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Nigeria A Stable Nation

As most governments do struggle when changing over into a new form of government, with hope to better its people, Nigeria is no exception. After 16 years of military dictatorship, three republics, many riots and protests, and about seven coups and/or overthrows, the new Federal Republic of Nigeria adopted a new constitution in 1999, and held honest, fair civilian elections (for the first time in almost two decades) to hopefully ease all of the religious, cultural and militant related tension in Nigeria.

Only having about twice the area of the state of California, but with over *three and a half times the population (California Department of Finance, Demographic Research Unit, from the 2000 census), and having so much corruption and so little previous experience with a working system of government, and lacking any non-oppressed form of media, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the new Nigerian government (the third republic) might struggle for a while, but in the long run collapse, and fail.

It is just like their past two republics, that started off mimicking either the British or American style, but after a while some militant goon, thought it wasn’t getting anywhere, and just took over. As long as there’s a military, they will always have power, and will always have the upper hand, in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A short history: the original republic started back when the got their independence from Great Britain, on October 1, 1960, and their government was designed after the system of their recent proprietor, the UK.

The independent Nigeria was compiled of three ethnic states: the Hausa kingdom, from the north, the Yoruba, which dominated the South and the west, and the Ibo, of the south and the east, all united as one federation (Jim Jones, 1998). The first republic’s system was set up with a prime minister, and a parliament, which were both dominated by the Hausa’s National People’s Congress (NPC), which lasted a good five years until new elections led the Igbo (a minority group from the north – Hausa) civil servants to maintain authority over most of the west and the Yoruba nation.

This angered the Yoruba, who had been struggling with the Hausa for many years, and caused riots, until January 1966, when the Nigerian army held their first coup, directed at the Igbo, leaving over 30,000 dead, and a country without a stable leader/government. Those of the Igbo culture that had survived the massacre fled to Southeast Nigeria (full of rich, moneymaking soil, starting the Republic of Biafra, almost immediately being sought out and at war against Nigeria.

Jones, 1998, chart on African History) Later in May, 1967, the Nigerian General Yakubu Gowon pronounced himself as the country’s new chief, and started things off by abolishing the old three state system, and changed it to a federation of twelve states, weakening local governments, but strengthened the military’s power, and the even the federal government, should the army succumb the slightest bit of control.

In 1974, Gowon promised to return the system back to civilian rule, in the year 1976, but in October of the next year, there was another coup directed by General Murtala Muhammad, who held power until General Olusegun Obasanjo succeeded him, in 1976. Under Obasanjo, the constitution was amended so that there would be 19 states, instead of twelve, and under rule of parliament, civilian control was resumed. The constitution was changed so that the country had more “checks and balances,” imitating more of an American style, than a British one, and that there would be fair elections with parties in competing with one another.

In 1979, the first election of the Second Federation of Nigeria took place, where five parties honestly competed, and Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) became president. During the time when General Obasanjo was in “office,” oil prices skyrocketed and Nigeria’s economy boomed, but in 1981, that boom was depleted, and caused over one million non-Nigerian workers to be exploited, caused strikes, and caused tension between classes and cultures to bubble up in a cauldron of hatred.

The president, Shehu Shagari was blamed. A few years later, during the second republic’s second elections, the incumbent Shehu Shagari was once again elected, in September of 1983, and stayed in office until the third Nigerian coup occurred, on New Year’s Eve, of that year; led by Major-General Muhammed Buhari. His first acts were suspending the proficient constitution of 1979, and arresting former president Shehu Shagari, along with many other politicians.

Within his first couple years of being in charge, Buhari tried to seek out corruption amongst the media and industrial life, but it turned the country against journalists and the media, and denying public opinion, as credible. Just as Buhari gained authority, he lost it: another coup, this time leaving General Ibrahim Babangida. General Babangida, whom I consider a bad leader, soon tried to economically structure the country with strategies that barely benefited the economy, and gravely hurt all but the rich.

