History Of Nigeria Politics From 1960 Till Date A Comprehensive Overview

History of Nigeria Politics from 1960 till Date: A Comprehensive Overview

Nigeria gained independence from British colonial rule on October 1, 1960, and since then, its political history has been marked by significant events and transitions. The country has experienced a parliamentary system of government, a federal republic, and a series of military coups and counter-coups. Nigeria’s political instability and ethnic tensions have been a major challenge in the country’s journey towards democracy.

Despite the challenges, Nigeria has made some progress in its political history. The country has had a series of democratic elections, and the 2015 presidential election marked the first time an incumbent president was defeated by an opposition candidate. However, the country still faces challenges such as corruption, insecurity, and economic instability.

This article will provide an overview of Nigeria’s political history from 1960 till date. It will cover the major events that have shaped the country’s political landscape, including the military coups, democratic transitions, and the challenges that Nigeria still faces in its journey towards democracy.

 

Pre-Independence and the First Republic

Colonial Era and Struggle for Independence

Nigeria’s political history dates back to the colonial era when the country was under British rule. The British colonial government established a system of indirect rule, which allowed the traditional rulers to govern their people while the British controlled the economy and maintained law and order. However, this system of governance was not without its flaws, and it led to the emergence of a nationalist movement that sought to end British colonial rule.

The nationalist movement was led by prominent figures such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and Ahmadu Bello. These leaders formed political parties that represented the interests of their respective regions. In 1954, Nigeria was divided into three regions: Northern, Western, and Eastern regions. Each region had its own political party, and the parties competed for power in the regional governments.

The struggle for independence gained momentum in the 1950s, and Nigeria gained its independence from Britain on October 1, 1960. The country became a republic three years later, on October 1, 1963.

Formation of the First Republic

The period between 1960 and 1966 is referred to as the First Republic in Nigeria’s political history. The First Republic was characterized by a federal system of government, with power shared between the central government and the regional governments. Each region had its own premier, who was responsible for the administration of the region.

The First Republic was marked by political instability, as the regional parties competed for power at the national level. The ruling party at the national level, the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), was dominated by the Northern region, while the opposition parties were dominated by the Western and Eastern regions.

Despite the challenges, the First Republic saw significant progress in the areas of education, healthcare, and infrastructure development. However, the republic was short-lived, as it was overthrown by a military coup on January 15, 1966.

 

Military Rule and Civil War

First Military Coup

Nigeria’s political history took a dramatic turn on January 15, 1966, when a group of young army officers led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu staged the first military coup in the country. The coup was successful, and it led to the overthrow of the democratic government of Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. The coup plotters cited corruption, tribalism, and political instability as the reasons for their action.

Nigerian Civil War

The Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War, was a significant event in the country’s political history. The war lasted from July 6, 1967, to January 15, 1970, and it was fought between the Nigerian government and the secessionist state of Biafra. The conflict was a result of ethnic tensions and political differences between the Igbo people, who dominated the secessionist state, and the rest of Nigeria’s population.

The war was characterized by massive human suffering, including starvation, displacement, and deaths. The Nigerian government’s blockade of Biafra led to a severe shortage of food and medical supplies, resulting in the deaths of thousands of people, mostly children.

Successive Military Governments

Following the end of the Nigerian Civil War, the country was ruled by successive military governments for several years. The military regimes were characterized by authoritarianism, corruption, and human rights abuses. During this period, Nigeria experienced several coups and counter-coups, which further destabilized the country’s political landscape.

The military governments introduced various policies and programs aimed at addressing the country’s social and economic challenges, but most of these initiatives were unsuccessful. It was not until 1999 that Nigeria returned to democratic rule after several years of military dictatorship.

In summary, Nigeria’s political history from 1960 till date has been marked by several significant events, including military coups, civil war, and authoritarian rule. These events have had a significant impact on the country’s social, economic, and political development.

 

Transition to Civilian Rule

Second Republic

Following the end of military rule in 1979, Nigeria transitioned to a democratic government under a constitution that allowed for a presidential system of government. This marked the beginning of the Second Republic in Nigeria. The new government was headed by President Shehu Shagari, who was elected in 1979. Shagari’s government faced several challenges, including economic instability, corruption, and political unrest.

Military Interruptions

The Second Republic was short-lived, as it was interrupted by a military coup in 1983. General Muhammadu Buhari became the new leader of Nigeria, and his government was marked by a crackdown on corruption and a strict adherence to Islamic law. However, his government was also criticized for human rights abuses and the suppression of political opposition.

In 1985, General Ibrahim Babangida overthrew Buhari’s government and became the new leader of Nigeria. Babangida promised to restore democracy to Nigeria and initiated a transition program that culminated in the establishment of the Third Republic in 1992. However, Babangida’s transition program was marred by controversy and allegations of electoral fraud.

 

Third Republic and Military Rule

The Third Republic was established in 1992, with the election of President-elect Moshood Abiola. However, Abiola’s victory was annulled by Babangida, and he was subsequently arrested and imprisoned. This led to widespread protests and political unrest, which eventually culminated in the end of military rule in 1999.

