Nigeria has 216 million people. Located in West Africa, it is the most populous country in Africa and world’s seventh-most populous country. Nigeria is a federal republic (modelled after USA) with 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (the capital is Abuja). The largest city is Lagos. In 1472, Portuguese navigators reached the Nigerian coast. In the 1600s, many Africans became victims of the European slave trade. In the 16th to 18th centuries, the slave trade saw 12 million Nigerians forcibly sent to the Americas. In the 19th century, the British colonised Nigeria, and ruled it via chiefdoms (local leaders). Nigeria became independent in 1960, but experienced civil war from 1967 to 1970. It went through a few coups. Most of the 40 years from 1960, Nigeria was ruled by two military juntas (1966–79 and 1983–98). Only in 1999 was a new constitution adopted, and a peaceful transition to civilian government was completed. Nigeria continues to experience long-standing ethnic and religious tensions. The Nigerian economy is the largest in Africa and is based primarily on the petroleum industry, but it remains one of the most corrupt nations in the world.  

  1. In about 2,000 words, I will describe major events that affected Nigeria from 1900 to the present.
  2. 1900 (to 1914) – Britain consolidates its hold over what it calls the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria, governs through local leaders.
  3. 1914 – Nigeria was cobbled together by British colonialists. Over 200 ethnic groups were brought together into one country.
  4. 1922 – Part of former German colony Kamerun is added to Nigeria under League of Nations mandate.
  5. 1949 – Colonial police, made up of Nigerians and Europeans, shot striking workers demanding better working conditions at the Iva Valley coal mine in south-eastern Nigeria, killing at least 21 miners and injuring many others. The incident led to further strikes mostly in southern Nigeria and some argue it helped galvanize support for the burgeoning anti-colonial movement that led to independence 11 years later.
  6. 1957 – Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became Nigeria’s first and only prime minister. He held the position until January 1966 when he was assassinated in the country’s first military coup d’état.
  7. 1958 – Chinua Achebe of Nigeria authored the novel “Things Fall Apart.” It was about the Igbo tribe’s efforts to guard its way of life against English colonialism and was made into a theatre production in 1997. It sold millions of copies worldwide and was voted Africa’s best book of the century.
  8. 1960 – Independence. Nigeria gained independence from Britain. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912-1966) became the first prime minister, leading a coalition government.
  9. 1962 – An organisation of African states was established by leaders of 20 nations meeting in Lagos, Nigeria.
  10. 1963 – Nigeria severed its remaining ties to Britain, marking the birth of the Nigerian First Republic. Nnamdi Azikiwe became the 1st president of Nigeria.
  11. 1966 – (January) Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa is killed in a coup. Maj-Gen Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi forms a military government.
  12. 1966 – (July) General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi is killed in a countercoup, replaced by Lieutenant-Colonel Yakubu Gowon.
  13. 1967 – Three eastern states secede as the Republic of Biafra, sparking 31-month civil war. The war claimed some 600,000 lives. Emeka Ojukwu had led some 40 million Igbos in secession.
  14. 1970 – The 31-month civil war ended. The Biafran forces surrendered after nearly a million ethnic Igbos died mostly of hunger and disease.
  15. 1970 – The federal government passes a law that gives all mineral rights to the federal government.
  16. 1973 – Nigeria created a National Youth Service Corps to promote national unity in a country with more than 150 ethnic groups and to help reconcile the people after the 31-month civil war that claimed one million lives. It called for a mandatory yearlong assignment for all Nigerians who graduate from university before the age of 30.
  17. 1975 – General Yakubu Gowon, who wanted to postpone a return to civilian rule, is overthrown by Brigadier Murtala Ramat Mohammed. He begins the process of moving the federal capital to Abuja. It was founded to replace Lagos and became the official capital in 1991.
  18. 1976 – General Murtala Ramat Mohammed in the ruling junta is assassinated in a failed coup attempt. He is replaced by his deputy, Lt-General Olusegun Obasanjo, who helps introduce a US-style presidential constitution, and is named president.
