Summarised Historical Events
5th century BC – 20th century AD
The Nok people inhabited the southern slopes of the Jos Plateau around 5th century BC. Inspired by the Nok culture, the people perfected the art of making the wonderfully expressive terracotta figures with the aid of their newly acquired iron technology. The Kanuri, Hausa, and Fulani peoples subsequently migrated there in the Northern Nigeria.
Along the northern frontier of Nigeria and West of Bornu, was the land of the Hausa people. The Hausa tribe was well placed to control trade routes to the forest regions of the south. It developed a number of small but stable kingdoms governed from a strong walled city.
The Hausa Kingdoms and Bornu Empire prospered as commercial centres and international trade routes for exchanging “slaves, ivory and kola nuts for salt, glass beads, coral, cloth, weapons, brass rods and cowry shells used as currency”.
Between the Hausa kingdoms and the coast and in the savannah grasslands and the forest regions west of the Niger were the dominant tribes of the Yoruba people. They established two powerful states – Ife and Oyo. By reinvesting the profits from trade in the development of forceful army units, the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo grew in strength and developed a high level of political organisation
which extended as far as modern day Togo.
The best known of all the Nigerian kingdoms was Benin. The Kingdom of Benin, by the 15th and 16th centuries, had “developed an efficient army; an elaborate ceremonial
court; and artisans whose works in ivory, wood, bronze, and brass are prized throughout the world today” (Nigeria-planet.com).
AD 1804 – 1903
Living among the Hausa people of the Northern Nigeria were the Fulani tribesmen and their leader Sheikh Usman dan Fodio who grew so passionate of Islam. In 1804 he and his sons led a hugely successful "holy war" against the Moslem rulers of the Hausa Kingdom. This led to the establishment of a Fulani capital in Sokoto in 1809 from where the centre and North of Nigeria was effectively ruled.
During this time too, British interest was steadily encroaching in the form of British explorers, anti-slavery activists, missionaries and traders. By 1823 the British government sponsored expedition to Nigeria had covered the south coasts, Bornu, Lake Chad, Kano and through the Hausa territory to Sokoto.
By 1849 or thereabout, it became obvious that the British effort to stop slave trade through increased trade in palm oil was not achieving the desired end. The Nigerian chiefs in the Niger area, rather than divert their business activity from slavery to palm oil, preferred to acquire more slaves to meet the increased demand for palm oil. From then on, the British government accepts a more direct involvement in direct negotiation with the King of Lagos, the main slave shipment port.
In 1851 following a break down in negotiation, the British forces were ordered to attack and capture Lagos. Another member of the Lagos Royal Family who was considered a British loyalist
was enthroned. The condition was that he should put an end to the slave trade and human sacrifice. The king and his successor failed to fulfil these terms and by 1861 Lagos was annexed as a British colony.
British trade and political control worked hand in glove. In 1893 the Niger delta region was designated a Niger Coastal Protectorate and pressure was put on the Oba of Benin and his people to end the notorious practices of slave trade and human sacrifice. A British delegation sent to negotiate with the Oba was massacred. In retaliation, the British troops attacked and burned down part of Benin city.
By 1900, Britain had taken responsibility for the control and administration of Nigeria – from the coastal areas (South) to Sokoto and Bornu in the North. In the Berlin conference of 1884, during the scramble for Africa, the entire area of Nigeria today was ceded to Britain as its colony.