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Flashback to Nigerian’s democracy


Kehinde Ogunyale

 The era of ‘democracy’ in Nigeria could be dated back to 1999 when military finally handed over power to the civilians (as the concept ‘democracy’ implies). 

Prior to  that time, there had been a conquest of power between military men and civilians elites.

However, since 1999 Nigeria  has experienced uninterrupted democratic governance from military men.

After Nigeria gained its independence from the British, October 1st 1960, the country –which operated using the parliamentary system of government - was headed by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, NCNC (National Council for Nigerian Citizens), and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, NPC (Northern

People’s Congress). 

The administration was judged to have suffered major problems ranging

from economic mismanagement and hardship, embezzlement and irregularities, corruption, tribalism, nepotism as well as military and foreign interference.

There was still uncertainty that the

Bristish were still interfering in the internal affairs of the country.

This led to a review of the constitution in 1963 which was described to be the ‘First Republican Constitution’.

The administration summoned an all-party conference in Lagos to settle constitutional issues and finalizing that the country should become a republican state. 

This led to a change in the administrative units as well as recognition of some key offices in the country. 

The president was  given full power and authority to make decisions within the country.

This glory was short-lived when the country witnessed its first military coup d’etat (bloody coup) led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu and majors in the army on January 15 1966. 

This led to the exit of key political leaders like Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, S.L Akintola, Perimer of Western region, the Minister of Finance, Chief Okotie Eboh, Sir Ahmadu Bello and other top ranking personals.

The country was later headed by Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi who introduced a unitary system into the country with the promulgation of decree No 34.

He only used six months in power and was killed in a ncounter coup in July 29, 1966. 

Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon took over the

political leadership of  the country. 

During his regime, he created 12 states out of the existing four regions on May 27, 1967. 

It was this action that forced Ojukwu to announce the succession of the Eastern region on May 30, 1967. 

This led to a civil war which started on July 6, 1967 which nearly led to the break-up of the country.

Most weapons used in prosecuting came from the East. The post- war era of this administration was the application of the 3Rs (Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Rehabilitation). 

Gowon spent  nine years in office after he was removed by Brigadier

Murtala Mohammed. His administration brought about the creation of 7 states On February 3, 1976 to make up 19 states as recommended by Justice Ayo Irikefe panel.

Also, after spending 200 days in office, Murtala Mohammed was assassinated in an abortive coup led by Lt. Colonel Dimka on February 13, 1976.

General Olusegun Obasanjo, who was the next in command to Murtala Mohammed, became the head of state. This was when the military

decided to hand over power back to the civilian.

General Olusegun Obasanjo established a Constitution Drafting Committee in September, 1975 and it began work to review the

constitution on October that same year. After the work had been completed in June 1978 and several amendments were made, the revise constitution changed the administration of the government, stated function of all executive bodies and method of removal. It analyzed

the separation of powers and fundamental human rights. It also moved the Federal Capital Territory to Abuja and provided a room for and electoral government.

The election was won by Shehu Shagari, NPN (National Party of Nigerian) in 1979. This era of civilian administration supported the Zimbabwe’s independence. This action represented Nigeria’s avowed stand on the issue of decolonization.

After four years of peaceful

reign, Shagari was going for his second term in office (as provided by the constitution) when Major General Mohammadu Buhari, through a military coup sacked the democratically elected government in 1983. 

The head of state expelled the West Africans living illegally in the

country. About one million illegal aliens were expelled while the land

borders were closed to check smuggling, the inflow of illegal immigrants as well as currency trafficking.

Major-General Ibrahim Babangida removed Buhari on August 27, 1985, through what is described as 'Palace Coup' and subsequently made himself the president of Nigeria, abandoning the title of the Head of state in 1989. He established a Constitution Review Committee (CRC) for

the basis of reviewing the 1963 and 1979 Constitution respectively. 

He had earlier ruled out an election consisting of two political parties, Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican

Convention (NRC). It was rumored round that the election was won by Chief M.K.O Abiola. 

General  Babangida's administration created 11 state to make up 30 states in the country.

An unsuccessful coup attempt was staged against Babangida by Major Gideon Orkar led military coup on April 22, 1990. There was  also the Vasta coup attempt in December, 1985. Babangida retired from the army after stepping aside in 1993. He had ealier set up an interim

government with Chief Ernest Sonekan as the Head of State. Lt. General Abacha sacked the interim government and assumed the new military Head of State of Nigeria. 

Abacha came into power November, 1993 and created six more states on 1st October, 1996, bringing the

present number of states in the country to 36 States. Abacha died on 8th of June, 1998 and was succeeded by General Abudulsalmi Abubakar.

Abubakar administration embarked on democratic journey to hand over power back to the civilian government. He established a reviewing

committee to review the constitution and made preparation for an election which made Olusegun Obasanjo the electoral president from People's Democratic Party, (PDP). Obasanjo served two terms in office.

In May 2007, Alhaji Umaru Yar'Adua was sworn in as President of the

Federal Republic of Nigeria, the 13th head of state of Nigeria. Yar'Adua died on 5 May 2010 in the Presidential villa, in Abuja,Nigeria. On 6 May 2010, the Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the 14th head of state.

On 29 May 2015, Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the 15th head of state after winning the general election. However, since the ascension of the elected  President till now, the country has witnessed a free administrative regime. Although, there has been insecurities and insurgences within the country as well as

several movements to divide the country but all to no avail.

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