Nigerian Colonization: a Fight for Identity

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Nigerian colonization: a fight for identity

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence. Nigeria is a land of culture filled with rich history dating as far back as 9000 BC. Looking back at their years of history, one can find that it very complicated. Colonization is an important part of Nigerian history, and many will tell people only one side of the story of it. It is vital to research two sides of the story of Nigeria; to be able to present the facts and the realities of both. The impact of Nigerian colonization has been a controversial issue for a long period now. On one side, liberal-orientated historians see colonization as essentially a good thing for Nigeria. They argue that European rule promoted not only economic growth and development, but also great educational and religious work—the so called “civilizing mission” that played an invaluable role in the regeneration of Nigeria. On the other side, and at the other extreme, there are Marxist oriented scholars who believe that colonization was essentially a bad thing; it had no redeeming features. These scholars were opponents of colonization as an idea, because Nigeria would become dependent of the British and their resources. Therefore, the British would be seen as a needed power for survival of Nigeria. The theme of colonization ties in with the novel Things Fall Apart by the famous Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe. The theme is shown through the eyes of the Nigerians and the reader can see and experience what they are feeling. Achebe is an author of the truth; with his story and the controversial issue of colonization, the reader is brought inside the Nigerians world of destruction, survival and forgiveness.

Before disassembling and analyzing the story about Nigeria, the facts have to be presented. During pre-colonial times Nigeria did not exist as a country, but composed of city states, kingdoms and empires. In 1472, Portuguese navigators reached the Nigerian coast and they became the first European settlers. More Europeans followed the Portuguese and settled into Nigeria. Soon, European settlers established ports for slave trafficking. The 18th century was a period that was called the “Scramble for Africa”, where many European powers tried to occupy various parts of Africa. That was a time when millions of Nigerians were forcibly sent to the Americas. European slave traders created coastal ports to ease the increasing traffic of slaves destined for the Americas. When the British arrived in 1805, they were not very pleased with the situation and decided to abolish slave trade in 1807 and slavery in 1833. African slaves were emancipated in the 1830s. Still, in many places slave trade continued. In 1861, the British became extremely frustrated with the expanding slave trade, so they decided to occupy Lagos, a major slave-trading post and the largest city of present-day Nigeria. It was not until the 1900 when the British started to slowly and hesitantly occupy parts of Nigeria, making Nigeria a protectorate of Great Britain. They created a system of indirect rule through local kings and chiefs until the year of 1914. In 1914, Nigeria became a British colony. Achebe published his novel Things Fall Apart in 1958, two years before British granted Nigeria their independence, and this is his unique way of making the Nigerian story known to the world.

When a more powerful country occupies and conquers a land of lesser power and strength, there must be a powerful reason for the act. The scramble for Africa was one of the biggest reasons why the British made Nigeria number one priority. Along with Royal Navy, as the British Army was called, Christian missionaries arrived to Nigeria. They set themselves a different mind than the Royal Navy. They wanted converts, but they also wanted to make a positive change on the people and the country itself. Missionaries were used by the colonial power as an avant garde, to...
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