Section 1: The Making of the Modern Nigerian State By: Fayanne Betan, Ara Weiner, Jennifer Chan, Malcolm Halle, Raphey Bergman

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Section 1: The Making of the Modern Nigerian State

  • By:

  • Fayanne Betan, Ara Weiner, Jennifer Chan, Malcolm Halle, Raphey Bergman

Guiding Questions

  • How did colonial rule impact Nigeria’s development?

  • How have ethnic identities shaped Nigeria’s current state? 

  • How is Nigeria a fragile collective identity?

  • How are the four Republics similar/different?  Does the current one promise success?

  • Can a military based state succeed democratically? 

Basic Information

  • Administrative Structure

  • -Federation of 36 states plus Federal Capital Territory

  • -Three tiers of government; federal, state, and local

  • Executive

  • -US style presidential system under Olusegun Obasanjo

  • Legislature

  • -Bicameral civilian legislature (2003)

  • -109 senators elected on the basis of equal representation

  • 3 from each state and one from the FCT

  • -360 members of the House of Representatives elected from single-member districts.

Basic Information

  • Judiciary

  • -Network of local and district courts and also state level courts.

  • -The state level judiciaries are subordinate to the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Nigeria

  • -Consists of 15 appointed associate justices and the chief justice.

  • -Every state of the federation can also opt to establish a system of Islamic Law (shari’a) courts for cases involving only Muslims in customary disputes.

  • -The secular courts retain supreme jurisdiction the general level if any conflict arises over which system to use.

  • -12 northern states since 1999 have also instituted the shari’a criminal code

  • -Non-Muslim states may also set up customary courts, based on local traditional jurisprudence

Important Vocabulary

  • Unfinished State A state characterized by instabilities and uncertainties that may render it susceptible to collapse as a coherent entity.

  • Jihad literally “struggle” Although often used to mean armed struggle against unbelievers, it can also mean spiritual struggle for more self-improvement.

  • Acephalous Societies literally “headless” societies. A number of traditional Nigerian societies, such as the Igbo in the precolonial period, lacked executive ruler-ship as we have come to conceive of it. Instead, the villages and clans were governed by committee or consensus.

  • Emirs traditional Islamic ruler. The emir preside over an emirate, or kingdom , in northern Nigeria.

  • Indirect Rule term used to describe the British style of colonialism in Nigeria and India in which local traditional rulers and political struts were used to help support the colonial governing structure.

  • Warrant Chiefs employed by the British colonial regime in Nigeria. A system in which “chiefs” were selected by the British to oversee certain legal matters and assist the colonial enterprise in governance and law enforcement in local areas.

  • Interventionist An interventionist state acts vigorously to shape the performance of major sectors of the economy

  • Autocracy a government in which one or a few rules has absolute power, thus, a dictatorship

The Pre-colonial Period (800-1900)

  • Early Nigerian civilizations used the Niger River to trade with other peoples.

  • Trade with Northern Africa put groups in contact with Arabic education and Islam

  • Rule of religious law (shari'a) controlled politics, emphasizing authority by the elite

  • Political organizations, especially among southern peole, did not usually go beyond the village level. Villages tended to conduct politics through kniship ties

  • Complex political identities formed: centralized governments formed in the South and small trading-states emerged in the north

  • Accountability was valued highly, leaders seen as representatives responsible for the good of the community

Colonial Rule and Its Impact (1860-1945)

  • British ruled indirectly through authoritarian rule (chiefs and natives were given control and accountable only to the British)

  • Nigeria became an interventionalist state

  • Chiefs became interested in governing for self-benefit

  • Christianity spread throughout the south and west, creating a religious split with the northern Muslims

  • 3 ethnic identities: Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yaraba.

  • Identities appeared because 1) British pitted colonies against each other and 2) Independence leaders appealed to groups

Colonial Rule and Its Impact (1860-1945)

  • Rich natural resources attracted foreigners and exploitation of Nigerian labor

  • British played off ethnic and social divisions to keep Nigerians from developing organized political resistance to colonial rule  strengthened the collective identities of the multiple ethnic groups

  • Hausa-Fulani in the North, Yoruba in the West and Igbo in the East

  • North  Indirect Rule: British colonial administrators worked through Muslim emirates

  • South  Direct Rule

  • When the British left in 1960, Nigeria was left with a conflicted democratic idea: formal democratic institutions yet an authoritarian political culture

  • October 1st 1960: Full Independence (4th Constitution in 15 years)

Divisive Identities: Ethnic Politics Under Colonialism (1945-1960)

  • While under British rule, division between the ethnic groups was very apparent because of the arbitrary borders set up by the British.

  • When the British gradually pulled out of Nigeria, the unity of the anticolonial group deteriorated and ethnic leaders turned back to their own groups, resulting in political competition.

  • Local educated elites headed these competing ethnic groups.

  • Originally, these associations were nonpolitical and were primarily concerned with housing, education, and culture.

  • More ambitious leaders pushed these groups to enter politics, creating the first political party. The National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (later renamed the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens, NCNC.)

  • 1954 – Seeing the division amongst the ethnicities, the British divided Nigeria into three regions with elected governments, which reinforced division instead.

