The Federal Republic of Nigeria
Nigeria, officially named the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising thirty-six states and one Federal Capital Territory. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in the north. Its coast lies on the Gulf of Guinea, part of the Atlantic Ocean, in the south. The capital city is Abuja.
The people of Nigeria have an extensive history, and archaeological evidence shows that human habitation of the area dates back to at least 9000 BC. The Benue-Cross River area is thought to be the original homeland of the Bantu migrants who spread across most of central and southern Africa in waves between the 1st millennium BC and the 2nd millennium AD.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the eighth most populous country in the world with a population of over 140 million. The country is listed among the “Next Eleven” economies, and is one of the fastest growing in the world with the IMF projecting growth of 9% in 2008 and 8.3% in 2009.
The Nok people in central Nigeria produced terracotta sculptures that have been discovered by archaeologists. A Nok sculpture resident at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, portrays a sitting dignitary wearing a “Shepherds Crook” on the right arm, and a “hinged flail” on the left. These are symbols of authority associated with Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, and the god Osiris, and suggests that an ancient Egyptian style of social structure, and perhaps religion, existed in the area of modern Nigeria during the late Pharonic period. In the northern part of the country, Kano and Katsina has recorded history which dates back to around AD 999. Hausa kingdoms and the Kanem-Bornu Empire prospered as trade posts between North and West Africa.
The Yoruba people date their presence in the area of modern republics of Nigeria, Benin and Togo to about 8500 BC. The kingdoms of If? and Oyo in the western block of Nigeria became prominent about 700-900 and 1400 respectively. However, the Yoruba mythology believes that Ile-Ife is the source of the human race and that it predates any other civilization. If? produced the terra cotta and bronze heads, the ?y? extended as far as modern Togo. Another prominent kingdom in south western Nigeria was the Kingdom of Benin whose power lasted between the 15th and 19th century. Their dominance reached as far as the well known city of Eko which was named Lagos by the Portuguese traders and other early European settlers. In the 18th century, the Oyo and the Aro confederacy were responsible for most of the slaves exported from Nigeria
On October 1, 1960, Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom. The new republic incorporated a number of people with aspirations of their own sovereign nations. Newly independent Nigeria’s government was a coalition of conservative parties: the Nigerian People’s Congress (NPC), a party dominated by Northerners and those of the Islamic faith, and the Igbo and Christian dominated National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) led by Nnamdi Azikiwe, who became Nigeria’s maiden Governor-General in 1960. Forming the opposition was the comparatively liberal Action Group (AG), which was largely dominated by Yorubas and led by Obafemi Awolowo.
An imbalance was created in the polity by the result of the 1961 plebiscite. Southern Cameroon opted to join the Republic of Cameroon while northern Cameroon chose to remain in Nigeria. The northern part of the country was now far larger than the southern part. The nation parted with its British legacy in 1963 by declaring itself a Federal Republic, with Azikiwe as the first president. When elections came about in 1965, the AG was outmanoeuvred for control of Nigeria’s Western Region by the Nigerian National Democratic Party, an amalgamation of conservative Yoruba elements backed heavily by the Federal Government amid dubious electoral circumstances. This left the Igbo NCNC to coalesce with the remnants of the AG in a weak progressive alliance.
This disequilibrium and perceived corruption of the electoral and political process led in 1966 to several back-to-back military coups. The first was in January and led by a collection of young leftists under Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna & Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, it was partially successful – the coupists overthrew the embattled government but could not install their choice, jailed opposition leader Chief Obafemi Awolowo, General Johnson Aguiyi-ironsi, then head of the army was invited by the rump of the Balewa regime to take over the affairs of the country as head of state. This coup was counter-acted by another successful plot, supported primarily by Northern military officers and Northerners who favoured the NPC, it was engineered by Northern officers, which allowed Lt Colonel Yakubu Gowon to become head of state. This sequence of events led to an increase in ethnic tension and violence. The Northern coup, which was mostly motivated by ethnic and religious reasons was a bloodbath of both military officers and civilians, especially those of Igbo extraction.
The violence against Igbos increased their desire for autonomy and protection from the military’s wrath. By May 1967, the Eastern Region had declared itself an independent state called the Republic of Biafra under the leadership Lt Colonel Emeka Ojukwu in line with the wishes of the people. The Nigerian side attacked Biafra on July 6, 1967 at Garkem signalling the beginning of the 30 month war that ended on January 1970. Following the war, Nigeria became to an extent even more mired in ethnic strife, as the defeated southeast and indeed southern Nigeria was now conquered territory for the federal military regime, which changed heads of state twice as army officers staged a bloodless coup against Gowon and enthroned Murtala Mohammed; Olusegun Obansanjo succeeded the former after an assassination.
