact, partially lifted the ban on political activity. But it was only a passing appearance since in November of the same year he had the writer K. Saro Wiwa executed, and 8 others belonging to the Ogoni ethnic group. For this reason Nigeria was expelled from the Commonwealth, underwent the tightening of sanctions for some time imposed by the European Union and a diplomatic crisis with the United States and South Africa.

Saro Wiwa had attempted to bring to the attention of the world the state of misery and sub-civilization in which the Ogoni were forced, a population of the south for years subjected to the wild exploitation of some foreign oil companies operating in the area.


Abacha declared that in 1998 he would restore the civilian government but, in the meantime, within the government it had gradually become more and more attesting to corruption. The political climate deteriorated and the first results of this disintegration occurred between December 1996 and May 1997 in Lagos, which became the scene of riots and attacks precisely against military objectives. In June 1998 Abacha suddenly died; the following July Abiola also died in prison.

And finally the time seemed to come to restore a civil and democratic government to the country.

General A. Abubakar was called to this task, who wanted to speed up this process. He, with the support of the United States and the European Union, restored freedom to political prisoners and drew up a plan to make both legislative and presidential elections in a short time.

The first took place in February 1999 and assigned the victory to the Democratic People’s Party, whose leader, ex-president O. Obasanjo, returned to being president in that same February, but officially took office on May 29, 1999.