BBN Special

Major facts about Nigeria as she marks 61 years of independence

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Abdulrahman Fasasi and Leshi Adebayo

Nigeria’s journey to nationhood reached a climax on October 1, 1960. Amid pomp and pageantry, Africa’s most populous nation became an independent nation, marking the end of colonial rule.

Today, the country celebrates her 61st Independence anniversary. BlackBox Nigeria, in this piece, highlights 10 historical facts you should know about the “Giant of Africa”.

1. Nigeria was created in 1914
What is today known as Nigeria came to be in 1914 when colonial authorities merged the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria, to form the amalgamated Protectorate and Colony of Nigeria. This singular action brought together over 400 ethnic groups and tribes, forming what was then the largest British colony in the world.

2. Nigeria was named by Flora Shaw
The name “Nigeria’ was coined by Flora Shaw on January 8, 1897. She later got married to Lord Frederick Lugard, a British colonial administrator. The name was derived from the Niger River which runs through the country.

3. Military rule for 29 years
On January 15, 1966, the democratic rule was overthrown by a group of UK-trained Army Majors. From that period, Nigeria would experience successive military regimes, ruling the country for 29 of the next 33 years until democracy was restored in 1999.

4. The Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970)
This was an unforgettable event in the history of Nigeria. In 1967, the Igbos primarily from the Eastern part of the country formed the Republic of Biafra and announced their secession. The military government declared war which lasted for 30 months. By January 15, 1970, the war ended after Biafra surrendered.

5. Oil boom in the 1970s
During this period, Nigeria became Africa’s wealthiest country following oil profitability. According to records, in 1976, state profit increased by almost 50%, to an all-time high of N5.3 billion. Nigeria even increased in oil profits after joining Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1971.

6. Emergence of a Nigerian as Africa’s first Nobel Laureate
This was another milestone in Nigeria’s history. In 1986, Professor Wole Soyinka won the Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming the first African to attain the honour. This landmark achievement put Nigeria on the world’s radar.

7. First Olympic gold medal
In the 1996 Olympics, Nigeria won her first gold medal. The men’s football team clinched gold, and Chioma Anjunwa also won gold in the women’s long jump event. It is tagged the country’s most successful Olympic outing. Nigeria won 2 golds, 1 silver and 3 bronze medals in total that year.

8. Nigeria won the Miss World pageant
In 2001, Nigerian model, Agbani Darego etched her name in the history books as she emerged winner of the Miss World Pageant. The Rivers State-born was the first African woman to win the pageant. Till date, she is Nigeria’s most famous beauty queen.

9. Nigeria qualifed for Olympics Bobsledding event
In 2018, 3 Nigerian-American women — Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga — made history by being the first-ever African bobsled team to qualify for the Olympics. Although, they never won a medal but they made history as participants.

10. Okonjo-Iweala became first female DG of the WTO
A recent historic event was the appointment of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala as the 7th Director General of the World Trade Organisation on February 15, 2021. She resumed office on March 1, 2021. She is the first woman and African to attain the position.

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