History of Nigeria: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michael Gott

Mike is a veteran of the New Hampshire public school system and has worked in grades 1-12. His role has varied from primary instructor to special needs support.

Nigeria is a young country, gaining independence from Britain in 1960, which lead to civil war. Nigerians enjoyed a few years of democracy before rule by various military dictatorships. A dynamic political scene continues to this day.

Early Residents of Nigeria

Have you ever had to choose between two options you did not like? Sometimes there is no good choice. After being controlled by England for hundreds of years, the people of Nigeria established an independent government that soon became corrupt. Most Nigerians, though, choose to support the corrupt government over the terrorist group kidnapping their children.

On the land now known as Nigeria, the earliest settlement was formed in roughly 800 BC at the Jos plateau by the Nok people. Their civilization and culture continued to expand until the 1400s when Portuguese explorers reached the western coast of Africa. This contact led to the Atlantic slave trade and sent millions of Africans to the Americas for the next 200 years. The Atlantic slave trade involved Europeans taking slaves from Africa and traveling to the Americas to sell them. Once slave traders had the money from the slave sales, they would return to Europe with the money before leaving for Africa again to get more slaves.

England's Influence

In the early 1800s, the tribes within Nigeria began a series of civil wars based mainly upon tribal identity and the ability to control areas of land. In this climate, the British arrived. Through sheer military force, England took control of the land. Once English dominance was established, the land became known as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. This was the first time the land was known as Nigeria in any form.

Once in control of the land, the British banned slavery and established indirect rule. Indirect rule meant that England chose people and groups to control areas in Nigeria. These people and groups were allowed to stay in power as long as they raised enough money and resources for England. These chosen groups were often accused of exploiting the people of Nigeria in order to continue paying England for the authority to rule.

Nigerian Independence

Once attaining independence in 1960, Nigeria separated into three distinct regions, with Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa overseeing these areas. These regions were divided for both geographical reasons and ethnic identity. Separating along ethnic lines led to distrust among the regions. The death of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in 1966 caused war to break out in Nigeria along ethnic lines. War continued until 1975 when Murtala Ramat Mohammed took control of Nigeria.

Flag of Nigeria
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Democracy is Established

One year after taking power, Murtala Ramat Mohammed was killed in a failed attempt to overthrow his established government. General Olusegun Obasanjo took control of Nigeria and attempted to create a more direct democratic process in Nigeria. This democratic government lasted until 1983 when the military took over the Nigerian government

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