- Nigeria is the window to the world. The most populated Black Nation of the world, a nation with over 500 different languages and a population 1/36th the world, at 150 million strong. Nigeria sits in the center of the world at a prime location at the trigger point of Africa when looked at on the globe. Nigerians from this point spread out around the world, being the most adventurous peoples on Earth, they can be found in all Nations and excelling in all fields and professions in life. Warri Times Newspaper at www.warritimes.wordpress.com is an online newspaper that publishes Warri news.
A Nation can no longer be described limited to the area between its borders, but rather by the limits of its reach and impact. Nigeria is a world phenomenon spanning from the edges of the Arctic to the last habited recesses of the Antarctica. Nigeria, the country officially named the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is located in West Africa and is the most populous country in Africa and the largest black Nation on Earth. Nigerias borders are: the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon to the east, and Niger its north. The south is the Atlantic Ocean Gulf of Guinea. The capital is the centrally-located city of Abuja; prior to its relocation in 1991, the Nigerian government was headquartered in the coastal city Lagos, which is still the business capital.
On October 1, 1960, Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom, and now consists of 36 states and the federal capital territory. Nigeria re-achieved democracy in 1999 after a sixteen-year interruption; from 1966 until 1999, Nigeria had been ruled (except the short-lived second republic, 1979-1983) by military dictators who seized power in coups d'état and counter-coups during the Nigerian military juntas of 1966-1979 and 1983-1998.
Recent archaeological research has shown that people were already living in south-western Nigeria (specifically Iwo-Eleru) as early as 9000 BC and perhaps earlier at Ugwuelle-Uturu (Okigwe) in south-eastern Nigeria. Microlithic and ceramic industries were developed by savanna pastoralists from at least the 4th millennium BC and were continued by subsequent agricultural communities. In the south, hunting and gathering gave way to subsistence farming in the first millennium BC and the cultivation of staple foods. Primitive iron-West Africa, while Kainji Dam excavations revealed ironworking by the 2nd century BC. The transition from Neolithic times to the Iron Age apparently was achieved without intermediate bronze production. Some scholars speculate the smelting process was transmitted from the Mediterranean by Berbers. Others suggest the technology moved west from the Nile Valley, although the Iron Age in the Niger River valley and the forest region appears to predate the introduction of metallurgy in the upper savanna by more than 800 years. The earliest indentified Nigerian culture is the Nok people who thrived between 500 BC and 200 AD on the Jos Plateau in northeastern Nigeria. Information is lacking from the first millennium AD following the Nok ascendancy, but by the 2nd millennium AD there was active trade from North Africa through the Sahara to the forest with the savanna people acting as intermediaries in exchanges of various goods.
History before 1500
Long before 1500 much of modern-Nigeria was divided into states identified with contemporary ethnic groups. These early states included the Yoruba kingdoms, The Igbo kingdom of Nri, the Edo kingdom of Benin, the Hausa cities, and Nupe. Additionally numerous small states to the west and south of Lake Chad were absorbed or displaced in the course of the expansion of Kanem, which was centered to the northeast of Lake Chad. Borno, initially the western province of Kanem, became independent in the late 14th century. Other states probably existed but the absence of archaeological data do not permit accurate dating. In the southeast, the earliest Igbo state was Nri which emerged in 900 AD. Despite its relatively small size geographically it is considered the cradle of Igbo culture.
Yoruba Kingdoms and Benin
Historically the Yoruba have been the dominant group on the west bank of the Niger. Of mixed origin, they were the product of periodic waves of migrants. The Yoruba were organized in patrilineal groups that occupied village communities and subsisted on agriculture. From about the 11th century adjacent village compounds, called ile, coalesced into numerous territorial city-states in which clan loyalties became subordinate to dynastic chieftains. Urbanization was accompanied by high levels of artistic achievement, particularly in terracotta and ivory sculpture and in the sophisticated metal casting produced at Ife. The Yoruba placated a luxuriant pantheon headed by an impersonal deity, Olorun, and included lesser deities who performed various tasks. Oduduwa was regarded as the creator of the earth and the ancestor of the Yoruba kings. According to myth Oduduwa founded Ife and dispatched his sons to establish other cities, where they reigned as priest-kings. Ife was the center of as many as 400 religious cults whose traditions were manipulated to political advantage by the oni (king).
The Northern Kingdoms of the Savanna
Trade as the key to the emergence of organized communities in the savanna portions of Nigeria. Prehistoric inhabitants adjusting to the encroaching desert were widely scattered by the third millennium BC, when the desiccation of the Sahara began. Trans-Saharan trade routes linked the western Sudan with the Mediterranean since the time of Carthage and with the upper Nile from a much earlier date, establishing avenues of communication and cultural influence that remained open until the end of the 19th century. By these same routes, Islam made its way south into West Africa after the 9th century AD.
