Nigeria, a country in West Africa is a large, densely populate nation on the Gulf of Guinea. It is bordered by Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon and has a low-lying coast with lagoons and sandy beaches. There is a high plateau of extinct volcanoes in the center of the country and a mountainous area along its border with Cameroon.
The last national population census revealed that Nigeria has a population of 196 million people with an area of 924,000 square kilometers and the capital city of the country being Abuja. Currently, the estimated population of Nigeria is about 206,139,589.
The land area known today as Nigeria was formed in 1914 when colonial authorities merged the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria, to form the amalgamated Protectorate and Colony of Nigeria.
This merger brought together over 400 ethnic groups and tribes into what was then the largest British colony in the world. The name “Nigeria” is also derived from colonial sources.
Colonial Era of Nigeria (1900 – 1960)
History has it that in the year 1472, Portuguese explorers Joao de Santarem, Pero Escobar, Lopo Goncalves and Fernao do Po discovered a country with an established civilization. This country was ruled by four kingdoms (Hausa, Borno, Oyo and Benin Kingdom) at the time and had indigenous industrial, agricultural and artistic cultures. In the 15th century, the Benin Kingdom began to trade with the Portuguese selling slaves in exchange for different commodities ranging from spices, firearms, the art of writing and Christian religion.
In the 18th Century, the British replaced the Portuguese as leaders of the slave trade and in 1807, a group of missionaries brought in Christianity and campaigned against slavery leading to a ban on the trade in Nigeria. These missionaries also brought in the drug – quinine to control malaria. The economies of southern Nigeria became powerful as a result of agriculture, particularly, palm oil trade.
In the 19th century, there was a holy war (Jihad) led by the Fulani Emirs against the Hausa state of Gobir which led to the creation of new empires and city-states resulting in the spread of Islam. The Yorubas drew closer to the Britains who occupied Lagos in 1861 and by 1900 Britain had control of Nigeria. In 1954, Nigerian became a federation after the 1951 constitution gave a balance of Power to Nigerians.
Lady Flora Shaw wife to Lord Federick Lugard coined the name ‘Nigeria’ on her post to TIMES newspaper describing the ‘river Niger’ and this name came to be.
Nigeria’s Journey to Independence from Colonial rule
The British noticed that the independence drive had started to gain grounds after World War II and in the year 1960, the Federation of Nigeria gained independence from her colonial masters, the United Kingdom. This move was led by the Northern people’s congress (largely Hausa and Muslims) and the Nigeria council of Nigerian citizens (Igbos and Christians). Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the country’s first prime minister. In 1963, Nigeria declared herself as The Federal Republic of Nigeria with Nnamdi Azikiwe as the first President.
Nigeria’s Military Era
On Jan. 15 1966, a group of young, idealistic, UK-trained army majors overthrew Nigeria’s democratic government in a violent military coup — the country’s first. A succession of increasingly repressive military governments ruled Nigeria for 29 of the next 33 years, until the restoration of democracy in 1999.
The first coup which led to the death of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in January 1966 established the first military rule with Major General Aguiyi Ironsi an Army commander as the leader of the new administration and in July 1966, Northern troops struck back with another coup killing Aguiyi Ironsi.
Lt-Colonel Yakubu Gowon assumed office and he replaced the four regions with 12 states and restored a federal state. He promised to bring back democracy by including civilians to the government. In 1983, A brief democratic government was put to an end by the military coup. In 1998, Nigeria became a democratic state with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as the first civilian president under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Nigeria at 61
In light of the on-going chaos, insecurity, galloping inflation, high rate of poverty and harsh realities facing the citizens of Nigeria, there is really nothing to celebrate as the nation marks her 61st year independence. Giving the above calamities mentioned, Nigerians rightly consider as pure tokenism and a shameless act of deceit to be excited about independence, let alone celebrate this annual ritual in splendor and merrymaking.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile the how blessed Nigeria is with enviable human and material resources vis-a-vis the country’s failings and steady descent into unbelievable anarchy fueled by mismanagement of these resources by leaders who desperately pretend that what is amiss is insignificant.
The imperative before Nigeria as she marks her 61st independence anniversary is to take a leadership position in Africa and the black world which has long been neglected and covered in shame by the constant unbelievable happenings that occur very often. Nigeria is naturally endowed for this leadership role which indeed she has played creditably in past engagements in the African continent and abroad.
It is time for Nigerian leaders to look at the exemplary and inspirational roles the country can play, say, 20 – 50 years away. However, this can only happen if Nigeria rids herself of incompetence, greed and avarice that have become embedded in her leadership overtime.
On the brighter side, there is something worth celebrating about the citizens of Nigeria and it is their tenacity, resilience and top notch sense of humor. These beautiful people have decided to own their country despite its repeated embattlement by various categories of outlaws alongside other bizarre laws and decisions the government constantly takes that affects the lives of her citizens adversely.
These Nigerians have kept this country together despite all these and deserve the greatest courtesies and celebration.
Through it all, it is our hope, that Nigeria rises from the shackles of bad leadership and assume her role as the giant of Africa.
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