Few African countries have had such a difficult time forging a national identity as Nigeria. Its 250 language groups, distinguished precolonial history and vast natural resources should make it an African colossus in every sense of the word.
But since Nigeria was first defined as a political entity during the late 19th century "scramble for Africa," the nation has resisted unity. Independence came in the early '60s and has been followed by no less than numerous governments, most of them established through coups, some bloodless, some not. Most of these governments have been military regimes with obvious ethnic loyalties. They have fostered a culture of corruption and, until very recently, have thwarted democratic practices that might give all Nigerians a voice and a stake in the country's future. Secessionist efforts have been crushed brutally, most notably during the 30-month Biafran War, a failed attempt at creating an independent Ibo state in eastern Nigeria.
The late '90s saw a promising turn toward democracy under second-time President Olusegun Obasanjo. But with the economy in ruins, the Muslim north embracing Shariah law and ethnic tensions on the rise, the country faces tough challenges in the new millennium.
Just the same, since the dawn of recorded music, Nigeria's enormous population (110 million in 1998), has provided an unusually strong market for local pop music. King Sunny Adé, I.K. Dairo and Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey put Yoruba-derived juju music on the national map, making it the country's most popular music in the 1970s and early '80s. Sikuru Ayinde Barrister and Kollington Ayinla extended the popularity of fuji music far beyond its original Muslim audience to the point where it overtook juju music during the late '80s.
The late Fela Anikulapo Kutiwhose grandfather was the first African to record music in Europecreated a truly modern style, Afrobeat, and his son Femi Kuti carries that torch today. But these well-known artists are just the beginning of a world that includes reggae, highlife, jazz, rap and countless varieties of traditional and popular music. Banning Eyre, Courtesy Afropop Worldwide: www.afropop.org