Nigeria – Government
THE STORY OF NIGERIA during the post-colonial era has been one of a search for the constitutional and political arrangement that, while allowing for the self-expression of its socially and culturally diverse peoples, would not hinder the construction of a nation out of this mosaic. In this search, the country has experienced cycles of military and civilian rule, civil war, and peaceful reconstruction.
If any nation typified political scientist Richard Sklar’s characterization of the African continent as a “workshop of democracy,” it would certainly be Nigeria. The country has experimented with different federal, state, and local government systems, learning more about its needs, resources, and constraints with each experiment. Despite the predominance of military regimes during the three postcolonial decades, Nigerian society has retained many of the fundamental building blocks of a democratic polity: vigorous entrepreneurial classes, a broad intelligentsia and numerous centers of higher education, a dynamic legal community and judiciary, diverse and often outspoken media, and, increasingly, courageous human rights organizations.
Despite the differences in character and composition of the successive governments, it is still possible to identify the major threads of Nigeria’s institutional evolution. As the nation finds itself once more on the threshold of transition from military to civilian rule, promised for 1992, examination of these threads is essential for understanding the Nigeria that will become the Third Republic.
Nigeria is essentially an artificial creation, which, like most other African states, is a product of colonialism. This fact is central to understanding the country’s government and politics, which have been conditioned and bedeviled by the problems of accommodating several diversities: ethnic, linguistic (there are between 250 and 400 distinct languages), geopolitical, religious (there is a deepening cleavage between Christians and Muslims), and class.
Nigeria became politically independent on October 1, 1960, after about seven decades of colonial rule by the British. Prior to colonial rule, most of the groups that today make up the country were often distinguished by differences in history, culture, political development, and religion. The major differences among these precolonial groups pertained to their sociopolitical organization: anthropological and historical studies usually distinguish between societies that were centralized (“state”) and those that were noncentralized (“stateless”). To the former category belonged the Sokoto Caliphate and the emirates of the north that, together with the Kanem-Bornu Empire, were advanced Islamic theocracies. Also included in this category were the Benin, Oyo, and other western kingdoms, as well as the Igala Kingdom in the middle belt or lower north. In these centralized systems, there were clear divisions between the rulers and the ruled, usually based on wealth and ascribed status. Institutions of a distinctly political nature, as well as taxation systems, were already established. Of all the centralized systems, the Sokoto Caliphate with its vassal emirates had the most advanced form of state organization. Not surprisingly, it provided the model for the British colonial policy of indirect rule, i.e., the governance of indigenous peoples through their own institutions and rulers.
By contrast, in noncentralized systems such as those of the Igbo and other eastern and middle-belt groups, there was a diffusion of political, economic, and religious institutions and practices. Also to be found was a large measure of egalitarianism, democracy, and decentralized authority. Under the colonial policy of indirect rule, “traditional” rulers (known as warrant chiefs) were imposed on these stateless societies.
In the immediate precolonial period, a pronounced religious gulf separated the northern from the southern peoples. Islam had been introduced to the Hausa states and other northern parts in the fifteenth century, but it did not dominate until the jihad of 1804, which extended Islamic influence to most parts of the north and even to towns on the southern fringe, such as Oyo and Auchi. The southern peoples were devotees mainly of traditional religions who underwent increasing contact with, and exposure to, Europeans and Christianity. In some areas of the south, such as Benin and Warri, the penetration of Christianity dates to the fifteenth century. When the north experienced contact with Europeans much later, the spread of Christianity and other Western influences was slowed by the strong attachment to Islam. This fact explains in part the uneven rates of economic and educational development between the northern and southern peoples that have persisted to this day, with important consequences for government and politics.
It should not be assumed that the various population groups in precolonial Nigeria were completely separated from one another. Historians have established evidence of various forms of interaction among the peoples, the major ones being trade and superordinate-subordinate relationships. Powerful centralized systems, such as the Sokoto Caliphate and the Benin Empire, dominated several neighboring groups. Where no established group held sway over the others, as was the case among the Yoruba-speaking people in the nineteenth century, a pattern of conflicts and wars prevailed. On balance, there were pronounced differences among the people who later came to comprise Nigeria, especially when we consider the major regional groups. British rule did much to accentuate these differences and, in some cases, created new divisive sentiments. Even the nature of British conquest and the process by which its rule was established encouraged separate identities.
The conquest and colonization of the coastal area of Lagos and its hinterlands took place between 1861 and 1897. The conquest of the eastern region and the declaration of the Niger Coast Protectorate occurred in 1894. Finally, a third wave of penetration led to the declaration of a protectorate over the northern areas in 1900. In 1906 the colony of Lagos and the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria (which included the former Niger Coast Protectorate) were joined together to become the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. Finally, in 1914 the northern and southern protectorates were amalgamated to become the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria, although both parts continued to be administered separately.
During the period extending from amalgamation in 1914 to independence from colonial rule in 1960, Nigeria had four major constitutions, each named after the colonial governor who formulated it: the Clifford Constitution (1922), Richards Constitution (1946), Macpherson Constitution (1951), and Lyttleton Constitution (1954). Although the first two constitutions were virtually imposed on the country, the latter two involved some consultations with representatives of the people through constitutional conferences. At the Ibadan General Conference of 1950, Nigerian leaders agreed that only a federal system that allowed each of the three regions (north, west, and east as created by the Richards Constitution) to progress at its own pace would be acceptable. Until that point, the constitutions had a unitary orientation. In creating three regions and delegating some powers to them, the Richards Constitution was a forerunner of the later federal constitutions.
Although the regional leaders at the Ibadan conference had unequivocally declared their preference for federalism, the subsequent Macpherson Constitution was essentially unitary. It went farther than the Richards Constitution in devolving power to the regions but left the regions subordinate and closely tied to the central government. Because many Nigerian political leaders favored a federal system in which the regions enjoyed wide autonomy, the Macpherson Constitution engendered continuing opposition. Finally, in 1953, this constitution became unworkable.
Rather than self-government for the whole nation, the northerners wanted self-government as soon as practicable and only for any region that was ready for it. They believed that each region should progress politically at its own pace. When a constitutional conference was convened in London in 1953, a federal constitution that gave the regions significant autonomy eventually emerged. This Lyttleton Constitution was the one that remained in force, with slight amendments, until independence in 1960. It enabled the regions to become self-governing at their own pace: the two southern regions in 1956 and the northern region in 1959.
Several important developments that have continued to affect Nigeria’s government and politics in the postcolonial period marked the period of colonial rule. First, British colonial rule nurtured north-south separation, which has remained the classic cleavage in the country. In particular, after Lord Frederick Lugard’s pact with northern emirs to protect Islamic civilization, the north was shut off from much of the Westernizing influences to which the south was exposed. This protection gave the southern peoples a head start, especially in Western education. During the struggle for independence, northern leaders were afflicted by a constant fear of southern domination. Many of the northern responses to national politics to this day can be attributed to this fear. At the same time, with the creation of three regions that saw the northern region larger in size and population than the two southern regions, there was also a southern fear of northern domination. The image of a homogenous north, although contradicted by the cultural diversity of that region, continued in 1990 to feature prominently in most southerners’ perception of national politics.
Second, in creating largely artificial regions, the British fostered the cleavage between ethnic majority and minority groups. Each region contained the nucleus of a majority group that dominated in its respective region: the Hausa/Fulani in the north, the Yoruba in the west, and the Igbo in the east. The major political parties that emerged in the regions and controlled them were based on these groups. With regional autonomy, the major groups became the major “shareholders” of the federation. Power-sharing and political calculations have consequently centered on ensuring a balance of power among these groups. The minorities, feeling oppressed and dominated, agitated for separate states in the regions. Although a panel was appointed in 1956 to inquire into the fears of the minorities and to explore ways of allaying them, their requests were not met until after independence.
Third, the uneven rates of development among the groups, which generally coincided with regional boundaries, strengthened the forces of regionalism. The creed became north for northerners, west for westerners, and east for easterners. Despite the periodic creation of more states during the postcolonial period, these regionalist feelings continued to affect national politics, especially in the distribution of national resources. One manifestation of this tendency was the ceaseless disagreements and rancor over revenue allocation.
Another consequence of these regional and ethnic divisions was the fragmentation of the national elite. Unlike a few other African countries, Nigeria had no fully national leaders at independence. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo, who had the greatest potential for becoming a national leader, was forced by regionalist pressures to become a sectional leader. The other leaders during the postindependence period–Ahmadu Bello, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo, Michael Okpara, Samuel Akintola, and Aminu Kano–are best remembered as sectional leaders, even though they are usually called nationalists. This fractionalization of the political elite in turn reinforced ethnicity, regionalism, and religious conflicts, as these sentiments were often aroused in the competition for power, material resources, and privileges.
The colonial heritage, therefore, produced a country that was only weakly united. At some points, the regional leaders threatened to secede from the federation: in the early to mid- 1950s northern leaders contemplated separation after their humiliation by southerners because of their refusal to support a motion for achieving self-government in 1956; in 1954 the Western Region threatened to separate itself if the colony of Lagos were not made a part of that region. There were strong countervailing factors that prevented breakup of the federation. First, British colonial rule had held the country together as one unit. Second, the regions had economic complementarity. In particular, given the export orientation of the colonial economy, the landlocked northern region depended greatly on the southern regions that had access to the sea. Third, in the final days of colonial rule, Nigerian leaders recognized the advantages conferred by the country’s large size and population.
<>THE FIRST REPUBLIC
<>MILITARY INTERVENTION AND RULE
<>THE CIVIL SERVICE
Nigeria – THE FIRST REPUBLIC
Nigeria became independent on October 1, 1960. The period between this date and January 15, 1966, when the first military coup d’état took place, is generally referred to as the First Republic, although the country only became a republic on October 1, 1963. After a plebiscite in February 1961, the Northern Cameroons, which before then was administered separately within Nigeria, voted to join Nigeria.
