The coming of Europeans to Nigeria
The seventeenth century industrial revolution in Europe led to the search for raw materials by European countries in other parts of the world. The raw materials included rubber, gold, ivory, coca, palm oil and groundnuts. They also sought markets in Nigeria and other parts of west Africa for their manufactured goods or products. Consequently, they brought their culture and religion to the colonies so as to bring civilization to them.
Nigeria was colonized by Britain. The British adopted the policy of indirect rule whereby they ruled through the local rulers. They recognized traditional rulers, and where there were more, they appointed people into such positions. They used local officials to administer the localities. They introduced the use of English language as a means of communication control and also introduced British currency as a medium of economic control.
The colonization of Nigeria began with the arrival of the Christian missionaries in Badagry in 1842. The aims of the Christian missions generally were the bible and the plough. This was the famous slogan from the memorable statement by Thomas Buxton “It is the Bible and the plough that must regenerate Africa”. The activities of the Yoruba mission of the Christian missionary society (CMS) were typical. To start a school, there was no formality to observe. The important element was the children. The missionary and his wife assistants could teach if the children cared to come and listen. Sometimes the children had to be induced by gifts. At other times the parents demanded money for allowing their children to go to school.
Modern education in Nigeria therefore dates back to 24 september 1842 with the arrival at Badagri of the Rev. Thomas Birch Freeman and Mr and Mrs William de Graft of the Wesleyan missionary society. A bill passed by the colonial administration into an ordinance on 6 may 1882 for the promotion and Assistance of Education in the Gold coast colony, of which Lagos was a part has been the bedrock of education in Nigeria till the present time. The ordinance was the first legislation which affected Lagos and which aimed at the control of education by Government. The provisions were:
- The constitution of a General Board of Education with power to appoint and dissolve local Boards of Education at such places as they may consider desirable.
- The constitution, powers and duties of a local Board of Education
- Classification of schools into Government schools which were maintained entirely by public funds and assisted schools established by private persons and aided from public funds.
- Freedom of parents as to religious instruction of their children
- Grants to be used for school buildings and teachers’ salaries
- Appointment of inspector of education
- Special grants to industrial schools.
- Grants to training colleges and institutions for teachers
- Establishment of scholarships for secondary and technical education
- Power of governor to open and maintain Government school
Colonial administration brought modern health care facilities to Nigeria. For example, on 1st December 1908, a municipal Board of Health was established. Its sole responsibility was the control and supervision of all matters relating to sanitation and public health. The board strove to provide modern amenities of good drainage systems, pipe borne water and good sanitary living conditions for Lagos which was prone to outbreaks of diseases and epidemics. Responsibility for tackling these problems was for the next twelve years in the hands of European Doctors. The colonial masters introduced training programs for all arms of the public Health Department so as to provide the personnel for educating the public in health matters and enforcing sanitary regulations.
The Colonial administration established plantations and industries in Nigeria. Their efforts resulted in the rapid development of commerce in Nigeria. For example, the peak period for railway building came after the First World War. In 1919 Governor Guggisberg formulated a 10 year plan for the Gold coast involving an expenditure of £24 million. In Nigeria, the line northwards reached Ibadan in 1901 and Jebba in 1901, with the bridge there across the Niger being built by 1914. By this same 1914, the Northern and western Nigeria were amalgamated. Kano was reached by 1911 and meanwhile another railway line was being constructed northwards from portharcourt. It reached Enugu in 1916 and went via Jos to Kaduna, linking up with the western route in 1926. So, the present day pattern of trade slowly evolved.
Though the British legal system was forced on the natives, the legal system now forms the bedrock of Nigerian legal system. Even the civil service system was introduced by the colonial administration. The establishment of the public service and its paraphernalia was done by the colonial masters who also established the public corporation like the Nigerian port Authority, the Electric corporation of Nigeria (ECN) which became National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) and now Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
Virtually every sector of the Nigerian economy was organized and propelled or set in motion by the colonial masters. Nigeria’s economy during their time was virile, reliable and viable. But what do we see today? It is being managed by Nigerians themselves, and it is in shambles. It is beset with corruption, embezzlement, misappropriation of funds, capital flight, abuse of political office and large scale economic and financial fraud where public fund is looted with impunity and zeal. Poverty is prevalent everywhere. While some cabals live in unprecedented and awesome affluence, the great majority of people live in abject poverty, penury and enslavement.
- Round up Government : Ibiyemi Oyeneye, Michael Onyenwenu, E. Bodun Ologunde. Longman Nig Plc 1998 (2006 edition)
- The Nigerian Education System: C.O Taiwo; Thomas Nelson (Nigeria) limited 1980.
- Commerce for West Africa: DJ Anderson; Macmillan Education London and Basingstoke 1977 (1982 edition).
- Dr Isaac Ladipo Oluwole (1892-1953): First Biographical Publication of the society of Health, Nigeria.
- Toyin Falola: A history of Nigeria. Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (June 2, 2008)
- Toyin Falola: Colonialism and violence in Nigeria. Indiana University Press (September 25, 2009)