The Nok civilisation of Northern Nigeria flourished between 500 B.C. and A.D. 200., producing life-sized terracotta figures which are some of the earliest known sculptures in Sub-Saharan Africa.Further north, the cities Kano and Katsina have a recorded history dating to around 999 AD. Hausa kingdoms and the Kanem-Bornu Empire prospered as trade posts between North and West Africa.
The Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo people consolidated in the 10th century and continued until it lost its sovereignty to the British in 1911. Nri was ruled by the Eze Nri, and the city of Nri is considered to be the foundation of Igbo culture. Nri and Aguleri, where the Igbo creation myth originates, are in the territory of the Umeuri clan. Members of the clan trace their lineages back to the patriarchal king-figure Eri. In West Africa, the oldest bronzes made using the lost-wax process were from Igbo Ukwu, a city under Nri influence.
The Yoruba kingdoms of Ife and Oyo in southwestern Nigeria became prominent in the 12th and 14th centuries, respectively. The oldest signs of human settlement at Ife's current site date back to the 9th century,and its material culture includes terracotta and bronze figures.
Oyo, at its territorial zenith in the late 17th to early 18th centuries, extended its influence from western Nigeria to modern-day Togo. The Edo Kingdom of Benin is located in southwestern Nigeria. Benin's power lasted between the 15th and 19th centuries. Their dominance reached as far as the city of Eko (an Edo name later changed to Lagos by the Portuguese) and further.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Usman dan Fodio directed a successful jihad and created and led the centralised Fulani Empire (also known as the Sokoto Caliphate). The territory controlled by the resultant state included much of modern-day northern and central Nigeria; it lasted until the 1903 break-up of the Empire into various European colonies.
For centuries, various peoples in modern-day Nigeria traded overland with traders from North Africa. Cities in the area became regional centers in a broad network of trade routes that spanned western, central and northern Africa. In the 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to begin significant, direct trade with peoples of modern-day Nigeria, at the port they named Lagos and in Calabar. Europeans traded goods with peoples at the coast; coastal trade with Europeans also marked the beginnings of the Atlantic slave trade.The port of Calabar on the historical Bight of Biafra (now commonly referred to as the Bight of Bonny) become one of the largest slave trading posts in West Africa in the era of the transatlantic slave trade. Other major slaving ports in Nigeria were located in Badagry, Lagos on the Bight of Benin and on Bonny Island on the Bight of Biafra. The majority of those enslaved and taken to these ports were captured in raids and wars. Usually the captives were taken back to the conquerors' territory as forced labor; after time, they were sometimes acculturated and absorbed into the conquerors' society. A number of slave routes were established throughout Nigeria linking the hinterland areas with the major coastal ports. Some of the more prolific slave traders were linked with the Oyo Empire in the southwest, the Aro Confederacy in the southeast and the Sokoto Caliphate in the north.
Slavery also existed in the territories comprising modern-day Nigeria; its scope was broadest towards the end of the 19th century. According to theEncyclopedia of African History, "It is estimated that by the 1890s the largest slave population of the world, about 2 million people, was concentrated in the territories of the Sokoto Caliphate. The use of slave labor was extensive, especially in agriculture.
A changing legal imperative (transatlantic slave trade outlawed by Britain in 1807) and economic imperative (a desire for political and social stability) led most European powers to support widespread cultivation of agricultural products, such as the palm, for use in European industry.
The slave trade was engaged in by European state and non-state actors such as Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and private companies, as well as various African states and non-state actors. With rising anti-slavery sentiment at home and changing economic realities, Great Britain outlawed the international slave trade in 1807. Following the Napoleonic Wars, Great Britain established the West Africa Squadron in an attempt to halt the international traffic in slaves. It stopped ships of other nations that were leaving the African coast with slaves; the seized slaves were taken to Freetown, a colony in West Africa originally established for the resettlement of freed slaves from Britain. Britain intervened in the Lagos Kingship power struggle by bombarding Lagos in 1851, deposing the slave trade friendly Oba Kosoko, helping to install an the amenable Oba Akitoye, and signing the Treaty between Great Britain and Lagos on January 1, 1852. Britain annexed Lagos as a Crown Colony in August 1861 with the Lagos Treaty of Cession. British missionaries expanded their operations and traveled further inland. In 1864,Samuel Ajayi Crowther became the first African bishop of the Anglican Church.