At independence Nigeria had all the trappings of a democratic state and was indeed regarded as a beacon of hope for democracy. It had a federal constitution that guaranteed a large measure of autonomy to three (later four) regions; it operated a parliamentary democracy modeled along British lines that emphasized majority rule; the constitution included an elaborate bill of rights; and, unlike other African states that adopted one-party systems immediately after independence, the country had a functional, albeit regionally based, multiparty system.
These democratic trappings were not enough to guarantee the survival of the republic because of certain fundamental and structural weaknesses. Perhaps the most significant weakness was the disproportionate power of the north in the federation. The departing colonial authority had hoped that the development of national politics would forestall any sectional domination of power, but it underestimated the effects of a regionalized party system in a country where political power depended on population. The major political parties in the republic had emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s as regional parties whose main aim was to control power in their regions. The Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and the Action Group (AG), which controlled the Northern Region and the Western Region, respectively, clearly emerged in this way. The National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), which controlled the Eastern Region and the Midwestern Region (created in 1963), began as a nationalist party but was forced by the pressures of regionalism to become primarily an eastern party, albeit with strong pockets of support elsewhere in the federation. These regional parties were based upon, and derived their main support from, the major groups in their regions: NPC (Hausa/Fulani), AG (Yoruba), and NCNC (Igbo). A notable and more ideologically-based political party that never achieved significant power was Aminu Kano’s radical Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), which opposed the NPC in the north from its Kano base.
There were also several political movements formed by minority groups to press their demands for separate states. These minority parties also doubled as opposition parties in the regions and usually aligned themselves with the party in power in another region that supported their demands for a separate state. Ethnic minorities therefore enabled the regional parties to extend their influence beyond their regions.
In the general election of 1959 to determine which parties would rule in the immediate postcolonial period, the major ones won a majority of seats in their regions, but none emerged powerful enough to constitute a national government. A coalition government was formed by the NPC and NCNC, the former having been greatly favored by the departing colonial authority. The coalition provided a measure of north-south consensus that would not have been the case if the NCNC and AG had formed a coalition. Nnamdi Azikiwe (NCNC) became the governor general (and president after the country became a republic in 1963), Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (NPC) was named prime minister, and Obafemi Awolowo (AG) had to settle for leader of the opposition. The regional premiers were Ahmadu Bello (Northern Region, NPC), Samuel Akintola (Western Region, AG), Michael Okpara (Eastern Region, NCNC), and Dennis Osadebey (Midwestern Region, NCNC).
Among the difficulties of the republic were efforts of the NPC, the senior partner in the coalition government, to use the federal government’s increasing power in favor of the Northern Region. The balance rested on the premise that the Northern Region had the political advantage deriving from its preponderant size and population, and the two southern regions (initially the Eastern Region and the Western Region) had the economic advantage as sources of most of the exported agricultural products, in addition to their control of the federal bureaucracy. The NPC sought to redress northern economic and bureaucratic disadvantages. Under the First National Development Plan, many of the federal government’s projects and military establishments were allocated to the north. There was an “affirmative action” program by the government to recruit and train northerners, resulting in the appointment of less qualified northerners to federal public service positions, many replacing more qualified southerners. Actions such as these served to estrange the NCNC from its coalition partner. The reactions to the fear of northern dominance, and especially the steps taken by the NCNC to counter the political dominance of the north, accelerated the collapse of the young republic.
The southern parties, especially the embittered NCNC, had hoped that the regional power balance could be shifted if the 1962 census favored the south. Population determined the allocation of parliamentary seats on which the power of every region was based. Because population figures were also used in allocating revenue to the regions and in determining the viability of any proposed new region, the 1962 census was approached by all regions as a key contest for control of the federation. This contest led to various illegalities: inflated figures, electoral violence, falsification of results, manipulation of population figures, and the like. Although the chief census officer found evidence of more inflated figures in the southern regions, the northern region retained its numerical superiority. As could be expected, southern leaders rejected the results, leading to a cancellation of the census and to the holding of a fresh census in 1963. This population count was finally accepted after a protracted legal battle by the NCNC and gave the Northern Region a population of 29,758,975 out of the total of 55,620,268. These figures eliminated whatever hope the southerners had of ruling the federation.
Since the 1962-63 exercise, the size and distribution of the population have remained volatile political issues. In fact, the importance and sensitivity of a census count have increased because of the expanded use of population figures for revenue allocations, constituency delineation, allocations under the quota system of admissions into schools and employment, and the siting of industries and social amenities such as schools, hospitals, and post offices. Another census in 1973 failed, even though it was conducted by a military government that was less politicized than its civilian predecessor. What made the 1973 census particularly volatile was the fact that it was part of a transition plan by the military to hand over power to civilians. The provisional figures showed an increase for the states that were carved out of the former Northern Region with a combined 51.4 million people out of a total 79.8 million people. Old fears of domination were resurrected, and the stability of the federation was again seriously threatened. The provisional results were finally canceled in 1975. As of late 1990, no other census had been undertaken, although one was scheduled for 1991 as part of the transition to civilian rule. In the interim, Nigeria has relied on population projections based on 1963 census figures.
Other events also contributed to the collapse of the First Republic. In 1962, after a split in the leadership of the AG that led to a crisis in the Western Region, a state of emergency was declared in the region, and the federal government invoked its emergency powers to administer the region directly. These actions resulted in removing the AG from regional power. Awolowo, its leader, along with other AG leaders, was convicted of treasonable felony. Awolowo’s former deputy and premier of the Western Region formed a new party–the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP)–that took over the government. The federal coalition government also supported agitation of minority groups for a separate state to be excised from the Western Region. In 1963 the Midwestern Region was created.
By the time of the 1964 general elections, the first to be conducted solely by Nigerians, the country’s politics had become polarized into a competition between two opposing alliances. One was the Nigerian National Alliance made up of the NPC and NNDC; the other was the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA) composed of the NCNC, the AG, and their allies. Each of the regional parties openly intimidated its opponents in the campaigns. When it became clear that the neutrality of the Federal Electoral Commission could not be guaranteed, calls were made for the army to supervise the elections. The UPGA resolved to boycott the elections. When elections were finally held under conditions that were not free and were unfair to opponents of the regional parties, the NCNC was returned to power in the east and midwest, while the NPC kept control of the north and was also in a position to form a federal government on its own. The Western Region became the “theater of war” between the NNDP (and the NPC) and the AG-UPGA. The rescheduled regional elections late in 1965 were violent. The federal government refused to declare a state of emergency, and the military seized power on January 15, 1966. The First Republic had collapsed.
Scholars have made several attempts to explain the collapse. Some attribute it to the inappropriateness of the political institutions and processes and to their not being adequately entrenched under colonial rule, whereas others hold the elite responsible. Lacking a political culture to sustain democracy, politicians failed to play the political game according to established rules. The failure of the elite appears to have been a symptom rather than the cause of the problem. Because members of the elite lacked a material base for their aspirations, they resorted to control of state offices and resources. At the same time, the uneven rates of development among the various groups and regions invested the struggle for state power with a group character. These factors gave importance to group, ethnic, and regional conflicts that eventually contributed to the collapse of the republic.
The final explanation is closely related to all the foregoing. It holds that the regionalization of politics and, in particular, of party politics made the stability of the republic dependent on each party retaining control of its regional base. As long as this was so, there was a rough balance between the parties, as well as their respective regions. Once the federal government invoked its emergency powers in 1962 and removed the AG from power in the Western Region, the fragile balance on which the federation rested was disturbed. Attempts by the AG and NCNC to create a new equilibrium, or at least to return the status quo ante, only generated stronger opposition and hastened the collapse of the republic.
Nigeria – MILITARY INTERVENTION AND RULE
In most developing countries, there is a disruption of the civil-military equilibrium usually assumed in liberal democracies. In liberal tradition, the military is insulated from politics and subject to civilian control. In several developing countries, however, the military has not only intervened in the political process and overthrown the constitutional civilian authority, but it also often has established its supremacy over elected politicians. Even in those countries where the military has become almost a permanent feature of politics, military rule is still considered an aberration and symptomatic of a malfunctioning political system. In Nigeria, which typifies the scenario just presented, military rule was usually seen as a “rescue” operation necessary to save the country from civilian ineptitude. Military rule was not expected to last long; once the rescue operation was complete, the military should return to the barracks where they belonged and leave the governing to civilian politicians. The problem, however, was that although military officers accepted this rationale, military rule usually became self-sustaining.
From the onset of independent government in Nigeria in 1960 to the end of 1990, the military had ruled for twenty-one years. Altogether there were five coups d’état involving changes of government: those of January 15, 1966; July 29, 1966; July 29, 1975; December 31, 1983; and August 27, 1985. There was also an unsuccessful coup in which the head of state, General Murtala Muhammad, was killed in February 1976, and another was nipped in the bud in December 1985. An attempt to overthrow General Ibrahim Babangida was made in April 1990. Of these coups, only those of January 1966 and December 1983 were against civilian governments. Several explanations of military intervention have been added to those given by the coup plotters themselves. Whereas the latter have cited economic mismanagement and corruption, other explanations have ranged from the continuation of ethnoregional politics by military means to the personal ambitions of officers.
<>The 1966 Coups, Civil War, and Gowon’s Government
<>The Muhammad and Obasanjo Government
<>The Buhari Regime
<>The Babangida Government
Nigeria – The 1966 Coups, Civil War, and Gowon’s Government
By the time a disparate group of junior officers struck first in January 1966, the officers were still politically naive and had yet to master the art of coup planning and execution. This inexperience partly explains why Major Kaduna Nzeogwu and others who masterminded the coup, failed to take over state power. Instead, Major General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi, commander in chief of the army, became Nigeria’s first military ruler. Some of the remote causes of the coup included the use of soldiers to quell unrest, such as the riots among the Tiv people of the lower northern region, and calls on the military to supervise the 1964 elections. Whereas the latter involvement gave the soldiers a feeling of political efficacy, the beginnings of what came to be known as the “federal character” principle that sought to give each area some parity of representation, gave military personnel a sense of being sectional representatives. The coup of January 1966 was seen by many northerners as an attempt by the Igbo people of the east to dominate the federation. A successful countercoup six months later led by northern soldiers demonstrated the degree to which soldiers had become politicians in uniform.
