ABOUT NIGERIA: Before Colonial Rule

Although the history of Nigeria is more often traced to the period of colonial rule, however, the geographical area known today as Nigeria have been inhabited by relatively small but well organized societies long before colonial rule came into existence. These societies where in most cases homogeneous and each possessed their indigenous forms of political, economic and religious systems. It is believed that Nigeria prior to colonialism consisted of about 250 ethnic groups, each having its own distinguishing feature.

The major ethnic groups that existed during this period include the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa/Fulani ethnic groups. It should however be noted that within these major ethnic groups existed several other smaller tribes. The Yoruba ethnic group for example had within it smaller tribes such as the Egba, Oyo, Ibadan, Ijesha, Ijebu and so on. It is in fact the similarities in language, culture, religion, tradition and so on that brings these multiple tribes into one ethnic group, that is, the Yoruba nation.

Precolonial Yoruba and house/Fulani societies were organized along monarchical political system in which the Oba and Emir respectively were at the top of the political ladder. However, in contrast was the precolonial Igbo societies, which mostly operated communal political systems in which powers and authorities rested in the hands of the people. The communal assembly served as the highest legislative, executive and judicial body, while the likes of family, age grades, council of elders and so on were subsidiary.

It should be noted that inter-communal and inter-ethnic/inter-tribal wars were predominant in precolonial Nigerian societies, as societies were mostly hostile to one another and lived in mutual fear of domination. In addition, the wanton desire to acquire more territories amidst other trivial factors often led to unnecessary violence and war.

In conclusion, the mainstay of the economy for virtually all precolonial societies was agriculture, which could be in form of subsistence farming, fishing, animal grazing among others.

Compiled by OLA OGUN

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