BY ED EMEKA KEAZOR– 2014
The territory now known as Nigeria in pre-colonial times consisted of several ethnic nationalities, Empires, Kingdoms and Republican societies.
The earliest known habitation in this territory is dated to the Lower Palaeolithic (early Stone Age period c1-2 Million BC) as evidenced by the Archaeological excavation of Acheulean tools at a site at Ugwuele-Uturu, Okigwe (now in Imo State). Other significant sites being Iwo-Eleru, (Ogun State) dated to c.11,000 BC, where ceramic works were excavated. Early civilisation in the territory is equally evidenced by the 8000 year old Dufuna Canoe, discovered on the banks of the River Yobe and displaying a design that is said to have been the most advanced for its time. Equally, the Nok civilisation, dating back to 500 BC, with its iconic terra-cotta works and language which survives till date.
The Igbo-Ukwu finds, spear-headed by Archaeologist-Thurston Shaw, uncovered a civilisation in Eastern Nigeria, dating back to at least 1000 AD, with evidence of some form of trade/interaction with the Asian continent. Also the Sungbo’s Eredo wall formation (surrounding Ijebu-land), showed evidence of a civilisation with immense organisational and technological capabilities for its time. A civilisation also existed amongst the Ekoi people of the South-East, who had a form of writing, known as Nsibidi which exists till date.
A succession of great Empires emerged in this territory over time, the most notable being the Jukun in the Middle-Belt (c.600 AD) Kanem-Bornu Empire in the North-East (c.800 AD). The Benin Empire -reputed to have been founded between 40 BC-600 AD by the Ogiso dynasty. The Nri Kingdom (c.1000 AD), the Oyo Empire (c.1300), Katsina etc. The Northern Kingdoms had contact with the Middle-East as far back as the 10th century, with sustained commerce via the Trans-Saharan trade and Islamic evangelism, carrying on for many years. In the South, there is evidence that the Nri Kingdom had external contact with Asia at least in the 10th century. The first contact with Europeans being c.1470, with Portuguese sailors, who visited the Niger Delta, starting a trading and diplomatic relationship with the Benin and Warri Kingdoms.
The first Englishman to visit Nigeria being the explorer Thomas Windham, in 1553, who was taken by the Portuguese Sailor- Francisco Pinteador to visit the Oba of Benin- Orhogbua, who impressed him with his ability to speak, read and write Portuguese (he had been educated in a Catholic Mission school) and the advanced administrative/municipal systems evident in the city of Benin at the time.
Progressively, other European explorers and adventurers, notably the Dutch, French and German found their way to Nigeria, seeking trade and more, establishing trading outposts- mainly in the Coastal cities of the Delta- such as Old Calabar, Warri, Benin etc The African Association was founded in 1787, to promote exploration of Africa. Sadly, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade started in the 15th century and increased exponentially in the 18th century, till the abolition in 1807, which was enforced progressively from 1833, till the last slave ship left from Brass (now Bayelsa State) in 1854.
British presence in Nigeria, largely consisted of trading companies, however a British High Consulate was established in 1849 continue reading >>>Nigeria_The_journey_to_amalgamation