The immediate reasons for the first-coup, however, concerned the nationwide disillusionment with the corrupt and selfish politicians, as well as with their inability to maintain law and order and guarantee the safety of lives and property. During the initial stages, Nzeogwu and his collaborators were hailed as national heroes. But the pattern of killings in the coup gave it a partisan appearance: killed were the prime minister, a northerner, the premier of the Northern Region, and the highest ranking northern army officers; only one Igbo officer lost his life. Also killed was the premier of the Western Region who was closely allied with the NPC.
General Ironsi, an Igbo, emerged as the head of state. In his policies and actions, Ironsi did little to allay the fears of Igbo domination. He failed to place the coup plotters on trial as northern leaders demanded, and he appointed Igbos to sensitive governmental positions. Against all advice, Ironsi promulgated Decree Number 34 of 1966, which abrogated the federal system of government and substituted a unitary system; he argued that the military could only govern in this way. Given the already charged atmosphere, this action reinforced northern fears. As the north was less developed than the south, a unitary system could easily lead to southerners “taking over control of everything,” as a northern spokesperson put it. It was at the height of northern opposition to unitarism that the countercoup of July 1966 took place. Most top-ranking Igbo officers, including Ironsi, lost their lives; the “status quo” of northern dominance was restored.
Lieutenant Colonel (later General) Yakubu Gowon, a Christian from the middle belt, became the head of state after the coup. His first act was to reinstate the federal system, along with the four regions and their allotted functions. But relations between the federal government and the Eastern Region, led by military governor Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, were very strained. In addition to the elimination of many Igbo officers during the July coup, a massive pogrom against Igbos occurred in the Northern Region. In September Colonel Gowon summoned an ad hoc constitutional conference to deliberate on the country’s political future. Most regional delegates to the conference, with the exception of those from the midwest, recommended a confederal system to replace the federal system. The delegates from the Eastern Region insisted that any region wishing to secede from the federation should be allowed to do so. The conference was ended abruptly by increased killings of Igbos in the north and the heightening of tensions between the federal government and the Eastern Region. A summit of military leaders at Aburi, Ghana, in January 1967 attempted to resolve the disagreements and recommended the establishment of a base confederation of regions. The Aburi Agreement became a source of contention, however.
In anticipation of eastern secession, Gowon moved quickly to weaken the support base of the region by decreeing the creation of twelve new states to replace the four regions. Six of these states contained minority groups that had demanded state creation since the 1950s. Gowon rightly calculated that the eastern minorities would not actively support the Igbos, given the prospect of having their own states if the secession effort were defeated. Many of the federal troops who fought the civil war, known as the Biafran War, to bring the Eastern Region back to the federation, were members of minority groups.
The war lasted thirty months and ended in January 1970. In accepting Biafra’ unconditional cease-fire, Gowon declared that there would be no victor and no vanquished. In this spirit, the years afterward were declared to be a period of rehabilitation, reconstruction, and reconciliation. The oil-price boom, which began as a result of the high price of crude oil (the country’s major revenue earner) in the world market in 1973, increased the federal government’s ability to undertake these tasks.
The postwar Gowon government issued a nine-point transition program that was to culminate in the handing over of power to a civilian government on October 1, 1976. The agenda of the transition included the reorganization of the armed forces, the completion of the establishment of the twelve states announced in 1967, a census, a new constitution, and elections.
Gowon initiated several nation-building policies, the most notable of which was the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), a community service institution that required one year of service by each Nigerian immediately after graduation from university or other institution of higher learning. Each member of the corps had to serve in a state other than his or her home state. More than 1 million graduates had served in this program by 1990.
The Gowon years also saw the oil boom and a buoyant economy. The federal government was encouraged to take on some responsibilities formally allocated to the states, especially in the area of education. It embarked on major infrastructural projects to transfer control of the economy from foreigners to Nigerians. The Nigerian Entreprises Promotion decree of 1972, which was expanded in 1977, stipulated that only Nigerians could participate in certain categories of business. In those in which foreign involvement was permitted, controlling shares had to be owned by Nigerians.
The structure of government under Gowon was basically unitarian. At the apex of government was the all-military Supreme Military Council (SMC), which was the lawmaking body for the entire federation. Its decrees could not be challenged in any law court. Most members of the SMC under Gowon were state governors. There was also a Federal Executive Council composed of military and civilian commissioners. The states also had commissioners appointed by the governor. The states were practically reduced to administrative units of the federal government, which in several domains made uniform laws for the country. This basic structure of military federalism has, with amendments, remained the same during all military governments in the country.
Nigeria – The Muhammad and Obasanjo Government
General Gowon was overthrown in a palace coup in July 1975 and succeeded by General Murtala Muhammad, who was in turn assassinated in an abortive coup on February 13, 1976. He was replaced by Olusegun Obasanjo, formerly his second in command. General Obasanjo basically continued the policies and plans of the Muhammad regime.
Murtala Muhammad, a Hausa from the north (Kano State), ruled for only seven months. Within that short period, he endeared himself to most Nigerians because of his strong leadership and the radical reforms he introduced in domestic and foreign policies. He “purged” the public-service ministries, universities, parastatals, and other government agencies at the federal and state levels of individuals accused of being corrupt, indolent, or inefficient. He set up a panel headed by Justice Ayo Irikefe to advise on the creation of more states. Its report led to the creation of seven additional states in 1976. Murtala Muhammad also set up a panel under Justice Akintola Aguda to consider whether a new federal capital should be created because of the congestion in Lagos. The panel recommended Abuja in the southern part of the former Northern Region as the site of a new capital. In economic matters, Murtala Muhammad introduced the “low-profile” policy, a radical departure from the ostentation of the Gowon era.
Although he retained the framework of military federalism, Murtala Muhammad removed state governors from membership in the SMC and created a new body in which they were included at the center, the National Council of States. Because this body was chaired by the head of state and subordinate to the SMC, its creation underscored the subordinate position of the state governments. This arrangement enabled the head of state to exert greater control over the state governors than had been the case under Gowon. In the area of foreign policy, Murtala Muhammad pursued a vigorous policy that placed Africa at the center and that involved active support for liberation movements in the continent.
Of all Murtala Muhammad’s actions, however, the one that had the most lasting consequences was a program of transition to civilian rule that he initiated before his death. The program was carried through as planned by his successor, Obasanjo. The stages of the transition agenda included the creation of more states, the reform of the local government system, the making of a new constitution, the formation of parties and, finally, the election of a new government. The transition process was to culminate in the handing over of power to civilians on October 1, 1979.
In February 1976, Murtala Muhammad was killed in an unsuccessful coup led by Colonel Bukar Dimka and officers from the middle belt; the coup appeared to be an attempt by middle-belt officers to bring back Gowon from his self-imposed exile and reinstate him as head of state. Obasanjo, a Yoruba and southerner, became head of state. Although unfavorably compared with Murtala Muhammad initially, he succeeded in many areas of his administration where the more intransigent Murtala Muhammad might have failed. Obasanjo became an adept political ruler, determined not to exacerbate north-south and Muslim-Christian schisms in the country.
In addition to its methodical conduct of all the stages of the transition to civilian government in 1979, the Obasanjo government initiated numerous reforms in public life. Attempts were made to introduce greater probity in the activities of civil servants and other public officials. The main vehicle for this process was the establishment of public complaints commissions in all states of the federation and in the capital. Despite the publicizing of particular cases of abuse of office and corruption, little progress was made in stopping the spread of this cancer in the society and economy.
The Obasanjo administration expanded the economic indigenization program started under Gowon. It also used the Land Use Decree of 1978 to rationalize the country’s haphazard tenurial systems, to reduce the crippling land speculation and curb the frequent litigation over individual and communal property rights. It was hoped that these reforms would facilitate the acquisition of land for modern agricultural purposes. In a similar vein, the Obasanjo regime launched Operation Feed the Nation to counter the rapid rise in food exports. None of these efforts was successful, but the programs indicated the kind of strategies that Nigeria would have to adopt to alter its economic imbalances.
In view of the complex process of transition to civilian rule and the many reforms introduced in the four years of the Muhammad/Obasanjo governments, those regimes seemed in retrospect to have tried to do too much too soon. In the final year he was in power, Obasanjo introduced many austerity measures and insisted on a “low profile” for all government officials. He was aware that Nigeria, despite its oil wealth, was still largely an underdeveloped country and its businesspersons mainly agents or intermediaries for foreign businesses. Such a salutary attitude was soon forgotten, however, as the successor regime rode the crest of a renewed upsurge in oil prices, spent resources faster than they could be realized and left the country deeply in debt and its economy nearly in shambles when it ended in 1983.
Nigeria – The Buhari Regime
On December 31, 1983, the army struck again. This time the brazen corruption, the economic mismanagement, and the inept leadership of civilians provided the grounds for military intervention. Indeed, conditions had deteriorated so much in the Second Republic that when the coup came, it was widely acclaimed. Major General Muhammadu Buhari, a Hausa/Fulani northerner from Katsina State and a former member of the SMC in the Muhammad/Obasanjo governments, became the head of state. Because of the great powers that his second in command, Major General Tunde Idiagbon, chief of staff at Supreme Headquarters, was believed to wield, many commentators refer to this government as the Buhari/Idiagbon regime. In broad outline, the structure of government remained essentially the same as it was under Muhammad and Obasanjo. At the apex was the SMC, and the subordinate bodies were the Federal Executive Council and the National Council of States.
The urgent task before the government was to salvage the country’s economy, which had suffered from the mismanagement of the Second Republic and from the rapid drop in the price of crude oil. Nigeria had become heavily indebted to several foreign monetary agencies, and the price of crude oil had begun to slide. Buhari believed that urgent economic problems required equally urgent solutions. He also thought that it was not a pressing issue to prepare to hand power over to civilians; in fact, all of Nigeria’s military regimes have ruled without the benefit of democratic checks and balances.