During the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria joined OPEC and billions of dollars generated by production in the oil-rich Niger Delta flowed into the coffers of the Nigerian state. However, increasing corruption and graft at all levels of government squandered most of these earnings. The northern military clique benefited immensely from the oil boom to the detriment of the Nigerian people and economy. As oil revenues fuelled the rise of federal subventions to states and precariously to individuals, the Federal Government soon became the centre of political struggle and the centre became the threshold of power in the country. As oil production and revenue rose, the Nigerian government created a dangerous situation as it became increasingly dependent on oil revenues and the international commodity markets for budgetary and economic concerns eschewing economic stability. That spelled doom to federalism in Nigeria.
Beginning in 1979, Nigerians participated in a brief return to democracy when Obasanjo transferred power to the civilian regime of Shehu Shagari. The Shagari government was viewed as corrupt and incompetent by virtually all sectors of Nigerian society, so when the regime was overthrown by the military coup of Mohammadu Buhari shortly after the regime’s fraudulent re-election in 1984, it was generally viewed as a positive development by most of the population. Buhari promised major reforms but his government fared little better than its predecessor, and his regime was overthrown by yet another military coup in 1985. The new head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, promptly declared himself President and Commander in chief of the Armed Forces and the ruling Supreme Military Council and also set 1990 as the official deadline for a return to democratic governance. Babangida’s tenure was marked by a flurry of political activity: he instituted the International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) to aid in the repayment of the country’s crushing international debt, which most federal revenue was dedicated to servicing. He also inflamed religious tensions in the nation and particularly the south by enrolling Nigeria in the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
After Babangida survived an abortive coup, he pushed back the promised return to democracy to 1992. When free and fair elections were finally held on the 12th of June, 1993, Babangida declared that the results showing a presidential victory for Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola null and void, sparking mass civilian violence in protest which effectively shut down the country for weeks and forced Babangida to keep his shaky promise to relinquish office to a civilian run government. Babangida’s regime is adjudged to be at the apogee of corruption in the history of the nation as it was during his time that corruption became officially diluted in Nigeria.
Babangida’s caretaker regime headed by Ernest Shonekan survived only until late 1993 when General Sani Abacha took power in another military coup. Abacha proved to be perhaps Nigeria’s most brutal ruler and employed violence on a wide scale to suppress the continuing pandemic of civilian unrest. Money had been found in various western European countries banks traced to him. He avoided coup plots by bribing army generals. Several hundred millions dollars in accounts traced to him were unearthed in 1999. The regime would come to an end in 1998 when the dictator was found dead amid dubious circumstances. Abacha’s death yielded an opportunity for return to civilian rule.
Nigeria re-achieved democracy in 1999 when it elected Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba and former military head of state, as the new President ending almost thirty three-years of military rule (between from 1966 until 1999) excluding the short-lived second republic (between 1979-1983) by military dictators who seized power in coups d’état and counter-coups during the Nigerian military juntas of 1966-1979 and 1983-1998.
Although the elections which brought Obasanjo to power in 1999 and again in 2003 were condemned as unfree and unfair, Nigeria has shown marked improvements in attempts to tackle government corruption and to hasten development. While Obasanjo showed willingness to fight corruption, he was accused by others of the same.
Umaru Yar’Adua, of the People’s Democratic Party, came into power in the general election of 2007 – an election that was witnessed and condemned by the international community as being massively flawed.
Ethnic violence over the oil producing Niger Delta region (see Conflict in the Niger Delta), interreligious relations and inadequate infrastructure are current issues in the country.
There have been bogus claims of a Nigerian astronaut program that have made the news.
Government and politics
Nigeria is a Federal Republic modelled after the United States, with executive power exercised by the president and with overtones of the Westminster System model in the composition and management of the upper and lower houses of the bicameral legislature.
The current president of Nigeria is Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was elected in 2007. The president presides as both Chief of State and Head of Government and is elected by popular vote to a maximum of two four-year terms. The president’s power is checked by a Senate and a House of Representatives, which are combined in a bicameral body called the National Assembly. The Senate is a 109-seat body with three members from each state and one from the capital region of Abuja; members are elected by popular vote to four-year terms. The House contains 360 seats and the number of seats per state is determined by population.
Ethnocentricism, tribalism, sectarianism (especially religious), and prebendalism have played a visible role in Nigerian politics both prior and subsequent to independence in 1960. Kin-selective altruism has made its way into Nigerian politics and has spurned various attempts by tribalists to concentrate Federal power to a particular region of their interests. Nationalism has also led to active secessionist movements such as MASSOB, Nationalist movements such as Oodua Peoples Congress, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta and a civil war. Nigeria’s three largest ethnic groups have maintained historical preeminence in Nigerian politics; competition amongst these three groups, the Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo, has fuelled corruption and graft.
Due to the above issues, Nigeria’s current political parties are declaredly pan-national and irreligious in character (though this does not preclude the continuing preeminence of the dominant ethnicities). The major political parties at present include the ruling People’s Democratic Party of Nigeria which maintains 223 seats in the House and 76 in the Senate (61.9% and 69.7% respectively) and is led by the current President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua; the opposition All Nigeria People’s Party under the leadership of Muhammadu Buhari has 96 House seats and 27 in the Senate (26.6% and 24.7%). There are also about twenty other minor opposition parties registered. The outgoing president, Olusegun Obasanjo, acknowledged fraud and other electoral “lapses” but said the result reflected opinion polls. In a national television address he added that if Nigerians did not like the victory of his handpicked successor they would have an opportunity to vote again in four years.
