Nigeria Modern History

By | January 31, 2023

Nigeria is a country located in Western Africa. With the capital city of Abuja, Nigeria has a population of 206,139,600 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. Nigeria became independent from the United Kingdom in 1960. Ethnic and religious tensions contributed to the collapse of democracy in 1966. In a civil war that raged from 1967 to 1970, over a million people died, most of them starvation. Decades were then marked by coups and military regimes. At the same time, oil recovery accelerated and came to dominate the economy. Democracy was reinstated in 1999 and in 2007 the first peaceful change of power took place between two elected presidents. However, democracy is fragile; the regional contradictions remain great and unrest is common.

on independence on October 1, 1960, Nigeria was a federation between three regions with significant autonomy: the northern, eastern and western regions. The Prime Minister was Tafawa Balewa from the Northern Nigerian party NPC, who ruled in conjunction with the Igbo party NCNC (see Older history). When Nigeria became a republic in 1963, NCNC leader Nnamdi Azikiwe was appointed president.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Nigeria. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Despite the co-government, the contradictions between peoples groups and regions worsened during the first half of the 1960s. Smaller ethnic groups feared being dominated by the three big ones – Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo (see Population and Languages). Among them, the tension was particularly strong between the Muslim Hausa-Fulani and the Christian Igbo. Many Nigerians, especially in the north, disliked the Igbo’s having prominent management and business services. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Nigeria.

In January 1966, a group of army officers, most of whom were igloos, staged a coup. Prime Minister Balewa was killed. In July of that year, officers from Northern Nigeria conducted a counter-coup. In the fall, the igbomorinity was persecuted in the north; tens of thousands were killed and close to a million fled to the Igbo people’s area of ‚Äč‚Äčorigin in the eastern region. The contradictions and the Igbo people’s sense of vulnerability contributed to the May 1967 military governor of the Eastern region proclaiming the independent state of Biafra.

Civil war breaks out

The Declaration of Independence led to civil war. Initially, Biafra’s forces of success were successful. But the federal resources greater resources soon took their right. When the federal troops cut ties with the ocean, Biafra suffered a massive famine disaster. Biafra capitulated in January 1970. By then, around 100,000 soldiers and at least one million civilians, most of them children, had lost their lives.

After the Civil War, Nigeria’s government was centralized. The rebuilding was fast, thanks to oil revenues. The central government was able to distribute well-paid jobs among the guiding elites of the ruling elite. Military leader Yakubu Gowon, who has been in power since 1966, was overthrown in 1975. The following year, the new military leader who was succeeded by Army Chief of Staff Olusegun Obasanjo was murdered. Now the long-promised return to democracy began. Exceptions were revoked, parties were allowed again and Obasanjo had a new constitution drawn up with the presidential board. The Constitution came into force in 1979.

Obasanjo became the first military leader to voluntarily relinquish power when elections were held in 1979. Shehu Shagari was elected Nigeria’s first president with executive power. Shagari initiated a development program to be financed with oil revenues, but falling oil prices led to crises and unrest. Nevertheless, Shagari was re-elected in 1983.

At the turn of the year 1983/84 Shagari was overthrown and the military led by General Muhammadu Buhari regained power. The regime banned political parties and imprisoned political opponents. In August 1985 Buhari was deposed and General Ibrahim Babangida took power in a bloodless coup. He initiated market-liberal reforms and promised a return to civilian rule. However, the religious and ethnic contradictions did not subside. The long-term decline in the economy contributed to the unrest in the 1980s.

New capital

Nigeria’s capital was moved from Lagos in Yorubaland to Abuja in 1991 on more neutral land in the middle of the country. The decision to relocate had been made in the 1970s.

The return to civilian rule was postponed several times, but in June 1993 presidential elections were held. However, the two parties that had to stand were formed by the regime. Before the vote count was completed, Babangida intervened and declared the election invalid due to irregularities. According to the semi-final result, Muslim Yoruba politician Moshood Abiola would have won. Most observers considered the election to be correct.

The suspended presidential election received sharp criticism from abroad, and the military regime’s position became increasingly untenable. Babangida resigned and a transitional government was commissioned to prepare a new presidential election. Abiola’s supporters, however, demanded that he be allowed. Trade union action for Abiola and against gasoline price increases contributed to political chaos.

