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The Negative Effects of Imperialism in Nigeria Essay

Nigeria is a country with abundant resources and the potential to be a very powerful nation, but it is hampered by many problems. These problems are caused by Nigeria’s colonization by England. Because of this intrusion on their way of life, their future was altered dramatically. The nation of Nigeria as a whole has suffered greatly as a country because of this colonization, its problem is rooted in the way it was colonized and ruled.

The background of the situation is essential to understand its full impact From the way Nigeria was colonized, it was clear from the start that it would bode ill for the future inhabitants of Nigeria. Beginning in the 19th century, the British started to make their presence felt along the coast. In earlier centuries, they had exported slaves from here and other places along West Africa, but this time they had a different goal. “European activities revolved around four major issues: exploration, Christianity, trade, and imperialism.”

Consequently, all these were related, because one lead to the next. Therefore, in effect, all of these were roots of the problems to come. Gradually, in the 1850’s the British began to make their presence felt even more. Then, beginning in 1861, the British set up the policy of indirect rule. Using local chiefs and rulers, they were able to dramatically affect the way the nation was run. By 1905, virtually the entire country was under British rule. Despite the fact that they mostly ruled with indirect rule, they also set up some officials to govern the area, which the local chiefs obeyed.

The non-uniform approach of Western ideas into Nigeria affected its fate dramatically. In addition, the extent of the British’s impact, considerably increased tensions between the Muslims in the north of Nigeria and the Christians in the south. From the start of the European penetration, the missionaries who set out to convert the heathens of Africa were mostly concerned with the Niger Delta. Due to the “limited number of missionaries who spread themselves thinly”, the impact of the religion with the most followers in the world stopped short of the northernmost reaches of Nigeria. The Nigerians of the north, the Hausa-Fulani, did not have as much contact with the British as the Yoruba and Igbo did. “Change was to occur, but gradually; Hausa political systems and practices were to be modified, but without undue upset to Hausa society” Because of the difference in the amount of contact between the north and the south, the social divide between these people grew even more. This varying amount has caused much tension, because when one religion or ethnic group presides over the government, the other religion or the other ethnic groups feel they are under-represented and they cry for the situation’s resolution.

The Hausa-Fulani are especially this way, because of the fact that they were granted a small amount of autonomy during colonial Nigeria. Because of this, they naturally think they are better at ruling a government, and exhibit an air of hostility towards the other groups. This was showcased best when “the disputed use of Ibo and the perceived favoritism towards those who spoke it was the cause of a very bloody civil war in Nigeria.”The government of Nigeria is ineffectual and problematic, and this is the main cause of the strife there. The problems in the government stem from the lack of knowledge that they have in running it. During colonial rule, the north was governed indirectly, with the British mostly directing things without showing them how it was done correctly. This caused foolhardiness on part of the Hausa-Fulani, who believed they could run the government the best, and sometimes started military coups of power. These coups proved ineffective, however, because shortly after they happened the regular democratic republic was restored.

And, after a few years the new democracy became incompetent, so another coup became reality. This regrettable cycle of governments does nothing for the people of Nigeria, and only has negative consequences. While it promotes some political freedom, it does not allow for any advancement in the economy. Instead of focusing on diversifying, the leaders of the country focus on gaining power and standing in the government. “Nigeria’s most daunting challenge lies in overcoming the severe divisions among its competing religious and ethnic groups”.

Moreover, once they gain it, their problems do not end, since they must look over their back, never knowing how long they will hold on to the little power they have. Meanwhile, the common person suffers, as he is neglected by his government and must survive on his own. “The standard of living declined even further than before and external debts increased.” This neglect of the common man bodes ill for the government, as it is the common man who votes in the polls. However, the vote does very little, since corruption is rampant in Nigeria.

Two futures for Africa are possible-one with a democratic and stable Nigeria, and one with a Nigeria stricken by autocratic rule, corruption, and intermittent coups. An entire continent awaits the result of the Nigerian experiment with democracy. Nigeria has the resources and can provide leadership to foster greater regional and international cooperation, leadership that many of Nigeria’s neighbors need. A successful Nigerian democracy would provide hope for many of Africa’s other burgeoning democracies.

