NIGERIA AT 50; THE JOURNEY SO FAR
By Kunle Oyatomi
Nigeria celebrates half a century of independence today. In an individuals life, that would be 50 years of growth from a toddler through adolescence into adulthood and then maturity. That is the so-called “golden jubilee’ at which success or progress is measured and celebrated. But for Nigeria as a country, it is not clear what we are celebrating today; is it success, progress or maturity?
We were barely two years old as a new-born country when we convulsed violently in 1962. All those lofty hopes and expectations that we the “giant of Africa” was born in 1960 to blaze a trail of ascendancy of black and African peoples began to fade so early. We had hardly been weaned in 1962 when this country began to miscarry dangerously. The world and Africa was in shock.
This was caused by our immature handling of the Action Group crisis in 1962, which led to another convulsion in 1964. The leader of the Action Group, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, one of the founding fathers of Nigeria was thrown into prison and the then Western Region boiled over.
Our democracy suffered a terrible reversal that resulted into a major disruption in 1966 when civilian rule collapsed under the jackboots of the military. This was followed by a senseless orgy of killings that left the nation in tatters.
Civil war broke out in 1967, and millions of Nigerians lost their lives in a fratricide that was avoidable.
Somehow, though, we managed to pull back from the brink in 1970 when the civil war ended; but at that point, the total effect of these convulsions had left us significantly paralysed. Nigeria has been on crutches since then, and all attempts by both the military and civilian politicians to restore life into our paralysed limbs have not succeeded. Our growth into adulthood and maturity had been stunted and still is, leaving us a toddler at 50, and significantly
This pathetic condition of national ill-health has been responsible for the diminished outlook we have today. We had been appreciated in 1960 as an emerging black nation with one of the best potentials for greatness, but 50 tragic years on, we have wasted all our beautiful opportunities. Today, in a global world where we were supposed to be a major player, we can only be compared with some of the world’s least endowed countries. In spite of our oil wealth, we are also
one of the world’s poorest countries where over 70% of our citizens live on less than a US dollar a day!!
Poverty has grown so exponentially that, in comparative terms, life in 1960 prior to our independence was a lot more tolerable for most Nigerians than it is today. Like a toddler, we have been fumbling so tragically that practically all our institutions and infrastructure have virtually collapsed as a result of
crippling corruption that has grown into a national identity.
So destruction has been the failures and rot in the country that Nigeria, which used to be regarded as a developing nation some 50 years ago, is today one of the world’s most under-developed nations struggling to stand on its feet, both of which are in paralysis anyway!!
So, when the decision was announced that the country would be staging a grand celebration of 50 years of independence, the idea was greeted with scorn and resentment. The idea of Nigeria’s golden jubilee celebration became controversial. Some were opposed to the idea because they cannot see what there is to celebrate. But others, while admitting that there had been serious cases of needless failures in the past, still think notwithstanding that the fact that
Nigeria is still holding together after all our calamities is sufficient reason to celebrate.
Whichever way you may look at it, 50 years in nation’s existence calls for celebration of sort. But what appears to annoy a lot of people is that we have committed so much money … into the exercise for a jamboree that is unjustified.
The fact is that most people are bitter and frustrated by the failure of this country and are of the opinion that if we should celebrate at all, it should have been low-keyed and transformed into a deep moment of national reflection. A moment in which we should search our souls for answers to our failures with the purpose of re-inventing our future, so that generations of Nigerians in decades to come may not rain curses on us for the destruction of their lives.
To assist this reflection, we present in the pages ahead starting from today, a package at 50″, the journey so far; what the people think, how the world sees
us, and what the impact of our celebration should really be. It should be up to the readers to determine if there is demonstrable reasons to be optimistic about
the future. We are sure the package will be worth your time to digest.
Has Nigeria Been Good To Democracy?
By Jide Ajani
This is an overview of the many administrations that have ruled Nigeria since independence. But the focus is on the seeming endless quest for the attainment of true democratic governance.
Democracy is good for Nigeria! But, has Nigeria been good to democracy? Littered across the landscape is the answer: Nigeria has not been good to democracy in any form.
Perhaps, the talk of democracy being government of the people for the people and by the people may have been taken out of its original context by Nigerian political leaders. No doubt it is a government of the people (and not animals) but 50 years after independence, those people – a select few – know one another.
The mass of the people who are supposed to be the ones determining those who would constitute the other few to rule them are perpetually kept where they belong: the crowded popular side – as in a stadium.