In conclusion, Nigeria’s transition to civilian rule has been marked by several interruptions and challenges. However, despite these challenges, Nigeria has made significant progress towards democracy and political stability.

Fourth Republic

Return to Democracy

Following the death of General Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s military ruler, in 1998, his successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, initiated the transition that heralded Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999. This marked the beginning of the Fourth Republic, which has been characterized by a series of democratic elections, albeit with some challenges.

Consolidation of Democratic Governance

The Fourth Republic has seen the consolidation of democratic governance in Nigeria, with the country experiencing a peaceful transfer of power from one civilian government to another in 2015. The current president, Muhammadu Buhari, was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019, marking the first time in Nigeria’s history that an incumbent president was defeated in a democratic election.

During the Fourth Republic, Nigeria has also witnessed the emergence of vibrant civil society groups, which have played a critical role in holding the government accountable and advocating for the rights of citizens. The media has also become more vibrant and assertive, with journalists playing a key role in exposing corruption and other forms of malfeasance in government.

Despite these positive developments, the Fourth Republic has also been characterized by some challenges. For instance, the country has witnessed a rise in ethnic and religious tensions, which have sometimes resulted in violent conflicts. Additionally, corruption remains a major challenge, with Nigeria consistently ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world.

Overall, the Fourth Republic has been a period of significant transformation in Nigeria’s political landscape. While there have been some challenges, the country has made significant progress towards consolidating democratic governance and promoting the rights of citizens.

 

Contemporary Political Landscape

Political Reforms and Elections

Nigeria has undergone significant political reforms since the return to democracy in 1999. The country has held several elections at the federal, state, and local government levels, with the most recent being the 2019 general elections. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is responsible for conducting these elections, and the introduction of the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) has helped to reduce electoral fraud and ensure credible elections.

In 2010, the Nigerian government enacted the Freedom of Information Act, which guarantees citizens access to public information. This law has helped to improve transparency and accountability in the country’s political system. Additionally, the Not-Too-Young-To-Run bill was passed in 2018, which reduced the age limit for running for political office, allowing more young people to participate in politics.

Challenges and Developments

Despite the progress made in Nigeria’s political landscape, the country still faces several challenges. One of the major issues is corruption, which has plagued the country’s political system for decades. The government has made efforts to tackle corruption, including the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Whistleblower Policy. However, more needs to be done to address this issue.

Another challenge is the issue of insecurity, particularly in the northeastern part of the country, where the Boko Haram insurgency has been ongoing since 2009. The government has made efforts to combat the insurgency, including the establishment of the Multinational Joint Task Force and the Safe Schools Initiative. However, the insurgency still poses a significant threat to the country’s security.

In recent years, there have been calls for restructuring Nigeria’s political system to address issues of marginalization and ensure equitable distribution of resources. The government has set up committees to look into this issue, and there have been discussions around devolving more power to the states and local governments.

Overall, Nigeria’s political landscape has undergone significant changes since independence in 1960. While there have been challenges, the country has made progress in terms of democratization, political reforms, and addressing issues of marginalization.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What were the key political developments in Nigeria from 1960 to 1963?

Nigeria gained independence from British colonial rule on October 1, 1960, and became a federal republic in 1963. Nnamdi Azikiwe became the country’s first president, while Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was appointed as the first prime minister. The country’s first constitution was also adopted in 1963.

How has Nigeria’s government structure evolved since independence in 1960?

Nigeria’s government structure has undergone several changes since independence in 1960. The country started as a federal republic with a parliamentary system of government, but this was replaced by a military government after a series of coups in the 1960s and 1970s. Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999, and the country now has a presidential system of government with a bicameral legislature.

What major political events have shaped Nigeria’s history since 1960?

Nigeria’s political history has been shaped by several major events since 1960. These include the military coups of the 1960s and 1970s, the civil war of 1967-1970, the return to civilian rule in 1999, and the emergence of the Boko Haram insurgency in the 2000s.

How have military coups influenced the political landscape of Nigeria post-1960?

Military coups have had a significant impact on Nigeria’s political landscape since 1960. The coups of the 1960s and 1970s led to the establishment of military governments, which ruled the country for several years. The military governments were characterized by authoritarianism, corruption, and human rights abuses.

What role has democracy played in Nigeria’s political history since 1960?

Democracy has played a significant role in Nigeria’s political history since 1960. The country returned to civilian rule in 1999, and since then, Nigeria has held several democratic elections. While there have been some challenges with the electoral process, democracy has helped to promote political stability and accountability in Nigeria.

How have regional and ethnic politics affected Nigeria’s governance since 1960?

Regional and ethnic politics have had a significant impact on Nigeria’s governance since 1960. The country is made up of several ethnic groups, and these groups have often competed for political power. This has sometimes led to political instability and violence. The government has made efforts to promote national unity, but ethnic and regional politics continue to be a challenge in Nigeria’s governance.

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