Nigeria History Much has been said and written about Nigeria, her people and culture, economy and politics, that sheds light on the tremendous potential of this African Giant. However, little is known to the outside world about the many exciting tourist attractions available in Nigeria: Historic sites nestled amid rivers and rain forests, breathtaking mountain vistas, remote creek villages, miles of pristine beaches and exotic national wildlife reserves.
There are also museums, festivals, music and dance, a rich cultural melange right down to everyday traditional markets. These are just some of the spectacular sights and sensual delights awaiting the traveler to Nigeria. Nigeria has the largest population of any country in Africa about million , and the greatest diversity of cultures, ways of life, cities and terrain.
With a total land area of , sq. Nigeria is the 14th largest country in Africa. Its coastline, on the Gulf of Guinea, stretches km mi. Nigeria shares its international border of 4, km mi.
Chad, Cameroon, Benin, and Niger. Until the capital was Lagos, with a population of about 2,,, but the government recently moved the capital to Abuja. In general, there are two seasons, dry and wet, throughout Nigeria. Near the coast, the seasons are less sharply defined. Inland, around the two great rivers, the wet season lasts from April-Oct. It was in Nigeria that the Bantu and SemiBantu, migrating from southern and central Africa, intermingled with the Sudanese.
Later, other groups such as Shuwa-Arabs, the Tuaregs, and the Fulanis, who are concentrated in the far north, entered northern Nigeria in migratory waves across the Sahara Desert. The earliest occupants of Nigeria settled in the forest belt and in the Niger Delta region. Today there are estimated to be more than ethnic groups in Nigeria. Hausa-Fulani in the north, Yoruba in the west, and Igbo in the east.
While there is no direct evidence to link the people of the Jos Plateau with the Nok culture, or the Eze Nri of today with Igbo Ukwu, the history of Borno dates back to the 9th Century when Arabic writers in north Africa first noted the kingdom of Kanem east of Lake Chad. Bolstered by trade with the Nile region and Trans-Saharan routes, the empire prospered. In the next centuries, complex political and social systems were developed, particularly after the Bulala invasion in the 14th Century.
The empire moved from Kanem to Borno, hence the name. The empire lasted for 1, years until the 19th Century despite challenges from the HausaFulani in the west and Jukun from the south. To the west of Borno around 1, A. However, unlike the Kanuri, no ruler among these states ever became powerful enough to impose his will over the others. Although the Hausa had common languages, culture, and Islamic religion, they had no common king.
Kano, the most powerful of these states, controlled much of the Hausa land in the 16th and 17th Centuries, but conflicts with the surrounding states ended this dominance. Because of these conflicts, the Fulanis, led by Usman Dan Fodio in , successfully challenged the Hausa States and set up the Hausa-Fulani Caliphate with headquarters in Sokoto, commanding a broad area from Katsina in the far north to Ilorin, across the River Niger. In the west, the Yoruba developed complex, powerful city-states.
The first of these important states was Ile-Ife, which according to Yoruba mythology was the center of the universe. Ife is the site of a unique art form first uncovered in thel93Os. Naturalistic terracotta, bronze heads and other artifacts dating as far back as the 10th Century show just how early the Yoruba developed an advanced civilization. Later, other Yoruba cities challenged Ife for supremacy, and Oyo became the most powerful West African kingdom in the 16th and 17th Centuries.
The armies of the Oyo king Alafin dominated other Yoruba cities and even forced tribute from the ruler of Dahomey. Internal power struggles and the Fulani expansion to the south caused the collapse of Oyo in the early 19th Century.
Benin developed into a major kingdom during the same period that Oyo was becoming dominant to the west. Although the people of Benin are primarily Edo, not Yoruba, they share with Ife and Oyo many of the same origins, and there is much evidence of cultural and artistic interchange between the kingdoms.
The King Oba oE Benin was considered semi-divine and controlled a complex bureaucracy, a large army, and a diversified economy. Benin's power reached its apex in the 16th Century. Of these, the Igbo are probably the most remarkable because of the size of their territory and the density of population. Igbo societies were organized in self-contained villages, or federations of village communities, with a society of elders and age-grade associations sharing various governmental functions.
The same was true of the Ijaw of the Niger Delta and people of the Cross River area, where secret societies also played a prominent role in administration and governmental functions. But by the 18th Century, overseas trade had begun to encourage the emergence of centralized systems of government. Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, lies on the Ogun River amid rugged, rocky hills, offering excellent photo opportunities. Home of adire cloth, Abeokuta has an intriguing array of markets which sell a wide range of exotic goods.
Olumo Rock, sacred to the Egba people, is on the east side of the Ogun river. Visitors should engage a guide from the tourist center at the bottom of the rock where one can explore the caves used as sanctuary during the Yoruba civil war. At the rock's summit, visitors can enjoy a tremendous view of Abeokuta and the Ogun River. World-renowned Benin bronze scuptures date back to the 15th Century when the Oba of Benin ruled the large and powerful Edo kingdom, a period when bronze casting was an art used to glorify the Oba.
