The British Government was not satisfied with Nigeria separate entities, and therefore put forward the principle of amalgamation, a process which was first suggested by Sir Ralph Moor[1] and was followed by the 1898 Selborne committee which investigated the need for amalgamating the different entities of Nigeria of which 194 climaxed the whole process[2]. British bureaucrats imposed diverse constitutions on Nigerians until Nigerians were allowed to participate.[3] Hence, Nigeria was formed by the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates by the colonial master.

Frederick John Dealtry Lugard, known as Sir Frederick Lugard was the governor general of Nigeria from 1914 to 1919. In 1912, Lugard was the governor of the two protectorates of north and south. His main mission was to complete the amalgamation into one colony, which he did in 1914 and was made the governor-general of the new combined colony of Nigeria. Lugard claimed the north was poor and they had no resources to run the protectorate of the north. That they had no access to the sea; that the south had resources and had educated people. When the amalgamation took effect, the British government sealed off the south from the north from 1914 to 1960, a period of 46 years, the British allowed minimum contact between the north and south because it was not in the British interest that the north be allowed to be polluted by the educated south.[4] Lugard gave the new country ‘Nigeria’ a life-span of 100 years; in his 1914 Amalgamation document, he said any region can secede in 2014.[5] Lugard knew the kind of leaders he was grooming for Nigeria. On page 70 of his book[6] written 12 years after the amalgamation; he said:

In character and temperament, the typical African of this race-type is a

happy thriftless, excitable person, lacking self control, discipline and

foresight. Naturally courageous, and naturally courteous and polite,

full of personal vanity, with little sense of veracity, fond of music and

loving weapons as an oriental loves jewelry.

He continued:

He lacks the power of organization, and is conspicuously deficient in

the management and control alike of man or business but he loves the

display of power but fails to realize its responsibility.


The visualization of the future, which Nigerian leaders had engaged in the last two decades, proved him right on Nigerian “lack of foresight”. Late Harold Smith apologized to Nigerians with a landmark confession[7]

Our agenda was to completely exploit Africa. Nigeria was my duty

post. When we assessed Nigeria, this was what we found in the

Southern region: strength, intelligence, and determination to succeed, well

established history, complex but focused life style, great hope and

aspirations; the East is good in business and technology, the West is

good in administration and commerce, law and medicine, but it was a

pity we planned our agenda to give power ‘at all cost’ to the

Northerner. They seemed to be submissive and silly of a kind. Our

mission was accomplished by destroying the opposition at all fronts.


The major religion in the north was and still is Islam while southern Nigeria major religion was and is still Christianity. The British Administration before the country’s Independence favoured the Muslim elite of northern extraction while the European missionaries aided the southern Christians. Ever since southern and northern Nigeria was united into one state, the different religious orientations of the country’s regions have been inseparable from their political interests and strategies[8]. Since then was the emergence of a new political class from the westernized Christian and bureaucratic elite to oppose the traditional Muslim rulers of the north.

Many themes in Nigerian history shaped contemporary Nigerian politics and society. The Sokoto caliphate in the jihad (holy war) of 1804-8 brought most of the northern region, adjacent to parts of Niger and Cameroon under a single Islamic government. This caused the dichotomy between the north and south and the divisions within the north that was pronounced during the colonial and post-colonial eras. Since 1908, when German engineers first drilled the first oil well in Nigeria, a buoyant, viable industry sprung up. Oil is today the bedrock of Nigeria’s economic development, accounting for more than 80% of its foreign exchange earnings.[9] Nigeria gained independence from the United Kingdom on October 1, 1960 by an act of the British parliament. In 1963 Nigeria became a republic within the commonwealth. Nnamdi Azikwe (Igbo) became the republic’s first president and Tafawa Balewa (Fulani-Hausa) the first prime minister. On January 15, 1966, some young army officers carried out a coup d’etat against the elected civilian Government of sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the prime minister and Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, the president of Nigeria. Unfortunately the military government of General Ironsi thrown up by the ill-fated coup did not help matters; while accepting that the January 1966 coup was a rebellion did not take action against the plotters. Ironsi promulgated Decree 31 of 1966, which abolished the federal system and established a unitary system of administration in the country. The political and military leadership of northern region responded with a counter-coup that was bloody and unmistakably directed at Igbo officers within the army. This counter-coup soon deteriorated into a complete breakdown of law and order; the carnage of destruction spread to the civilian Igbo population beyond the military barracks. The bitterness of Igbos’ losses provoked the civil war that almost consumed the entire country. The January-July crises thus inexorably killed esprit de corps and military discipline and replaced them with ethnic and social cleavages within the Army.[10]

