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History, Nigeria

Travel enthusiast Maciej Mońka
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The Kanem-Bornu Empire near Lake Chad dominated northern Nigeria for over 600 years, prospering as a terminal of north-south trade between North African Berbers and forest people. In the early 19th century, Usman dan Fodio brought most areas in the north under the loose control of an Islamic empire centered in Sokoto. The kingdoms of Oyo in the southwest, and Benin in the southeast both devoloped elaborate systems of political organization in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Ife and Benin are noted for their prized artistic works in ivory, wood, bronze, and brass. In the 17th through 19th centuries, European traders established coastal ports for the increasing traffic in slaves destined for the Americas. Commodity trade replaced slave trade in the 19th century. The Royal Niger Company was chartered by the British government in 1886. Nigeria became a British protectorate in 1901, and a colony in 1914. In response to the growth of Nigerian nationalism following World War II, the British moved the colony towards self-government on a federal basis. Nigeria was granted full independence in 1960, as a federation of three regions, each retaining a substantial measure of self-government. In 1966, two successive coups by different groups of army officers brought the country under military rule. The leaders of the second coup tried to increase the power of the federal government, and replaced the regional governments with 12 state governments. The Igbos, the dominant ethnic group in the eastern region, declared independence as the Republic of Biafra in 1967, leading to a bloody civil war which ended with their defeat in 1970. In 1975, a bloodless coup brought Murtala Ramat Mohammed to power, who promised a return to civilian rule. However, he was killed in an abortive coup, and succeeded by his chief of staff, Olusegun Obasanjo. A new constitution was drafted in 1977, and elections were held in 1979, which were won by Shehu Shagari. Nigeria returned to military government in 1983, by a coup which established the Supreme Military Council as the country's new ruling body. After elections in 1993 which were canceled by the military government, General Sani Abacha took power. When he died suddenly in 1998 Abdulsalami Abubakar became leader of the SMC, now known as the Provisional Ruling Council. He lifted the suspension of the 1979 constitution, and in 1999, Nigeria elected Olusegun Obasanjo as President in its first elections in 16 years. Obsanjo and his party also won the turbulent elections of 2003.

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