In November 1993, General Sani Abacha resigned the transitional government and introduced full military rule with himself as supreme leader.

Arrest leads to demonstrations

When Abiola declared in June 1994 to be the country’s president, he was arrested. This led to demonstrations, strikes and protests, even abroad. Several regime critics were arrested, including the internationally known writer Ken Saro-Wiwa. He led a campaign among the Ogoni people, which demanded increased self-government for their area in the oil-rich Niger Delta, greater share of oil income and a halt to environmental degradation in the delta (see Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment).

Following an alleged coup attempt in 1995, a large number of people were arrested, including former leader Obasanjo. The opposition in exile made Abacha more difficult to access. The volatile Nobel laureate in literature Wole Soyinka formed a national liberation council in 1995 that sought to get the outside world to impose sanctions on Nigeria. When Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other ogonians were executed after a parodic trial in November 1995, the condemnations became massive in the outside world. Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth (Britain and the former British colonies) and some sanctions were introduced.

In June 1998, General Abacha died suddenly in a heart attack. Abacha was later identified as one of the most corrupt leaders in world history.

A political thunderstorm followed. Hundreds of political prisoners were eventually released, including Obasanjo. Juntan also talked about releasing Abiola, but before that happened he also died in a heart attack. The news shocked the nation. Many were killed in crows when Abiola’s Yoruba tribesmen attacked home groups.

Parliamentary elections were held in February 1999. Only three parties met the requirements of sufficient ethnic and regional breadth to be eligible. They were the right-wing Whole People’s Party (APP, after 2002 renamed the Whole Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP), the middle-ranking People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Left Party Alliance for Democracy (AD). The PDP won by far more than half of the votes.

Military rule is over

In the presidential election a week later, the PDP candidate Obasanjo won. The change of power set the point for 15 years of military rule, dominated by officers from Northern Nigeria. Obasanjo was a Christian Yoruba from the south, albeit with a military past.

The new political freedom also opened to increased crime and sharpened ethnic contradictions. The gangs collapsed in the big cities, and in other places various groups fought for land rights, among other things. Sabotage against oil installations and kidnapping of oil workers in the Niger Delta became more and more common. A threat to Nigeria’s fragile unity arose when the states of northern Nigeria decided to introduce Islamic Sharia law (see Religion). Several thousand people were killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians during the first decade of the millennium.

The Sharia Laws were a hotly debated topic in the electoral movement before the 2003 elections, when Obasanjo and PDP were re-elected with a satisfactory majority. Unrest characterized the election and cheating undoubtedly occurred, but it was not considered to have affected the outcome of the presidential election.

Violence continued to shake several states. Particularly troubled was the Plateau where many casualties were required in the conflict between Christians and Muslims. In the Niger Delta, the attacks on oil plants and foreign oil workers gradually escalated. From 2006, a previously unknown group took on many acts of violence. The group of ijaw rebels called themselves the Movement for the Liberation of the Niger Delta (Mend). The attacks began to have serious financial consequences (see Natural Resources and Energy).

Prior to the next election, attempts were made to change the constitution so that Obasanjo could stand for a third term. But the Senate stopped the proposal, which many saw as a victory for democracy. Instead, the PDP presidential candidate became a Muslim governor from the north, Umaru Yar’Adua. Despite continued violence, the electoral movement was dominated by issues of corruption and abuse of power.

PDP wins big

In the elections held in April 2007, Yar’Adua won with 70 percent of the vote and in the election to the National Assembly, the PDP secured its own majority in both chambers. Violent clashes and extensive cheating were made in connection with the elections. The Election Commission was criticized for bias and incompetence, and a number of sub-elections had to be redone.

Despite the complaints, the change of power could be carried out in orderly form in May 2007. Yar’Adua made it clear that he wanted to seek a political solution to the unrest in the Niger Delta. The guerrilla group Mend then announced a ceasefire, and the authorities released a jailed ijaw leader. But the ceasefire was broken already in August.

For the next two years, Mend continued his attacks. On several occasions a truce was announced; at one point it lasted for four months. At other times, Mend threatened with war. Oil installations were attacked, pipelines exploded and foreign oil workers kidnapped. Generally, they were kidnapped after a short time for large ransoms, but some deaths were required in the attacks. The armed actions led to serious disruptions to the oil industry and major loss of income for the state.