The Buhari government investigated and detained the top political leaders of the Second Republic, holding them responsible for economic excesses of the previous regime. Constraints were placed on various groups, including the Nigerian Medical Association, which was outlawed, and the National Association of Nigerian Students, and it promulgated two decrees that restricted freedom of the press and suppressed criticism of the government. Decree Number 4 forbade any journalist from reporting information considered embarrassing to any government official. Two journalists, Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor, were convicted under the decree. Decree Number 2 gave the chief of staff at Supreme Headquarters the power to detain for up to six months without trial anyone considered a security risk. Special military tribunals increasingly replaced law courts while the state security agency, the National Security Organisation, was given greater powers.
Buhari’s controls also extended to his efforts to deal with the problems of “indiscipline” in the areas of environmental sanitation, public decorum, corruption, smuggling, and disloyalty to national symbols such as the flag and the anthem. He declared a War Against Indiscipline and specified acceptable forms of public behavior, such as a requirement to form lines at bus stops. The main concern, however, remained the economy. The government introduced a comprehensive package of austerity measures. It closed the country’s land borders for a period to identify and expel illegal alien workers and placed severe restrictions on imports and heavy penalties on smuggling and foreign exchange offenses. The austerity measures made it difficult for local industries to procure essential imported raw materials, leading many of them to close or to operate at greatly reduced capacity. Many workers were laid off, and government itself retrenched many workers to increase its “cost effectiveness.” All of these actions were accompanied by high inflation. The price of basic food items rose, and life became increasingly difficult, even for the affluent.
Despite the increased efficiency with which Buhari and his associates tackled the multifaceted national crisis, the regime’s inflexibility caused discontent. The latter was the main justification given for the overthrow of Buhari by General Babangida in a palace coup on August 27, 1985, although the personal ambition of Babangida was an important contributing factor.
Nigeria – The Babangida Government
Babangida, of Gwari origins and a middle belt Muslim, was Nigeria’s sixth military ruler and, as of 1990, the most powerful. Compared with Buhari, Babangida was a somewhat more methodical ruler, and his style was different. Whereas Buhari was stern and resolute, Babangida was deft and tactical. Babangida was reported to have taken part in all coups in Nigeria, which may explain his confident handling of national affairs. He was, however, unpredictable.
Although Babangida came to power as a champion of human rights, his record in this area deteriorated over time. He gradually released most of the politicians incarcerated by Buhari. Yet, he often hounded opposition interest groups, especially those of labor and students, and detained many radical and anti-establishment persons for various offenses. The infamous Decree Number 2 remained in force in 1990 to facilitate these oppressive acts.
The year after seizing power, the Babangida regime declared a National Economic Emergency. The options open to the country, Babangida said, were either to accept an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan and the conditions attached or to embark on more austere economic measures that would require great sacrifices. Although the people favored a non-IMF option, they soon discovered the hardships eventually imposed differed little from the IMF’s conditions. The economic recovery program recommended by the World Bank was instituted as a self-imposed structural adjustment program (SAP) that involved a drastic restructuring of the country’s economy. Under SAP, unemployment rates soared, food prices increased significantly, and numerous user fees for education and health services were imposed. These hardships did not dissuade the government from SAP, which it believed to be the only approach to the country’s social and economic problems. The benefits of SAP, such as longer inflation and more balanced budget, began to be seen but SAP was adhered to less stringently in the late 1980s.
Babangida’s government adopted other economic reforms leading to a market system and political reforms leading to democratic processes. Important changes were made in the basic structures of military federalism. For the first time, a military leader was called president, presumably to emphasize the executive power he wielded. The name of the supreme lawmaking body was changed from Supreme Military Council to the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC). There was also a new Armed Forces Consultative Assembly, formed in 1989, which functioned as an intermediate legislative chamber between the AFRC and the rest of the military. In spite of these elaborate structural changes, Babangida adroitly increased the powers of his office. He changed his ministers and state governors frequently. Even supposedly powerful members of the government were not spared, as was demonstrated in 1986 when he dropped his second in command, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe. In his place, he appointed Rear Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, former chief of the naval staff. The most dramatic of these changes were made at the end of 1989, when Babangida reassigned several ministers, including General Domkat Bali, the powerful minister of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The changes were perceived by southerners and Christians as resulting in an AFRC that consisted mainly of northern Muslims. The service chiefs of the army, navy, and police were Muslims; only the chief of the air staff was a southerner. The ministries of external affairs, petroleum resources, internal affairs, and defense, considered the most powerful cabinet posts, were held by northern Muslims (the minister of defense being the president himself). These changes generated heated controversy and antigovernment demonstrations by Christians in some northern cities. Babangida emerged from the changes more powerful than before.
Babangida also introduced far-reaching changes in the civil service, the police, the armed and security forces, and the political system. Certain actions of his government exacerbated religious tensions. The religious cleavage in the country had become increasingly politicized, beginning in the debates in 1977 when Muslims began pressing for the extension of sharia law (Muslim religious law) from state courts in the north to the federal courts. In the Second Republic, activist Islamic groups emerged in the north, demanding the Islamization of the country. After coming to power in 1985, Babangida adopted several measures that were considered to favor Muslims and to threaten the secular nature of the Nigerian state. In 1986 Nigeria became a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), an international association of Islamic states in which Nigeria had long held observer status; this action was very controversial. In apparent contradiction, Babangida survived several religious crises by reiterating that the federation remained secular. At one point, he set up a religious advisory panel to mediate in the religious crises.
On April 22, 1990, a coup attempt led by Major Gideon Orkar almost toppled the Babangida regime. The presidential residence in Dodan Barracks was extensively damaged by the rebellious soldiers, but the head of state escaped. A unique feature of this coup attempt was the level of involvement of Nigerian civilians, who allegedly helped finance the operation. During the hours when the rebels controlled the radio station in Lagos, they broadcast a critique of the regime that combined attacks on its dictatorial nature and pervasive corruption with threats to expel the far northern states from the federation.
The survival of Babangida and all senior members of the regime enabled the government to continue its policies, especially the planned transition to civilian rule in 1992. The detention of several journalists and other critics of the military regime and the temporary closure of some newspapers, however, indicated the government’s awareness that it had overstayed its welcome and would have to govern with even stricter controls than before. The state congresses of the two government-sponsored political parties, the only legal parties, the National Republican Convention and the Social Democratic Party, were held in the summer of 1990 and campaigning began in earnest thereafter.
Nigeria – POLITICAL TRANSITIONS
Political transition in Nigeria has been based not only on the military ruler’s conviction that civil rule was desirable but also on the expectation of the people that, after the military performed its rescue operation, it should turn power over to civilians. Gowon and Buhari failed to meet this expectation, reducing their popular support and resulting in their overthrows. In accepting demilitarization as a necessary process, political transition has been on the agenda of every military government since Ironsi’s, with the probable exception of that of Buhari. Ironsi set up a Constitution Review Committee, whose task was overtaken by the promulgation of the unitary decree; Gowon designed a transition plan, which he later aborted; the Muhammad/Obasanjo governments successfully executed a transition program and handed power over to civilians; and Babangida in 1990 was implementing a transition program, designed to culminate in civilian rule in 1992.
<>The Second Republic
<>The Third Republic
Nigeria – The Second Republic
In the program of transition to the Second Republic, the military leaders’ primary concern was to prevent the recurrence of the mistakes of the First Republic. They believed that if the structures and processes of government and politics that had proved inappropriate in the First Republic could be changed, a stable and effective civilian government would emerge. The transition was therefore designed to address those fundamental issues, which were historically divisive, and to establish new political institutions, processes, and orientations. Except for the census, which remained problematic, most issues that threatened the stability and survival of the federation were addressed. The revenue allocation process was altered based on the recommendation of a technical committee, despite the politicians’ rejection of its recommendation. Local governments were also streamlined and made more powerful by the 1976 reforms.
The second aspect of the transition involved the making of a new constitution and appropriate institutions. A Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) was appointed in 1975 under the chairmanship of a leading lawyer, Rotimi Williams, and, in 1977, a Constituent Assembly (CA) composed of both elected and appointed officials examined and ratified the draft constitution. After final ratification by the SMC, the Constitution was promulgated in 1979. Political parties were formed, and new corrective national bodies, such as the Code of Conduct Bureau, Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, and Public Complaints Commission, were established. The most far-reaching changes of the transition were made in the area of institutionalizing a new constitutional and political system.
At the inauguration of the CDC, Murtala Muhammad outlined the objectives of transition as the continuation of a federal system of government with constitutional law guaranteeing fundamental human rights, maximum participation, and orderly succession to political power. To avoid the pitfalls of the First Republic, the new constitution was designed to eliminate political competition based on a system of winner-takes-all, broaden consensus politics to a national base, eliminate overcentralization of power, and ensure free and fair elections. The SMC suggested that these objectives could be met by recognition of national rather than sectional parties, controls on the proliferation of parties and on the creation of more states, and an executive presidential system similar to that in the United States. In addition, the federal character of the country was to be reflected in the cabinet; an independent judiciary was to be established as well as corrective institutions.
The draft constitution incorporated these elements. When the CA met to ratify the constitution, a few issues were highly volatile. The most notable was the matter of sharia law, which Muslims argued should be given appellate jurisdiction at the federal level. Most Christian members of the assembly vehemently opposed this. Only the intervention of the head of state resolved the situation. Although the sharia clause was deleted from the constitution, the cleavage between Christian and Muslim groups persisted. Other controversial issues included the creation of more states, the determination of an age limit for participation in politics (intended to eliminate most discredited politicians who had actively participated in politics in the First Republic), and the scope of the executive president’s powers. After the CA completed its work, the SMC added a few amendments, including use of Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba as additional official languages in the National Assembly and applying the federal-character principle to the composition of the armed forces’ officer corps.
By Decree Number 25 of 1978, the 1979 constitution was enacted. The constitution differed from that of the First Republic in 1963 in that it introduced a United States-type presidential system in place of the parliamentary system. Previously, the executive branch of government derived its powers from the legislature. Under the 1979 constitution, the president and vice president, as well as state governors and their deputies, were elected in separate elections. The elections had the federation and the state, respectively, as constituencies. Furthermore, while the Senate was largely a ceremonial body in the First Republic, the new constitution gave the Senate and House of Representatives coequal powers.
