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About & History

About

Officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the country makes up one of the largest landmasses in Africa, spanning over 923 thousand square kilometres, and consists of around 175 million inhabitants, with the top half of the country mainly being Muslims and the bottom half consisting of mainly Christians.

The country is also home to the second largest economy in Africa, relying on its oil reserves for income and has been identified as an Emerging Market Nation by the World Bank. Additionally, Nigeria is a member of both the Commonwealth of Nations and the African Union and is expected to become one of the world’s Top 20 economies by 2050. 


Stone Age History

Human beings were present in Nigeria’s Iwo-Eleru region from as early as 13,000 BC and a full fossilized human skeleton found in the region dates to this time period. Although tools found in the region only date as far back as 11,000 BC and consist of ceramics and tools used during hunting and gathering.

A higher quantity of ceramics were found dating to the 4th millennium BC, it’s believed that around this time the hunter gather culture began to become replaced by agricultural means and small communities began to form, specifically around Yam, Oil Palm and Cereal growth, with the former two cultivated more in the south and the latter one more in the north. The main tribe that took on these practices were the Igala.

Bronze Age History

Eventually the Yoruba split from the Igala in 2000 BC, around the same time Iron began to be worked in the Kainji Dam area, and it’s suggested that this was brought in from the Nile Valley in turn at an earlier date. Around 1200 BC, Ironwork began being practiced in the Upper Savanna as well, around 800 years after it had begun being practiced by those in the Kainji Dam area.

Iron Age History

Ironwork became most prominent in this era when the Nok began using more advanced techniques to transform and distort the iron further. The Nok culture began to take over massively and from this point until 200 AD the civilization thrived. However, little is known of their culture or what came afterwards until the 9th Century AD.

1st Century – 15th Century History

The Yoruba people gradually developed into small city-states during the 8th Century AD and these slowly became lesser groups as the people fractured down into smaller societies and rapidly became integrated into other tribes under differing dynastic chieftains. But it should be noted that many groups of Yoruba continued to exist well into the modern age.

It’s believed that the Nri Kingdom may have begun around the 9th Century AD as a type of hegemony, but it’s only known that the reputed founder of the civilization settled in the region around 948 AD. The first Eze, or king, of the kingdom, however, was crowned in 1043 AD, but some believe that a date of 1225 AD may be more accurate. Each king was part of a theocracy of sorts that followed a central religion, using tattoos as religious, symbolic, educational and political tools.

Between the 15th and the 16th Centuries the Nri went into decline as several once-lesser states took on much more prominent economic roles, mainly oligarchies, and began to dominate the once-ruling kingdom of Nri. These included the Awka city-state, the Onitsha Kingdom, the Aboh Kingdom, the Umunoha state, the Oyo Kingdom, the Benin Kingdom and the Aro state, the latter of which being the most powerful.

16th Century – 19th Century History

In 1630, the Aro began warring with the Ibibio. This culminated in 1720 with the forming of the Arochukwu state, which went on to form the Aro Confederacy. The Confederacy began to dominate Eastern Nigeria and it built strong military allies with neighbouring states such as Ohafia, Ezza, Abam, Abiriba and more.
Soon these states developed into a large kingdom and many city-states including the Ajalli, Arondizuogu and Bende Kingdoms which remained under dominance of the ruling Arochukwu state, generated by a merger of the Aro and the nearby allied Abiraba. Its power funded through a strong economic and religious position of prominence over the region allowed it to gradually push its territory outwards further and further even as the 19th Century began.

At the end of the 19th Century however, European Colonists began to move into the region and quickly clashes broke out, with the Aro striking out in fear of the European (mainly British) economies and its dominant religion, Christianity, breaking the Aro leaders’ control over the region. The Europeans could only be patient but after repeated attacks by the Aro, they prepared for war and began open warfare following the Aro Invasion of Obegu in 1901.


20th Century History

In 1901 Nigeria became a British Protectorate and in 1902, the British made a direct attack on Arochukwu and fought for several months afterwards, in the end being victorious and destroying the Aro Confederacy’s power. This allowed the British to easily dominate the Eastern Nigerian region. Although it should be mentioned that further resistance from Afikpo and Ezza by the Aro in 1902-1903 and 1905 was still significant.