In 1885, British claims to a West African sphere of influence received recognition from other European nations at the Berlin Conference. The following year, it chartered the Royal Niger Company 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 1 January 1901, Nigeria became a British protectorate, and part of the British Empire, the foremost world power at the time. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the independent kingdoms of what would become Nigeria fought a number of conflicts against the British Empire's efforts to expand its territory. By war, the British conquered Benin in 1897, and, in the Anglo-Aro War (1901–1902), defeated other opponents. The restraint or conquest of these states opened up the Niger area to British rule.
In 1914, the British formally united the Niger area as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. Administratively, Nigeria remained divided into the Northern and Southern Protectorates and Lagos Colony. Inhabitants of the southern region sustained more interaction, economic and cultural, with the British and other Europeans owing to the coastal economy.
Christian missions established Western educational institutions in the Protectorates. Under Britain's policy of indirect rule and validation of Islamic tradition, the Crown did not encourage the operation of Christian missions in the northern, Islamic part of the country. Some children of the southern elite went to Great Britain to pursue higher education. By independence in 1960, regional differences in modern educational access were marked. The legacy, though less pronounced, continues to the present-day. Imbalances between North and South were expressed in Nigeria's political life as well. For instance, northern Nigeria did not outlaw slavery until 1936 whilst in other parts of Nigeria slavery was abolished soon after colonialism.
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 the middle of the 20th century, a great wave for independence was sweeping across Africa. Nigeria achieved independence in 1960.
Nigeria gained partial independence from the United Kingdom on 1 October 1960. Nigeria's government was a coalition of conservative parties: the Nigerian People's Congress (NPC), a party dominated by Northerners and those of the Islamic faith, and the Igbo and Christian-dominated National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons(NCNC) led by Nnamdi Azikiwe. Azikiwe became Nigeria's maiden Governor-General in 1960. The opposition comprised the comparatively liberal Action Group (AG), which was largely dominated by the Yoruba and led by Obafemi Awolowo.The cultural and political differences between Nigeria's dominant ethnic groups – the Hausa ('Northerners'), Igbo ('Easterners') and Yoruba ('Westerners') – were sharp.
An imbalance was created in the polity by the result of the 1961 plebiscite. Southern Cameroon opted to join the Republic of Cameroon while Northern Cameroons chose to remain in Nigeria. The northern part of the country was now far larger than the southern part. In 1963, the nation established a Federal Republic, with Azikiwe as its firstpresident. When elections were held in 1965, the Nigerian National Democratic Party came to power in Nigeria's Western Region.
The disquilibrium and perceived corruption of the electoral and political process led, in 1966, to back-to-back military coups. Thefirst coup was in January 1966 and was led by Igbo soldiers under Majors Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. The coup plotters succeeded in murdering Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Premier Ahmadu Bello of the Northern Region and Premier Ladoke Akintola of the Western Region. But, the coup plotters struggled to form a central government. President Nwafor Orizu handed over government control to the Army, then under the command of another Igbo officer, General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi.
Later, the counter-coup of 1966, supported primarily by Northern military officers, facilitated the rise of Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowonto head of state. Tension rose between North and South; Igbos in Northern cities suffered persecution and many fled to the Eastern Region.
In May 1967, the Eastern Region declared independence as a state called the Republic of Biafra, under the leadership of Lt. Colonel Emeka Ojukwu.The Nigerian Civil War began as the official Nigerian government side (predominated by soldiers from the North and West) attacked Biafra (Southeastern) on 6 July 1967 at Garkem. The 30 month war, with a long siege of Biafra and its isolation from trade and supplies, ended in January 1970. Estimates of the number of dead in the former Eastern Region are between 1 and 3 million people, from warfare, disease, and starvation, during the 30-month civil war.
France, Egypt, the Soviet Union, Britain, Israel, and others were deeply involved in the civil war behind the scenes. Britain and the Soviet Union were the main military backers of the Nigerian government while France and others aided the Biafrans. Nigeria used Egyptian pilots for their air force.
