An important part of the history of Nigeria is her colonial story. Under colonialism and under the administration of Britain, the Queen (Queen Elizabeth) was the highest monarchical authority who was in control of government affairs. She carried out ceremonial functions in her position as head of state in the colonised Nigeria. She was also the monarch of the other common wealth realms, including the United Kingdom.
Even when Nigeria gained her independence in 1960, the Queen still held a high and important status in Nigeria. Queen Elizabeth was Queen of Nigeria from 1960-1963, the time between the nation’s independence and when she became a republic. You can see now the reasons her visits to Nigeria were always with such great fuss.
During her reign as head of state and Queen of Nigeria, Queen Elizabeth visited Nigeria twice.
The first time was in 1956, from the 28th of January to the 16th of February, 1956. At the airport, she was welcomed by federal dignitaries which included the Minister for Labour and Welfare at the time, Festus Okotie-Eboh and Governor-General Sir James Robertson. She was driven around in a Rolls Royce in the country’s capital, Lagos with lots of fun fare and royal services. She spent time in the Northern part of the country with the Sultan where she visited Kano and Kaduna. She also visited Jos and Enugu. The second time was when she attended the Common wealth Heads of Government meeting which was held between the 3rd to the 6th of December, 2003.
The 2003 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was the eighteenth meeting of the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth of Nations. It was held in Abuja, Nigeria and hosted by the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo.
During the meeting, the Zimbabwean issue was dominant. This was the dispute over Zimbabwe’s suspension which led to another dispute over the re-election of Secretary-General Don McKinnon. Before the end of the meeting, Robert Mugabe’s announced that Zimbabwe was withdrawing from the Commonwealth. This best explains the need for the presence of the Queen at the meeting. In a letter addressed towards the Nigerian President at the time, the Queen explained that her visit was a demonstration of the value Britain attached to its relations with Nigeria and recognition of the country’s role on the international stage. Queen Elizabeth opened the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Abuja on Friday, 5th December. Herself and the Duke of Edinburgh (often referred to as Her Majesty and His Royal Highness respectively) also attended other events during the Meeting.
During the Queen’s first visit in 1956, she went on a tour, known as the Queen’s 1956 Tour of Nigeria and the following incidents took place
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip received welcome in the Nigerian capital, Lagos at the very start of the Royal tour
The Queen attended the inauguration of the new federal courts in Nigeria.
At Kaduna, the then capital of Northern Nigeria, Queen attended a Royal Durbar
The Queen visited Kano (1956)
Nigerian tribal canoes held a regatta for the Queen at Port Harcourt on the Ronny River after which she visited a Leper colony
When on the Royal tour, The Queen went on a visit to children’s rally and a tribal dancing at Enugu, Nigeria.
In Lagos, Queen Elizabeth attended a garden party and a formal session of the Federation Parliament.
The life of Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth became queen following her father’s death in 1952. She was 25 years old at the time and became the queen regent of seven independent Commonwealth countries which were the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (later renamed Sri Lanka). Many of the colonial realms, to include Nigeria gained independence during the course of her reign. As of the year, 2018, Queen Elizabeth II has been ruling England for 66years and is currently the longest-reigning British monarch in history
The role of Queen Elizabeth in colonial Nigeria
British influence in Nigeria began with the prohibition of the slave trade to British subjects in 1807. In 1861, Britain incorporated Lagos and in 1884, the Oil River Protectorate was established. It was at the Berlin’s conference of 1885 that other European powers acknowledged Britain’s dominance over the Niger area.
From 1886 to 1899, much of the Niger area was ruled by the Royal Niger Company, authorized by charter, and governed by George Taubman Goldie. On 1 January 1900, the Royal Niger Company transferred its territories to the British government for the sum of £865,000; the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate were then passed from the Royal Niger Company to the Crown. The constitutions after the world war were progressive and allowed for increased representation and electoral government by Nigerians. The colonial period in Nigeria was precisely from 1900 to 1960, after which Nigeria gained its independence.
Nigeria became independent on 1 October 1960 by a British Act of Parliament. Nnamdi Azikiwe was installed as Governor-General of the federation and Tafawa Balewa continued to serve as head of a democratically elected parliamentary. The Queen was head of state in Nigeria, though her constitutional roles were mostly delegated to the Governor-General of Nigeria. The Governor-General represented the British monarch as head of state and was appointed by the Crown on the advice of the Nigerian prime minister in consultation with the premiers of the regions. The Governor-General was also responsible for appointing the prime minister and for choosing a candidate when there was no parliamentary majority. Other than this, the Governor-General’s office was essentially ceremonial.
The retention of the monarchy was not accepted by all and the political parties in Nigeria at the time agreed that the country should be a republic.
Nigeria adopted the President of Nigeria as head of state, on 1 October 1963 and hence, severed its relationship with the British monarchy.