Nigeria is a country situated in the western part of Africa. Colonized by Britain in the 18th century, the country is home to approximately 180 million people of over 500 ethnic groups with diverse cultures and traditions. Prime among the ethnic groups are the Hausa tribe (primarily dominants of the Northern region), the Yoruba tribe (inhabitants of the Western region) and the Igbo tribe (stretched out in the Eastern and Southern region).
Prior to the almagamation of the mineral-filled territory in 1914, pre-colonial Nigeria was an arena of various kingdoms and tribal states such as the Kingdoms of Ife & Oyo, Kingdom of Nri, Fulani Empire (also known as the Sokoto Caliphate), Kingdom of Nri, etc.
The merger of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria (then under the rule of the British Empire) was a bid for the unification of the various tribes and kingdoms occupying the territory. Administrative and legal governance were held by the British Empire and instituted through indirect rule via traditional chiefdoms.
The struggle for independence began in the 20th century with prominent representatives of the various tribes playing diplomatic roles. Celebrated diplomats such as Ahmadu Bello (then Sar’duna of Sokoto), Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro and various others lent their voices towards the achievement of independence.
The independence wave sweeping the various colonial territories in Africa and the determination of the diplomats achieved fruition as the nation was granted independence on October 1, 1960.
A coalition of the conservative parties, Nigerian People’s Congress (NPC) and National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), aided unification of the young nation as the parties were primarily domimated by people of the Northern and Eastern/Southern regions respectively. The opposition, Action Group (AG), a liberal party dominated by people of the Western region lent a voice of criticism to the conservative government towards a better governance system.
Allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement against the electoral and political administrators prompted a military coup spearheaded by Igbo military officers Majors Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. The murders of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, Premiers Ahmadu Bello and Ladoke Akintola (all prominent leaders of the Northern and Western regions) stirred tribal sentiments as the coup was tagged an Igbo coup due to the sparing of President Nnamdi Azikiwe and Premier Michael Okpara.
The coup masterminds struggled towards the formation of a central government resulting in the handover of government control by then Acting President Nwafor Orizu to the military then under the command of an Igbo officer, General JTU Aguiyi Ironsi. The development further infuriated the Northern and Westerm regions and led to a countercoup which saw the deaths of Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi, various military officers and a genocide of Igbos resident in the Northern region prompting mass exodus.
Military disquilibrium and power surge among the ranks led to consecutive coups and extensive military rule before the issue of the decree by the last military Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar leading to the adoption of a new constitution thus resulting in a transition to a democractic system of government.
General elections were held with former military Head of State Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo declared winner under the auspice of the People Democractic Party (PDP). Power of governance was transfered to Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd.) on May 29, 1999 completing the transition of the nation to democractic rule.
After completion of the constitutional two terms, general elections were held which saw former Katsina State governor Umaru Yar’Adua of the People Democractic Party (PDP) declared winner with former Bayelsa governor Goodluck Jonathan serving as vice president. The death of Umaru Yar’Adua while in office led to the appointment and confirmation of Goodluck Jonathan as president to complete the tenure of the deceased.
Expiry of the tenure led to Goodluck Jonathan’s contest of a new presidential election in which he was declared winner with a total of 22,495,187 votes while the major opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari, a retired military Head of State, came second with 12,214,853 votes.
The tenure of Goodluck Jonathan was riddled with criticism from various opposition parties and individuals furthering into the birth of the mega party All Progressive Congress (APC), a merger of various opposition parties, with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) fielded as the party’s flag bearer for the March 2015 general elections.
The then incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan, under the People Democractic Party (PDP), contested for re-election and lost to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd). His concession of defeat garnered international appraisal as it curbed the formation of a national unrest.
Prior to electoral victory, campaigns led by the All Progressive Congress (APC) were fueled by the promises of major reforms, political and administrative changes won the hearts of the masses as the nation sought a change of leadership after a sixteen year rule of the People Democractic Party (PDP). This resulted in the vigilance of the masses against electoral rigging as massive votes were cast against the then incumbent government.
However, the electoral promises are yet to suffice as the APC-led government that lent an ear to the masses during campaigns have gone deaf to their pleas and instituted a system of governance tagged as military democracy ridden by tribalism, nepotism and democractic falsism.
Propaganda has also being feeded in as a screen to shield the political game play being experienced by the nation.
Prior to the assumption of office by the APC-led government in 2015, Nigeria was listed as the world’s 20th largest economy worth more than $500billion and $1trillion in terms of nominal GDP and purchasing power parity respectively. The nation was also named the largest economy in Africa, overtaking the bouyant economy of South Africa. Categorized as an emerging market by the World Bank, Nigeria was identified as a regional power in Africa, a middle power in international affairs and an emerging global power. It was also listed among the ‘Next Eleven’ economies set to be classified among the biggest in the world.
However, upon assumption of office, the APC-led government announced that Nigeria’s reserve coffers was empty. Accusations and counter-accusations have continually been threaded between the incumbent and its predecessor. The APC-led government furthered its announcement by declaring that the nation was undergoing economic recession leading to a drastic uprise in inflation and resulting in the inability of even the nation’s middle class to afford basic commodities.
Directives and orders banning importation of various items and a sudden stop to foreign exchange transactions resulted in the exodus of investors and increment in the sufferings experienced by children of the middle and low class studying abroad.
The present administration’s system of governance has also been continually riddled by tribalism and nepotism. Prior to the 2015 electoral victory, Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) has been publicly known to have a staunch disdain of the Eastern/Southern region on tribal and religious basis. A strict Islamic Fulani native, the present commander-in-chief have been caught on camera severally making hateful utterances against the Eastern/Southern region which quite cost him partial support of the region during the 2015 general elections. The nepotistic system streamed into the present administration are visible in the prosecution of corrupt officials and also in the appointment of several public offices. The presidental cabinet is mostly filled with close family members and friends of the number one citizen in the nation.
The involvement of the military in democracy is totally unacceptable except in a state of emergency. Recently, the military labeled the secessionist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) a terrorist group and with the backing of the South-East Governors Forum ban all activities of the organization. The Chief of Army, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai later denied the Army’s involvement in the labeling of the group with Senate President Bukola Saraki publicly declared that it is unconstitutional to declare the group a terrror organization. The unrest caused by the group and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, shook the nation for some weeks with hate speeches and threats of national disintegration. However, the flooding of civilian streets with soldiers is unconstitutional and should never be practised in a democractic system of governance except in dire situations.
However, as a saying goes ‘No matter how dark the night is, it won’t last forever’ so no matter how corruption and other vices try to ride down the nation, we will still rise like the Phoenix from the ashes to soar the world in beautiful colours.
Happy Independence Day/New Month to all Nigerians nationwide and in diaspora.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Article by Agwah Michael
(Founder 247NewsUpdate Blog, Researcher, Human Rights Activist, Social Critic and Political Analyst)
LinkedIn: Agwah Michael