There were other provisions in the 1979 constitution that aimed at eliminating past loopholes. The first was the federal- character principle, which sought to prevent the domination of power by one or a few states, ethnic groups, or sections at the federal center, and by one or more groups in the states and local government areas. The principle required that the composition of the cabinet, boards, and other executive bodies, as well as appointments to top government positions, should reflect the federal character or diversity of the country at the particular level of government. This principle also applied to the composition of the armed forces. The principle was extended to the distribution of national resources, such as the siting of schools and industries.
The question of party politics became a constitutional matter. In view of the need for a limited number of national political parties, the constitution specified certain criteria that parties had to meet in order to be registered: the name, emblem, or motto of the party could not contain any ethnic or religious connotation or give the party the image of a sectional party; membership in the party should be open to all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation; the party headquarters must be in the federal capital; and the executive committee of the party should reflect the federal character of the country. The task of registering political parties and conducting elections was given to the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO). The necessity for national parties resulted from the conviction that the disunity of the First Republic was engendered by the regional parties then operating. When the ban placed on political activities in 1966 was lifted in September 1978, at least fifty-three political associations were formed. Seventeen of them applied for registration, but only five were registered: the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), the United Party of Nigeria (UPN), the Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP), and the People’s Redemption Party (PRP). In 1981 a sixth party, the Nigeria Advance Party (NAP), was registered.
Contrary to the expectations of the drafters of the constitution and the military rulers, most of these parties resembled the ethnoregional ones of the pre-1966 period although legally parties were required to transcend ethnoregional bases. The only exceptions were the NAP, which proclaimed itself a “new breed” party, and the NPN, which despite its regional antecedents, was probably the only national party in Nigeria. The UPN was a resurrection of the AG with its Yoruba core; the NPP was a rejuvenation of the NCNC with its Igbo core and strands of middle-belt support; the PRP recalled Kano’s NEPU; and the GNPP, which appeared initially to be a new minorities formation, had its strength within the Kanuri section of the north. Apart from the PRP, which flickered as a radical party, and the populist NAP, the other parties appeared to be parties of the wealthy class or those who aspired to join it, for whom politics was a means of enriching themselves and consolidating their material base. Given this character of the registered parties, it can be argued that the perceived need to balance the power groups in the country rather than the constitutional requirements decided which parties were registered.
In the 1979 presidential election, NPN candidate Shehu Shagari was declared the winner, even though many people thought he did not meet the full requirements. He obtained a simple majority of the total votes cast in the federation but failed to get 25 percent of the total votes cast in thirteen states of the federation. The latter was the generally accepted interpretation of the constitutional requirement that the winner of the presidential election should obtain 25 percent of the total votes cast in two-thirds of the nineteen states of the federation. Shagari obtained 25 percent of the votes in twelve states but got only 19 percent in the thirteenth state. When FEDECO declared Shagari the winner “in the absence of any legal explanation or guidance in the electoral decree,” Awolowo, the presidential candidate and leader of the UPN, led other defeated candidates and their parties to challenge the declaration in the electoral tribunal and later in the Supreme Court. But the challenge was to no avail. The controversy led to strong anti-NPN, anti-Shagari sentiments in several states controlled by the other parties. Once the NPN succeeded in consolidating power at the center, the attraction it held was strong enough to tear the other parties asunder. Consequently, the history of the Second Republic is replete with interparty and intraparty schisms and federal-state conflicts.
At the domestic level, the NPN-controlled federal government embarked on politically expedient but uneconomic projects, such as establishing a federal university in every state, commissioning iron and steel plants that remain unfinished in 1990, and indiscriminately awarding contracts to build the new federal capital at Abuja. To finance these projects, the government relied heavily on foreign loans and aid. While the external debt of the country increased, the lot of the common citizen worsened. The global economic recession in the early 1980s and the collapse of crude oil prices in the world market accelerated the economic decline of the Second Republic. By the time Shagari decided to initiate IMF-inspired austerity measures under the Economic Stabilization Act (1982), the problems of the economy required more drastic measures. This act, however, provided the blueprint for the austerity measures subsequently introduced by Buhari and by Babangida.
The demise of the Second Republic was accelerated by the tension generated by the 1983 general elections, which were similar to those of 1964-65. As in the earlier elections, two major political camps were involved in the contest: the NPN and the Progressive Parties Alliance, comprising the UPN, the NPP, and factions of the PRP and the GNPP. The NPN won landslide victories even in states considered traditional strongholds of the other parties. In several places, violence erupted, and every election was contested in court. A number of the electoral verdicts were rescinded in view of evidence that results were falsified. Under these circumstances the military intervened in December 1983.
Nigeria – The Third Republic
The transition program of the military rulers toward the establishment of civilian rule as the Third Republic was more elaborate and deliberate than was that toward the Second Republic. The goal was to prevent a recurrence of past mistakes. It was recognized that far-reaching changes involving more than the constitution and political institutions must be introduced. Consequently, as much attention was paid to restructuring the economy through the SAP as to fostering a new social order and a political culture through a program of social mobilization. In 1990 the transition program was tightly controlled, based on the assumption that desirable changes must occur through government intervention. It was also the most extended transition thus far, and this protracted schedule contributed to frequent changes in the agenda. The date of the final handing over of power was shifted from 1990 to 1992, state gubernatorial and assembly elections from 1990 to 1991, and the census from 1990 to 1991. Apart from these changes, major decisions frequently were reversed. Although President Babangida claimed that the transition was “sequential and methodical,” it was actually responsive and ad hoc.
The transition to the Third Republic began with the setting up of a seventeen-member Political Bureau in 1986 to formulate a blueprint for the transition, based on ideas collated during a nationwide debate. In its report, the bureau recommended that a socialist ideology be introduced through a process of social mobilization, that local governments be strengthened as an effective third tier of government, and that a two-party system be created. The government accepted the recommendations except for the proposal advocating socialism. Most knowledgeable observers believed, however, that the Political Bureau was largely a facade created by the military, who had little intention of following the advice of the young intellectuals who composed the bureau.
Of all the recommendations, the two-party system was the most significant because it marked a departure from the multiparty system of the past. A majority in the bureau thought that a two-party system was the best way to ensure that the parties would be national and that they be financed largely by the state, as recommended. The bureau argued that in the First Republic and the Second Republic, the electoral alliances pointed to a two-party system. The north-versus-south character of these alliances led many to fear that a two-party system would function along similar lines, especially given the increasing sensitivity of the Muslim-Christian division. The government decreed the formation of two new parties in October 1989, requiring that the parties draw from a national, as opposed to a regional, constituency to prevent such a dichotomy.
Other aspects of the transition included a new Constitution Review Committee, a National Electoral Commission (NEC), strengthened local governments, the creation of local councils through nonpartisan elections, and the setting up of a Constituent Assembly (CA) to ratify the draft constitution, subject to final approval by the AFRC. The government, however, forbade the CA to deliberate on sensitive matters on which decisions had already been made or were to be made by the AFRC: the creation of more states and local government areas, the census, revenue allocation, the two-party system, and sharia (the latter, after the issue again threatened to tear the assembly apart, as it did in 1978).
In May 1989, after introducing eleven amendments, the AFRC promulgated the new constitution by Decree Number 12. The amendment covered the deletion of Section 15 of the new constitution that pronounced the country a welfare state and of Sections 42 and 43 that provided for free education to age eighteen and free medical care for persons up to age eighteen or older than sixty-five, the handicapped, and the disabled. The second amendment provided for streamlining the jurisdiction of sharia and customary courts of appeal to make them apply at the state level only to matters relating to the personal status of Muslims. Amendment three described civil service reforms. Amendment four reduced the minimum age requirements for federal and state elective offices from forty to thirty-five for the president, thirty-five to thirty for senators and governors, twenty-five for members of the House of Representatives, and twenty-one for members of state houses of assembly and local government councillors. The fifth amendment replaced the six-year, single-term tenure for the president and governors with a four-year, maximum two-term tenure. Amendment six removed from the National Assembly control over matters of national security because, in the view of the AFRC, it “exposes the chief executives and the nation to clear impotence in the face of threats to security”. The seventh amendment made the federal Judicial Service Commission accountable in the hope that this would enhance the independence of the judiciary. Amendment eight eliminated provisions establishing an armed forces service commission to supervise compliance with provisions of the federal-character principle, i.e., that government-bodies such as the military, the civil service, and university faculties reflect the various elements of the population. Amendment nine covered the reduction of the number of special advisers to the president from seven to three and alteration of the provisions for gubernatorial advisers. Amendment ten eliminated Section 1 (4) of the draft constitution outlawing coups and making them a criminal offense. The eleventh amendment deleted the provisions forbidding the federal government to obtain external loans without the approval of the National Assembly.
These amendments ensured that some of the changes introduced by the Babangida government would remain binding after the government had handed over power. In spite of those amendments, the 1989 constitution is similar to that of 1979; the presidential system is retained with minor amendments, such as the reduction in the number of senators from each state from five to three. The major difference in the new political arrangement is the two-party system.
Two unique aspects of the transition program since 1989 require emphasis. One was the blanket ban placed on all former politicians and top political officeholders, especially those found guilty of abuse of office. In effect, the new political order was to be built around the “new breed” politicians, namely, those who supposedly had not been affected by corruption, ethnicity, religious fanaticism, and other vices that characterized the “old brigade.” A corollary of this was the government’s opposition to the participation of ideological and religious “radicals” and “extremists.” To participate in the Third Republic, each prospective politician needed a clearance certificate from the Federal Electoral Commission.
