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Seven (7) Reasons for Colonialism in Nigeria

INTRO: Colonialism is a consistent theme in the history of Africa. It laces through the formative tapestry of the majority of African states today; Nigeria inclusive. Colonialism as a concept could be seen from different perspectives. Generally however, it may be defined as the practice or policy of controling a weaker nation by a stronger nation especially for socio-economic and political gains. The territory known today as Nigeria was colonized by Britain. The reasons for the colonization of Nigeria are  simply the same with the rest of African countries.

In his masterpiece, "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa," Walter Rodney stated that Europe came to Africa with three Bs: Business, Bible and Bullet. These items represent perfectly the reasons for the notorious European incursion into the pristine and tranquil African continent, which are broadly categorized as economic, socio-political and religious reasons.

A. Economic Reasons

1) Search for Raw Material: The migration to new largely automated method of manufacturing of commodities popularly known as Industrial Revolution of 18th century made increased production possible; and there arose the need to keep the supply of raw material at par with the industrial demands. When it was obvious that European continent could not supply the volume of raw materials demanded at the industries, industrialists began to venture overseas. They made away with African valuables such as gold, ivory, rubber, palm oil, wood, cotton, etc.

2) Search for New Markets: The increase in the volume of production following the Industrial Revolution rendered European markets oversaturated with finished goods. Prices nosedived and profits crashed. The need for new markets for the finished goods forced the industrialists to return to Africa where they exchanged their goods with other goods of value such as raw materials.

3) Search for Cheap Labour: This reason brought the Europeans into Africa prior to Industrial Revolution when machines were yet to be adopted in production of goods and services. The origin of slave trade is traceable to this search for cheap labour. Able-bodied Africans were amassed to the European tobacco plantations by force, deceit or exchange.

B. Socio-Political Reasons

4) Quest for Power Among European Countries: Countries of Europe after years of war wished to outdo each other in power and influence. The European economic venture outside Europe represents one of such moves, as the prevailing economic thought then preached that the "Wealth of Nations," that is, amount of gold from export receipts of a country determines the future of the country.

5) Berlin Conference of 1884/85: Conflicts of interest in the economic ventures in Africa reached a crescendo when the Berlin Conference summoned by Otto von Bismark, the first Chancellor of Germany to settle economic disputes arising from African colonies set out the modus operandi for claims and economic activities in Africa. A total of 14 countries of Europe as the following participated: Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, German Empire, Italy, Netherlands, Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Russian Empire, Spain, Sweden-Norway, United Kingdom, and United States. One of the resolutions of the conference was the "Principle of Effective Occupation" which provides that a country must establish effective occupation by flying their flag and maintaining administrative control in an area in order to lay claims to the ownership of the area. This principle signalled and formalized the substantive colonization of Africa by European countries.

6) Propagation of Culture: Europeans saw Africans as barbaric and uncivilized; and considered African culture as inferior to their own and therefore needed to be replaced. This motive is reflected in the quote from King Leopold II, “To open to civilization the only part of the globe where it has yet to penetrate…is, I dare to say, a crusade worthy of this century of progress”. Thus, countries like France initiated the Policy of Assimilation which was purely a "Frenchinization" policy. In Nigeria, Britain operated Indirect Rule but the design of educational curriculum was purely on the promotion of English culture.

C. Religious Reasons

7) Propagation of Religious Belief: The missionaries joined the throng of the economic and political adventurers into Africa, to proclaim Christ which they argue is the only true God (and yes, He is, I believe in Him). They demonized African religion and its practices, and elevated Christianity to enviable heights.


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