Also, in 1987, he delayed the date of which politicians could rule the country again back from fall of 1990, to October 1992, in hopes that he would remain in office until then, and hopefully win over public support. According to his Austerity program, to help the economy, he lowered government funding and subsidies, so transporters had to double their prices, only to result in the lowering of fuel prices, mutating the country into a black market, and smuggler infested quagmire.

In 1988, 77% of the countries taxes/income came from oil, and ended up taking in 87% of the country’s export income, leaving the country quite susceptible to price fluctuations, and lowered its GDP by $580 per capita, in 1989 to $250. Within the next three years, the per capita income would only reach $395, leaving Nigeria a low-income country (according to the World Bank), for the first time since its independence, almost thirty years prior. (Metz, 1991)

Within the next few years, Babangida and his government refused to permit over a dozen political parties to exist, while supporting only two parties to be legal (the SDP and the RNC). To ensure his position in the future civilian elections (only three years away), Babangida outlawed former politicians to run for office (kind of like what happened in communist Soviet Union). Within three years of each other, Babangida had approved of twenty new states to join the federation, and almost a gross of local government districts to be set up.

Just in time for local, and governor elections, the government repealed its anti-veteran politican campaigns, and allowed them to be included in politics, only to have a new wave of innovative politicians to dominate, and take over local governments. The intimidated General Babangida pushed the civilian elections back three months, and then in October 1992, during the presidential primaries, there was an outbreak of confusion from all the illegal incidents that occurred from corruption.

There was madness and violence from boycotts. So once again the panic-stricken Babangida drove the elections back, this time to the summer of 1993, after canceling the elections and banning both parties’ candidates. However, the new candidates were also both accused of corruption, but it didn’t affect the outcome, leaving Moshood Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), as the winner, until June 26, 1993, when Babangida nationally announced that the elections were void, due to corruption, and arrested Abiola.

A country without a leader is kind of like a dog without an owner, so Babangida began a temporary military government, and ran it like a business, under Ernest Shonekan, leading to many outbursts of disgust, including the infamous Movement for the Advancement of Democracy (MAD), whom hijacked a “Nigerian Airways Airbus 3/OA Am, on a scheduled flight to Abuja from Lagos after the aircraft was forced to land in Niamey, the capital of the Republic of Niger. ” (Ganiyu Obaaro, 2002) In February 2002, four of the five boys were released from prison (their leader was released two years previous).

In November 1993, the senate impeached the senate president, a member of the SDP, and “radical” against this temporary government. Events such as those, led to anger and rioting, and a nation in turmoil, with too many wacky rules. Finally, somebody did something about this: it was General Sani Abacha, who took over private control of the government, (have we been counting? That’s 7). He abolished the constitution, and kept the local and state officials under militant control, sort of as assured support.

General Abacha’s totalitarian government was brutal, executing many who spoke out against the government, including many political protesters who opposed the governments programs and policies. However, with programs like the “Petroleum Trust Fund,” and by other strategies (scams) to reduce inflations, the economy was once again failing, so the price of oil/gasoline inclined by 338%, while a 5% tax increase took place, just in time for the sneaky government to diminish the currency value by almost 400%. (Jones, 1998)

Nigeria was at an all time low, financially and morally, but just as fate struck General Sani Abacha with luck, to help him cease and take control; it also took it away from him, which he deserved. One of Abacha’s most threatening political opponents, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, had been jailed under Abacha’s government, and as his days in prison dragged on, his sanitary living conditions and health began to wane. In December of 1997, former vice president, and current enemy of Abacha, Yar’Adua, died unexpectedly in prison, with charges that he had been poisoned, right at the height of Abacha’s dictatorship government’s success/corruption.

Just as Abacha slowly killed or refused freedom of his enemies, his oppressor, his physical limitations, did the same to him. On June 15, 1998, General/President Abacha died of an unforeseen heart attack, once again leaving the country without a leader, so the Provisional Ruling Council immediately swore in General Abdusalam Abubakar, with hopes that he would fulfill the unfinished duties of Abachar. However, General Abubakar didn’t find himself fit for the job, at least not as fit as a honestly elected President, so right off the bat, he scheduled civilian government elections, for summer of the following year.