  19. 1976 (to 1979) – General Olusegun Obasanjo ruled as head of state.
  20. 1978 – Nigeria’s military ruler General Olusegun Obasanjo opened the Ita Oko Island prison outside Lagos, which he later described as a work farm. Later military ruler Muhammadu Buhari turned the prison into a massive holding cell for political prisoners.
  21. 1979 – General Olusegun Obasanjo, head of Nigeria, relinquished the presidency after civilian elections. Later he was jailed by Sani Abacha in 1995 for treason. Elections bring Alhaji Shehu Shagari to power. He becomes the civilian Second Republic president.
  22. 1983 (August-September) – President Alhaji Shehu Shagari is re-elected amid accusations of irregularities. President Alhaji Shehu Shagari announced austerity measures. The country was already suffering from high unemployment rates and general disillusionment after the oil boom of the ’70s.
  23. 1983 (December) – Maj-Gen Muhammad Buhari seizes power in bloodless coup. The military again ousted the civilian government. A Muslim, he launched a “war on the indiscipline”.
  24. 1985 – General Ibrahim Babangida seizes power in a bloodless coup and curtails political activity.
  25. 1986 – Nigeria’s State Security Service was created by military ruler General Ibrahim Babangida to monitor domestic dissent.
  26. 1988 – A newspaper exposé forced officials to close the Ita Oko Island prison. Local authorities later reopened it for what appeared to be a failed $1 million effort to rehabilitate the gang members who dominated Lagos’ streets.
  27. 1990 – Nigeria founded a drug agency and was soon in scandal as the top people were found to be involved in trafficking.
  28. 1991 – The city of Abuja, Nigeria, officially replaced Lagos as the new capital.
  29. 1993 – Chief Moshood Abiola, a Yoruba, was elected to the presidency but the election was annulled by the ruling Hausa tribe and the country plunged into turmoil. General Ibrahim Babangida cancelled the elections. The northern Hausa and Fulani tribes tended to dominate the military governments.
  30. 1993 – General Ibrahim Babangida ended his rule over Nigeria.
  31. 1993 – General Sani Abacha seizes power after nullifying an election when preliminary results show victory by Chief Moshood Abiola, a rich businessman. He suppresses the opposition.
  32. 1994 – Opposition leader Anthony Enahoro was detained for several months after the military crushed a pro-democracy strike.
  33. 1994 – Moshood Abiola was imprisoned by General Sani Abacha on charges of treason for declaring himself president.
  34. 1995 – Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, former head of state, was arrested by the military junta on suspicion of complicity in an alleged coup. He was released in 1998.
  35. 1995 – Nigeria had about 100 million people and $40 billion in external debt. It was the fifth largest oil producer in OPEC, and the US imported about 40% of its oil. Per capita income was $230.
  36. 1996 – Kudirat Abiola, wife of imprisoned opposition leader Moshood Abiola, was shot and killed by 6 gunmen near her home in Lagos.
  37. 1996 – In Nigeria 27 of the 30 governors were sacked by General Sani Abacha. The other 3 were transferred to other states.
  38. 1997 – Nigeria was named the most corrupt country in the world by businesspeople in a report released by the German-based Transparency International.
  39. 1997 – In Nigeria the government of General Sani Abacha gave 5 political parties $637,000 USD each to campaign in elections to restore civilian rule. Opposition groups called politicians of the 5 parties government “stooges”. 18 parties had applied for recognition but only 5 were deemed suitable.
  40. 1997 – There was an alleged coup and General Donaldson Oladipu Diya and 11 others were arrested.
  41. 1998 – The last of 5 government-sanctioned parties agreed to back Sani Abacha in the presidential elections. The government gave each party $250,000 USD for its convention.
  42. 1998 – A military tribunal sentenced six men to death for plotting a 1997 coup against General Sani Abacha. General Donaldson Oladipo Diya, former deputy head of state, maintained that he was framed by officers close to General Sani Abacha who fabricated the plot.