The biggest problem with the government of Nigeria in regard to its malpractice towards the people is the unchecked corruption. “A culture of “settlement”, or monetary gratification, ate into the social fabric, spreading cynicism, rewarding sycophancy(submissive flattery), and condoning corruption.” Corruption is everywhere in Nigeria. The corruption starts at the highest levels of government, with powerful officials and executives taking bribes from anyone and everyone. It has sunk into a pit of corruption, repression, and economic dilapidation. This insatiable desire for wealth then trickles down to the police, who are extremely corrupt in everyday matters, not to talk of even more important ones. Tensions between ethnic groups and unity between members of the same group complicate the situation even more. “

Gross mismanagement, widespread corruption, and continuing political and, ominously, increasing religious turmoil sent Nigeria into a spiral of economic decline” . The Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa-Fulani see themselves as their respective ethnic group before they see them self as “Nigerians”. A country such as Nigeria, with 410 languages has a great divide that is caused by the language barrier. This shows the extent of the disunity throughout. Rather than helping their countrymen, they only aid their respective ethnic group. So, with this mentality, they see it as nothing out of the ordinary to ignore the rest of their countrymen and focus on improving the lives of the chosen few they feel related to.

Most of the negative effects of imperialism in Nigeria had been caused by one source. Overall, the lackluster governing body and its non-existent progress, the differences and misgivings between ethnic and religious groups, and the unbridled corruption all add to the problems of Nigeria. Though not all directly caused by the British invasion, most are rooted in the fact that the British dramatically altered the land known as Nigeria.

Works Cited

Falola, Toyin. The History of Nigeria. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Forrest, Tom. Politics and Economic Development in Nigeria. Boulder: Westview Press, 1995.

Maier, Karl. This House Has Fallen: Midnight in Nigeria. New York: PublicAffairs, 2000.

Miles, William. Hausaland Divide: Colonialism and Independence in Nigeria and Niger. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994Obi, Cyril. The Changing Forms of Identity Politics in Nigeria under Economic Adjustment: The Case of the Oil Minorities Movement of the Niger Delta. Uppsala: Nordic African Institute, 2001Tsai, Thomas, “Africa’s Contradiction: Nigeria on the Path to Democracy,” Harvard International Review vol. 24 (2002): 1 page.

Wakerly, Veronique, “The Status of European Languages in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Journal of European Studies vol. 94 (1994): 1 page.

BibliographyFalola, Toyin. The History of Nigeria. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Forrest, Tom. Politics and Economic Development in Nigeria. Boulder: Westview Press, 1995.

Maier, Karl. This House Has Fallen: Midnight in Nigeria. New York: PublicAffairs, 2000.

Miles, William. Hausaland Divide: Colonialism and Independence in Nigeria and Niger. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994Obi, Cyril. The Changing Forms of Identity Politics in Nigeria under Economic Adjustment: The Case of
the Oil Minorities Movement of the Niger Delta. Uppsala: Nordic African Institute, 2001Tsai, Thomas, “Africa’s Contradiction: Nigeria on the Path to Democracy,” Harvard International Review vol. 24 (2002): 1 page.

Wakerly, Veronique, “The Status of European Languages in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Journal of European Studies vol. 94 (1994): 1 page.

Ibhawoh, Bonny. “Stronger Than the Maxim Gun: Law, Human Rights and British Colonial Hegemony in Nigeria.” Africa 72, no. 1 (2002): 55+.

Abegunrin, Olayiwola. Nigerian Foreign Policy under Military Rule, 1966-1999. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003. Book on-line.

Davis, Thomas J., and Azubike Kalu-Nwiwu. “Education, Ethnicity and National Integration in the History of Nigeria: Continuing Problems of Africa’s Colonial Legacy.” The Journal of Negro History 86, no. 1 (2001): 1 page.

Dibie, Robert. “Local Government Public Servants Performance and Citizens Participation in Governance in Nigeria.” International Journal of Public Administration 26, no. 8-9 (2003): 1061 pages.

Onadipe, Abiodun. “Nigeria: In Suspended Animation.” New Zealand International Review 23, no. 3 (1998): 17 pages.

Biusdus, Ty. “Issue Surrounding Political Instability in Nigeria.” http://georgtown.edu. 1996. Georgetown University. 26 Oct 2007 https://www8.georgetown.edu/centers/cndls/applications/posterTool/index.cfm?fuseaction=poster.display&posterID=1223.


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