Introduction to Nigerian Government and Politics

After the colonial era, the Nigerian Government became an independent nation precisely on the 1st October 1960. Three years later, the country would eventually become the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 1st of October 1963.

Introduction to Nigerian Government and Politics

introduction to nigerian government and politics

The Federal Republic System adopted by Nigeria was modelled after the United States of America. In this system, the Executive powers are exercised by the President. And the President of the country acts as both the Head of Government as well as the Head of State.

The law of Nigeria is based on three parameters namely, the rule of law, the independence of the Judiciary and the British common law. The British Common Law is due to the long history of colonial influence.

When Nigeria became an independent nation in 1960, it was a remarkable milestone in the political history of the country. But by 1966, it was obvious that the gains of independence were being eroded by corruption in the government and the military had stepped in by means of a coup to overthrow the government.

From 1966 and 1999, the military government ruled although there were a couple of bief transitions to civilian government. Overall, there were 8 coup attempts of which 5 were successful while 3 were unsuccessful during the period of military rule.

An overview of the Nigerian government divides the country into four Republics which we’ll take a look at in this post.

The First Republic

The first republic led to the former Governor General of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe becoming the first President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

However, this republic was affected by several coup attempts with the first one taking place in 1966 when some predominantly Igbo majors overthrew the government.

This led to the assassination of the Prime Minister as well as the Premiers of the northern and western regions. This coup caused unrest in the military ranks and would later lead to another counter coup six months later.

At this point, there were already signs of a war brewing and by 1967, the military Governor of the Eastern Region, Lt Col Emeka Ojukwu had declared the independence of the Eastern region and this new region was named the Republic of Biafra on the 30th of May 1967.

This led to the Nigerian civil war which had 3.5 million casualties between 1967 and 1970.

General Yakubu Gowon was the military head of state during and after the civil war. He ruled the country from 1966 to 1975.

The post-war period was a time of oil boom and the Nigerian economy was greatly boosted by the rise in foreign exchange earnings.

But corruption still remained a major problem. It was said that Yakubu Gowon turned a blind eye to the corrupt practices among the officials in his administration.

It was also expected that Gowon would return the country to civilian rule but he was quite slow in fulfilling this promise. As a result, he was overthrown based on these allegations. The coup happened while he was attending an OAU summit in Uganda. The coup plotters lead by Col Joe Garba appointed Brigadier Muritala Muhammed as the new head of the government and Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo as his deputy.

Muritala Muhammed would eventually be murdered in another bloody coup and his chief of Staff, General Olusegun Obasanjo became the head of State in 1976.

The Second Republic

A year later, a constituent assembly was elected to draft a new constitution which was published on 21st of September 1978 and this was the preamble to the second Republic.

Precisely, in 1979, five political parties competed in a series of elections which led to the election of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Another election took place four years later in 1983 and the Shehu Shagari government won again but the election was marred by allegations and accusation of widespread vote rigging. By December 31st of that year, the military had successfully staged a coup that overthrew the Shagari led government and a new head of state was elected in the person of General Muhammad Buhari.

But Buhari would only last 20 months as another coup would eventually led to a new head being installed in the person of Major General Ibrahim Babangida.

Babangida promised to return the country to civilian rule by 1990 which was later extended to 1993 and by 1989; political parties had begun to spring up. In October of that year, the government established two parties which were the National Republican Convention and the Social Democratic party.

The presidential election was eventually held on the 12th of June 1993 which many local and international observers deemed as the country’s fairest election. It was won by the wealthy Yoruba businessman M.K.O Abiola but on the 23rd of June, the result of the election was cancelled with the then head of State, Ibrahim Babangida using several pending lawsuits as pretense for the cancellation.

The Third Republic

The annulled election led to turmoil in the country and more than 100 people were killed during the riots. This forced Babangida to hand over to an interim government which was headed by the Yoruba chieftain, Ernest Shonekan. This signalled the start of the third republic and Shonekan was expected to rule until February 1994 when another election was to taken place.

But this third Republic was shortlived as Sani Abacha staged a coup that led to the resignation of Ernest Shonekan.

Sani Abacha dissolved all democratic institutions and replaced all elected governors with military officers but he promised a transition to civilian rule. He announced the timetable for this transition on the October 1st, 1995. But his administration was marred with deceit and only 5 political parties were approved and the local elections had a turnout of less than 10%

Eventually, Abacha died in 1998 of heart failure and he was replaced by General Abdusalami Abubakar who would later hand over to a democratic government on the 29th of May 1999.

The Fourth Republic

The Fourth Republic began on May 29, 1999. The prominent parties prior to the elections were the People’s Democratic People, the All People’s Party (APP) and the Alliance for Democratic (AD). Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (PDP) defeated Olu Falae who was the presidential candidates of the AD and the APP in the presidential election.

Olusegun Obasanjo ruled from 1999 to 2007 when he handed over to Umaru Yaradua who had won the elections in 2007. Yaradua’s time as president was shortlived as he died in 2010 after a prolonged illness. The vice President, Goodluck Jonathan became the President and would be subsequently re-elected in 2011. He ruled between 2011 and 2015 and handed over to Gen Muhammad Buhari after he lost in the 2015 elections.

Nigeria is currently ruled by President Muhammad Buhari who is supported by his vice, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.

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Abass Toriola

Abass Toriola is the founder and chief content strategist of NigerianFacts.com. He's a seasoned blogger, Internet marketer, and online business coach.

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