1960 Nigeria Becomes Independent



On October 1st, 1960 Nigeria became independent. Its first governor general was Nnamdi Azikiwe. A year later Northern Cameroon voted for union with Nigeria..

Nigeria's engagement with British colonialism began in earnest in the early 20th century. The decision by the British government in 1914 to amalgamate the Northern and Southern protectorates led to the birth of the singular entity known as Nigeria. For decades, the nation remained under direct British oversight, a reality that would set the stage for nationalist sentiments in the post-World War II era.

The end of World War II marked a turning point for many African nations. Nigerian intellectuals and those who had been abroad for education or military service started championing the cause for more significant indigenous participation in their governance. This period witnessed the formation of pivotal political entities. The Northern People’s Congress (NPC) catered to the North, the Action Group (AG) represented the West, while the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) found its stronghold in the East.

The 1950s were particularly instrumental in paving the path towards Nigerian self-rule. Several constitutional conferences transpired, aimed at fostering increased Nigerian involvement in the governance process. The Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 was a milestone, federalizing Nigeria’s political structure, and affording regions a measure of self-governance. As regional autonomy grew, so did the clamor for full national independence.

This chorus of nationalist sentiment culminated on October 1, 1960, when Nigeria officially cast off the yoke of British rule. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa rose to the helm as the first Prime Minister, while Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe took the mantle as the Governor-General. This euphoric phase, marked by grand celebrations, would however soon give way to internal tensions.

Three years post-independence, in 1963, Nigeria transitioned into a republic with Azikiwe as its inaugural president. Yet, the nation's First Republic was marred by regional tensions, notably between the north and the south. Political instability and allegations of corruption were rife, and the nascent democratic framework came under strain.

The escalating political crises led to a tragic climax in 1966 with a military coup, signaling the end of Nigeria's First Republic. It was a somber reminder of the challenges that lay ahead in Nigeria's post-independence journey.

Interestingly, during this period, Nigeria also saw a territorial adjustment in relation to Cameroon. Initially, the region known as British Cameroons was administered as part of British Nigeria. However, in 1961, a plebiscite was held in British Cameroons to determine its future: whether to merge with Nigeria or the Republic of Cameroon. The Northern part opted to join Nigeria, becoming a part of the Northern region, while the Southern part chose to align with the Republic of Cameroon.