Population: About 120 million
Ethnic Groups: More than 250, 4000 dialects
Size: 577,355 sq miles; that is two and a half times the size of California.
Number of States: 36 plus Abuja, the Federal Capital territory
Major Ethnic Groups: Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, Ibo, Igala, Kanuri, Tiv, Ibiobio, Ijaw, Edo, Efik, Urhobo, Edoma, Itsekiri.
The story of Nigeria is a selfless history of leadership in many areas. Nigeria's citizens are, not surprising, serving as the epitome of this leadership globally in the sciences, arts, humanities, sports, diplomacy etc.
Nigeria is a massive country of almost 100 million people comprising 250 ethnic groups speaking 4000 dialects. In size, it is more than two and half times the size of California. The diversity of Nigeria is reflected in its rainbow of creeds and complexions, views and counterviews, stretching from the fringes of the desert in the North to the Atlantic waters in the South.
With one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, Nigerians are their own harshest critics, loudly establishing organs to make sure they are heard. The country has the largest and most vocal press in Africa, publishing views and opinions freely expressed. However, while debates are impassioned and views varied, Nigerians largely remain united in a single, unswerving thread: ONE NIGERIA. It is this oneness that has been the guiding posts of Nigeria since independence even as it embarked upon state creation exercises in a bid to perfect its federal structure.
Nigerians have often lost their patience, but not their way, or faith, the one that reminds them that clouds may often overrun the skies; they cannot control it; that beyond the eclipse, light awaits.
Since joining the United Nations in 1960, Nigeria has consistently committed itself to the cause of peacekeeping and peacemaking. She sent her first troops to participate in the UN peace mission in the Congo, only days after its independence. In World Citizen, a former advisor to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Carter, Prof. Ruth Morgenthau says of Nigeria "is among the most committed countries to maintaining the degree of international order that the present UN decision making process permits."
Today, Nigeria leads the world in international peacekeeping. Of the 80 countries contributing troops to over 20 global operations, Nigeria has more than 6,500 men keeping the peace outside its borders in places such as Bosnia Herzgovena, Iraq, Kuwait, Western Sahara, Liberia, Angola, Rwanda. Nigerian troops have also served in Somalia, Mozambique and Cambodia, The Congo, Chad, Lebanon, India, Pakistan (Kashmir). The key thing in global peacekeeping are the men and women risking their lives in the interest of peace. Nigeria has more of those people than any other country in the world.
There are more than 18 million students in Nigerian schools at all levels. That is more than the total human population of South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, Tanzania and the school population of France, Britain and Spain.
The country adopted a 6-3-3-4 educational policy in 1982. The policy requires six years primary education, a two-tier (3-year junior, 3-year senior) secondary education and four years of University education. There are 31 universities in Nigeria today.
Apart from fully funding primary education all around the country, the government also runs secondary schools, and funds technical colleges, polytechnics and universities in all 30 states of Nigeria. In addition, there are hundreds of privately-owned schools duly approved by government for the benefit of those who prefer to send their children to private schools.
While literacy rate stands at about 50 per cent, one of the highest in Africa, the goal of Nigeria is to eradicate illiteracy in the shortest time possible.
Nigeria has made its mark in global sports competition. Its national soccer team, the Super Eagles, is adjudged the best in Africa and one of the best ten in the world. Nigeria won the first World Cup in the under-16 category in China in 1985 and came second in the same category two years later in Canada.
Its Under-20 soccer team won the bronze medal in the Junior World Cup competition in the Soviet Union in 1985 and the silver medal in Saudi Arabia in 1989. In the 1994 World Cup competition, Nigeria led its group to qualify for the second round.
In professional boxing, Nigeria has produced three world champions (Hogan "Kid" Bassey (featherweight, 1957-1959); Dick Tiger, (middleweight, 1962-1963) and Massachusetts resident, Bash Ali (cruiserweight, 1987).
Nigeria's athletes have also won Olympic medals in long jump, 400 x 4 relay and several other track and field events.
Dozens of Nigerians are today professional athletes in Europe and America. A Nigerian based in the US, Hakeem Olajuwon, is today roundly adjudged the best basketballer in the world.
Since 1908, when German engineers first drilled the first oil well in Nigeria, a buoyant, viable industry has sprung up. Oil is today the bedrock of Nigeria's economic development, accounting for more than 80 per cent of its foreign exchange earnings.
Nigeria's oil reserves are the ninth largest in the world. In 1987, crude oil reserves totalled 16 billion barrels. It is projected that by 1997, the reserves could rise to 20 billion barrels. Nigeria is a member of OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. A Nigerian has been elected Secretary General of OPEC for a record sixth term.
Nigeria also has vast largely unexplored natural gas reserves, the world's fifth largest. Dozens of European and American businesses are currently exploring joint venture businesses in gas production. But Nigerians themselves now realize the danger of over-dependence on the oil sector. In the past few years, deliberate attempts have been made to concentrate on agriculture and encourage manufacturing. Various schemes have been established to assist farmers at every level, resulting in impressive cutbacks in Nigeria's food import bills while changes in Nigeria's industrial policy are encouraging foreign participation in manufacturing