NIGERIA IN HISTORY - 2.
Road to Independence, Celebrating Nigeria at 56.
Nigeria came under the colonial rule of the British (United Kingdom) during the second half of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century. The United Kingdom conquered the territory of present-day Nigeria, except for the section of former German-controlled Kamerun in several stages. The British dependencies of Northern and Southern Nigeria were merged into a single territory in 1914 and a legislative council, initially with limited African representation was created in 1922. Traditional native rulers, however, administered various territories under the supervision of the colonial authorities.In 1947, a federal system of government was established under a new Nigerian constitution introduced by the United Kingdom. This system was based on three regions: Eastern, Western and Northern.
The idea was to reconcile the regional and religious tensions as well as accommodating the interest of diverse ethnic groups: mainly the Ibo (in the east), the Yoruba (in the west) and the Hausa and Fulani (in the north).
Nigeria was granted full independence in October 1960 as a federation of three regions (northern, western, and eastern) under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary form of government and a substantial measure of self-government for the country's three regions. From 1959 to 1960, Jaja Wachuku was the First black Speaker of the Nigerian Parliament - also called the House of Representatives. Wachuku replaced Sir Frederick Metcalfe of Great Britain. Notably, as First Speaker of the House, Jaja Wachuku received Nigeria's Instrument of Independence - also known as Freedom Charter - on October 1, 1960, from Princess Alexandra of Kent, the Queen's representative at the Nigerian independence ceremonies.
The federal government was given exclusive powers in defense, foreign relations, commercial and fiscal policy. The monarch of Nigeria was still head of state but legislative power was vested in a bicameral parliament, executive power in a prime minister and cabinet, and judicial authority in a Federal Supreme Court. Political parties however tended to reflect the make up of the three main ethnic groups. The NPC (Nigerian people's Congress) represented conservative, Muslim, largely Hausa interests, and dominated the Northern Region. The NCNC (National Convention of Nigerian Citizens), was Igbo and Christian dominated, ruling in the Eastern Region and the AG (Action Group) was a left-leaning party that controlled the Yoruba west. The first post-independence National Government was formed by a conservative alliance of the NCNC and the NPC, with Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a Hausa, becoming Nigeria's first Prime Minister. The Yoruba-dominated AG became the opposition under its charismatic leader Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
The emergence of a democratic Nigeria in May 1999 ended 16 years of consecutive military rule. Olusegun Obasanjo became the steward of a country suffering economic stagnation and the deterioration of most of its democratic institutions. Obasanjo, a former general, was admired for his stand against the Abacha dictatorship, his record of returning the federal government to civilian rule in 1979 and his claim to represent all Nigerians regardless of religion.
The new President took over a country that faced many problems, including a dysfunctional bureaucracy, collapsed infrastructure, and a military that wanted a reward for returning quietly to the barracks. The President moved quickly and retired hundreds of military officers who held political positions, established a blue-ribbon panel to investigate human rights violations, ordered the release of scores of persons held without charge and rescinded a number of questionable licenses and contracts let by the previous military regimes. The government also moved to recover millions of dollars in funds secreted in overseas accounts.
Culled and Edited.
A Nigeria Database: Kings, Kingdoms, and Political Leadership, Dating From Pre Colonial to Modern Day Nigeria.