By then a string of dynastic states, including the earliest Hausa states, stretched across the western and central Sudan. The most powerful of these states were Ghana, Gao, and Kanem, which were not within the boundaries of modern Nigeria but indirectly influenced the history of the Nigerian savanna. Ghana declined in the 11th century but was succeeded by Mali Empire which consolidated much of the western Sudan in the 13th century. Following the breakup of Mali a local leader named Sonni Ali (1464 -1492) founded the Songhai Empire in the region of middle Niger and the western Sudan and took control of the trans-Saharan trade. Sunni Ali seized Timbuktu in 1468 and Jenne in 1473, building his regime on trade revenues and the cooperation of Muslim merchants. His successor Askiya Mohammad Ture (1493 - 1528) made Islam the official religion, built mosques, and brought Muslim scholars, including al-Maghili (d. c. 1505), the founder of an important tradition of Sudanic African Muslim scholarship, to Gao. Although these western empires had little political influence on the Nigerian savanna before 1500, they had a strong cultural and economic impact that became more pronounced in the 16th century, especially because these states became associated with the spread of Islam and trade. Throughout the 16th century much of northern Nigeria paid homage to Songhai in the west or to Borno, a rival empire in the east.
Borno's history is closely associated with Kanem, which had achieved imperial status in the Lake Chad basin by the 13th century. Kanem expanded westward to include the area that became Borno. The mai (king) of Kanem and his court accepted Islam in the 11th century, as the western empires also had done. Islam was used to reinforce the political and social structures of the state although many established customs were maintained. Women, for example, continued to exercise considerable political influence.
The mai employed his mounted bodyguard and an inchoate army of nobles to extend Kanem's authority into Borno. By tradition the territory was conferred on the heir to the throne to govern during his apprenticeship. In the 14th century, however, dynastic conflict forced the then-ruling group and its followers to relocate in Borno, where as a result the Kanuri emerged as an ethnic group in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The civil war that disrupted Kanem in the second half of the 14th century resulted in the independence of Borno.
Borno's prosperity depended on the trans-Sudanic slave trade and the desert trade in salt and livestock. The need to protect its commercial interests compelled Borno to intervene in Kanem, which continued to be a theater of war throughout the fifteenth and into the sixteenth centuries. Despite its relative political weakness in this period, Borno's court and mosques under the patronage of a line of scholarly kings earned fame as centers of Islamic culture and learning.
History of Nigeria (1500-1800)
During the 16th century the Songhai Empire reached its peak, stretching from the Senegal and Gambia rivers and incorporating part of Hausaland in the east. Concurrently the Saifawa Dynasty of Borno conquered Kanem and extended control west to Hausa cities not under Songhai authority. Largely because of Songhai's influence, there was a blossoming of Islamic learning and culture. Songhai collapsed in 1591 when a Moroccan army conquered Gao and Timbuktu. Morocco was unable to control the empire and the various provinces, including the Hausa states, became independent. The collapse undermined Songhai's hegemony over the Hausa states and abruptly altered the course of regional history.
Borno reached its apogee under mai Idris Aloma (ca. 1569-1600) during whose reign Kanem was reconquered. The destruction of Songhai left Borno uncontested and until the 18th century Borno dominated northern Nigeria. Despite Borno's hegemony the Hausa states continued to wrestle for ascendancy. Gradually Borno's position weakened; its inability to check political rivalries between competing Hausa cities was one example of this decline. Another factor was the military threat of the Tuareg centered at Agades who penetrated the northern districts of Borno. The major cause of Borno's decline was a severe drought that struck the Sahel and savanna from in the middle of the 18th century. As a consequence Borno lost many northern territories to the Tuareg whose mobility allowed them to endure the famine more effectively. Borno regained some of its former might in the succeeding decades, but another drought occurred in the 1790s, again weakening the state.
Ecological and political instability provided the background for the jihad of Usman dan Fodio. The military rivalries of the Hausa states strained the regions economic resources at a time when drought and famine undermined farmers and herders. Many Fulani moved into Hausaland and Borno, and their arrival increased tensions because they had no loyalty to the political authorities, who saw them as a source of increased taxation. By the end of the 18th century, some Muslim ulema began articulating the grievances of the common people. Efforts to eliminate or control these religious leaders only heightened the tensions, setting the stage for jihad.
