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This essay looks at the literature on Nigeria as a country. It investigates the socio-cultural as well as the political history of the country with special emphasis being put on the colonial era and the question as to whether or not it was a subject to the imperial rule. Further, it examines the demographic makeup of the country especially the type of population the country has according to sociological definitions. According to the literature, Nigeria is a typical heterogeneous type of society that is composed of different ethnic groups which in some instances also subscribe to different religious beliefs. Moreover, the essay takes a keen look at the political system that has been prevalent in the Nigerian society since it earned its independence from the colonialist. Finally, it tends to take a critical look at the past, present as well as the future trends in the economic world of the people of Nigeria (Angrew, 2002).
Country’s Socio-Cultural and Political History
The country of Nigeria has quite a rich history. According to the existing archaeological evidence, humans started to inhabit what is today known as Nigeria as early as the 9000 BC. In particular, the region around the Cross River and the Benue is considered to be the ancient homeland of the Bantu speaking groups who later spread to the central as well as the southern parts of Africa. The name Nigeria is said to have been adopted from the River Niger that runs through the country. In the olden times, the country was divided into various kingdoms that were under autonomous rules. For instance, the Kanem-Bornu Empire and the Hausa Kingdom flourished as trading points that facilitated a wide range of business activities between the northern and the western parts of the African continent. Moreover, the Fulani existed late into the early 1990s before they were interrupted by the colonialists who divided their lands into different colonies (Falola, 1999).
The socio-cultural practices that existed before the coming of colonization were purely limited to the respective Kingdoms. More often than not interactions would be possible only during the times of war or trade. For instance, the Yoruba kingdom had a very rich culture which believed that the Ile-Ife was actually the origin of all humanity and it came into existence long before other forms of civilization. They were producing bronze figures as one of the commodities that formed a part of their economic products. On the other hand, the Nri Kingdom of the popular Igbo people is the oldest kingdom according to historians and lost its sovereignty to the British colonialists only in the year 1911. They are actually considered to be the originators of the Igbo culture which is very popular in Nigeria and indeed in Africa. There was largely a patriarchal kind of society that drew their pride from the patriarchal figure of their kings. These people also had their economic activities which revolved around bronze made from the lost-wax process that was generally very popular in all areas of Nigeria where Igbo culture was prevalent (Anthonio & Isoun, 1982).
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Demographic Makeup of the Country
The colonization of Nigeria began with the arrival of Spanish and Portuguese explorers who later turned on to trade in the Nigerian port to that they later gave the name Lagos. These kinds of trade flourished between the Europeans and the ethnic groups that lived along the coastline. This later led to the negotiation of a trade in slaves that later caused a complete destruction of these ethnic groups. However, the slave trade was later abolished in the 1807 but this did not take away the grip that the British people established during the trade especially through Royal Niger Company that they eventually took control of. Nigeria officially became a British protectorate in 1901. However, it remained divided along the geographical lines into the northern and the southern provinces as well as the Lagos colony. It is the division that saw western culture more quickly adopted in the south than in the north, something that still defines the politics of Nigeria till today (Falola, 1999).
Country’s Political and Economic System
The country of Nigeria attained its independence from the United Kingdom under a coalition of parties. This included the Nigeria People’s Congress that was majorly dominated with politicians from the North and who was predominantly of the Islamic faith. The other party called the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons was majorly comprised of the Igbo people who were of the Christian faith under the leadership of Nnamdi Azikiwe who later became the Governor General of Nigeria in 1960. However, the political differences which existed between the dominant ethnic groups of the Yoruba, Hausa and the Igbo were always present and continued to draw the political lines in Nigeria’s political system till this period in their history.
The political imbalance that served to intensify the rivalry between the north and the south was the plebiscite of 1961. It took place when the Southern Cameroon broke away from the state of Nigeria while the Northern Cameroon chose to remain a part of it. This implied that the northern parts became relatively bigger and certainly more populated, thereby giving them a competitive advantage in the political pursuit of power. The resultant disequilibrium as well as the perception that corruption has been perpetuated by the predominant North led to a series of military coups that severely tainted the history of the country. The first one was led by the youthful leftists under the leadership of Major Ifeajuna and Chukwuma and they were able to kill the Prime Ministers of the North and the West to make a partially successful takeover. However, it later became obvious that they could not themselves form a central government to take over the reins of power. Subsequently, pressure mounted on the President Nwafor to step aside and let the country’s military take over the leadership of the country for a smooth transition into democracy (Agbu, 2004).
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However, the situation got out of hand following the execution of a countercoup that was plotted by military officers mainly from the Northern parts of the country as well as the Northerners who felt apathy for the Nigeria People’s Congress. The originators of the idea were officers from the North who later allowed Colonel Gowon Yakubu to emerge as the new head of the Nigerian state. This take over the entire country to erupt into the violence that was basically the making of the prevalent ethnic tensions. Indeed, the coup itself was motivated by the ethnic egos of the Northerners and actually saw a serious blood bath in the nation with both military men as well as the civilian populations lose their lives, especially the civilian population that subscribed to the Igbo ethnic group (Falola, 1999).
The Igbo people got bitter at this eventuality and mounted great pressure about their quest for autonomy from the North dominated Nigeria nation as this would be the only realistic way to protect themselves from the wrath of the ruthless state military. By the year 1967, the Eastern region of the Nigeria country took the bold step of declaring themselves an independent state which they named the Biafra Republic. This new state would be led by Colonel Emeka Ojukwu as the people’s wishes had determined. This subsequently led to the eruption of the Nigerian Civil war with the larger Nigeria composed of the North and West launching attacks against a new helpless Biafra Republic. This war which lasted for the next thirty months only coming to an end in the year 1970. The total casualties of the people of the East, the Biafra Republic, stood at an overwhelming 3 million. This included those people who had died during the war because of the diseases as well as starvation which were essentially the creations of the civil war that had engulfed the entire nation (Angrew, 2002).