Many West African countries suffered under forced colonial rule for generations until the native population rebelled against the tyrannical practice and demanded their freedom. October 1, 2020, was Nigeria's Independence Day. They have been free of foreign oppression and fully in control of their own country for 60 years. This is a tremendous feat considering how such oppression became official.
The Berlin Conference
The trials and tribulations of 20th century Africa actually began earlier in Berlin with the Berlin Conference in 1884. This conference, only attended by leaders of European countries, officially divided the continent of Africa betwixt thirteen European nations who were given full control over vast areas of land and the people who have lived on that land for generations upon generations. Great Britain, a large colonial powerhouse, was allowed to keep full control over the area that we now call Nigeria, an area that had already been oppressed for decades.
The Niger Region, Before Independence
By 1914, the British formally established their complete control over the Niger region and the people who lived there. The ruling powers continued their quest to eradicate autonomous self-rule and ignored the Niger area's cultural norms and relations between tribes. Their goal was to unify a country under British rule and turn all inhabitants into British citizens who obeyed British laws and practiced the same religion.
The British had superior weaponry and quelled any rebellion that came up during their establishment of power. Nigerians of all tribes were forced to adhere to rules that went directly against their beliefs. People were governed based on the dated and untrue superiority theories popular at the time that suggested Nigerian people were barbaric and like godless children who needed to be saved from their backward ways.
The Birth Of A Unified Nigerian Pride
The hum and excitement of nationalism and freedom began to spread during the first World War and increased even further during and after the Second World War as Nigerians were drafted into the British military where they learned about the pride one could have for a beloved and supportive country. Men came back from war wanting to love a nation that embraced their cultural differences and supported each individual as equals. These Nigerian men spread the awareness of British oppressive rule and the beauty of what could be when everyone gathered together, from every tribe, and demanded their rights.
After a time of tremendous struggle and an amazing show of strength, Nigeria demanded her independence. In the end, Great Britain could feel the stirrings of passion and desire for self-rule coming from the entire Nigerian community and on October 1, 1960, Nigerians finally achieved their independence and the ability to guide their fates, no matter what came next.
Ethnic Division, Definition, And Identity
The birth of a country is never easy. Nigeria is home to 180 million people who may belong to one of the 250 tribes established in the region. Honoring the values of independent tribes while attempting to create an inclusive definition of what a Nigerian could be was a difficult hurdle and questions still remain today. Can a person be an Igbo and a Nigerian at the same time when tribal law and national law may not fully agree? What does it mean to be a Nigerian? How do we grow and progress from here?
The early sixties were difficult times all over the country. Nigeria was unofficially separated into three parts, one controlled by the Igbo tribe, another for the Hausa tribe, and last for the Yoruba tribe. Each group struggled for power in civil wars and with accusations of ethnic cleansing and genocide that killed over one million Nigerian people until 1970 when other differences came into play. The northern area of the country is mainly Muslim while the Southern parts are mostly Christian and battles were waged in response to these differences once tribal differences became less important.
All of these labels and disagreements are the remainders of colonial aggression and happen in many post-colonial nations. Sometimes, to define oneself, we tend to emphasize what we are not, as opposed to what we are. We begin to believe that those who do not do what we do are wrong and different and something wrong and different must be eradicated. All human beings all over the earth have experienced this in one way or another. The goal is to overcome such adversity and grow from the experiences.
Nigeria is still fighting hard to overcome hardships such as Boko Haram, corrupt political leaders, oppressive military rule, and economic recessions to get into the next phase of their civil and social evolution that includes ensuring open and honest elections, growing the economy, and increasing the quality of life for every Nigerian, independent of tribe and religion. They are still growing and, like any other developing nation, horrible things may happen that can teach us what is most important: beauty and honor can exist everywhere you look, and they are worth fighting for.
Celebrate Strength And Resilience With Lex Pyerse In October
Every Nigerian has the strength and resilience to overcome any obstacle, big or small, that comes their way. Lex Pyerse Clothing is here to help you show how proud you are of your nation and your history no matter where you are in the world. Inspire others and initiate constructive conversations with our hoodies, shirts, and hats celebrating Nigerian independence and growth.
October 1, 2020, is Nigeria's 60th year of freedom from colonial rule. Celebrate this day with your friends and loved ones and remember, you take Nigeria with you no matter where you go.