The second important factor was the decision to create in October 1989 two parties wholly run and financed by the state. After the ban on political activities was lifted in May 1989, a number of political associations were formed, and thirteen applied for registration. The requirements for registration were very strict and almost impossible to fulfill in the time allotted: the submission of the names, addresses, and passport photographs of all members of the association in the federation was required to facilitate physical confirmation of the claims by the NEC. In its report to the AFRC, the NEC gave low scores to the associations, including the “big four” that were the strongest–the People’s Solidarity Party, the Nigerian National Convention, the Patriotic Front of Nigeria, and the Liberal Convention. The report stated that most of the membership claims were found to be false, their manifestos and organization were very weak, and most of the associations were affiliated with banned politicians.
The AFRC’s reaction to the report was unanticipated. It dissolved all the political associations and decreed two new parties–the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). It arranged for constitutions and manifestos of these two parties to be written by the NEC and by specially constituted panels based on a synthesis of those of the dissolved associations. The difference between the two parties was made a supposed ideological divide: “a little to the right” and “a little to the left.” The finances of the parties, their secretariats in every local government area of the country, the appointment of their administrative secretaries, and their membership drives were now the responsibility of the federal government. The government described this new system as a “grass- roots democratic model” anchored in the rural and local groups rather than the “moneybags” and city elites that had allegedly hijacked the political process in the past.
A connection has also been made between these political changes and attempts to alter the economic and social realms. The economic transition centered on the SAP, while the social component included the process of social mobilization aimed at fostering a new social order and political culture. The general process was coordinated by the Directorate of Social Mobilization; the declared goals were social justice, economic recovery, mass mobilization, and political education under the acronym MAMSER (Mass Mobilization for Self-Reliance). MAMSER has been popularized, but time will be needed to gauge how far its goals have been realized. An emphasis has also been placed on rural development through strengthening of local governments, the Directorate of Rural Development, and improving facilities for the rural women’s program.
The transition program toward the establishment of the Third Republic was the most ambitious undertaken in Nigeria. The success and stability of the republic, however, depended on the degree to which inherent structural problems could be overcome. Much depended on the orientations and on the actions of the politicians themselves, as well as on the dispositions of the military. Above all, its success depended on the accompanying economic and social transformations. The stability of the Third Republic, therefore, would rest not only on the operation of the new two-party system but also on the effectiveness of the SAP and MAMSER. The 1989 constitution provided for more than twenty ministers in the executive branch, in addition to various councils and commissions. The names and numbers of these ministries and commissions, which, geneally speaking, were responsible directly to the president, have changed occasionally since early 1990. Reportedly, Babangida was considering reducing the number of ministries to economize.
Nigeria – FEDERALISM
Given the territorially delineated cleavages abounding in Nigeria and the historical legacy of divisions among ethnic groups, regions, and sections, the federal imperative was so fundamental that even military governments–characteristically unitarian, hierarchical, and centralist–attached importance to the continuation of a federal system of government. The federation began as a unitarian colonial state but disaggregated into three and later four regions. In 1967 the regions were abrogated and twelve states created in their place. The number of states increased to nineteen in 1976, and to twenty-one in 1987. In addition, in 1990 there were 449 local government areas that had functioned as a third tier of government since the late 1980s.
In 1990 the Federal Military Government (FMG) included the president, the AFRC, the Federal Executive Council, the civil service, and a federal judiciary made up of federal high courts, courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court. The locus of power was the president and the AFRC, which possessed all law-making powers that could not normally be challenged in any court of law. The Federal Executive Council was an enlarged instrument of the president. The federal judiciary had appellate jurisdiction in appeals emanating from the state judiciaries. It did not have much independence because the government was directly involved in the appointment of judges and in the finances of the federal Judicial Service Commission. The integrity of the judiciary was constantly weakened by the setting up of special tribunals. Some of these tribunals were responsible for conducting trials of politicians of the Second Republic, while a few tried “miscellaneous” cases involving drug, smuggling, or foreign exchange offenses.
The state governments consisted of the military governor, a cabinet, the civil service, and the state judiciary. In most policy matters and in matters of finance, the state governments had to abide by federal directives and were subject to coordination by the National Council of States. The local governments had elected management councils comprising a chairman and councillors until June 1989, when these councils were dissolved. They were replaced by sole administrators, state civil servants appointed by the state governors. New local government elections were held in December 1989. In spite of the increasing powers of local governments, they remained subordinate to the state and federal governments and could be described as administrative agencies of these two higher levels of government.
“Civilian federalism” and “military federalism” corresponded to civilian government and to military government, respectively. According to federal theory, civilian federalism was the true form of federalism. It entailed government based on a constitutional sharing of power between the federal and state governments (and local government as well), using the principle of decentralization of powers. It was marked by party politics, which determined the nature of the federation, the configuration of powers, and the prevalence of the rule of law. The major elements of military federalism included the suspension and modification of the constitution; the omnipotence of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) at the center, and therefore the existence of only one decision-making level of government; and the ban on all (civilian) political activities. Because military federalism had been more common than civilian federalism, this model made the federal government the “master” in relation to the “dependent” state governments.
At independence largely autonomous regions possessed the residual powers in the federation and functioned almost independently. Even before the First Republic collapsed, the federal government was asserting greater powers. In particular, it controlled the national economy and possessed emergency powers to intervene in any region where law and order had broken down, as it did in the Western Region in 1962. Relative to the powers of the states in 1990, however, the regions were very powerful; they had separate constitutions, foreign missions, and independent revenue bases. All this changed under military rule.
The FMG expanded its control over the economy to the extent that in 1990 the states depended on it for up to 90 percent of their revenues. The federal government also took over such matters as education, which formerly belonged to the states. Because state governors were appointed on military assignment by the president, the states had little autonomy, except in deciding how to implement policies formulated by the federal government. Attempts by state governments to reassert their autonomy during the Second Republic were aborted by the return of military rule. Some state governments that were controlled by parties other than the NPN took the NPN-controlled federal government to court on many occasions over matters of jurisdictional competence. This trend was likely to recur during the Third Republic, when the states would seek to regain powers lost under military rule.
Another area in which successive military governments had changed intragovernmental relations was in the bolstering of local governments as a third tier of government. This process began with the 1976 local government reforms, which introduced a uniform local government system; gave local governments jurisdictional competence in matters such as markets, automobile parks, and collection of local taxes; and made it statutory for both the federal and state governments to give specified percentages of their revenues to local governments. Although these reforms were embodied in the 1979 constitution, state governments in the Second Republic refused to allow local governments any measure of autonomy, partly because they were themselves struggling to reclaim their autonomy. With the return of military rule, and as part of the transition toward the Third Republic, local governments were further strengthened.
Because the federal government accepted the recommendation of the Political Bureau that local governments should be made an effective tier of government, efforts had been made to reduce their control by state governments. In 1988 state ministries of local government, the major instrument of control, were replaced by directorates of local government in the governors’ offices. All local government funds were paid directly to the local governments by the federal government rather than through the state governments. The functions and jurisdiction of local governments were streamlined, and state governments were asked to stay out of local affairs.
These measures increased the importance of local governments and infused in their civilian-elected functionaries a certain stubbornness that led to open conflicts with state governments over matters of jurisdiction. In several cases, these conflicts became the subject of litigation. State governments resisted the loss of jurisdiction, and many underscored the subordinate status of local governments at every opportunity. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that local governments were sufficiently autonomous to be an effective tier of government.
The allocation of federal revenues was a problematic aspect of fiscal federalism because the states were unequally endowed and were virtually dependent on allocations from the federal government. Several revenue allocation commissions were set up, among them the National Revenue Mobilization, Allocation, and Fiscal Commission established during the 1980s. The major problem arose from disagreements over the criteria that should be used in allocations–derivation, population, need, equality, or minimum government responsibility.
The federal-character principle emerged as a balancing formula in the 1979 constitution to forestall the domination of the government or any of its agenciesor resources by persons from one or a few states, ethnic groups, or sections. The uneven rates of development among the states and sections was largely responsible for the tension and controversy associated with the application of this principle, complicated by the pattern of distribution of the major ethnic groups.
The issue of state creation derived from the very nature of the federation. From three regions in 1960, the number of constituent units had increased to the present twenty-one states and the Federal Capital Territory. It was likely that a few more would be created. The increasing number of states was a direct response to the demands and agitations of groups that were not satisfied with their positions in the federation. Initially, it was the minorities who agitated for more states, but in 1990 the need for states had changed. They were no longer needed to protect group identity and autonomy. Any group that sought a share of the “national cake” or that wanted to maximize its share of the cake demanded more states, although states were not designed to have an ethnic basis. An example of the latter was the Igbo, who constituted the majority in only two states, Anambra and Imo; the other major groups, the Hausa/Fulani and the Yoruba, represented majorities in about five states each. The Igbo had persistently pressed for equality with other major groups by demanding new states. Realizing that the creation of states could go on endlessly, the federal government tried to bolster local governments as another way of meeting the demands. The subordinate status of local governments, however, coupled with the continued use of the states as units for distributing national resources, made demands for more states a recurrent theme in Nigerian federalism.
According to the 1989 constitution, representation in the legislative branch was based both on population (the House of Representatives, with 453 members) and on states (the Senate with 64 members, 3 from each of the 21 states and 1 from the Federal Capital Territory), which together composed the National Assembly. These figures were subject to change to reflect a possible increase in the number of states and the redistribution of population. The judicial branch consisted of the Federal High Court, the Court of Appeal, and, at the top, the Supreme Court with a chief justice and up to fifteen other justices.
Nigeria – THE CIVIL SERVICE
The civil service in 1990 consisted of the federal civil service, the twenty-one autonomous state civil services, the unified local government service, and several federal and state government agencies, including parastatals and corporations. The federal and state civil services were organized around government departments, or ministries, and extraministerial departments headed by ministers (federal) and commissioners (state), who were appointed by the president and governors, respectively. These political heads were responsible for policy matters. The administrative heads of the ministry were the directors general, formerly called permanent secretaries. The “chief” director general was the secretary to the government and until the Second Republic also doubled as head of the civil service. As chief adviser to the government, the secretary conducted liaison between the government and the civil service.
