Nigeria: The Political and Economic Background

Nigeria: The Political and Economic Background

Nigeria: The Political and Economic Background

Nigeria: The Political and Economic Background

Excerpt

Nigeria, the largest of Britain's dependent territories, achieves independence on 1 October 1960. Somewhat overshadowed since 1957 in British and foreign eyes by independent Ghana, her near-neighbour along the West African coast, Nigeria is in fact the colossus of Africa. Her area of 373,250 square miles and estimated mid-1959 population of 35,284,000 (respectively four times and six times those of Ghana) make Nigeria easily the most populous country on the African continent and the biggest Negro country in the world. From the moment of independence she will inevitably play a most important role in world affairs.

Nigeria is a British creation: before 1900 there was no such entity. Attracted inland by trade and humanitarian reasons, the early explorers found over much of the country a chaos of warring tribes. Here and there they found pockets of orderly government and traces of a relatively advanced civilization, but except in the Muslim North, where the Fulani jihad of 1804 had welded together a large area which derived its inherent unity from the common religion and culture of Islam, this region of Africa had never previously known a common conqueror. The present unity of the country as a whole has been brought about by the exercise of British sovereignty over it for the past sixty years.

Nigeria's international boundaries were established during a period of intensive competition among European powers in West Africa and follow lines settled on the basis of expediency rather than ethnic or historical considerations. Within them Nigeriaembraces a bewildering complexity of human and physical elements. At least 300 tribes can be identified, and most have their own distinctive language.

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