Nigeria became an independent State on the 1st of January, 1914 after Lord Frederick Lugard, the Governor of both the Northern Nigeria Protectorate and the Colony and protectorate of Southern Nigeria, signed a document that unified the two, however, creating the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.
Hence, the yearly celebration of Nigeria’s independence, which serves as a reflection on history.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans in where we now know as Nigeria today, there was a range of civilizations that existed, and whose presence can still be felt to date. An example of such is how Islam is the dominant religion in the Northern part of the country.
However, in the 19th century, 2 Islamic empires existed, the Sokoto caliphate and the Bornu Empire. In the southwest laid numerous Yoruba “city-state” that generally has an animalistic religion and were not united all the time. Also, in the South West, there existed an Igbo Kingdom, Niri, and a collection of small towns and villages in the Niger River delta.
The above-mentioned region had a number of things in common such as their religion, language, and politics. The British arrived in force in the 18th century while the Portuguese exerted colonial power had been involved in the region through the slave trade. The British were not able to occupy a Nigerian territory until 1861 when they finally occupied their first Nigerian territory, Lagos.
This action was in a bid to protect Christian converts and trading interests. Also, it was to further their anti-slavery campaign. In 1884, the British occupied what later became the Southern Protectorate and the Northern protectorate piecemeal from 1900 to 1903. In 1903, the British controlled the Territory that encompasses modern-day Nigeria, but as 3 separate administrative blocks. In the year 1898, the British put to thought combining the then-three protectorates to aid in the reduction of the administrative burden on them. This measure was put in place to allow the rich south to subsidize the economically prosperous north.
The Lagos Colony, later on, was incorporated into Southern Nigeria protectorate to make budgeting easier. The above is what Lord Frederick regard referred to as his infamous description of how a marriage between the “Rich wife of substance and means” (the south) and the “poor husband” (the North) would lead to a happy life for both parties. However, some are of the opinion that Lord Fredrick Lugard’s idea was in favor of the North. The name “Nigeria” was coined by the future Lady Lugard in an 1897 “London Times Article”.
In 1900, Lord Frederick Lugard assumed the position of high commissioner of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. He has often been regarded as the model British Colonial administrator.
Trained as an army officer, he had served in India, Egypt, and East Africa, where he expelled Arab slave traders from Nyasaland and established the British presence in Uganda. Joining the Royal Niger Company in 1894, Lugard was sent to Borgu to counter inroads made by the French, and in 1897 he was made responsible for raising the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) from local levies to serve under British officers.
During his six-year tenure as high commissioner, Lord Lugard was engrossed with transforming the commercial circle of influence inherited from the Royal Niger Company into a viable territorial unit under effective British political control.
Lord Lugard’s sole aim was to conquer the entire region and to obtain recognition of the British protectorate by its indigenous rulers, especially the Fulani emirs of the Sokoto Caliphate. Lugard’s campaign systematically toned down local resistance, using armed force when political measures failed. Borno surrendered without putting up a fight, but in 1903 Lugard’s RWAFF blamed assaults on Kano and Sokoto. From Lugard’s point of view, clear-cut military victories were necessary because their surrenders weakened resistance elsewhere.
The emirs retained their caliphate titles but were responsible to British district officers, who had the last authority. The British high commissions could overthrow emirs and other officials if necessary. Lugard reduced sharply the number of titled fief holders in the emirates. This weakened the rulers’ patronage. Under the indirect rule, caliphate officials were transformed into salaried district heads and became, in effect, agents of the British authorities, responsible for peacekeeping and tax collection. The old chain of command merely was capped with a new overlord, the British high commissions.
Although the high commissions were capable of unlimited executive and legislative powers in the protectorate, most of the activities of government were undertaken by the emirs and their local administrations, subject to British approval. A dual system of law functioned–the sharia (Islamic law) court continued to deal with matters affecting the personal status of Muslims, including land disputes, divorce, debt, and slave emancipation. As an aftermath of indirect rule, Hausa-Fulani domination was confirmed–and in some instances imposed–on diverse ethnic groups, some of them non-Muslim, in the so-called middle belt.
The British prohibited the enslavement of free persons and suppressed slave trading. All children in the north who were born to persons in bondage on or after April 1, 1900, were declared free. The relations between existing slaves and their owners, however, were allowed to continue indefinitely, on the assumption that wholesale liberation would cause more harm than good by disrupting the agricultural economy.
In the south, slaves legally could be forced to return to their owners until 1914. In the north, vagrancy laws and the enforcement of proprietary rights to land were used to tax to check the flight of slaves. Slaves in the northern emirates could secure their freedom upon application to an Islamic court, but only a few used this option. Throughout the colonial period in the Muslim north, many slaves and their descendants continued to work for their masters or former masters and often received periodic payments leading to emancipation.
Having the concept of Nigeria in mind, Lord Lugard one should already envisage why the various problems colonialism created in Nigeria, across West Africa, and all over the world. In Nigeria today, there is still the issue of divided national identity. Also, diverse people who were forced to unify into one state now resulted in separation amongst them. Examples of such divided state Biafra (Nigeria), Ambazonia (Cameroon), Somaliland (Somalia), and Azawad (Mail).
Source: U.S Library Of Congress, Council on Foreign Relations
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