Like in many other African societies, prebendalism and extremely excessive corruption continue to constitute major challenges to Nigeria, as vote rigging and other means of coercion are practised by all major parties in order to remain competitive. In 1983, it was adjudged by the policy institute at Kuru that only the 1959 and 1979 elections witnessed minimal rigging.
There are four distinct systems of law in Nigeria:
* English Law which is derived from its colonial past with Britain;
* common law, a development of its post colonial independence;
* customary law which is derived from indigenous traditional norms and practice, including the dispute resolution meetings of pre-colonial Yorubaland secret societies;
* Sharia law, used only in the predominantly Muslim north of the country. It is an Islamic legal system which had been used long before the colonial administration in Nigeria but recently politicised and spearheaded in Zamfara in late 1999 and eleven other states followed suit. These states are Kano, Katsina, Niger, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Gombe, Sokoto, Jigawa, Yobe, and Kebbi.
The country has a judicial branch, the highest court of which is the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Upon gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria made the liberation and restoration of the dignity of Africa the centrepiece of its foreign policy and played a leading role in the fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa; Nigeria’s foreign policy was soon tested in the 1970s after the country emerged united from its own civil war and quickly committed itself to the liberation struggles going on in the Southern Africa sub-region. Though Nigeria never sent an expeditionary force in that struggle, it offered more than rhetoric to the African National Congress (ANC) by taking a committed tough line with regard to the racist regime and their incursions in southern Africa, in addition to expediting large sums to aid anti-colonial struggles. Nigeria was also a founding member of the Organization for African Unity (now the African Union), and has tremendous influence in West Africa and Africa on the whole. Nigeria has additionally founded regional cooperative efforts in West Africa, functioning as standard-bearer for ECOWAS and ECOMOG, economic and military organizations respectively.
With this African-centred stance, Nigeria readily sent troops to the Congo at the behest of the United Nations shortly after independence (and has maintained membership since that time); Nigeria also supported several Pan African and pro-self government causes in the 1970s, including garnering support for Angola’s MPLA, SWAPO in Namibia, and aiding anti-colonial struggles in Mozambique, and Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) military and economically.
Nigeria retains membership in the Non-Aligned Movement, and in late November 2006 organized an Africa-South America Summit in Abuja to promote what some attendees termed “South-South” linkages on a variety of fronts. Nigeria is also a member of the International Criminal Court, and the Commonwealth of Nations, from which it was temporarily expelled in 1995 under the Abacha regime.
Nigeria has remained a key player in the international oil industry since the 1970s, and maintains membership in Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC which it joined in July, 1971. Its status as a major petroleum producer figures prominently in its sometimes vicissitudinous international relations with both developed countries, notably the United States and more recently China and developing countries, notably Ghana, Jamaica and Kenya.
Millions of Nigerians have emigrated at times of economic hardship to Europe, North America and Australia among others. It is estimated that over a million Nigerians have emigrated to the United States and constitute the Nigerian American populace. Of such Diasporic communities include the “Egbe Omo Yoruba” society.
Military of Nigeria
The military in Nigeria have played a major role in the country’s history since independence. Various juntas have seized control of the country and ruled it through most of its history. Its last period of rule ended in 1999 following the sudden death of dictator Sani Abacha in 1998.
Taking advantage of its role of sub-Saharan Africa’s most populated country, Nigeria has repositioned its military as an African peacekeeping force. Since 1995, the Nigerian military through ECOMOG mandates have been deployed as peacekeepers in Liberia (1997), Ivory Coast (1997-1999), Sierra Leone 1997-1999, and presently in Sudan’s Darfur region under an African Union mandate.
Active duty personnel in the three Nigerian armed services total approximately 115,000. The Nigerian Army, the largest of the services, has about 99,000 personnel deployed in two mechanized infantry divisions, one armoured division, one composite division (airborne and amphibious), the Lagos Garrison Command (a division size unit), the Abuja-based Brigade of Guards and other regimental size units (e.g. artillery brigade). It has demonstrated its capability to mobilize, deploy, and sustain battalions in support of peacekeeping operations in Liberia, former Yugoslavia, Angola, Rwanda, Somalia, and Sierra Leone. The Nigerian Navy (7,000 members) is equipped with frigates, fast attack craft, corvettes, and coastal patrol boats. The Nigerian Air Force (9,000 members) flies transport, trainer, helicopter, and fighter aircraft, many of which are currently non-operational, but there is an ongoing policy of reorganization, and the provision of a very professional armed forces with high capability. Nigeria also has pursued a policy of developing domestic training and military production capabilities.
Nigeria has continued a strict policy of diversification in military procurement from various countries. After the imposition of sanctions by many Western nations, Nigeria turned to the People’s Republic of China, Russia, North Korea, and India for the purchase of military equipment and training.