History of Northern Nigeria

Photo Showing States in Nigeria by Geography

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, with over 200 million people. It is roughly divided into two portions: northern (which is predominantly Muslim) and the southern (which is mainly a mix of Christians, Muslims, and animists). Nigeria became a country following the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates by Frederick Lugard in 1914. This is the history of Northern Nigeria. 

Prehistoric Era

The area that is now modern-day northern Nigeria was once dominated during prehistoric times by the Nok civilization. The people of the Nok culture left behind some of the most remarkable megaliths and terracotta statues, which have been dug up in different places all like Nok (now in modern-day Plateau State), Birnin Kudu, Sokoto, Zaria, and Kano. 

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Nok seated figure; 5th century BC – 5th century AD; terracotta; 38 cm (1 ft. 3 in.); Musée du quai Branly (Paris). In this Nok work, the head is dramatically larger than the body supporting it, yet the figure possesses elegant details and a powerful focus. The neat protrusion from the chin represents a beard. Necklaces form a cone around the neck and keep the focus on the face.

Time of the Fourteen Kingdoms

The Hausa Kingdoms emerged in different parts of the northern section of the country around the 9th century. This was possible because the various kingdoms had some shared historical and cultural roots. Some of the kingdoms merged with time and became the seven main ones: Daura, Gobir, Katsina, Kano, Zaria (also called Zazzau), Rano and Biram. 

All these kingdoms were heavily involved in the trade of leather, kola nuts, henna, gold, salt, animal hides, fabrics, and other items. This led to a significant boom and established places like Kano as the center for commerce for all Western Africa and even beyond. 

Hausa States

The period between 500 CE and 700 CE saw a migration of people from the Nubian region, thus swelling the Hausa States population. There was also a decline of the Sokoto and Nok states around this time and this allowed the Hausas to consolidate their power, influence, and control. However, there were also other regional powers like the kingdoms of the Jukun, Nupe, Kanuri, Gwari, and Birom. 

The introduction of Islam into the Hausa States played a lot of roles in the region’s evolution. Islam came from the ancient Mali Empire, and it was adopted in the 11th century CE. Hausaland would reach the peak of its power around the 12th century. It was during this period that the Hausas erected majestic buildings that remained till today. They also developed a modified Arabic script called Ajami, which allowed them to document their histories properly. 

The Sokoto Caliphate

The decline came for the Hausa States in the 19th century following a series of invasions by the Fulani people from Sudanic Africa. The Fulanis were interested in establishing the Sokoto Caliphate after displacing the local Hausa (or Habe) kings. The leader of these jihadist moves was Usman dan Fodio. 

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Hausa-Fulani Sokoto Caliphate in the 19th century

He succeeded in entrenching a new state christened the Sokoto Caliphate in 1803 and this wielded enormous power over the other states, emirates, and sultanates. Usman dan Fodio was the Sokoto Caliphate commander, and all the emirates under him paid obeisance. He was able to control much of the northern region with the notable exception of areas like the Borno Empire, Birom kingdom, Jukun kingdom, Ebira kingdom, and others. 

British Colonialist Era

The coming of the British colonial forces would be the doom of the Sokoto Caliphate. British people initially came as traders and steadily entrenched themselves via the Royal Niger Company. This company became so powerful and influential that it would later compete with the Sokoto Caliphate.

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By 1897, the music had changed when colonial officer Lugard was interested in taking over the northern section and uniting it with the British Empire. The two forces eventually clashed in a war in 1803, and that was the end of the Sokoto Caliphate. 

The Northern Protectorate

The triumphant Lugard proclaimed the protectorate of Northern Nigeria on the 1st of January, 1897. There were pockets of resistance to this move all over northern Nigeria from places like Ilorin, Kotangora, and Kabba. Eventually, the caliphate surrendered on the 13th of March, 1903. 

Lugard employed a system of administration known as an indirect rule to control the entire region. He would maintain this system, and by 1914, he proceeded with the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates to form what is now Nigeria. 

Independence and Modern Era

Northern Nigeria became an independent entity on the 15th of March, 1953, and saw to the emergence of Sir Ahmadu Bello as its first premier. Nigeria itself became an independent nation on n the 1st of October, 1960. A succession of military coups and a brutal civil wake shook the entire country, and there would be no full-fledged democracy until 1999. 

Today, northern Nigeria comprises 19 states out of the 36 that make up the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The region is known mainly for agriculture, commerce, and tourism. Many leaders of Nigeria, like General Sani Abacha, Muhammadu Buhari, Murtala Muhammed, Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida, and Abdulsalami Abubakar, are all from the north. 

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