Rebels put down weapons

In June 2009, the government promised amnesty and cash in exchange for disarmament. Mend, who was considered to be hard-pressed by military counter-offensive, largely accepted the deal. Amnesty led to several thousand rebels, including the most important leaders, giving up their weapons in a few months.

The unrest in the Niger Delta was perceived as the greatest threat to the state due to the economic losses, but at the same time the violence increased further north. The area around the city of Jos in the state of Plateau in central Nigeria was especially a concern. In November 2008, Jos was shaken by the bloodiest discharge between Christians and Muslims since 2001. Around 400 people died and thousands fled their homes away from clashes between gangs that set churches and mosques on fire.

In the north, Muslim leaders had also warned of an extreme movement known as the “Taliban” or Boko Haram. The group, which initially emerged as a bizarre sect, wanted to ban Western education and introduce sharia throughout Nigeria (compare Religion). In July 2009, Boko Haram carried out armed attacks for the first time against police stations and public buildings in four northern states. In Borno, battles raged for several days between security forces and the members of the movement. Leader Mohammed Yusuf died in unclear circumstances after being arrested in his hometown of Maiduguri. Up to 1,000 people were killed in the violence.

President Yar’Adua’s health caused concern for political instability. Rumors already existed in 2008 that he would resign, or that he had already died. In November 2009, he went to Saudi Arabia for care and then never appeared in public again. Nigeria ended up in a power vacuum when Yar’Adua did not surrender its powers to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. The disagreement was also great within the PDP government party on how to handle the situation.

The ceasefire is broken

Yar’Adua’s absence further contributed to the ongoing peace process with Mend losing control speed. In January 2010, the guerrilla leadership announced that the ceasefire would be broken, in protest that the government had failed to fulfill its part of the agreement. During the first months of the year, nearly 1,000 people were also killed in new attacks and revenge attacks between Christians and Muslims in the area surrounding Jos.

In February, the National Assembly appointed Jonathan as acting president. Jonathan, a Christian ijaw and former governor of the Bayelsa state in the Niger Delta, soon replaced large parts of the government. On May 5, it was reported that Yar’Adua, who had returned to Nigeria, had died. The next day, Jonathan swore the oath as the country’s president.

A major question mark on Jonathan’s entry was whether he would run for president a year later. The issue was sensitive because of mistrust between Muslims in Northern Nigeria and Christians in the South. Jonathan was a Christian Nigerian; many in the PDP felt that the party’s candidate should be a Muslim from the north because Yar’Adua would have been the party’s candidate if he did not die.

However, when the PDP held primary elections in January 2011, Jonathan won by a good margin. In the April general election, he won the first round, with 59 percent of the vote. In the election to the National Assembly, the PDP retained its majority in both chambers, despite the party losing mandate. Before and in connection with the election days, it was calmer than at the previous election, and the accusations of cheating were fewer. But when Jonathan’s victory was announced, bloody riots broke out in the north and hundreds of people were killed.

Boko Haram increasingly violent

From the summer of 2011 Boko Haram increased its violent actions and the group now began to use suicide, which was new to Nigeria. In August, 23 people died when a suicide bomber struck the UN’s local headquarters in Abuja. Over 100 died in attacks and battles around Christmas, and in January 2012, 185 people were killed in one day in coordinated blast attacks against churches in Kano.

The Islamists continued to terrorize villages and towns in northeastern Nigeria. The government and the army showed an almost complete inability to fight the Islamists. The violence that had already claimed several thousand lives was sharply escalated in 2014 when around 10,000 civilians are estimated to have fallen victim to the violence. Many were also robbed and boys were forced to fight while girls were held as sex slaves. The outside world caught the eye of the extreme group ravages when over 200 schoolgirls were robbed of a boarding school in Chibok.

By the end of the year, the UN estimated that 1.5 million people had been driven from their homes, more than half of them in the past six months. Around 100,000 had sought refuge in neighboring countries.

By then, Boko Haram had begun to take control of cities and entire areas in the Northeast, and to carry out acts of violence even across the borders. This contributed to the military launching a counter-offensive against the extremist group in collaboration with Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Nigeria Modern History