  43. 1998 – Police in Ibadan fired into a crowd of 5,000 people demanding the ouster of General Sani Abacha and witnesses said seven people were killed.
  44. 1998 – General Sani Abacha (54) died of a heart attack in the arms of 2 Indian prostitutes and a local virgin. General Abdulsalam Abubakar, the defence chief of staff, was quickly named the new head of state.
  45. 1998 – UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that at least 250 political prisoners would soon be released including Moshood Abiola.
  46. 1998 – Opposition leader Moshood Abiola (60) died of a heart attack while still in prison and his death sparked rioting in Lagos that left at least 19 people dead. General Abdulsalam Abubakar called the death a tragedy and appealed for calm.
  47. 1998 – Nigeria’s junta commuted the death sentence of General Donaldson Oladipo Diya and five other men convicted of plotting to overthrow General Sani Abacha.
  48. 1998 – The military government uncovered a $2 billion fraud by members of General Sani Abacha’s family involving overpayment to Russia for a steel project.
  49. 1999 – Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo (61) won the nomination for president by the People’s Democratic Party.
  50. 1999 – The People’s Democratic Party, led by Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, won 169 of 360 seats in the House. Lola Abiola-Edowar won a seat in the House of Representatives. She was the daughter of Moshood Abiola, the billionaire politician who died in military detention in 1998.
  51. 1999 – President Olusegun Obasanjo took office.
  52. 1999 – President Olusegun Obasanjo forced 122 top officers from the military over two days and seized hundreds of millions of dollars from associates of the late dictator General Sani Abacha.
  53. 2000 – Representatives of Nigeria said they found bank accounts in Liechtenstein with over $150 million USD held by family members of former dictator General Sani Abacha.
  54. 2000 – Nigeria was rated the most corrupt country in the world according to Transparency International. By 2007 it improved to become the 32nd most corrupt.
  55. 2001 – Bola Ige (71), justice minister and attorney general, was shot and killed at his home in Ibadan, Osun state. President Olusegun Obasanjo sent troops to Ibadan.
  56. 2002 – Switzerland’s largest bank said it was freezing accounts containing money of the family of Sani Abacha of Nigeria, dictator from 1993-1998. The total blocked now reached $720 million USD
  57. 2002 – The Swiss government announced that the family of Sani Abacha will return $1 billion to Nigeria in an out-of-court settlement that allowed them keep $100 million USD
  58. 2003 – In Nigeria elections President Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military ruler turned civilian statesman, sought a second term against some 20 other candidates. Obasanjo won 62% of 42 million votes. Opponents denounced the elections as fraudulent and claimed serious rigging in 16 of 36 states.
  59. 2003 – The Commonwealth summit of 54nations, representing nearly one-third of the world’s 6 billion people, is held in Nigeria.
  60. 2004 – President Olusegun Obasanjo said that his country’s 30-billion-dollar external debt was “burdensome, unsustainable and unpayable” and appealed for leniency from its creditors.
  61. 2005 – It was reported that China’s influence in Africa was expanding rapidly. Chinese projects included the rebuilding of Nigeria’s railroad network.
  62. 2005 – African Union leaders from Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Senegal met in Abuja (capital of Nigeria) for a 2-day summit titled: “Africa and the challenges of the global order: Desirability of union government,” with the leaders discussing the broad principles of integration.
  63. 2006 – In Nigeria, China’s President Hu Jintao said China wants a “strategic partnership” with Africa, seeking to add a new political dimension to a blossoming economic romance. China agreed to commit $4 billion USD for infrastructure in exchange for 4 oil drilling licenses.
  64. 2006 – Microsoft Corporation founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda met President Olusegun Obasanjo for talks on plans to manufacture cheap software in Nigeria, fight HIV/AIDS and alleviate poverty.