During the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria joined OPEC and the huge revenue generated made the economy richer. Despite huge revenues from oil production and sale, the military administration did little to improve the standard of living of the population, help small and medium businesses, or invest in infrastructure. As oil revenues fuelled the rise of federal subventions to states, the federal government became the centre of political struggle and the threshold of power in the country. As oil production and revenue rose, the Nigerian government became increasingly dependent on oil revenues and the international commodity markets for budgetary and economic concerns. It did not develop other sources of the economy for economic stability. That spelled doom to federalism in Nigeria.
Beginning in 1979, Nigerians participated in a brief return to democracy when Olusegun Obasanjo transferred power to the civilian regime of Shehu Shagari. The Shagari government became viewed as corrupt and incompetent by virtually all sectors of Nigerian society. The military coup of Muhammadu Buhari shortly after the regime's fraudulent re-election in 1984 was generally viewed as a positive development. Buhari promised major reforms, but his government fared little better than its predecessor. His regime was overthrown by another military coup in 1985.
The new head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, declared himself president and commander in chief of the armed forces and the ruling Supreme Military Council. He set 1990 as the official deadline for a return to democratic governance. Babangida's tenure was marked by a flurry of political activity: he instituted the International Monetary Fund's Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) to aid in the repayment of the country's crushing international debt, which most federal revenue was dedicated to servicing. He enrolled Nigeria in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, which aggravated religious tensions in the country.
After Babangida survived an abortive coup, he pushed back the promised return to democracy to 1992. Free and fair elections were finally held on 12 June 1993, with a presidential victory for Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. Babangida annulled the elections, leading to mass civilian violent protests which effectively shut down the country for weeks. Babangida finally kept his promise to relinquish office to a civilian-run government, but not before appointing Ernest Shonekan as head of the interim government. Babangida's regime has been considered the most corrupt, and responsible for creating a culture of corruption in Nigeria.
Shonekan's caretaker regime was overwhelmed in late 1993 by the military coup of General Sani Abacha. Abacha used violence on a wide scale to suppress the continuing civilian unrest. He shifted money to offshore accounts in various western European banks and voided coup plots by bribing army generals. Several hundred million dollars in accounts traced to him were discovered in 1999. The regime came to an end in 1998 when the dictator was found dead amid questionable circumstances.
His successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, adopted a new constitution on 5 May 1999, which provided for multiparty elections. On 29 May 1999 Abubakar transferred power to the winner of the elections, Obasanjo, who had since retired from the military.
Nigeria regained democracy in 1999 when it elected Olusegun Obasanjo, the former military head of state, as the new President of Nigeria. This ended almost 33 years of military rule (from 1966 until 1999), excluding the short-lived second republic (between 1979 and 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. Although the elections which brought Obasanjo to power in 1999 and again in 2003 were condemned as unfree and unfair, Nigeria has shown marked improvements in attempts to tackle government corruption and to hasten development.
Ethnic violence for control over the oil-producing Niger Delta region and inadequate infrastructures are some of the issues in the country. Umaru Yar'Adua of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) came into power in the general election of 2007. The international community has been observing Nigerian elections to encourage a free and fair process, and condemned this one as being severely flawed.
Yar'Adua died on 5 May 2010. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as Yar'Adua's replacement on 6 May 2010, becoming Nigeria's 14th Head of State, while his vice-president, Namadi Sambo, an architect and former Kaduna State governor, was chosen on 18 May 2010, by the National Assembly. His confirmation followed President Jonathan's nomination of Sambo to that position.
Goodluck Jonathan served as Nigeria's president till 16 April 2011, when a new presidential election in Nigeria was conducted. Jonathan of the PDP was declared the winner on 19 April 2011, having won the election with a total of 22,495,187 of the 39,469,484 votes cast, to stand ahead of Muhammadu Buhari from the main opposition party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which won 12,214,853 of the total votes cast. The international media reported the elections as having run smoothly with relatively little violence or voter fraud, in contrast to previous elections.
In the March 2015 election, Muhammadu Buhari defeated Goodluck Jonathan by roughly 2 million votes. Observers generally praised the election as being fair. Jonathan was generally praised for conceding defeat and limiting the risk of unrest.