Ancient history

Behind the facade...

The history of Nigeria is very different from that of the Congo. Admittedly, the slave trade devastated the coast and the hinterland, but the interior escaped the scourge. And although the palm oil trade in the 19th century was intensive, Nigeria knew nothing comparable to the systematic exploitation of the Congo by King Leopold II.

Nigeria today is a vast territory Islamized in the North, Christianized on the coast and in the hinterland. The British occupied it until 1914 in order to protect trade and prevent German expansion. As a result, the indigenous society of Nigeria at the beginning of the twentieth century was dislocated but not destroyed. The policy of “indirect administration” could be adopted; but on the other hand, this situation made any massive alienation of land by concessions given to foreigners very difficult. Therefore, the activity of foreign companies has mainly manifested itself in the purchase of crops grown by Nigerian peasants and in the sale of consumer goods.

At the same time, no barriers were erected to prevent the formation of an elite, and by the 1930s large numbers of Nigerians, especially from the southern regions, were studying abroad.
Allowing the creation of an elite is one thing; giving him responsibilities is another. And the rise of Nigerian nationalism during the 1930s can be attributed to the frustrations of executives who could not find jobs. Faced with their growing discontent, concessions were granted to them after the Second World War.

But from the 1950s, Nigerians, mainly in the South, were quickly absorbed into the system. In a booming economy, they are the intermediaries in trade and transport, exercise liberal professions, become the main urban planners, occupy all but the highest positions in government and administration.
Now the country is divided into three virtually autonomous regions:the North, immense, backward and Islamized; the small but rich South and East, dominated respectively by the powerful Yoruba and Ibo tribes. existence of considerable oil deposits in the eastern coast region. But behind this facade, what contradictions! Contradiction between the underdevelopment of the North, which needs people from the South, the Ibos in particular, to fill average jobs, and the high development of the South; between the religious, ethnic and cultural particularities of the three regions, which have been perpetuated by the policy of indirect administration and accentuated by modern economic competition; between the needs of the minorities in each region and the interests of the most powerful tribes; between the ever-increasing number of highly educated people and the few jobs available; between the policy of free enterprise, which suits a local elite and foreign companies, and a certain dirigisme which would be necessary to develop the whole country.
Nigeria gained independence in 1960. It becomes a federation whose central government is dominated by the majority party in the North. Over the next five years, the contradictions would be further accentuated by an economic recession and growing corruption that would deplete the resources and increase the provocative prosperity of the Nigerian elite.
In Lagos, 1964 , prices have risen by 50% since independence. It is estimated that
the average worker earns only half of the subsistence minimum. In addition, unemployment is constantly increasing. The country, therefore, will go from crisis to crisis. He will experience a general strike, two contested elections, serious disorders in the western region. The murky atmosphere and reigning cynicism are well described by Chinua Achebe in his novel A man of the people, published in January 1966. In the final pages, Achebe predicts that only a coup d'etat can put an end to Nigeria's problems.

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