By Georges Budagu Makoko
The Federal Republic of Nigeria, located in West Africa, is the most populous country on the continent and boasts its largest economy. Nigeria’s capital is Abuja, a very beautiful city in the center of the country. Abuja was built in the 1980s to serve as the capital, shifting that role away from Lagos. As the country’s economic heart, Lagos is also its largest city, with 21 million people. Nigeria’s population is 199,425,329 inhabitants. The country’s name was inspired by the Niger River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean and is the third longest river in Africa and the 14th longest in the world. Nigeria has a Sahel climate, meaning it has a several-month-long rainy season and a very dry remainder of the year, with temperatures generally about 104°F. With an area of 35,6669 sq. mi., Nigeria is the 14th largest country in Africa, in terms of land mass, and the 32nd largest country in the world. It is 10 times larger than Maine and twice as big as California. Nigeria has a federal government and is divided into 36 states. With more than 250 ethnic groups and 500 different languages, linguists estimate that 7% of the world’s total languages are spoken in Nigeria. English is the official language, spoken mostly in urban areas. Major ethnic groups include Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo. About 50% of Nigerians are Muslim and 40 % are Christian.
Nigeria is a country of haves and have-nots. It has a gross domestic product (GDP) of $594,257 and holds abundant oil reserves – oil accounts for 70% of its exports. The richest man in Africa lives in Nigeria and has a net worth of $12 billion. Nigeria recently launched an ambitious economic plan, with the goal of becoming the 20th largest economy in the world by 2020. U.S. and Nigerian trade is estimated at $9 billion. Tourists and investors swarm to Nigeria every year, attracted by rich natural resources and abundant wildlife. The country’s strategic coastal position along the Atlantic Ocean enables Nigeria to engage in important international trade and business. Its art, entertainment, and movie industries are among the largest in the world. Based in Lagos, Nigeria’s movie industry is known as Nollywood. At the same time, extreme levels of poverty and a poor healthcare system mean that life expectancy is only 55, one of the lowest on the continent, and the unemployment rate stands at 23%. Seventy percent of Nigerians work in the agriculture sector, growing cocoa, wheat, peanuts and cotton.
Evidence of human life in Nigeria goes back to 9000 B.C.E. Prior to colonization, Nigeria was ruled by powerful kings, and each kingdom had its own unique civilization. The most famous are the Edo Benin Empire, the Islamic Kanim Borno Empire, the Igbo Kingdom, and the Onitsha Hausa-Fulani Kingdoms. These kingdoms engaged in an early, trans-Saharan slave trade, which eventually evolved into the infamous Trans-Atlantic slave trade that fed the high demand for a labor force in colonial territories in North and South America. During historic eras when it was unusual, some of these kingdoms were sophisticated, with people working with iron to create effective tools as protection against ferocious, predatory animals.
Portuguese explorers first arrived in Nigeria in the 1470s, seeking to develop economic trade routes with Asia. Britain annexed Nigeria in 1890 after a fierce struggle for control. In 1960, Nigeria gained independence, though Queen Elizabeth II continued to be Head of State. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the first and only Prime Minister. After independence – like so many countries in Africa – Nigeria went through a lengthy period of political turmoil and civil war. The country was led by a string of military dictators who attained positions of power by means of coups and bloodshed. In more recent times, Nigeria has become a fledgling democracy, working to establish and maintain democratic institutions, such as the peaceful transfer of power. Presidents are now elected every four years and, though this past election season was fraught with tension and some allegations of corruption, the results of the elections held. The journey has been long, and uphill, from the days of the first president – Nnamdi Azikiwe, who took office October 1, 1963 – to those of the current president, Muhammadu Buhari.
More than 376 000 Nigerian Americans live in the U.S. They have a median household income of $ 62,351, which is higher than the national median income, and have been successful in the medical field and as entrepreneurs. The first person to discover and publish work on chronic traumatic encephalopathy in America football players is a Nigerian American named Dr. Bennet Omalu. States with the most immigrants from Nigeria include California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. Very few immigrants from Nigeria live in Maine.