The major function of the director general, as of all senior civil servants, was to advise the minister or the commissioner directly. In doing so, the director general was expected to be neutral. In the initial periods of military rule, these administrative heads wielded enormous powers. For some time, the military rulers refused to appoint civilian political heads. Even after political heads were appointed, it was years before the era of “superpermanent secretaries” to end. That happened in 1975 when, after Gowon’s fall, the civil service was purged to increase its efficiency. Many of the superpermanent secretaries lost their jobs, and the subordinate status of permanent secretaries to their political bosses was reiterated. Another consequence of the purge, reinforced subsequently, was the destruction of the civil service tradition of security of tenure. The destruction was achieved by the retirement or dismissal of many who had not attained retirement age.
Until the 1988 reforms, the civil service was organized strictly according to British traditions: it was apolitical, civil servants were expected to serve every government in a nonpartisan way, and the norms of impersonality and hierarchical authority were well entrenched. As the needs of the society became more complex and the public sector expanded rapidly, there was a corresponding need to reform the civil service. The Adebo Commission (1970) and the Udoji Commission (1972) reviewed the structure and orientations of the civil service to make it more efficient. Although these commissions recommended ways of rationalizing the civil service, the greatest problems of the service remained inefficiency and red tape. Again in 1985, a study group headed by Dotun Phillips looked into the problems. It was believed that the 1988 reforms, the most current measures aimed at dealing with the problems of the service as of 1990, were based on this report.
Compared with the 1960s and 1970s, the civil service by 1990 had changed dramatically. It had been politicized to the extent that most top officials openly supported the government of the day. The introduction of the quota system of recruitment and promotion, adherence to the federal-character principle, and the constant interference of the government in the day-to-day operation of the civil service–especially through frequent changes in top officials and massive purges–meant that political factors rather than merit alone played a major role in the civil service.
The 1988 reforms formally recognized the politicization of the upper echelons of the civil service and brought about major changes in other areas. The main stated objective of the reforms was “to ensure a virile, dynamic and result-oriented civil service.” As a result, ministers or commissioners vested with full executive powers were fully accountable for their ministries or commissions. The director general had become a political appointee whose length of tenure was dependent on that of the government of the day; in practice, this meant that directors general need not be career civil servants, thereby reducing the latter’s career prospects. Each ministry had been professionalized so that every official, whether specialist or generalist, made his career entirely in one ministry, whereas previously an official could move among ministries. A new department–the Presidency–comprising top government officials was created at the federal level to coordinate the formulation of policies and monitor their execution, thus making it a clearinghouse between the president and all federal ministries and departments.
The reforms created a new style of civil service, but the structure might change under later governments with different priorities. In the past, the attempt by every government to effect changes in the civil service produced many discontinuities. Ministries have been constantly restructured, new ones created, and existing ones abolished. Nevertheless, the 1988 reforms might solve some of the problems of the civil service, because most civil servants tended to remain in their jobs despite reorganizations. Also, the move of the capital from Lagos to Abuja the early 1990s will provide new opportunities to apply the federal-character principle in replacing Lagosian civil servants unwilling to move.
Nigeria – INTEREST GROUPS
Organized interest groups played a crucial role in national politics, especially under military regimes when other forms of direct political participation were prohibited.
These associations were the most established interest groups in the country and included the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), the Nigerian Society of Engineers, the Nigerian Economic Society, and the Nigerian Political Science Association. Many of these associations were mainly concerned with matters relating to the professional interests of their members. In pursuing professional concerns, however, they articulated and demanded important political actions. Between 1983 and 1985, for example, the NMA called a strike of medical doctors to demand an improvement in health care delivery. Its leaders were detained and the union banned until 1986. The NBA has been at the forefront of the movement for the observance of the rule of law and human rights in Nigeria. Most other associations held annual conferences at which positions were taken on national issues. The most distinguishing characteristics of professional associations were their elitist and urban base, and the nonviolent pursuit of their interests.
The central trade union in the country was the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), which was formed in 1975 as the umbrella trade union and recognized by Decree Number 44 of 1976 as the sole representative of all trade unions in the country. The NLC had a national executive and secretariat, as well as state councils in all states. It had more than 100 affiliated unions. Although most labor matters were channeled through the NLC, the affiliate unions had engaged individually in union activities, such as strikes and lockouts. In the 1980s, the NLC was torn apart by leadership struggles, ideological differences, and ethnoregional conflicts. The NLC nearly broke up in 1988 after disagreements over elections of its leadership, resulting in the federal government’s appointing an administrator for several months. The NLC organized a nationwide workers’ strike in 1986 to demand the retention of government subsidies on petroleum products and continued to articulate workers’ demands on matters such as minimum wages and improved welfare conditions. Several other trade unions were also active. A few, such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities, were proscribed for alleged antigovernment activities.
The press was a specialized interest group in Nigeria. As the fourth estate or the “societal watchdog,” it was the most vocal and effective interest group in the country, especially because other interest groups channeled their demands and support through the press. The media could act as a watchdog because of the large number of newspapers and radio and television stations, and because of the wide degree of press freedom.
In the 19__s, Nigeria had more than thirty national and provincial newspapers, more than twenty general magazines and journals, and more than twenty television and radio stations. Although the radio and television stations were owned by the federal and state governments, most of the newspapers and magazines were privately owned and were, in general, seen as instruments of partisan political interests. Thus, the latter could afford to be critical of the government. At some points, newspapers and magazines have been proscribed, as happened to Newbreed in 1977, the Tribune in 1984, and Newswatch in 1988. Individual journalists have been harassed and intimidated by government security agents. In 1971 Minere Amakiri, a Nigerian Observer correspondent, was detained and his hair shaved. Since then, numerous editors and reporters have been detained.
The organized interest groups representing the press included the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Newspaper Proprietors Association, and the Nigerian Guild of Editors. These associations mainly pursued the professional interests of their members but also played active roles on broader social issues.
Since 1962, when students prevented the government from signing the Anglo-Nigerian Defense Pact, they have played an active role in influencing government actions. From the 1970s on, they have engaged in violent protests and riots that have sometimes resulted in fatalities. The grounds for these riots have ranged from narrow concerns, such as unacceptable dining facilities and boarding conditions, to broader national issues, such as the removal of government subsidies on petroleum products, the SAP, and repressive government. Since 1977 no year has passed without one university or other institution of higher learning being closed because of violent student protests. The most dramatic were the 1978 “Ali must go” riots, in which all universities in the country protested a rise in the costs of university education; and the 1989 anti-SAP riots, which claimed many lives.
Student activities were coordinated nationally by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), which has operated underground since its proscription in 1986. Every institution of higher learning had a student union. Until 1986, when the Justice Mohammad panel recommended voluntary membership as a way to check student protests, membership in student unions was compulsory. There were several other student associations, such as voluntary groups and religious associations, which also articulated students’ interests.
Nigeria had several women’s organizations, most of them professional and social clubs. The umbrella organization, recognized as the voice of women on national issues, was the National Council of Women’s Societies (NCWS). Many of the women’s groups were affiliated with the NCWS, which tended to be elitist in organization, membership, and orientation. Another major women’s association was Women in Nigeria, composed primarily of university women and inclined toward Western feminist views. Conservative Nigerian Muslim women in the late 1970s began to indicate discontent with the liberal trends of these two organizations and in the mid-1980s created the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations of Nigeria, which had about 400 member bodies throughout the country. In the 1980s, women from lower social strata in the towns, represented mainly by the market women’s associations, became militant and organized mass protests and demonstrations in several states. Their major grievances ranged from narrow concerns such as allocation of market stalls to broader issues such as increased school fees.
Other Interest Groups
Other notable interest groups included social clubs and fraternities, old boys’ and alumni associations, and various voluntary associations. On the whole, the activities of interest groups and the roles they played in national politics depended on how narrow or broad the group’s interests were, the resources available to it, its ties with those in authority, its affiliation with other groups, and the ideological character of its membership. The major interest groups were elitist, but other groups were also active at times.
Nigeria – FOREIGN RELATIONS
A 1989 publication by the Federal Military Government, Four Years of the Babangida Administration, summarized the priority issues of Nigerian foreign policy: the abolition of apartheid in South Africa; the enhancement of Nigeria’s relations with member countries of the European Economic Community (EEC), the United States, the Soviet Union, and with other major industrialized countries to increase the flow of foreign investments and capital into Nigeria; and continued support for international organizations, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Relations with other African states constituted the cornerstone of Nigerian foreign policy.
The Ministry of External Affairs was directly responsible for foreign policy formulation and implementation. Because matters were usually left in the hands of the minister and his officials, foreign policy positions could change radically from one minister to another, depending on the minister’s orientation. In addition to the minister’s immediate staff, there was a small foreign policy elite comprising other top government officials, interest group leaders, academicians, top military officers, religious leaders, and journalists. This elite exerted indirect influence through communiqués and press releases, as well as direct pressure on the government. In 1986 a conference–to which every stratum of this elite was invited–was held to review Nigeria’s foreign policy and recommend broad policy frameworks for the 1990s and beyond.
Several factors conditioned Nigeria’s foreign policy positions. First, the ethnic and religious mix of the country required cautious positions on some issues, such as policy toward Israel. Nigeria found it difficult to restore diplomatic ties with Israel and had not done so as of 1990 because of Muslim opposition and sympathy with the rest of the Arab Muslim world. Second, Nigeria’s legacy as an ex-British colony, combined with its energy-producing role in the global economy, predisposed Nigeria to be pro-Western on most issues despite the desire to maintain a nonaligned status to avoid neocolonialism. In 1990 this pro-Western posture was reinforced by Nigeria’s “economic diplomacy,” which involved negotiating trade concessions, attracting foreign investors, and rescheduling debt repayment to Western creditors. Third, the country’s membership in and commitment to several international organizations, such as the United Nations and bodies mentioned earlier, also affected foreign policy positions. Fourth, and most important, as the most populous country in Africa and the entire black world, Nigeria perceived itself as the “giant” of Africa and the potential leader of the black race. Thus, Nigerian external relations have emphasized African issues, which have become the avowed cornerstone of foreign policy.