The counter-coup of 1966 brought in Yakubu (Jack) Gowon into power as the head of state, and commander-in-chief and chairman of the Supreme Military Council, which was created in March 1967. In the face of increased sectarian violence, the eastern region’s military governor, Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, was under pressure from Igbo officers to proclaim the independent republic of Biafra, which he did on May 30, 1967[11]; some report dated the day 6th July 1967 but from several reports, the date of May 30, 1967 seems to be the right date of the attempted secession. Ojukwu cited as the principal cause for this action the government’s inability to protect the lives of predominantly Igbo easterners. In reality, the conflict was the result of economic, ethnic, cultural, political and religious tensions among the various peoples of Nigeria. Prior to this war there have been civil disturbances in some parts of the country, such as Tiv riots in the mid-sixties, which the police usually quell. The federal government approached the onset of the civil war with a police action because nobody, including the military, expected the war to last longer than six months.[12] The reality of the war however forced the contrary. Two years into the war, the Federal troops made so much progress in defeating the Igbo rebels but France made available to the rebels human and material resources. This scenario was compounded by internal maladministration and mismanagement of operations among the federal military leadership. This enabled the rebels to recapture from the federal army, strategic areas such as Owerri and Oguta, within a not-too-distant range from Port Harcourt. The situation was made worse by the diplomatic recognition accorded the rebel regime by Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Zambia, Gabon and Haiti.

In January 1970, Biafra resistance collapsed and the federal military government reasserted its authority over the area. An estimated 1 to 3 million Nigerians died from hostilities, disease, and starvation during the civil war and more than 3 million Igbos became refugees.[13] In October 1970, Gowon announced his intention of staying in power until 1976. In 1972, Gowon partially lifted the ban on political activity that had been in force since 1966 and permitted a discussion of a new constitution that paved the way for civilian rule. The debate that followed was ideologically charged that Gowon abruptly terminated the discussion. The Gowon regime came under severe attack due to widespread corruption at every level, inefficiencies, crimes leading to national insecurity and lack of economic development. The political atmosphere deteriorated to the point where Gowon was toppled in a bloodless military coup in July 1975 and was replaced by Brigadier (later General) Murtala Ramat Muhammad. Muhammad who was assassinated during an unsuccessful coup in February 1976 and Lieutenant General Olusegun Obasanjo (a Yoruba) succeeded Muhammad. In 1979 Nigeria adopted a constitution under Obasanjo’s leadership based on the constitution of the United States that provided for a separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial divisions. Obasanjo initiated plans to move the federal capital from Lagos to Abuja but this did not happen until December 1991. In 1979, five parties competed in national elections. Alhaji Shehu Shagari of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was declared the winner of the presidential election and he succeeded Obasanjo as a civilian president of the country. The NPN led by Shagari governed as a minority; there was a lack of cooperation between the NPN-dominated federal government and the 12 states controlled by opposition parties.

On December 31, 1983, the military seized power once again amidst allegations of fraud associated with Shagari’s re-election in 1983; this was the pretext used by a military obviously associated with the ousted government. The leader of the coup d’etat was Major General Muhammadu Buhari[14]; his regime secured public support by reducing the level of corruption, trimmed the federal budget and launched a “war against indiscipline (WAI)” in 1984. In 1985, a group of officers under Major General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida removed Buhari in what could be termed ‘a palace coup d’etat’ from power and took over. The armed forces ruling council succeeded the supreme military council. The entry of Nigeria into the organization of the Islamic conference (OIC), an International body of Muslim states in 1986 generated a lot of controversy in the country. Buhari’s regime had initiated the application, which Babangida allowed to stand. The strong reaction of Christians embarrassed the regime. Babangida remained in power until 1993, when he ushered in an interim national government under the leadership of Chief Ernest Shonekan as a result of the military’s annulment of the election results of June 1993 that was widely acclaimed to be free and fair and was won by Chief Moshood Kasimawo Abiola. In November 1993, General Sani Abacha seized control from the caretaker government of Ernest Shonekan and served as military dictator until his death in 1998.

