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Nigeria Travel Guide

Nigeria — History and Culture

History

Nigeria has one of the oldest histories in Africa, with archeologists estimating that evidence shows people were living in the area as early as 9000 BC. The next major find was that people in the area had begun using iron tools; these were used by the Nok people. Many of their terracotta sculptures survive today and can be viewed at museums of Nigeria. By 1000 AD, the Kano and Katsina kingdoms began to populate the area although it is the Yoruba people who have held steadfast through history, still living in Nigeria today. They came to prominence around the 1100 AD in the south and west of Nigeria.

Through the centuries Nigeria had developed a smart and wealthy economy, trading with overland merchants on the trans-Sahara routes. The northern city of Kano became especially important at this time. Then, in the 16th century, trade opened up further to Europe as Spanish explorers sailed around the west of Africa to meet the south of Nigeria. They founded the port towns of Lagos and Calabar, which accounts for their particularly Iberian sounding names.

The British and French soon followed suit in trading with Nigeria, and initially the Europeans were interested in just trading goods. Soon enough, with the colonies of the Caribbean opening up to the west they then became interested in acquiring slaves. The slaves were not forced off the land by Europeans, but captured by tribal kings then sold for arms or other technological products that were non-existent in Africa at the time. It was usually captured men in territorial wars who were then offered as slaves.

Africa was left largely untouched by European colonizers until the 19th century, when competing forces and prestige led to a race to carve up Africa into overseas territories. The British abolished slavery in 1807, and then for a while actually served to protect freed slaves in West Africa until other countries followed suit and ended the slave trade. By this time millions of people had passed across the Atlantic Ocean as slaves into the Caribbean islands and the USA.

Britain had much vested interest in the area of West Africa over the course of the 19th century, then by 1901 they officially made a claim by declaring Nigeria an official protectorate of the Empire. The independent kingdoms of the area opposed this, but fighting against people with advanced weaponry was ineffective. Nigeria remained part of the British Empire for the next 60 years, until after the WWII calls for independence were too great and Nigeria became a sovereign nation.

Without the overarching empire, Nigeria opened up to much political dispute and turmoil. By the 1970s Nigeria had fallen to a military rule enforced by a coup-d’état and the country joined OPEC as a leading global oil producing nation. Due to the tempting power the oil provides a country on the political scene, the military leaders were not ready to give up their seats too easily. The country experienced many civil wars throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, only returning to democracy 30 years later in 1999.

Although these elections were approved by the United Nations as being fair and democratic, the country is still notoriously rife with corruption. Even with the billion-dollar industry of oil production, Nigeria is still considered a developing country, with many societal problems and inadequate healthcare and education to meet the needs of the population, and also a lack of human rights. As a result of the oil production processes, the country also experiences many environmental problems.

Culture

With such a huge population and rich history, Nigeria is a prominent nation of Africa. In modern culture, Nigerians are revered throughout Africa and the world. Femi Kuti has produced 15 albums since 1989 that have had global success. The pulsating and mesmerizing beats with somber melodies sang and played over the top was a style of music pioneered by his father, Fela Kuti. This music is known as ‘Afrobeat’ and influences many modern dance music styles. As a result of his musical success and social commentary, Femi Kuti has been dubbed the ‘Bob Marley of Africa”.

Nigeria has a US$250-million movie industry known as Nollywood. The industry grew to prominence quickly in the 1990s and the movies are exported all over Africa, mainly for home viewing.

Nigeria has also had a growing success on the international stage with sport. Soccer is the national sport of Nigeria, and their national team is one of the best in Africa. Many of its players work abroad, earning millions in the lucrative European leagues. The national team won the regional African Cup in 1980 and 1994, and progressed relatively far in the last FIFA world cup in 2010.

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