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Name, date, and additional information about the person who first discovered Nigeria

The West African territory, now known as the Federal Republic of Nigeria, was first discovered in 1472 by three researchers from Portugal — Joao de Santarem, Lopo Goncalves, Pero Escobar, and Fernao do Po — who were seeking a sea route to Asia. About four centuries later, British journalist Flora Shaw allegedly formulated the name "Nigeria" for the Niger River and its environs. Nonetheless, some historic publications debunk this story. This article explains why scholars believe Flora is not the person who discovered Nigeria as a country.

Who discovered Nigeria
British journalist Flora Shaw seated and standing with a book in her hand. Photo: @Igbo History, @GOCOM Radio (modified by author)
Source: UGC

It is interesting to know that the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not get its name from the natives but from the European colonizers. Before White people explored West Africa, the Niger River, and its environs were occupied by four main kingdoms — Borno and Hausa in the north and Benin and Oyo in the south. Each had a unique culture and traditions, which they still practice.

The United Kingdom’s National Portrait Gallery and an essay published by The Times on 8 January 1897 trace the origin of the term "Nigeria" to British journalist Flora Shaw (a colonial editor of The Times).

The British journalist was later referred to as Lord Lugard's wife/Lady Lugard in history books after marrying Lord Fredrick Lugard (a British administrator). She is said to have coined the name for the River Niger and its surroundings, ' River Niger Area' — a term the British colonialists used to refer to the region. So, The Times journalist combined "Niger" and "Area" to create" Nigeria.

In the 1897 article, Flora Shaw wrote:

The name Nigeria applying to no other part of Africa may without offence to any neighbors be accepted as coextensive with the territories over which the Royal Niger Company has extended British influence, and may serve to differentiate them equally from the colonies of Lagos and the Niger Protectorate on the coast and from the French territories of the Upper Niger.

Scholars invested in knowing who truly named Nigeria claim a book published in 1862, Life in the Niger by William Cole, mentioned ‘Nigerians’ in two places. One was in the author's description of "his trip with five Nigerians.”

This shows that William Cole's book was published 31 years before the 1897 article Flora Shaw wrote for the British establishment newspaper, The Times, claiming she suggested the term "Nigeria/Nigerians" for the British Protectorate on the Niger River and its environs.

Who discovered Nigeria as a country
British journalist Flora Shaw holding and reading a book. Photo: @Flora Shaw5, @voicesformeandyou (modified by author)
Source: UGC

In addition, Richard Burton (British explorer, writer, orientalist scholar, and soldier) also used the term "Nigerian" in his 1863 article, My Wanderings in West Africa: A Visit to the Renowned Cities of Warri and Benin.

While observing the skin color variations among people around the Niger River, Burton wrote:

The skin is mostly black; some, however, are fair and reddish, a thing everywhere to be observed among Nigerian tribes.

Who gave Nigeria its name?

Uplifting Africa

Although scholarly evidence proves British journalist Flora Shaw may not have christened the name "Nigeria," authentic historical records show that her husband, Lord Frederic Lugard (the Governor General of both the Northern and Southern Protectorates), adopted the name 17 years after she published her article on The Times in 1863 claiming she suggested the name.

What was Nigeria called before?

VIDEO: 12 Incredible Facts About Nigeria
FTD Facts

Before Flora Shaw allegedly suggested the name Nigeria, the region around the Niger was called the "River Niger Area," "Royal Niger Company Territories," "Niger Empire," "Central Sudan," "Niger Sudan," and "Hausa Territories." Lord Frederic Lugard used the term "Nigeria" when he fused the "Southern Nigeria Protectorate" and the "Northern Nigeria Protectorate" in 1914.

Who discovered River Niger?

VIDEO: Geography Now! NIGERIA
Geography Now

Scottish explorer Mungo Park discovered River Niger. He traveled overland from the Gambia in 1795 and reached the Niger near Ségou in July 1796. he established that the river flowed eastward.