  65. 2006 – Nigeria and China signed an 8.3 billion USD contract for the construction of a railway line from the economic capital Lagos to Kano, the largest commercial city in the north.
  66. 2007 – President Olusegun Obasanjo said Nigeria has repaid 1.4 billion USD  (1.12 billion euros) to the so-called London Club of private creditors and that the rest of the debt will be cleared soon.
  67. 2007 – Nigeria’s next president Umaru Yar’Adua departed on a tour of seven African countries, his first foreign trip since being elected in April 2007. As Nigeria’s President, Umaru Yar’Adua revealed personal wealth of $5 million USD, saying public financial disclosures should be standard practice amidst official corruption.
  68. 2010 – Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan (52) was sworn in as president of Nigeria riven by religious and political divisions, hours after the death of the incumbent Umaru Yar’Adua (58). Goodluck Jonathan vowed that electoral reform and fighting graft would be top priorities.
  69. 2010 – Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan laid out plans to privatise most of the country’s power sector, as corruption and mismanagement continued to cause daily outages in the oil-rich nation.
  70. 2015 – The African Union endorsed the creation of a regional force of up to 10,000 men to join the fight against Boko Haram, believed to have not more than 6,000 fighters.
  71. 2015 – The opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) declared victory for its candidate, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, in the March 28 presidential election. Nigerian election winner Muhammadu Buhari congratulated outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan for peacefully relinquishing power.
  72. 2015 – Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari sacked his army, navy, air force and defence chiefs, a widely anticipated move as the former general made crushing Islamist militant group Boko Haram his top priority. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari swore in a new set of military chiefs, ordering them to end Boko Haram’s bloody six-year Islamist insurgency.
  73. 2016 – President Muhammadu Buhari said it has accused 300 firms and individuals, including army officers, of embezzling 48 billion naira ($241.45 million USD) through overpaid defence contracts or fraud, in a widening a crackdown on graft.
  74. 2019 – President Muhammadu Buhari appointed his niece, Amina Zakari, to the election commission ahead of presidential elections in February, when he will seek a second term. The opposition quickly objected to the appointment.
  75. 2019 – President Muhammadu Buhari set off an uproar by announcing the suspension of the chief justice, citing corruption allegations.
  76. 2019 – Nigerian election authorities said President Muhammadu Buhari (76) has comfortably won a second term at the helm of Nigeria, but his main rival planned a fraud challenge after a vote marred by delays and violence. Some 327 people died in election-related violence since the campaign began.
  77. 2019 – Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (76) was sworn in for a second term in office, vowing once more to tackle crippling security threats and root out corruption in Nigeria.
  78. 2020 (to 2022) – COVID-19 pandemic caused more than 3,000 deaths in Nigeria.
  79. 2022 – Nigeria has 216 million people.

© Comasters October 2022.

  • Jim KABLE
    Posted at 17:52h, 06 October

    Jeff: You need to mention that Nigerian writer Wole SOYINKA won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. I contacted him in 1991 from Japan – he knew one of my colonial era civil servant-cousins in Nigeria from 1927 and beyond till his death in a bus crash in 1972 (aged 72) – an eccentric, lived a Spartan life, rode a bicycle – swam a lot – an early mentor to famous artist Ben Enwonwu. Wole Soyinka wrote one of the best anti-racist poems I have ever come across – look it up – “Telephone Conversation” written around the late 1950s presumably out of his experience as a graduate student in England (studied at Leeds Uni – where he acted in a play by Marghanita Laski for the CND “The Offshore Island” – again – google it!).

    • comasters1
      Posted at 16:30h, 08 October

      Jim, ‘Nobel Prize recipient’ Wole Soyinka’s poem referred to the colour of his butt! Yes, he would have reduced racism by writing such a hard-hitting poem. Good Nigerian. Mahatma Gandhi of India reduced racism even more, but he was not awarded a Nobel Prize. He is instead revered and known as the father of India. Today, we live in a more decent society from efforts by Soyinka and Gandhi. Jeff