In 1914, the country was formally united as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria but technically remained completely divided into the Northern Province, the South Province and the Lagos Colony. During this time the west pushed their education system and economic standards into the region and following World War II, Nigerian nationalism had risen and demands for independence began.

Oil was discovered off the coast in the 1950s but didn’t come into full play for another twenty years. In 1954, the country became the Federation of Nigeria and just a few years later, independence was in full demand by the entire country.

In 1960, Nigeria was granted full independence under a constitution that would require a parliamentary government as well as several smaller governments for each of the three regions. The first speaker of the Nigerian Parliament, Jaja Wachuku, replaced Sir Frederick Metcalfe of Britain in the same year and the first parliament was formed following elections, again, the same year. The Nigerian People’s Congress (NPC), National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NGNC) and the Action Group (AG) represented each of the peoples in the region, with the NPC standing for the mainly Hausa and Fulani Muslims in the region, the NGNC representing the Igbo Christians and the AG representing the remaining Yoruba people.

Following the first general election, the NCNC and the NPC took most of the seats and the NPC’s party leader Ahmadu Bello, who should have become Prime Minister, instead appointed Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to rise to become the first Prime Minister of Nigeria. Following a dispute within the AG between a faction under Ladoke Akintola and the party’s leader Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Prime Minister Balewa intervened and tried to have the AG join the coalition government. However, the main party under Chief Awolowo disagreed and attempted to replace Akintola.

This in turn was disagreed upon by one of the AG’s other council leaders and riots broke out in the parliamentary chambers. Furniture was lobbed across the room and one member went as far as to wield the parliamentary Mace as a weapon, attacking the speaker and other members, causing the police to tear gas the chambers to stop the riot. Despite the quelling of these riots however, further unrest continued throughout western Nigeria and this eventually caused Prime Minister Balewa to declare martial law, arrest Chief Awolowo alongside other members with his faction and charge them with treason. Meanwhile Akintola joined the coalition government and saw the AG’s power diminished.

In 1963, a new pre-parliamentary party took over, the NNDP, or the Nigerian National Democratic Party, but the following election in 1965 produced allegedly fraudulent results and drove the country towards civil war. In the midst of this, the NNDP formed a coalition with the NPC and took full control of the country. Three years later in 1966, a group of military officers overthrew the coalition and assassinated the ruling individuals including the prime minister and premiers of the northern and western regions. This in turn sparked another coup d’état shortly afterwards by General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi whom drove the military officers, the Young Majors, underground.

As the new government under General Aguiyi-Ironsi struggled to produce a nationally approved constitution, mainly due to Decree No. 34 which attempted to unify the nation and dissolve the federal structure previously used. Widespread rioting broke out in the north and upon the Aguiyi-Ironsi government’s renaming of the country to the Republic of Nigeria, a group of mainly northern officers produced another coup d’état and established Major General Yakubu Gowon as leader. He restored the Republic back to the Federal Republic but also massacred thousands of Igbo, pushing the remainder to the south-east to unify with the already powerful Igbo secessionist sentiment. The government divided the four regions down further into 12 states but the Igbo resisted the change and attempted repeatedly to change the constitution.

In 1967, the leader of the Igbo declared that the eastern region had become the independent Republic of Biafra. This started the Nigerian Civil War, culminating in over 3.5 million deaths, mostly from starvation, and ended three years later in 1970.

The country, now out of the civil war, attempted to build upon a shattered economy, at the same time developing the Nigerian Army’s forces further. Following the increase of value in oil in 1973, General Yakubu Gowon was accused of corruption by General Murtala Mohammed and a small group of officers, allowing them to stage a bloodless coup d’état. However, General Mohammed was assassinated in 1976 and his chief of staff, Lieutenant General Olusegun Obasanjo, became the head of state. A new constitution was drafted the following year, and in 1978 it was published upon the ban of political activity being lifted. The following year five political parties competed in a series of elections and Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was elected as President, but all five parties were able to be represented in the National Assembly. By 1979, the price of oil had skyrocketed following the Iran-Iraq War’s lead up, and subsequently Nigeria had become the sixth largest exporter of oil in the world with revenues rising above $24 billion annually.