Though Abiola (who won elections back in 1993, until Babangida imprisoned him) was to soon be released from prison, and once again run for office, he died a few months before he got his chance. On May 29th of 1999, former leader of Nigeria (the one who restored civilian rule for the second republic), General Olusegun Obasanjo, became the first president of the Third Republic of Nigeria, and the first elected president to take office since 1983.

The president is the head of the government, and the chief of state, and just like in the American system, cannot hold more than two terms, of four years each; Obasanjo is currently president until the next elections, in an undeclared month in 2003. The president’s cabinet is called the Federal Executive Council, which consists of 28 different departments, such as defense, agriculture and employment (just like the U. S. ), each one overseen by some appointed minister.

The Nigerian government is a “civilian government devised by the present Federal Military Government (FMG) in which the President has final say over any democratic decisions made. ” (Oduaran and Okukpon, 1997), which is divided up into three branches: the Executive, legislative, and the Judicial. The legislative branch of the Nigerian government is a bicameral National Assembly, consisting of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives (very original). There are 109 seats in the Senate, which is devised by taking three senators from each of the 36 states, and one who represents the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.

There are 360 members in the House, where members are elected by popular vote in a proportionally represented way. In both houses the members are elected to a four-year term. In the Judicial branch, there exists a Supreme Court, which is there to interpret the laws of the 1999 constitution, and the Federal Court of Appeal (a federal appeals court). The judges (not justices) in the Supreme Court are appointed by the Provisional Ruling Council, not the president, and those of the Federal Court of Appeal are appointed by the federal government itself, but under the advice of the highly regarded Advisory Judicial Committee.

The Provisional Ruling Council is one of the two highest decision making bodies in Nigeria (the other one being the Armed Forces Ruling Council of Nigeria). On the local level, the state governments are also made up of these three branches (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial). The main differences of the local government are that the governor is in charge of the executive branch, and the legislative branch is consisted of state senators and the state house of representatives.

Nigeria is the single most populated country in all of Africa, containing the largest area of all of the Western African states. During the 80’s and the 90’s, even when it was struggling near the decade change, Nigeria has always been Africa’s second richest country (right behind South Africa). The Nigerian currency, the Naira, isn’t even worth 2% of the American dollar ($1 = 56. 71 Naira), but because of the country’s rich oil, infested land, the country’s GNP has risen over the past decade (ever since the world oil crisis of the 80’s) and last year was 35. illion dollars, however, the GDP per Capita has been one of the world’s lowest.

There economy has traditionally been based on agriculture, and even today half of the work force live/work on farms. Petroleum has been the leading mineral produced there, and it can be found all around Nigeria: in the bights of Benin and Biafra (oil was the leading reason for the Biafran war), near the Niger delta, and along the Cameroon border (which has caused many disputes in the past, and probably will in the future).

Nigeria has earned a lot exporting than what it spends on imports, since it needs so little, and only in recent years, when crop production has fallen has Nigeria needed to import food, since its farms raise cattle, poultry, goats, and even sheep. Some of the essential crops are sorghum, millet, soybeans, nuts, corn, yams, rice, palm products, and rubber. The country also extracts many oil/petroleum products, gold, iron ore, limestone, coal, and tin. The main exports are oil, cocoa, rubber, footwear, ceramics, and a lot of the other crops and extracts that were mentioned.

Nigeria has a good foreign policy and good world relations, including many of its chief trade partners such as Great Britian, the United States, France, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada and Japan. Despite all the profits and growth, three out of the past five years (not including 2002), the economy’s inflation has been in double digits, including 29. 3% in 1996, and despite all of the benefits, Nigeria has been involved in many disputes over territory and ownership of natural products, that contain rich, economy boosting profits – usually oil.