These factors have caused certain issues to dominate Nigerian foreign policy across various governments, but each government has had distinctive priorities and style. During the 1950s and early 1960s, foreign policy aimed at proper behavior in the international system, and British authorities played a major role in Nigerian foreign relations. Consequently, the Balewa government stressed world peace, respected sovereign equality, and maintained nonalignment based on friendship with any country that took a reciprocal position. After the fall of the First Republic, critics asserted that the government had been too proWestern and not strong enough on decolonization or integration, and that the low profile had been embarrassing. Nonetheless, Gowon continued to keep a low profile by operating within the consensus of the OAU and by following routes of quiet diplomacy.
The civil war marked a distinct break in Nigerian foreign policy. The actions of various countries and international bodies during the war increased awareness of the alignments within Africa and appreciation of the positive role that the OAU could play in African affairs. Whereas white-dominated African countries had supported Biafra, the OAU sided with the federation by voting for unity. The OAU stance proved helpful for Nigerian diplomacy. Nigeria first turned to the Soviet Union for support after the West refused to provide arms to the federation, and after the war, a less pro-Western stance was maintained. At the same time, Africa remained Nigeria’s top priority. In the mid- to late 1970s, attention focused on the liberation of southern Africa, on the integration of ECOWAS, and on the need for complete economic independence throughout Africa. These goals were included in the 1979 constitution: promotion of African unity; political, economic, social, and cultural liberation of Africa; international cooperation; and elimination of racial discrimination.
Relations with Neighboring States
Nigeria had cordial relations with all its neighbors–Benin, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea–as well as with other countries in the West African subregion, with most of which it had bilateral agreements. There had been occasional border disputes with Chad and Cameroon, and military action against these neighbors was contemplated by the civilian government in 1982 and 1983. Another problem arose in the early 1980s, when Nigeria decided to expel many illegal immigrants, mainly Ghanaians, but this dispute also was resolved amicably. The guiding principle of Nigeria’s regional foreign policy was that of good neighborliness and friendship. In this spirit, it helped to resolve conflicts between Liberia and Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso and Mali, and Togo and Ghana. Nigeria also tried to make its neighbors “safe” friends, partly to reenforce boundary claims and protect human rights of Nigerian citizens who were migrantworkers and partly to stabilize relations between the immediate neighboring countries. For example, since 1988 it has established a strong presence in Equatorial Guinea.
To pursue the economic interests through of foreign relations within West Africa, Nigeria championed the formation of ECOWAS and, in spite of competing allegiances to rival organizations within the subcontinent, continued to support the organization’s objectives. Strengthening ECOWAS promoted Nigeria’s national interests through encouraging development of the region’s economy and discouraging its neighbors’ reliance on extra-African countries for military, political, and economic survival, thus serving such security interests as weakening colonial divisions within West Africa, ending border disputes, contributing to African unity, and strengthening West Africa’s bargaining positions vis-à-vis the EEC.
Relations with the Rest of Africa
The prevailing perception in Nigeria’s foreign policy was that, as predominant the African leader, it should play a bigbrother role in relations with African states. Nigeria was a founding member of the OAU and often channeled major policy initiatives through that organization. Most of its relations with other African states took place outside the OAU framework but were guided by OAU principles. Nigeria’s primary African commitment was to liberate the continent from the last vestiges of colonialism and to eradicate apartheid in South Africa. Promoting liberation had grown from a weak and conservative stance during the 1960s to an increasingly firm push after the civil war. This commitment was pursued most actively after Murtala Muhammad successfully backed the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola’s ascent to power in Angola in 1975 by providing the swing vote in the OAU decision to recognize the MPLA. Nigeria had played a role in the independence of Zimbabwe and in the late 1980s was active in assisting Nambibia to achieve independence of Namibia. In the latter case, it contributed about US$20 million to assist the South West Africa People’s Organization in the 1989 elections and other preparations for Namibian independence. The country also contributed financially to liberation movements in South Africa and to the front line states of Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, which were constantly harassed by South Africa. Although Nigeria’s armed forces were among the largest in black Africa in the early 1990s, sizable military might has rarely been used in foreign policy. The army participated in peacekeeping forces, either alone or through the OAU and contributed personnel to United Nations peacekeeping missions. In line with its ECOWAS comunitment, Nigeria was one of the main contributors of troops to the ECOWAS Cease-fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) sent to Liberia August 23, 1990 after the peace talks there failed. Additional forces were sent in late September 1990 under a Nigerian field commander, General Doganyaro. Threats to fight for southern African liberation were made but not acted on, but Nigeria did give military and financial aid to the African National Congress for its efforts against the apartheid regime in South Africa and provided military equipments to Mozambique to help its struggle South African-backed guerrillas.
In addition, Nigeria gave aid and technical assistance to several African states, often through the African Development Bank of which it was a major benefactor. In 1987 a Technical Aid Corps, operating along the lines of the United States Peace Corps, was established. Under it, young Nigerian professionals served in other African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries where their expertise was needed. Nigeria also provided scholarships and fellowships, training facilities, grants, equipment, and medical supplies, and subsidized oil during the 1970s’ oil crisis to African countries under certain conditions.
In July 1974, the Gowon government decided to sell crude oil at concessionary rates to African countries on condition that they had their own refineries and would not re-export to third countries. The decision came despite Nigeria’s role as an Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member generally in favor of higher prices and after more than two years of deliberations. Nigeria acted largely in response to external pressures: international actors attempted to divide Third World countries into OPEC members and nonoil producers; various African countries, especially Liberia, begged for less expensive oil; and both the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries had established programs to aid poor countries while encouraging other oil producers, especially African nations, to follow suit. Providing subsidies for African countries was a safe move for Nigeria because Africa comprised only a small portion of the country’s total oil export market, it enhanced Nigeria’s position and influence in Africa while building African solidarity, and it protected security interests by preventing economic decline. Moreover, this example of generosity aided Nigeria in its efforts to create ECOWAS. In November 1990, Babangida suggested that Nigeria might again offer concessionary prices to other African countries as the Middle East crises pushed oil prices upward.
Relations with Major Powers
During the Gulf crisis that began with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990 and that marked the end of the Cold War and the beginning of a coalition, Nigeria kept a low profile. It did not send troops to engage in the Persian Gulf war but continued to be an active supporter of UN policy. Buying the bulk of Nigeria’s crude oil, the United States was Nigeria’s most important trading partner. Until the civil war, Nigeria had had no significant relationship with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Since then, ties with the Soviet Union had increased, although they remained minimal in comparison with ties to the West. Nigeria’s other major trading partners were Japan and the EEC, from which it continued to obtain loans and aid.
Although Nigeria has always leaned toward the West, the closeness of the relationship has varied. Nigeria’s Western ties were originally strongest with Britain, its former colonial ruler. The special relationship, which lasted until the 1966 coup, led Nigeria to side with Britain on most issues. After the coup and the civil war, the new Nigerian leaders were less favorable toward Britain, especially after Britain took a position of neutrality in the civil war, refused to sell arms to the federation and ignored the blockade against Biafra. Nigerian leaders also were rankled by Britain’s support of white-dominated governments in southern Africa. Several Nigerian groups pressured the new government to weaken ties with Britain as the only way to true independence. At times, more verbal and symbolic damage was done to Nigerian-British relations for Nigerian popular consumption than was true in reality.
Throughout the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were interested in Nigeria because of its size, population, economic and military potential, and, especially for the United States, its oil. From 1966 to 1977, Nigeria was very cool toward the United States. The two countries took opposing positions over southern African liberation. Nigerians were angered by proBiafran propaganda in the United States and by America’s refusal to sell arms to the federation during the civil war. United States involvement was even suspected by Nigeria in the assassination of Murtala Muhammad. In 1977 Jimmy Carter became president, and Nigerian relations with the United States suddenly changed. The United States recognized Nigeria as a stabilizing force in Africa and was willing to consult with Nigeria on African issues. The two governments appeared to have similar interests in southern Africa. The special relationship had a weak basis, however, depending mostly upon continuing agreement and cooperation over southern African issues. Once Ronald Reagan replaced Carter as president (1981-88), the countries again had divergent interests in southern Africa.
Just as the balance of trade was not expected to shift dramatically with the opening of Eastern Europe so, too, Nigeria’s political position was not expected to change greatly. In a time of shifting world coalitions, a position of nonalignment with a leaning toward the West provided more options for Nigeria than ever. Events in southern Africa, including Namibia’s independence and the opening of debate for eliminating apartheid in South Africa, removed the largest obstacles to closer relations with the United States without excluding the Soviet Union or other leading powers.
Relations with International Organizations
Nigeria played active roles in various international organizations and vied for positions in them. For example, Joseph Garba, Nigeria’s former permanent representative to the UN, was elected in 1989 to a one-year term as president of the UN General Assembly; Adebayo Adeedji was executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, a UN affiliate; and Emeka Anyaoku became secretary general of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1989. Former military head of state Obasanjo also had become a recognized world statesman and spokesman on African issues. Nigeria contributed personnel to many UN peacekeeping missions, including operations in Congo, Tanzania, and the UN India/Pakistan Observer Mission in the 1960s, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon in 1978, and UN forces observing the Iran-Iraq cease-fire and the AngolaNamibian accords in 1988.
The importance that Nigeria placed on international organizations grew out of a striving for peace and international cooperation. In the cases of the OAU and ECOWAS, these organizations also served to increase African unity, another important Nigerian goal. Nigeria played an initiating role in the creation of both organizations and was active in both thereafter. Although Nigeria’s positions on various issues have changed over the years, its level of activity in international organizations has increased.
In 1987 Nigeria initiated a Concert of Medium Powers, more widely known as the Lagos Forum, to facilitate multilateral cooperation and to enable member states to exert greater collective influence on world affairs. Forum members included Sweden, Austria, Zimbabwe, and Egypt. The initiative, which could be seen as an effort preceding the end of the Cold War, seemed to collapse, however, after its initiator, Boleji Akenyemi, was removed as minister for external affairs in 1987.