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July 2021

Soc Sci Med. 1987 ; 24(6): 487-99.

Background to the development of health services in Nigeria.

Ityavyar DA.

This paper concentrates on three main issues. First a brief overview of the nature of the politics, economy and health in Nigeria prior to colonialism. It is important to know, for instance, how medicine was organized prior to the advent of modern medicine. I think our understanding of pre-colonial Nigeria is important because it enables us a better grasp of the changes which were later introduced by imperialists. The second issue will be the imperial penetration of Nigeria by Britain. Imperialism took several forms ranging from the activities of Christian missionaries to the eventual colonial rule over the various kingdoms and empires which were in the region. The effects of the imperialist activities on the transformation of Nigerian society and particularly the introduction of the capitalist productive forces wil be discussed, with the view to examine changes in the organization of health and medicine. The last issue to be considered in this paper will be the role of imperialism in class formation in Nigeria. Emphasis will be first, on the social and economic condition of colonial physicians who came from England and then how they were related to the colonial state and colonial health policies. From this premise, we can examine the historically specific circumstances under which Nigerians were trained as physicians and how they (Nigerian physicians) got involved in the politics of nationalism. We will then discuss how the First and Second World War gave energy to Nigerian nationalist movements. The paper ends by stating that the Nigerian nationalists who had struggled and secured Nigeria's political independence eventually became Nigeria's ruling class which now controls the post-colonial state.


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