However, despite a surface-value of prosperity and democracy, the military overthrew the government in 1983 and Major General Muhammadu Buhari became the leader of the SMC, or Supreme Military Council, which began to rule the country. This in turn was overthrown by the SMC’s third-ranking officer, General Ibrahim Babangida just two years later in 1985. President Babangida rapidly moved to restore freedom of the press and released political detainees being held without charge. However, despite these good motions, he also announced pay cuts for the majority of the government-run industry and forces in order to try to rebalance the economy. The public’s intense opposition to these measures surfaces during his opening of a national debate and he subsequently promised to return the country to civilian rule by 1990 but quickly extended this to 1993. In 1989, the government established two parties, the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) but refused to allow other parties to register.

In 1990, several mid-level officers attempted a coup d’état and 69 accused plotters were executed following secret military trials. The same year the first election was held and both parties were able to win in various locations around the country but the SDP came out on top. Despite the low turnout, there was no violent unrest whatsoever. In the following year, state legislative elections were held and previously banned politicians were allowed to contest in primary elections but these and the next primary elections were cancelled due to fraud. In 1993, the presidential election was held and M. K. O. Abiola won decisively, however, Babangida annulled the election and widespread riots broke out once again, killing over a hundred. He agreed to hand over power to an interim government the same year but later attempted to resist the change, but by now his popularity had all but faded and he was forced to hand over power to Ernest Shonekan.

Unable to reverse Nigeria’s economic problems, Shonekan was ousted by Defence Minister Sani Abacha whom dissolved all democratic institutions and replaced the elected governors with military officers. But by 1994, Abacha’s unpopularity had grown rapidly, pushing the forming of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) in opposition, and leading to Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola declaring himself President. He quickly went into hiding but was caught and arrested later on that year. Calling for his release, petroleum workers went on strike, this rapidly picked up support with more and more unions falling into the strike and bringing the whole of Lagos’ economic activity to a complete halt. However, the government placed all of the unions under appointed administrators and arrested the existing labour leaders. Abacha promised to restore civilian rule but refused to announce a timetable until 1995, when, upon annulling an election, the country was sanctioned by the United States, among others.

Abacha announced the country’s government returning to civilian rule in three years following 1995, but only five political parties were approved by the regime and voter turnout by 1997 was only at ten percent. The same year, the government arrested General Oladipo Diya and many of his followers on charges of plotting a coup d’état and sentenced him and eight others to death. A year later in 1998, Abacha died of heart failure and was replaced by General Abdulsalami Abubakar who lead the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC). He released almost all civilian political detainees and commuted the sentences accused of the coup d’état during Abacha’s regime. He also implemented a civil service pay raise and many other reforms and appointed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections for local regions of Nigeria. Successful elections were held in 1999 and nine parties were allowed to register but only three fulfilled the requirements to contest, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the All People’s Party (APP) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD), with the former head of state, Olusegun Obasanjo, running as a candidate and winning the presidential election. The new government instituted a new constitution and created a 360 member House of Representatives and a 109 member Senate.

21st Century History

Despite the new changes to the regime and the institution of democracy, all was not well as riots broke out over the succession of an Emir in Kaduna state and the retaliation of the military following the gang-killings of 12 policemen, both in 1999. Further riots broke out following the introduction of criminal Shar’ia in the state and further reprisal attacks that same year and the following year many were killed following religious violence in Jos, Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa. By the time the riots were brought under control by Obasanjo in 2001, over five thousand had been killed during the course of the riots. Obasanjo was re-elected as President in 2003.

In 2007, one of Kano’s State Officials, Ustaz Ja’afar Adam, was shot and killed by two militants of an unknown faction. In the same year, Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP were elected as President and Vice President respectively but it has widely been denounced by candidates and international observers with underhanded fraudulence. In 2009, Yar’Adua began falling ill repeatedly and was flown to Saudi Arabia for medical attention. In his absence, Goodluck Jonathan began serving as acting President and a year later Yar’Adua passed away from an undisclosed illness and Goodluck Jonathan became the President actual.