The borders of the state of Nigeria were drawn up by the British colonizers before they gave up power in 1914. Before that, Nigeria was composed of many pre-colonial indigenous territories and kingdoms. Home to 250 different ethnic groups, the largest of which were the Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo.
There’s also Fulani, Ijaw, Kanuri, Tiv, and Edo. Each group had a different language, culture, and way of life. The British colonizers ignored such significant differences in ethnicity and put every group under a single boundary; this resulted in many conflicts between groups and even led to civil wars.
Aside from politics, the country, today, as a nation, have been living together and maintaining harmony. Nigeria’s official language is English, and the national language is also English. Language Hausa is spoken in the north. It is said that Hausa is one of the oldest forms of written language dating back to 1000 B.C.E. Yoruba and Igbo are practiced in the south.
Today Nigeria’s religion is mainly Islam and Christianity. Conflicts between religious extremists of both religions have been rampant, for which Northern Nigeria is home to Nigerians Muslims mostly, and the Southern part to Nigerian Christians. All throughout Nigeria, there are still groups of people who still maintain their respective ethnic religions.
Listed here are some interesting info about three of the ethnic groups of Nigeria; about their history and heritage.
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The Hausa kingdoms stretched from the Niger River to Lake Chad. They have many variations of founding stories; the most famous legend is of Bayajidda. The kingdom itself was a collection of states that spoke the language Hausa. During the 14th and 15th centuries, many rulers adopted the religion Islam, from then on it had rippled effects on laws, economy, and culture. Their major trading items were gold, ivory, weapons, and horses.
The heart and soul of the Yoruba people were the Ile-Ife, the ancient city of West Africa, famous for its timeless metal sculptors, even sculptors made of brass and clay. The origins of Yoruba people are sadly lost in history. There’s the legend of King Oduduwa, the biblical version tracing Yoruba history from Mesopotamia. Archeological sites confirm that Yoruba people existed since prehistoric times. They are deeply religious, believing in an all-powerful deity that predates Christianity. Yoruba people today follow Christianity. Yoruba historical trades consisted of the camel caravan trade routes, coppers, jewelry, perfumes, and gold.
The Igbo people had many chiefdoms; some were centralized; some weren’t. There are even monarchs in some Igbo areas. Their origin dates back many years, such that potteries of 2500 B.C.E are traced to the artwork of Igbo people. The Kingdom of Nri has its own myth of creation and origin, and they had the most influence on the Igbo land. The Kingdom of Nri has the most fascinating African history. Like many other ethnic groups, they had their own classification of deities, and their supreme God was Chukwu. Their iron craftsmanship, copper work, metal works found in Ukwu dates back even before Yoruba metal craftsmanship. Their sophisticated and intricate artistry has left the world in awe.
The origins of Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo, their history, their lives, and their stories date back thousands of years. This article only scratched a little bit of the surface. It tells us that modern Nigeria we know of today is much more than just a nation, it goes deeper than its contemporary politics and economy. Nigerians have been passing down their oral history through generations. They are beautiful storytellers, their literature, deep and diverse.