Evolution of Nigeria, 1849-1960Post Comment Evolution of Nigeria, 1849-1960 Nigeria
The colonial authorities sought to define, protect and realise their imperial interest in this portion of West Africa in the hundred or so years between 1862 and 1960. The British were in the Niger-Benue area to pursue their interests, which were largely economic and strategic. In the process of seeking to realise those interests, there were many unplanned-for by-products, one of which was the socio-political aggregation which is known today in international law as the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The first critical step in this uncertain path was taken in 1849 when, as part of an effort to 'sanitise' the Bights of Benin and Biafra, which were notori- ous for the slave trade, the British created a con- sulate for the two Bights. From here, one thing led to another for the British, especially to deeper involvement in the political and economic life of the city states of the Bights and to rivalry with the French who also began showing imperial ambitions in the area. The result, in time, was that the British converted the coastal consulate and its immediate hinterland into the Oil Rivers Protectorate in 1885, which, in 1893, transformed into the Niger Coast Protectorate. The apparently irreversible logic of this development led to deeper and closer involve- ment in the administration of the peoples and soci- eties of this segment of Nigeria which, by the mid- dle of the twentieth century, came to be known as Eastern Nigeria.
The second step, along the same path, was taken about 1862 when the British annexed the Lagos Lagoon area and its immediate environs and converted same into a crown colony. According to the British, they did this in order to be better able to abolish the slave trade which used that area as export point. According to Nigerian historians, on the other hand, they did so to be better able to pro- tect their interest in the vital trade route that ran from Lagos, through Ikorodu, lbadan and similar communities, to the Niger waterway in the north and beyond into Hausaland. Be that as it may, by 1897, British influence and power had overflowed the frontiers of Lagos and affected all of Yorubaland which was subsequently attached to Lagos as a Protectorate. The political and administrative unit which came to be known as Western Nigeria in the 1950s came as the end of this second step.
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