  • Each of the three regions fell under the domination of one major ethnic group and their parties.

  • Northern RegionNorthern Peoples Congress (Hausa-Fulani), Western RegionAction Group (Yoruba), Eastern RegionNCNC

The First Republic (1960-1966)

  • 1960 – Nigerian Independence

  • Nigerians adopt the British Westminster model of governance at the federal and regional levels. The prime minister was chosen by the majority party.

  • Northerners dominated the country because of their greater population.

  • Because the entire country did not receive benefits from colonialism, the northerners set out to redistribute wealth to themselves.

  • The Action Group of the Western Region faced internal conflicts and the CPC subdivided the Western Region.

  • Violence erupted amongst the Yoruba people because the NPC government was highly corrupt.

  • A false census report, electoral fraud, and violence resulted in a damaged NPC victory in 1965.

  • The NPC had a coalition with the NCNC, but when the NPC held an absolute majority in parliament, the coalition disintegrated.

  • Nnamdi Azikiwe, a NCNC leader and President of the First Republic, and Tafawa Balewa, the NPC prime minister, went to the military asking for help in the future if necessary.

Civil War and Military Rule (1966-1979)

  • Igbo officers seized power in January of 1966.

  • Aguiyi Ironsi became the head of state.

  • His announced aim was to end violence in the Western Region and to stop political corruption and abuses by the northern dominated government by centralizing the state apparatus,.

  • A second coup in July 1966 killed Ironsi and brought Yakubu Gowon, a Middle Belt Christian to power.

  • After the second coup tremendous backlash against Igbos flared in parts of the country.

  • Gowon build a military-led government of national unity in what remained of Nigeria (North and West), and after a bloody 3 year war of attrition and starvation tactics.

  • Over a million people died.

  • After the war Gowon increased the armed forces and corruption was widespread. He was overthrown by Murtala Muhammad.

  • Muhammed was committed to the restoration of democracy, but he was assassinated in 1976

  • Olusegun Obasanjo took power.

The Second and Third Republics, and Predatory Military Rule (1979-1999)

  • President: Shehu Shagari, National Party of Nigeria

  • Regional and ethnic polarization persisted

  • The economy deteriorated rapidly

  • Conspicuous misconduct of politicians and political parties eroded the legitimacy of civil rule

  • Factional infighting, weak leadership, declining public services, chronic economic mismanagement, political scandals and growing political violence increase public resistance towards the civil regime

  • 1983: the National Party of Nigeria captured majorities in the 1983 state and national elections through massive fraud and violence  a few months later, Major General Muhammadu Buhari and the military seized power

The Second and Third Republics, and Predatory Military Rule (1979-1999)

  • General Buhari refused to pledge a rapid return to democratic rule and failed to revive the plummeting economy  his popularity greatly fell

  • August 1985: General Ibrahim Babangida seize power

  • Despite Babangida’s promise to return to democratic rule, he took part in an elaborate series of stalling tactics in order to extend his rule

  • June 12 1993: Babangida annulled the presidential elections

  • Babangida could not resist the pressure to resign  Handpick his successor: Ernest Shonekan (he had no mandate or public foundation

The Second and Third Republics, and Predatory Military Rule (1979-1999)

  • Shonekan’s government was never legitimizes by the public

  • General Sani Abacha (defense minister under Babangida) sized power from Shonekan in November 1993

  • Abacha announced a new program of transition to civil rule and regularly delayed the steps in its implementation – like Babangida

  • Cracked down on political opposition, severely constricted civil liberties and political rights

  • General Abubakar, Abacha’s successor, quickly established a new transition program and handed it over to an elected civil government led by President Obassanjo

The Fourth Republic (1999-the present)

  • -After Abacha's death in 1998, Abdulsalami Abubakar established a transition program and handed it over to the elected civilian government led by President Olusegun Obasanjo and the people's Democratic Party (PDP) in May 1999.

  • -The PDP leaders called Obasanjo to run for president because even though he was a Yoruba he gave the northerner Shehu Shagari power as military head of state at the beginning of the Second Republic in 1979.  Obasanjo was the tie between the northern political establishment because they felt he was a Yoruba candidate they could trust.

  • -Obasanjo was not strongly supported by his own people (Yorubas), but took the 1999 presidency.

  • -He set out to reform the state and economy.

  • -He retired all the military officers who had held positions under past military governments.

  • -Looked for new managment for the oil sector.

  • -Tried to get foreign governments to forgive Nigeria's massive debts.

The Fourth Republic (1999-the present)

  • -Set up anticorruption commission.

  • -Pushed to get more of the oil revenues to go towards the Niger Delta region where the oil was taken from.

  • -Renewed political freedoms allowed civil society groups to develop.

  • -Media exposed more of the corruption within the government.

  •  -Corruption spread among new and old politicians in all levels of government, taking money from public funds.

  • -Obasanjo was disdainful of the National Assembly and was threatened with impeachment.

  • -Called a National Political Reform Conference in 2005 to review the constitution and structure of the government


  • “Fix Nigeria” Project

    • Created by The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
    • Main Objective: to fight corruption in Nigeria.

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