Facts about Flora Shaw (Lady Lugard)

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  • She was born on 19 December 1852 in Woolwich, England.
  • Her full name was Dame Flora Louise Shaw.
  • She was a British journalist and writer.
  • Flora served as an editor in The Times.
  • She also wrote five novels, four for children and one for young adults (1878 – 1886).
  • In 1886, journalist Lady Shaw participated in the Brussels conference on the struggle against slavery. She was the only female representative at this event.
  • She got married to Lord Frederic Lugard on 10 June 1902.
  • The couple did not have children.
  • Flora accompanied Lugard when he served as Governor of Hong Kong (1907 – 1912) and Governor-General of Nigeria (1914 – 1919).
  • She was fond of Nigerian customs and made them part of her life.
  • In 1928, Lugard was named Baron, and she became Lady Lugard.
  • During the First World War, she founded the Lady Lugard Hospitality Committee and helped to establish the War Refugees Committee to care for refugees from Belgium.
  • In 1918, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
  • Flora died of pneumonia on 25 January 1929 in Surrey, England, at the age of 76 years.
Who discovered Nigeria as a country
Flora Shaw (in gowns and hats) and her husband, British administrator Frederic Lugard (in official and military attires). Photo: @mimexcollections, @ContactSwitch (modified by author)
Source: UGC

The history of Nigeria before colonization

VIDEO: Do You Know Nigeria Basic Information | World Countries Information #130-General Knowledge & Quizzes

Archaeological excavations pioneered by Charles Thurstan Shaw show that people lived in southeastern Nigeria (specifically Igbo Ukwu, Nsukka, Afikpo, and Ugwuele) as early as 6,000 BC.

Who were the first Nigerians?

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General Knowledge

Long before the 15th century, the Igbo Kingdom of Nri, Benin Kingdom, Yoruba city-states (including the Kingdom of Ife, Hausa States, Igala Kingdom, and Nupe) lived around the Niger River and its environs, way before it was named "Nigeria" by the European colonialists in the 19th century.

During the pre-colonial period (16th to 18th centuries), several powerful West African kingdoms/empires like the Oyo Empire, Kanem-Bornu Empire, Hausa-Fulani Kingdoms, and the Igbo kingdom of Onitsha dominated Nigeria.

Who explored Nigeria?

VIDEO: Nigeria's Story: A Nation was Born Nearly 100 Years Ago
Nigeria History Channel

João de Santarém, Lopo Gonçalves, Pero Escobar, Fernão do Pó, and other Portuguese explorers explored West Africa in 1472 while seeking a sea route to Asia. As a result, the Portuguese established trade with the Benin Kingdom, Lagos, and other regions along the coast.

Scottish explorers like Mungo Park followed between the 1700s to early 1800s. By this time, the Portuguese had developed an organized slave trade and exported over 3.5 million Africans, mainly to America.

When was the first slave trade in Nigeria?

VIDEO: Geography Now! NIGER
Geography Now

The Transatlantic Slave Trade began in the late 15th century in Nigeria. Traders from European ports set out towards Africa's west coast, where they bought people in exchange for goods.

Where did they sell slaves at?

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Ivie Anita

Most enslaved people were sold to work in plantations in Brazil and the Caribbean. A smaller percentage went to North America and other parts of South and Central America. The voyage across the Atlantic, known as the Middle Passage, generally took 6 to 8 weeks.

Who discovered Nigeria
Flora Shaw's husband, British administrator Frederic Lugard (in official and military attires). Photo: @nigeriahistoryupdate, @MyIgbonessMyIdentity (modified by author)
Source: UGC

When did the British first go to Nigeria?

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British influence in the Niger River and its environs began with the prohibition of slave trade to British subjects in 1807. The Brits forces then occupied Lagos in 1851 and formally annexed it in 1865. After that, Nigeria was colonized by the British at the 1884 Berlin conference, where Africa was divided among European powers.

Many changes occurred after the country became a British protectorate in 1901. For instance, Africans were forced to adopt Western education, learn English, convert to Christianity, export cash crops, use new forms of money, modern transportation and communication methods, and so on.

When did Nigeria gain independence from the UK?

VIDEO: 10 Surprising Facts About Nigeria
FTD Facts

The colonization period lasted up to 1 October 1960, when Nigeria gained independence.

Today, 371 tribes are in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and they speak over 500 languages. However, English is the official language countrywide, including schools.

The European woman who discovered Nigeria also did so much for the country. Flora Shaw established schools, hospitals, charity organizations, and more. Scholars disputing historical records stating she named Nigeria are yet to present tangible evidence to show who formulated this name.

Legit.ng also shared a list of Nigeria's ten most influential first-class kings. These traditional leaders have limited political powers, but that does not mean they do not have a political impact on the country.

Some of these traditional kings determine who becomes the governor of the states they rule. They also resolve disputes among communities, between their tribes and the police, government, politicians, etc.

Source: Legit.ng


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