In 1995, the European union which already imposed sanctions in 1993 suspended development aid and expelled Nigeria from the commonwealth as a result of various records of human rights violations by the Abacha administration. When Abacha died on June 8, 1998, his chief of defense staff, Major General Abdulsalam Abubakar assumed control. He released political prisoners including the former military leader, Olusegun Obasanjo. He permitted the conduct of local government elections in December 1998, state legislative elections followed in January 1999, and the federal legislative and presidential elections in February 1999 which completed the transition to civilian government. Olusegun Obasanjo was elected president on the platform of Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) that won majority of seats in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

There are persistent calls for creation of states in Nigeria and currently, the country is divided into 36 states and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and 774 Local Government areas. In 2004 religious strife forced the government to declare a state of emergency in Plateau State. Ethnic strife complicated matters in the southeastern state of Benue where tribal warfare broke out in 2001. Also in the oil-rich Niger Delta, there was a regional conflict against the state by the Ogoni tribe and international energy facilities and workers. In April 2007, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of the PDP won the presidential election and succeeded Obasanjo. After the election, Yar’Adua proposed a government of national unity and in June 2007, two opposition parties, the ANPP and the Progressive Peoples’ Alliance (PPA) joined Yar’Adua’s government. President Yar’Adua died in office on 5th May, 2010 paving way for his vice-president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (a southern Christian) from a minority ethnic group to become the president of Nigeria. In April 16, 2011, Jonathan contested and won the presidential election with a wide margin against his closet rival, Muhamadu Buhari (a northern Fulani-Hausa Muslim). Since then, the country has known no peace due to the insurgency of the Muslim sect, Boko Haram that have been terrorizing Nigerians especially in the north east and Abuja with serial bombings.

A change eventually came on May 29, 2015 to break the sixteen years of PDP democratic rule. APC, an amalgamation of some parties fielded Muhamadu Buhari as presidential candidate against President Jonathan during the April 2015 elections and the party won the presidential election. On May 29, 2015, Muhamadu Buhari was sworn-in as President of Nigeria.

[1] A. O. Anjorin, The Background to the Amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 in ODU, Ife Journal of

African Studies vol.3, No. 2 (January1967:72) cited in Bamgbose, J. Adele, Nigeria in West

Africa: A Powerful, or Powerless State?, In Asaju, D. F. Ekiyor, H. A. and Lawal, M. O.

(eds) Studies in Nigerian Development , Lagos, Irede Printers, 2006, pp1-14:*.2

[2] J. A.. Ballard, Administrative Origins of Nigerian Federalism in Journal of the Royal African Society,

vol. 70 No. 279, (April1971:333); Okafor, S. O., The Development of Central Legislature in

Nigeria Nelson , (1981:4243); Oshuntokun, J., The Historical Background of Nigerian

Federalism in Bolaji A et al Readings on Federalism Nigerian Institutte of International

Affairs (1979:92) all cited in Bamgbose, J. Adele, Nigeria in West Africa: A Powerful, or

Powerless State?, In Asaju, D. F. Ekiyor, H. A. and Lawal, M. O. (eds) Studies in Nigerian

Development , Lagos, Irede Printers, 2006, pp1-14:*.2

[3] A. Ojo, Constitutions and Constitutional changes since Independence, Atanda J. A and Aliyu A. Y.

(ed.) Proceedings of the National Conference on Nigeria since Independence , (1984:346)

cited in Bamgbose, J. Adele, Nigeria in West Africa: A Powerful, or Powerless State?, In

Asaju, D. F. Ekiyor, H. A. and Lawal, M. O. (eds) Studies in Nigerian Development , (Lagos,

Irede Printers, 2006), pp1-14:*.2

[4] http://www.oregie.wordpress.com

[5] http://www.naijapundt.com/news/by-lugard-1914-amalgamation-document-any-region-can-secede-in

2014 shuluwa date published 29/11/2012

[6] The Right Hon. Sir F. D. Lugard, The Dual Mandate in British Tropica Africa , Edinburgh, London:

William Blackwood and Sons, 1922, p.70 ;http:www.archive.org>eBook and Texts>Cornell

University Library

[7] http://www.haroldsmithmemorial.wordpress.com/tv-interview/

[8]  Niels Kastfelt, religion and Politics in Nigeria: A study in Middle Belt Christianity, (London: British

academic Press, 1994)

[9] http://www.nigeriatoday.com/basic_facts_about_nigeria.html

[10] Alberta, Omotayo, Olusegun Obasanjo: Passing the Torch, (Dallas: Essence Publications & Lagos,

Optimum Press Limited, 2012) , 22.

[11] http://www.Lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/Nigeria.pdf

[12] Alberta Omotayo, 22.

[13] Country Profile: Nigeria, July 2008, p.4; http://www.Lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/Nigeria.pdf

[14] Buhari, a Hausa Muslim has his background and political loyalties tied very closely to the Muslim

North and the deposed government

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