Nigeria was ruled indirectly by Britain until it was granted its independence on October 1, 1960. Nigeria established a new constitution at that time and established a federal system that had both a ceremonial head of state and an elected prime minister.
It was on October 1, 1963 that Nigeria became a republic and Azikiwe became the president of the country; however, Prime Minister Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa remained more powerful.
For most of the 19th century, Europeans ruled the African port cities and used African trade networks to trade their goods and gather raw materials to take home. The British were in charge of Nigeria, and they decided to govern through indirect rule, which involves using existing structures within a country in order to establish rule. The British would use the chiefs (or annoint a "chief" if one did not exist in a particular region of Nigeria) and use them to spread their rules, regulations and laws. The British would leave the people alone unless they ignored or disobeyed one of their regulations. They would also use their "veto" power if they felt that the Nigerians were running things in a way that would hurt their trade needs or minimize their power. The French preferred to run things by direct rule instead.