Metz, 1991) (the Market Information and Analysis Unit, 2001) (DFAT, September 2001) Though Nigeria seems like a profitable country, its GDP per capita is less than $1000 (less than 3% of that of the US), all because most of the profit power has come from the Ibo people of the South and East, who only make up about 18% of the country’s population. The Ibo men do most of the business/productivity, since women aren’t allowed to participate much, in most of Nigeria.

The Yoruba women are some of the few that are pretty much considered equal: they can own land and make money/wealth. The reason that most of the country’s women aren’t allowed to do much is because about half of the country is Muslim, and another 40% is of the Catholic faith. The northern half of Nigeria is prominently Muslim, the middle section is a mix between Muslims and Christians, and the far south is mostly Christian, except near the West, where the Yoruba have pretty much their own beliefs, mixed with some Protestant.

According to Fatima L. Adamu, a well-established activist, “interpretations of Islam have been used to exclude women’s access to participate in politics,” and to a lesser extent, another activist Molara Ogundipe-Leslie states: “the oppression of a married women takes many forms: first, she loses status by being married” (a mere possession to measure pride), “at the base of society- the women as daughter or sister has greater status and more rights…she becomes a possession, voiceless, and often rightless in her husband’s family, except …through her children. ”

Women’s rights only go as far as her husband will allow, and even though you are allowed to vote at the age of 18, regardless of gender, if a husband permits his wife/wives to vote, or tells her to vote a certain way, its best that she listens. Other such matters as divorce, child custody, marriage, and even possessions are governed by Islamic rules in most of the North, where the Shari’ah courts, those that practice Islamic law, remain the most widely acceptable and used legal system, by many, over the more fair, and less gender-biased civil courts.

In the north (according to Islamic law), a wife cannot divorce her husband, though he can do it to her at any time, leaving her homeless, without possessions/materials/money and childless. Most of the times the women/wife has to submit to male supremacy or “face the blame from the total society. ” (Fatima L. Aduma) The husband may also fall victim to peer pressure, also coming from society and history, which often encourages the husband to drift towards male dominance, and teaches the women to stand down, and be quite submissive.

Men are allowed to have more than one wife, but women aren’t allowed to have any outside influences, which pretty much means other than her sons (which are preferred over daughters), there is only one man in her life. Many husbands consider Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which is widely accepted in the country, amongst all religious groups, so that once the man is done having children with her (which is his choice, despite that she carries the child), and done with her in that aspect, he can force to have the surgery, so in fact, no other guy can “have” her.

Even though the government and the “moral majority” have publicly opposed it, Female Genital Mutilation is still not illegal, and definitely still used. (Oduaran and Okukpon, 1997) According to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, official website (http://www. un. g/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/), Nigeria was one of the many UN countries that had ratified the convention, which states women’s specific right to housing and the related rights of women to own, administer, and manage property, but has done nothing to enforce the law within the boundaries of Nigeria, and in no way have they attempted to add it to the constitution. Over 90% of all property, and/or family owned lands in Nigeria happen to be registered in men’s names.

Also, approximately only about 38 percent of the men in Nigeria (in 1997) were illiterate, while barely that amount, only 39 percent, of women could read (Oduaran and Okukpon, 1997). Perhaps it is truths like these that keep most of the female population of this country tied up in shackles, because in the later half of the 90’s, somewhere around 35 and 45 percent of the women were working for wages, and even though their numbers in the work force go up, still less than 10 percent of Nigerian citizen women held any significant job, such as managerial or administrative positions. (Seager, 1999).

Though there has been a few women politicians, and office holders, there has never been a female in either of the two major decision making bodies in Nigeria: the Armed Forces Ruling Council (military decisions, very important), which existed in the days of the military dictatorship and the still existing Provinical Ruling Council. Despite all of the tension between Nigerians of different religions, genders, and of course ethnic groups, there has always been somebody looking out for these guys, ready to take action whenever the pressure was cooking, and I’m sure they’ll be ready in the future.