The Ibibio (Efik/Ibibio)Kingdom
The Ibibio Kingdom consists of speakers of the dialects of the Ibibio language (Efik, Ibibio). They inhabit the coastal Southeastern Nigeria and the coastal southwester Cameroon. They believe to have inhabitted the coastal southeastern Nigeria prior to the birth of Christ. Their coastal ports made them the first group in southeastern parts of Nigeria to have contact with European traders and missionaries. A popular weakness of the Ibibio (Efik/Ibibio) people is lack of central political leadership to organize the Efik/Ibibio under the common language that they all speak. The Obong of Calabar has been their well known ancient monarch. Some people have attempted to include the Annang in this category, but the Annang have rejected such classification and have insisted that they are an independednt group.
The Ibibio gods were many, but for them, their mythology recognized a supreme God called Abasi.
One of their major secrete societies, the Ekpe Secrete Society developed one of the major ancient African script, the Nsibidi written script. They produced the first Nigerian Profesor, Professor Eyo Ita, who was the pioneer champion of youth movement in Nigeria for independence. He later became the first Premier of the former Eastern Region of Nigeria, and a member of the Nigerian team that negociated Nigerian independence in Britain.
This Kingdom became one of the original Nigerian twelve states, the Southeastern State of Nigeria which was later split into two states, the Cross River State and Akwa Ibom State.
The Igbo States
The Onitsha Kingdom, which was originally inhabited by Igbos, was founded in the 16th century by migrants from Benin. Later groups like the Igalas and Igbo traders from the hinterland settled in Onitsha in the 18nth century. Another Igbo kingdom to form was the Arochukwu kingdom which emerged after the Aro-Ibibio wars from 1630-1720, and went on to form the Aro Confederacy which dominated midwestern and eastern Nigeria with pockets of influence in Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon.
Igbo gods, like those of the Yoruba, were numerous, but their relationship to one another and human beings was essentially egalitarian, reflecting Igbo society as a whole. A number of oracles and local cults attracted devotees while the central deity, the earth mother and fertility figure Ala, was venerated at shrines throughout Igboland.
The weakness of a popular theory that Igbos were stateless rests on the paucity of historical evidence of pre-colonial Igbo society. There is a huge gap between the archaeological finds of Igbo Ukwu, which reveal a rich material culture in the heart of the Igbo region in the 8th century, and the oral traditions of the 20th century. Benin exercised considerable influence on the western Igbo who adopted many of the political structures familiar to the Yoruba-Benin region. Ofega was the queen.
A British sphere of influence
Wars, the British expanded trade with the Nigerian interior. In 1885 British claims to a West African sphere of influence received international recognition and in the following year the Royal Niger Company was chartered under the leadership of Sir George Taubman Goldie. In 1900 the company's territory came under the control of the British Government, which moved to consolidate its hold over the area of modern Nigeria. On January 1, 1901 Nigeria became a British protectorate, part of the British Empire, the foremost world power at the time.
In 1914 the area was formally united as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. Administratively Nigeria remained divided into the northern and southern provinces and Lagos colony. Western education and the development of a modern economy proceeded more rapidly in the south than in the north, with consequences felt in Nigeria's political life ever since. Following World War II, in response to the growth of Nigerian nationalism and demands for independence, successive constitutions legislated by the British Government moved Nigeria toward self-government on a representative and increasingly federal basis. By middle of the 20th century, when the great wave for independence was sweeping across Africa.
Nigeria was granted full independence in October 1960 under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary government and a substantial measure of self-government for the country's three regions. From 1959 to 1960, Jaja Wachuku was the First black Speaker of the Nigerian Parliament - also called the "House of Representatives". Wachuku replaced Sir Frederick Metcalfe of Great Britain. Notably, as First Speaker of the House, Jaja Wachuku received Nigeria's Instrument of Independence - also known as Freedom Charter, on October 1, 1960 from Princess Alexandra of Kent - HM The Queen of United Kingdom's representative at the Nigerian Independence ceremonies. The federal government was given exclusive powers in defense, foreign relations, and commercial and fiscal policy. The British Monarch was still head of state but legislative power was vested in a bicameral parliament, executive power in a prime minister and cabinet, and judicial authority in a Federal Supreme Court. Political parties, however, tended to reflect the make up of the three main ethnic groups. The NPC (Nigerian people's Congress) represented conservative, Muslim, largely Hausa interests, and dominated the Northern Region. The NCNC (National Convention of Nigerian Citizens), was Igbo- and Christian-dominated, ruling in the Eastern Region, and the AG (Action Group) was a left-leaning party that controlled the Yoruba west. The first post-independence National Government was formed by a conservative alliance of the NCNC and the NPC, with Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a Hausa, becoming Nigeria's first Prime Minister. The Yoruba-dominated AG became the opposition under its charismatic leader Chief Obafemi Awolowo."
Shaw, T.& Daniells, S. G. H. 1984. Excavations At Iwo-Eleru, Ondo State, Nigeria. West African Journal of Archsmelting furnaces at Taruga dating from the 4th century BC provide the oldest evidence of metalworking in aeology. Vol.14