Named for the Niger River, Nigeria since 1960 is an independent nation
of West Africa opening to the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Coast. As
with many nations of postcolonial Africa, European (British) colonists
created and defined Nigeria with geographical
boundaries that drew together diverse peoples, many of them ancient
rivals or having distinct cultural institutions and values. At Independence, Nigeria
had 60 million people from more than 300 distinct ethnic or cultural groups
who spoke more than 500 languages.
As of 2008
Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has an estimated
151 million people.
Nigeria is the ninth most populous country in
the world. One-sixth of African peoples are in Nigeria.
1990 to 2008 increased by 57 million, a 60 percent growth rate.
United Nations estimates the population of Nigeria will reach 440
million by 2050. Nigeria will then be the third most populous country in
the world. At current rates the population of Nigeria will reach 914 million
Nigeria is among the largest, most dynamic, and most critical nations in Africa. Many African Americans are descended from peoples taken
from West Africa including Nigeria. The nation's decolonization by
England was peaceful and gradual compared to many other former colonies.
Nigeria has struggled because its artificial boundaries force
together diverse cultures and languages that do not think of
themselves as a single people with common national interests. In some
respects Nigeria's internal conflicts resemble those of
artificially constructed nations of the Middle East like Iraq, or of
Eastern Europe like the former Yugoslavia. As in those
countries, democracy has struggled to establish national legitimacy and
escape tribalism, nepotism, corruption, secession movements, and religious fundamentalism.
Also like post-colonial nations in the Middle East, Nigeria maintains
high birth rates even as infant mortality rates improve. Half of the
country's population is 14 years old or younger, the highest ratio of
young people of any nation. Such rapid population growth creates increasing numbers of young people
needing education and jobs, who often emigrate to First-World nations
for employment, opportunity, and human rights.
Nigerians are the single largest contemporary African immigrant group in
the United States. Nigerian immigrants have the highest education
attainment level in the United States, surpassing every other ethnic
group in the country, according to U.S Bureau Census data. Many
Nigerians immigrate also to Australia and Canada.
Nigeria's three major ethnic groups:
Igbo people of note: Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) is Igbo; his novel Things Fall
Apart represents traditional Igbo society. In 1967-70, the Igbo
region in southeast Nigera sought to secede as the Republic of Biafra in
the Nigerian Civil War. (see obituary for
Odumegwu Ojukwu [1933-2011], Igbo-Biafran leader)
Yoruba people of note: Wole Soyinka
(b. 1934), Nobel Prize for Literature 1986 (Death and the King's
Horseman);; Hakeem Olajuwon
(University of Houston & Houston Rockets basketball star); Afro-British
pop singers Seal (b. 1963) and Sade
(b. 1959) are of Yoruba descent.
9th century: Bronzes and other metallurgy
948-1911: Kingdom of Nri (Nri-Igbo people)
11th century: Borno established as Islamic state
15th century: Hausa kingdoms in North, nominally Muslim
1500s Spanish and Portuguese explorers begin trade in
1600s-1700s Slaves traded to European ships via coastal
groups. Many slaves in British Empire descended from Nigerian peoples.
Early 1800s: British suppression of slave trade leads to
collapse of Oye Kingdom (mostly Yoruba)
Later 1800s: European missionary activity in West Africa
1885 Berlin Conference of European imperial
powers grants British "sphere of influence"
in Western Africa.
1897 British conquest of Benin
1901 Nigeria becomes British Protectorate, part of British
1901-02 Anglo-Aro War (Aro Confederacy of eastern Nigeria
incl. Igboland, where resistance continued)
1914 Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria
Following World War 2 Increasing nationalism . New
constitutions moved Nigeria toward self-governance.
1 October 1960 Independence from United Kingdom; multiple
parties represent different regions, religions, ethnicities.
1963 Federal Republic
1966 and following: several military coups; military largely controlled by
North. Increasing oil revenues > central government corruption.
1967-70 Nigerian-Biafran Civil War (Igbo secession,
1979 transfer of power to civilian regime
1984, 1985 more military coups,
endemic corruption under leadership of Ibrahim
Babangida, president & commander in chief
1992 democratic elections declared null and void by
Babangida, leading to massive social unrest and eventual inauguration of M. K.
1993 General Sani Abacha leads new military coup, high levels
of corruption and violence to suppress social unrest
1998 Abacha found dead under mysterious circumstances
1999 election of Olusegun Obasanjo, former military head of
state, as president of Nigeria
2007 Umaru Musa Yar'Adua elected president in controversial
election; d. 2010; replaced by Goodluck Jonathan
2011 Goodluck Jonathan elected president in election approved
by international observers
May 2015 Muhammadu Buhari defeats Goodluck
Jonathan in presidential election; peaceful transfer of power
Nigeria is a founding member of OPEC and one of the world's
top ten oil producing countries. Oil extraction is concentrated in the Niger
River Delta, whose indigenous peoples have protested violently--and been
violently suppressedóregarding sharing of oil profits with local economy.
Boko Haram ("western education is a sin") is a Nigerian
Islamist group seeking Shariah law on Muslim states of northern Nigeria. The
group claimed responsibility for the 26 August 2011 car-bombing of the United
Nations Building in the Nigerian capital Abuja, killing 21 and injuring dozens.
States in Nigeria under Shariah law (more or less)