Historical Context

  • Nigerian federal army soldiers waiting to be questioned by the Biafran army

The 19th Century


1850s— The British establish a presence near Lagos.
1861-1914 Britain consolidates its control over the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria and begins governing through local politicians.

The 20th Century

1960 Nigerian Independence, led by Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
1975 General Gowon is overthrown by Brigadier Murtala Ramat Mohammed. Mohammed then plans to move the federal capital to Abuja.
1976 General Mohammed is assassinated in failed coup attempt. Mohammed is replaced by his deputy, Lt-Gene Olusegun Obasanjo, who implements a constitution like that of the U.S.
1979 Alhaji Shehu Shagari is elected into power.
1980s through 1990s President Shagari is re-elected. Ibrahim Babangida seizes power in bloodless coup and restricts political activity. Chief Moshood Abiola wins the preliminary elections, so the military annuls them.

The 21st Century

2000 — Adoption of Islamic Sharia law by several northern states in the face of opposition from Christians. Tension over the issue results in hundreds of deaths in clashes between Christians and Muslims.
2001 — Tribal war in Benue State, in eastern-central Nigeria, displaces thousands of people. Troops sent to quash the fighting kill more than 200 unarmed civilians, apparently in retaliation for the abduction and murder of 19 soldiers.
2003 — The first legislative elections since end of military rule in 1999. President Obasanjo’s People’s Democratic Party wins parliamentary majority. Later that year, the first civilian-run presidential elections happen since end of military rule. Olusegun Obasanjo is elected for a second term.
2011 — Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan wins presidential elections.
2015 — Muhammadu Buhari wins the presidential election and becomes the first opposition candidate in Nigeria’s history to win.

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Kyna Smith 2019

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