Country in Africa bordering Benin, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and the Gulf of Guinea. It has a lot of oil (and is disputing with Equatorial Guinea about who has the rights to the area where there's more under the sea floor). Independent from the UK since 1960, in 1967 its eastern region tried to secede and become the Republic of Biafra. The rest of Nigeria invaded and fighting went on until 1970 when the Biafrans surrendered.

For about 15 years until 1999, the country was under military rule. The CIA World Factbook now describes it as a "republic transitioning from military to civilian rule." As I write this, there has been rioting and clashes between various ethnic groups and between Muslims and Christians, including northern provinces that want to extend the amount of law that's based on Islamic practice and southern provinces which oppose this. Sad to think that the military rule actually held the country together.

History of the Government/Politics of Nigeria

Pre-Colonial times:

Up until British Colonialization in the 1800's, Nigeria was divided in three distinct ethnic groups. In northern Nigeria were the Hausa-Fulanis, who began practicing Islam as a result of trade with the Middle East. Unlike the other two regions, they were governed by an organized autocracy. The Yoruba people made up what is now southwest Nigeria. In east and southeast Nigeria, the Ibo people were formed. The Yoruba and Ibo governments were largely a series of autonomous tribal villages, in these lands for the most part there was no true national government.


In the fifteenth century, slave traders from Portugal became established in Nigeria. At the height of the slave trade, as many as 22,000 slaves a year were removed from the country, leading the land to be known as the "Slave Coast". The Nigerians were "saved" by the British, who came in 1807 and shut down the slave trade. Unfortunately, they also established an colonial government. A system of "indirect rule" was established where the British gained the cooperation of already existing tribal structures in Nigeria. The Hausa-Fulanis of the north proved more resistant to British rule, than other groups, but eventually gave in as well. In 1914, the colony had expanded to, and became named as, what is now modern-day Nigeria.

Independence and the First Republic:

Nearly immediately after Nigeria was truly formed, groups began seeking independence. Naturally, these movements were factionalized, with the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons in the Ibo southeast, the Yoruba Action Group in the southwest, and the Northern People's Congress in the Hausa-Fulani northern lands. These groups had a difficult time working together, but eventually they overcame the British in 1960. They established a system of government similar to the British parlimentary system, but with some federalist additions in the form of three states, one for each of the Ibo, Hausa-Fulani, and Yoruba areas. Not suprisingly, this government created conflict between these three groups, due to the fear that one group would take over the others. The first republic was brought down in January 1966 in a military coup led by Ibo Major General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi.

Military rule, the Second Republic, and more military rule:

Within six months of Ironsi coming to power, his government was taken down by another military coup, this time coming from Yakubu Gowon of the north. The Ibo faction of the east did not appreciate being ruled by Gowon, and hence, led by Odumegwu Ojukwu, they declared their independence, forming the republic of Biafra. This led to a civil war between the Gowon-led Nigeria and the Ojukwu-led Biafra, which resulted in over 600,000 deaths. The ultimate result of this was Ojukwu losing on May 30, 1967 and Biafra being reincorporated into Nigeria. By July 1975, the Ojukwu-led military government was taken over by Murtala Mohmammed, due to anger over broken promises regarding a return to civilian rule. Mohmammed was subsequently assassinated, and replaced by Olusegun Obasanjo(the current president as well) in 1979. He created the Second Republic, which was a civilian-led government somewhat similar to that of the United States. This time, the civilian government was successful in staving off ethnic conflict. Instead it was brought down by widespread nepotism, bribery, and other forms of corruption. By 1983, another military coup was successfully staged by Muhammed Buhari. Two years later that regime was brought down by Ibrahim Babangida. The Babingida regime looked to restore civilian government. However, when actual elections were held in 1992 and 1993, Babingida was dissatisfied with the results and called a halt to said elections. The anger over this forced Babingida's resignation, and he turned power over to a new leader who in two weeks was the victim of a military coup by Sani Abacha. Abacha was an opponent of democracy, but eventually true elections were held, and Obasango made his second rise to power.