It’s the military. The military branch, though less powerful in the last five years, currently have over 77,000 troops, and that seems to be one of the many reasons that the military is by far the highest power in the country. Over 80% of all of Nigeria’s leaders have been a high-ranking officer, from the military. No matter how much power the federal democratic government thinks it has, there has always been that instigator, and problem solver, always asking if they think they’re making the right move, and won’t let you know until it’s too late (Lyman & Cotton, 2000).

Seven times in the past thirty years, has some military dictator just come right along in, either overthrowing or by performing a coup, and decided he wanted to take control. It’s happened to many times in the past to deny it could happen again, and since all the tension is building up again, and with elections coming up next year, someone might just be unhappy enough to repeat history.

Lately, in Nigeria, the same old story has been going on, about disputes with neighbors, especially Cameroon about ownership of the oil, and other oil related stories. Back in early April, the Nigerian Supreme Court had declared that all oil found offshore belonged to the federal government (Onishi, New York Times). A few years ago, in June of 1997, Nigeria’s military intervened in Sierrra Leone and Liberia, to ease tensions starting up there, proving itself as West Africa’s super power, peace keeper. (French, 1997, New York Times).

Also, a few months ago, the Justice Ministery ordered those regions that based its law on that of the Islamic religion to ease penalties (such as death by stoning, for adultery convicts), which is just another example of how the government is trying to ease tensions and become more civilized and humane, so history won’t repeat itself (Onishi, NY times, 2001) . In a country where they give you free education until your 15, almost half of the population is between the ages of 15 and 60, while less than two percent make it over the age of 62.

In an unsanitary, country, that’s plagued with AIDS, and other major health problems like cerebrospinal meningitis, yellow fever, Lassa fever, malaria, guinea worm, and a spreading suffering of malnutrition, only three percent of deaths are from natural causes, and almost one whole percent of infants die before they can walk. Though it is its own independent country, it still needs help, because they only have one hospital bed for every 1,070 people, and the country is quite unstable; a coup could break out at anytime, leaving many dead wounded, and there would be not enough room to take care of all of them.

In fact, only a few years ago, over 700 people died in South Nigeria, a whole bunch of free loaders trying to smuggle themselves some oil, so they could have some money, but then a pipeline ruptured, leaving many wounded, and many who should have been saved, but due to the lack of hospitals, and doctors, many of the 700 died when they shouldn’t have (Reuters, 1998, NY Times). It’s things like these that set people off, and make them want more, and might even spark a revolution, or a coup or something.

Over the past forty years, there have been many things that just keep piling on, and adding up: tensions between race, or religion, gender, money issues, but since this third republic took place, most of these matters have seemed to cool down a bit, and the country seems to be headed in a more stable direction. However, I’m sure it seemed like that the past seven times that someone took over, but in someone else’s eyes, it wasn’t good enough. Throughout the course of this essay, enough reasons have been established and pointed out to prove that another coup can take place at anytime.

Nigeria has never been a very stable or reliable place; economically, morally, and especially militarily. Who knows, right as we speak someone might be planning to takeover Nigeria, but then again, we never do know. In fact, right now, someone might be planning to take over the U. S. , but it’s highly unlikely that they will succeed, since we are quite stable, and have many allies. However, Nigeria has friends, including the UN backing it up, but sometimes you can have all the power in the world, and some internal problems might be the end of you, and nobody can stop something that’s been brewing up inside for a little too long (Jones 1998).

Maybe there were chances to stop it, but maybe this spurted overnight, and might just breakout tomorrow morning. If the military has the numbers, and the artillery, then not even the most powerful nation can intervene and stop a coup. Nobody has stopped it the past six times, and even though Nigeria is much more established now, and much more have a stable, and peace making country, it is still never enough. Since the third republic started, three years ago, Nigeria has not made enough progress to rid its country of all that has picked it apart before: tension and hatred. Keep watching the news; you might just see it coming.

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