Nigeria, with a population three times that of South Africa, and endowed with massive reserves of oil and natural gas could be Africa’s economic powerhouse. However, a turbulent history including a vicious civil war from 1967 to 1970 when parts of the east, under the name, Biafra, attempted to secede, and a succession of coups culminating in the Abacha regime – notable for its unscrupulous raiding of the national coffers in the 1990s – has left it a country of ‘what ifs.’
However, since the restoration of democracy in 1999 under Obasanjo (a former coup leader himself) and two peaceful transfers of power – from a somewhat reluctant Obasanjo in 2007 and to Goodluck Johnathan after the death of the President Yaradua in 2010 – things may be looking up. Although politically the situation may still be volatile with an election in 2011, violent disturbances around the city of Josin the central Plateau state, and a fragile peace in the Niger Delta region following 2009’s amnesty for militant groups,Nigerians are currently busy promoting their country as the next big thing in the world of emerging markets. Members of a successful diaspora now seem to be returning home and are beginning to put their business experience and international perspective to good use in reforming aspects of the national infrastructure and economy.
Whilst Nigeria might be most famous for its turbulent political history and ill-distributed oil wealth, it is also home to a great diversity of peoples, musical styles, artistic culture and spiritual fervour. Southerners tend to be Christians and Northerners Muslims, but the country also has retained a strong and varied indigenous religious following.
World famous Nigerians include the Nobel Laureate - playwright and poet – Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe – author ofThings fall apart (recognised as Africa’s first ‘modern’ novel), Fela Kuti – dissident musician and Nwanko Kanu – twice African footballer of the yearer and Champions League winner with Ajax.