This is a correction of the pre-colonial section of AlbertGoro’s w/u above. There are more than 200 tribes in Nigeria. Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo are just the most numerous in the north, southwest and southeast respectively. In any case, the Hausa (commonly called Hausa-Fulani, explained later) are a majority in the northwestern states and the south of Niger Republic. They are a sizable minority in the northeast and in the central regions. Northwestern Nigeria was made up of independent Hausa kingdoms built around a city which gave its name to the kingdom, sort of like Rome (the city) and Rome (the republic and the empire). In the 18th century, a Muslim scholar called Shehu Usman Fodiyo of the Fulani tribe instigated an insurrection which swept away the Hausa kings, called “sarki” and replaced them with Fulanis, called “amir or emir”. The Fulani were nomadic cattle herdsmen, Islamic scholars and jurists who often married women from subject peoples. Most Fulani retained distinctive cultural markers and are usually the aristocracy in places where they intermarry. The intermarriage was extensive in Hausaland and that is why the 2 tribes are conflated. The emirs were all subordinate to the Sultan who was based in Sokoto. There is one other Fulani ruler in the northeast, the Lamido of Adamawa. His title is just a translation of emir. Thus, the political structure of Hausaland and Adamawa had the Sultan as the spiritual head and the various emirs below him. Today, this area is split into states ruled by elected governors. The monarchs have no constitutional role and are subject to the authority of the governor. Currently, the Hausa-Fulani states are Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara. Kaduna has large minorities that are often not Muslim.

The northeast is today made up of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states. The premier pre-modern state was the kingdom of Bornu. Before the arrival of white colonialists, it extended into Chad, Cameroun and Niger republic. Borno was able to repel the Fulani army and retain its political autonomy. The dominant language is Kanuri, although there are scores of others. The political and spiritual head was called the Shehu. The ancient Bornu Empire is currently split into Borno and Yobe states. Yobe state currently has a majority Hausa-Fulani population. Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba are geographically in the lower northeast. However, the Muslim traditional rulers are all Fulani and so allied with Sokoto. Bauchi is historically Hausa and it was conquered by the Fulani. So, culturally, it is part of the northwestern states above. Adamawa and Gombe are mostly Fulani with substantial minorities. Gombe was part of Bauchi state but was carved out for administrative and political convenience. The emir of Adamawa’s title is Lamido, which is just the Fulani word for ruler. There was also a pagan kingdom of Jukun or Kwararafa. They were a martial folk who were never conquered by Muslims. Today, they are mostly Christian. Other tribes here include the Margi, Biu, Bulala, Tangale and many others.

Central Nigeria is today split into the states of Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa, Niger, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. Except for Kwara and Niger states, all the others did not have large political units. The more advanced Hausa-Fulani & Kanuri kingdoms in the north used to raid the area for slaves. Kwara is culturally Yoruba, however, the Fulani were able to take over political power and as is their wont, have merged with the people there and are often known as Yoruba-Fulani. They also have an emir who is a vassal of Sokoto. The most prominent tribe in Niger state is the Nupe. In the 15th century, the Nupe established a state that at one time defeated and sacked the much larger and older Yoruba kingdom of Oyo. This victory was short lived. Eventually, the Fulani came in and took political power. The rest of central Nigeria is a hodgepodge of tribes, but the Hausa-Fulani are a majority in some areas and a sizable minority in the rest. Tribes here include the Angas, Berom, Gbagyi, Idoma, Igala, Koro, Tiv and Yoruba. The bulk of the populace of Niger state is not Hausa-Fulani either. However, they identify very closely with them. Central Nigeria is arguably the most linguistically diverse part of the country.

Southwestern Nigeria is currently split into the states of Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Delta, Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Osun. The Yoruba are the most in number especially in the ‘O” states as well as Lagos and Ekiti. They also extend into the neighboring country of Benin republic. The pre-modern kingdoms were Ile-Ife which is the spiritual center of Yorubaland, Oyo and Benin. The kingdom of Oyo was a vast one that covered large parts of the area currently inhabited by the Yoruba. It achieved its primacy by force of arms. It subdued the kingdom of Dahomey and Fon. In the eastern part of the southwest, the kingdom of Benin was founded and it was not defeated by any force until the white man came. Benin was founded by the Edo people. Yorubas and Edo are similar culturally, even sharing the same origin myths. When the Portuguese went to Benin in the 15th century, they were astounded by its wealth, order and cleanliness. The other tribes in this region include Etsako, Ibo, Ijaw, Ishan and Itsekhiri. Delta and Edo cover roughly the area of the ancient kingdom of Benin.

Southeastern Nigeria was the least developed politically in pre-modern times. In the western and central parts of the region, the Ibo are dominant while to the east, there is a proliferation of tribes including Akwa Ibom, Calabar, Ijaw, Urhobo and Itsekhiri. The states here are Abia, Anambra, Crossriver, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers. There were no large political entities, nor centralized religions amongst the Ibo.

English is widely spoken throughout the country and is becoming a first language for many. Broken English (also known as “pidgin”) is also a sort of lingua franca although it also has regional dialects. Maybe in a few hundred years, most of the languages will be dead and the people of Nigeria will be speaking some sort of patois.

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