In , a British expeditionary force sacked Benin and hauled off many of the bronzes to London. Still, several good examples of the bronze artifacts remain in both the Benin and Lagos Museums.
Today, bronze casting is still continued in several streets in the city, including Igun and Oloton streets. Another attraction in Benin is Chief Ogiamen's House, a prime example of Benin traditional architecture built before The house miraculously survived the "Great Fire" during that period which destroyed most of the city.
Located along the edge of a thickly wooded forest belt, it was called Eba-Odan, meaning a town at the edge of the forest. Places of interest include Dugbe market, a huge traditional marketplace, the Parliament Building, the University of Ibadan, Nigeria's premiere university, its Teaching Hospital and Cocoa House.
The Yorubas consider it to be the cradle of creation and civilization. Legend says that it was at Ife that Oduduwa, sent by Olodumare, the Yoruba creator-god, established the first land upon the waters that covered the earth, thus founding Ife. His sons spread to other parts of Yoruba to create further kingdoms. Ile-lfe became a remarkable center for arts, producing both terracotta figures and bronzes dating from the 12th to 15th Centuries, second only in fame to the Benin bronzes. It was a trading post between the Benin Kingdom and the Portuguese until the arrival of British traders in the 19th Century, presaging the colonization of the interior.
Lagos is divided into several parts, each with its distinctive character. The heart of the city is Lagos Island Eko , containing most of Nigeria's commercial and administrative headquarters.
It is linked to the mainland by three road bridges, and to Ikoyi Island and Victoria Island by road. The latter are mostly residential areas with palatial houses, expansive gardens and five star hotels in a gorgeous setting. Finally, Oba's Palace sits majestically on Lagos Island, portions of which are over years old with a newly contructed extension.
The Idanre Hills, with curious dome-shaped peaks, are located in Idanre, southwest of Akure. The hills have a socio-religious significance, having protected inhabitants from invaders during inter-ethnic wars in the distant past. Onitsha, located on the Eastern bank of the River Niger, is famous for its robust market and commercial activity. The traditional Ofala festivals, performed by royalty in Anambra, are rare pageants of color and fanfare.
Calabar is an attractive city on the bank of the New Calabar River, near its confluence with the Cross River, which has a long history as the regional port of eastern Nigeria. Residents here trace their ancestots back to Babylon before the time of Christ. First visited by the Portuguese at the end of the 15th Century, CALABAR is also the center from which many missionaries ventured forth in the 19th and 20th centuries, including Mary Slessor, who arrived in Calabar in Places of interest include the National Museum in the old Residency Building.
The building was prefabricated, shipped from Britain and erected atop Consular Hill in , later known as Government Hill. The museum itself is history, a vibrant colonial stylecitadel commanding superb views of Calabar and the Calabar River.
The museum traces the history of Calabar and the surrounding areas in a spacious setting. Enugu is the center of the Nigerian coal industry, situated in attractive, hilly country with wide roads and expressways and main arteries leading north, south, east and west. It also boasts one of the best hotels in Nigeria, the Nike Lake Hotel.
The Museum, overlooking the river, encases the history of the local Ibibo people plus an important collection of wooden Ekpo memorial carvings that portray the male ancestors of the Ibibo people, believed to be two to three centuries old.
The Igbos are renowned for their music and dancing, especially the colorful masquerades in which the dancers wear elaborate masks. It is called "The Garden City" because of its abundance of trees and parks.
Now the second most important port in Nigeria, Port Harcourt did not exist before Nearby are the two historic ports of Bonny and Brass, formerly connected with the slave trade, but which now serve as oil ports and terminals. The town is a good base from which to explore the local creek villages and towns. Sites include the State Museum, which features many examples of local culture including masks and carvings.
The Cultural Center on Bonny Street has a stage and auditorium for plays, dancing and a shop where tourists can purchase local handicrafts. The Azumint Blue River sports beautiful clear water with sandy beaches.
Tourists can rent canoes for a ride down the river to stop at a beachside picnic site, outfitted with wooden chairs, tables and grills for a pleasant riverside barbecue. Visitors to Akwette will be impressed with its unique weaving industry. Besides being the administrative seat of government, Abuja is a beautiful city surrounded by rolling hills, with ample mountaineering potential. The Gwagwa Hills, near Suleja, the Chukuku Hills, the Agwai Hills and the famous Zuma rocks are just some of the awe-inspiring manifestations of nature's beauty in the area.
BIDA is a lively town, famous for its handicrafts and colorful market, and is the principal city of the Nupe people. Bida is famous for its glass beads, cloths, silver and brass work, it's carved 8-legged stools made from a single piece of wood, and decorative pottery. Bida's market truly stands out as a traditional showcase of local commerce in Nigeria.
Particularly impressive during the rainy season, the falls span meters across with a sheer drop of 30 meters, which creates a dazzling rainbow effect as the water cascades over the top into a cloud of spray below. ILORIN, an ancient city, is the southernmost point of Fulani expansion and bears characteristics of both north and south.