The dynamics of the evolution of Nigeria as a political unit
Nigeria joined the comity of independent sovereign nations on October 1st 1960 and became a Republic on October 1st, 1963. Before 1960, the people of later day Nigeria had gone through close to two centuries of British colonial overlordship. The duration of British colonial control over different parts of Nigeria varied, depending on the time the people of each area were brought under effective British control. Long before the British eventually occupied the territories of Nigeria, they had maintained contacts with the people, mainly along commercial lines. It was the developments in that erstwhile relationship and other socio-political and economic developments in Europe that sparked off the now historic European scramble and partition of Africa which culminated in the Europeans sharing African territories among themselves in the Berlin conference of 1884/1885. From that partition, the people of Nigeria came under the British sphere of influence. It was in the post-Berlin conference era that the British got to play a decisive role in bringing together the diverse people that formed the nation of Nigeria.
The process that eventually culminated in bringing together the people of Nigeria, went through different stages, and this was engineered by British colonial administrators. It is in this sense that the British played a role in bringing together the people of Nigeria, that they have often be credited with the creation of Nigeria. Furthermore, in bringing together the people, the British were politically and economically pragmatic in their decisions, and hence the decisions to merge the different groups were not necessarily based on considerations of cultural unity or political unity of the various entities before the coming of the British. Some scholars, especially the apologists of Nigeria disintegration, have often argued that Nigeria is an artificial creation of the British and therefore has no true basis for unity.
Without doubt, within the geopolitical boundaries of Nigeria, there are numerous ethnic groups, with diverse languages, customs, beliefs systems and levels of political sophistication. In spite of the diversities, there were still certain discernible similarities in culture, and different levels of inter-group relations among the people of later day Nigeria long before the coming of the British. The interactions that had taken place among the people, including political, social and economic, meant that the people of Nigeria were not alien to themselves, rather there had been the basis for agreement and disagreement, peace and war, and general interactions before the British brought them together. In a sense, therefore, it could be argued that Nigeria was already evolving before the British came, but their coming accelerated the process, and this process of nation-building is still on till today.