Politics in Nigeria is a complex and multifaceted subject with a rich and often tumultuous history. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with over 200 million people and more than 250 ethnic groups. Since it gained independence from Britain in 1960, Nigeria has struggled to establish stable and effective democratic institutions.
Despite this however, the country has made some significant strides in recent years with a peaceful transition of power in 2015 and the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari four years later. In this article, we will explore the Nigeria political history, the current landscape, and the challenges facing the country.
Nigeria’s modern political history dates back to the early 20th century when the country was still a British colony. The first political parties were formed in the 1940s, with the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) and the Action Group (AG) emerging as the two dominant parties. These parties were largely based on regional and ethnic affiliations, with the NCNC drawing support from the Igbo people of the east and the AG from the Yoruba people of the west.
After independence in 1960, Nigeria was governed by a series of civilian and military governments. The first republic lasted from 1960 to 1966 and was marked by political instability, economic challenges, and ethnic tensions. The government was overthrown in a military coup in 1966, leading to a series of military regimes that lasted until 1999.
Nigeria experienced widespread corruption, human rights abuses, and economic mismanagement during the military era. However, the country did make some progress in certain areas, such as education and healthcare. In 1999, a new constitution was drafted by the military regime of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, paving the way for the return of civilian rule.
Current Political Landscape
Nigeria is a federal republic with a presidential system of government. The president is both the head of state and the head of government and is elected for a four-year term and a maximum of two terms. The National Assembly is composed of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives, and is responsible for making laws. The judiciary – the independent body tasked with the interpretation of the constitution and laws of the land – forms the third arm of the government.
The Road to Democracy
The military regime of Gen. Gbadamosi Ibrahim Babangida began the transition programme in 1990 and this ultimately ended with the controversial annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
Under the two-party system the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) produced candidates for the election. The SDP fielded Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, a philanthropist and business tycoon from the South-West and Alhaji Bashir Tofa, a business tycoon from the North-West, represented the NRC.
Local and foreign observers generally rated the elections as free and fair, making them possibly the freest and fairest the nation has seen since its attempts at electioneering. MKO Abiola, the SDP candidate, received over 8 million votes and won in 19 states, whereas Bashir Tofa, the NRC candidate, received over 6 million votes and won in 10 states.
The election was ruled invalid by the head of state, General Babangida, despite the fact that it was clear from the results that MKO had won. The nation entered a time of upheaval and unrest as a result of this annulment. The South-West of the country saw the majority of the protests, agitations, and riots. Several human rights organizations urged the military and its commander to act honorably toward the nation. As a result of the ongoing unrest and other pressing problems, General Babangida eventually “stepped aside” from politics, and Gen. Sanni Abacha took over as head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He immediately arrested MKO on June 23, 1994, for claiming to be the president and began a crackdown on anyone who disagreed with the results of the invalidated elections.
Later, Chief MKO Abiola passed away in custody on July 7, 1998. Many Nigerians consider him to be the “father” of the democracy that exists today and refer to him as such because he paid the ultimate price to uphold democracy and his mandate.
In 1998, Gen. Abdulsami Abubakar, the then Head of State began the process of civilian transition. Elections were conducted on 27th February 1999, between People’s Democratic Party’s Olusegun Obasanjo, a retired military General and former Head of State between 1976 – 1979, and Chief Olu Falae who was running on a joint ticket of Alliance for Democracy and the All Peoples Party. The PDP’s Olusegun Obasanjo won the elections with over 18 million votes (62.78%) as against Chief Olu Falae’s 11 million votes (37.22%) and thus, the current democratic dispensation began.
The current president, Muhammadu Buhari, was elected in 2015 on a platform of anti-corruption and security. Buhari, a former military ruler, had previously served as the country’s Head of State from 1983 to 1985. His rule as Head of State was ended by a military coup which brought in Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babangida as the next Military Head of State.
In 2015, there were fears and speculations as to the survival of Nigeria’s 15 years of democracy. The incumbent President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who had been in power since 2010, seemed to have fallen out of favour with the masses (due to several challenges which the country faced at the time, including widespread corruption, a struggling economy and a volatile security situation in the North-East where the Islamist Extremist group Boko Haram had been carrying out a reign of terror) and was seeking reelection against Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive’s Congress (APC), a former military ruler with a reputation of being a tough, no-nonsense leader of integrity, who could tackle Nigeria’s many problems head-on.
With Muhammadu Buhari allegedly winning the elections, the tension was doused when the incumbent, in an unprecedented manner, called to congratulate the opposition candidate who won the election. This singular move was celebrated by a lot of Nigerians and foreigners. It also earned the outgoing president several peace awards both in the National and International space.
With the two-term administration of President Mohammadu Buhari coming to an end on 29th May 2023, Nigerians trooped out on the 25th of February 2023 to elect a new president.
The elections of February 2023 were intriguing as they featured four major powers locking horns; the incumbent ruling party, the All Progressive’s Congress, with presidential aspirant Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) 71, two-term former governor of Lagos State, and national leader of the APC, against the People’s Democratic Party’s Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, 76, a regular contender in Nigerian elections since 1993, and a former vice president of the republic between 1999-2007, the New Nigerian Peoples Party’s (NNPP) Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, a two-term former governor of Kano state and leader of the Kwankwansiya movement, and the Labour Party’s (LP) Peter Gregory Obi, 62 also a two-term former governor of Anambra state and the leader and progenitor of “obedient movement “ as well as other lightweight contenders
The elections which saw the introduction of new technology, the Bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) machines and the INEC result viewing portal (IREV) to combat the hitherto prevalent electoral irregularities which had in previous elections allegedly marred its credibility, still recorded pockets of reported violence, ballot box snatching, voter intimidation, over-voting and underage voting amongst others in some areas.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, announced the All Progressive’s Congress (APC) candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the winner of the election having polled 8,794,726 votes (36.61%) to defeat the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar, who garnered 6,984,520 (29.07%) votes and 16 others in the election.
Peter Obi of the Labour Party and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (PDP) standard bearer, Rabiu Kwankwaso, garnered 6,101,533 (25.40%) and 1,496,687 (6.4%) votes respectively.
The opinions of Nigerians have since been divided over the conduct of the election and its results with some arguing it was a marked improvement from the previous ones, while others described it as a sham and demanded its outright cancellation.
However, former President Muhammadu Buhari gave INEC a pass mark for the effective conduct of the election and urged all aggrieved persons to seek redress in court.
The PDP and LP candidates are challenging the outcome of the election over alleged irregularities and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022 in the conduct of the election by INEC.
The duo also alleged that Tinubu did not score the mandatory 25 percent of the total votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and urged the tribunal to declare them as the winner of the election or order a fresh poll.
Fasehun Oyefunso O.
Programs Dept. Union Television
LiDa Broadcasting Systems.