Nigeria During the Colonial Era: The English moved into the Igbo country, which lasted from 1889 to 1914. For administrative concerns, northern and southern Nigeria were merged into a single British colony in 1914.
The advent of colonization can be traced to when the missionaries, who were part of the British government’s unarmed forces, infiltrated the Nigerian psyche. However, because of a lack of modern knowledge, Nigerians embraced churches and western ways of life, speeding up British penetration of Nigeria’s hinterlands. Meanwhile, history has it that because the church was primarily responsible for the abolition of the slave trade, it helped matters by increasing its popularity among the natives. The churches’ activities were first restricted to Lagos and Ibadan. British officials and traders scourged the West African coast, supported by Portuguese Roman Catholic priests, to convert the people of the region, especially those in the Edo Kingdom.
While the CMS operated mostly among the Yorubas, the Catholics focused on the Igbos. However, one of the factors that contributed to Samuel Ajayi Crowther becoming the first Anglican Bishop of the Niger was this. Later in 1925, a new movement arose. Nigerian students studying abroad, particularly in the United Kingdom, formed the West African Students Union alongside students from across the West African sub-region.
This union was primarily concerned with opposing colonial rule, but they also expressed strong opposition to the amalgamation. They blamed the British government for being the reason for Nigeria’s backwardness, claiming that they neglected to recognize tribal and ethnic divisions and instead merged all of Nigeria’s ethnic groupings together. These early nationalists were more concerned with their own ethnic groupings than with Nigeria.
At the same time, British scientists were interested in learning more about the Niger River’s route and surrounding villages. For generations, the delta obscured the river’s mouth, and Nigerians preferred not to tell Europeans about the country’s secrets. Mungo Park, an intrepid Scottish surgeon and naturalist, was commissioned by the African Association in Great Britain in 1794 to hunt for the Niger’s headwaters and follow the river downstream.
In the same vein, Hugh Clapperton, a Scottish explorer, heard about the mouth of the Niger River and where it met the sea on a subsequent journey to the Sokoto Caliphate, but he died before proving it due to malaria, depression, and diarrhoea. Richard Lander, his servant, and John Lander, Lander’s brother, were the ones who proved that the Niger flowed into the sea.
A number of British merchants, as well as some people who had previously been involved in the slave trade but had now switched their wares, were drawn to the Niger River by the legitimate commerce in commodities. The major corporations that constructed depots in the delta cities and Lagos were as fiercely competitive as the delta towns themselves, and they frequently used force to compel potential suppliers to sign contracts and meet their demands.
The Southern and Northern Protectorates were both eventually managed by the Colonial Office at Whitehall after the British government took control of them in 1900. The men who worked in this office were mostly from the British upper middle class—university-educated males who were not aristocrats and had fathers who worked in well-respected professions. Reginald Antrobus, William Mercer, William Baillie-Hamilton, Sydney Olivier, and Charles Strachey were the first five heads of the Nigeria Department (1898–1914).
The Governor, who oversaw the administration of his colony and had emergency powers, was appointed by the Colonial Office. His policies could be vetoed or revised by the Colonial Office. Henry McCallum, William MacGregor, Walter Egerton, Ralph Moor, Percy Girouard, Hesketh Bell, and Frederick Lugard were the seven men that ruled Northern Nigeria, Southern Nigeria, and Lagos from 1914 to 1914. The majority of these people had served in the military. All of them were knighted.
Frederick Lugard, who was appointed High Commissioner of the Northern Nigeria Protectorate in 1900 and served until 1906 in his first term, is frequently regarded as the British model colonial administrator. He had served in India, Egypt, and East Africa as an army commander, where he evicted Arab slave dealers from Nyasaland and established the British presence in Uganda. Lugard joined the Royal Niger Company in 1894 and was dispatched to Borgu to oppose French incursions. In 1897, he was tasked with forming the Royal West African Frontier Force from native levies to serve under British officers.
Sir Frederick Lugard (as he was known in 1901) spent his six years as High Commissioner developing the commercial sphere of influence inherited from the Royal Niger Company into a viable territorial unit under effective British political administration. His goal was to capture the entire territory and have the British protectorate recognized by the local rulers, particularly the Fulani emirs of the Sokoto Caliphate. When diplomatic efforts failed, Lugard’s campaign used armed forces to quell local resistance. Borno surrendered without a struggle, but Lugard’s RWAFF launched attacks on Kano and Sokoto in 1903. According to Lugard, unambiguous military successes were required since the vanquished people’s surrenders undercut resistance elsewhere.
Lugard’s success in northern Nigeria has been linked to his indirect rule approach, in which he ruled the protectorate via the monarchs who had been beaten by the British. The colonial power was willing to confirm the emirs in office if they accepted British authority, abandoned the slave trade, and worked with British authorities to modernize their governments. The emirs kept their caliphate titles, but they were accountable to British district officials, who held ultimate control. If required, the British High Commissioners might depose emirs and other officials.
Colonization remained the order of the day till 1960. There were a series of policies, events and projects initiated by the colonial masters ranging from the amalgamation of 1914, the Indirect rule system of 1916, the Developments in colonial policy under Clifford between 1919 to 1925, through the second world war from 1946 to 1950, to the introduction of self-government in some regions in 1957 to 1958.
These colonial activities gave rise to nationalist movements, which comprised influential Nigerian leaders who were confident enough to advocate for independence from the British rulers.