In Nigeria as in most parts of Africa, the concept of democracy has not been allowed to really germinate.
Take Nigeria, for instance.
As if things are not bad enough for democracy in Nigeria, there is today an overdose of palpable apathy on the part of the Nigerian electorate. Why not?
With guns to their heads at virtually every election period, demonstrably so by the amount of policing done to ensure hitch-free elections, the average Nigerian is not in any way convinced that this democracy has been good to him or her.
Since 1960, the nation continues to grope in this seemingly endless search for credible governance – through equally credible election. From the parliamentary system employed in 1960 and which collapsed on 15 January 1966, to the executive presidential system which replaced it on 1 October 1979, it has been the same old story; a story of complex contradictions leading to failures of gargantuan proportions.
Why did the First Republic fail? Did it fail because of the operators or because of the object of operation, the Constitution? Or did it fail because British colonialists left Nigeria in the hands of ethnic irredentists?
If the last question attempts to clarify the question, what then explains why the Second Republic, 1979 to 1983, some 19 to 23 years after independence, also failed?
In separate interviews with Professor John Moibi Amoda and Richard Osuolale Akinjide earlier, the easiest conclusion to come to is a consensus of sorts regarding why Nigeria is where she is.
First, both agree that what Nigeria has always had is not democracy but civil rule.
Amoda and Akinjide both stretch it further by interrogating the processes which led to, first, independence and, secondly, the republics in question.
The conclusion is that whereas Nigeria is a beast of burden unto herself, there were and had always been too many conspiracies which would make a near impossibility of any endeavour at democracy – for good governance, that is.
Therefore, that the First, Second and Third Republics collapsed should not be surprising in any way. That is the view of both men. Of course, there were military coups – seven in all. Mercifully, we are in another republic and this its 11th year, the longest continuous stretch of civil rule.
That the contraption at hand today, glamorously described as the Fourth Republic, is stumbling and wobbling through does not mean democracy has taken root. At best, babanriga-donning civilians have taken over the seat of governance. At worst, the every action of the key players leaves so much to be desired.
There is no co-terminus for the Constitution, the politicians and the electorate.
After four republics, Nigerians are still asking whether this form of governance is best suited for this clime. The way of life of the Nigerian political elite is reflective of the colonial interlocutors. Same goes for taste, modus vivendi and modus operandi, so much so that what exists is a continuation of one form of exploitation. But even in the exploitation engendered by the colonialists, there was a semblance of co-ordination and organisation. Today, that is missing. Worse, the cost of sustaining democracy in Nigeria is so massive that governance has been reduced to a regime of expenditure.
So, as it was in the past, so it is now and so it may likely be for some time to come. But can the citizens refuse this offer of democracy that has impoverished them more?
Mode of Govt.: Westminster Parliamentary
Action Group, AG
National Council for Nigerian Citizens, NCNC
Northern Peoples Congress, NPC
Nigeria National Democratic Party, NNDP
Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU
United Progressive Grand Alliance, UPGA
Sir Tafawa Balewa, PM, NPC
Ahmadu Bello, Premier Northern Region, NPC
Nnamdi Azikiwe, Premier Eastern region (later, Titular Head – President) NCNC
Obafemi Awolowo, Premier, Western Region (later, leader of Opposition) AG
Ladoke Akintola, later day Premier, Western region, AG, later, NNDP
Okpara, later Premier of Eastern Region, NCNC
Denis Osadebey, Premier, Mid-West Region, NCNC
Eyo Esua, Electoral Commission Chairman
Mode of Govt.: Executive Presidential
National Party of Nigeria, NPN
Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN
Nigeria peoples Party, NPP
Great Nigeria Peoples Party, GNPP
Peoples Redemption Party, PRP
Nigeria Advance Party, NAP
Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, President, NPN
Obafemi Awolowo, UPN Chairman
Nnamdi Azikiwe, NPP, Chairman
Waziri Ibrahim, GNPP, Chairman
Aminu Kano, PRP, Chairman
Tunji Braithwaite, NAP, Leader
Adisa Akinloye, NPN, Chairman
Joseph Wayas, Senate President, NPN
Edwin Ume Ezeoke, House Speaker, NPP
Olusola Saraki, Majority Leader, Senate, NPN
Michael Ani, Chairman, Federal Electoral Commission, FEDECO
Justice Ovie Whiskey, Chairman, Federal Electoral Commission, FEDECO
Mode of Govt.: Executive Presidential
Initially 17 Parties decreed to just two
Among the parties were Committee for National Consensus, CNC, Peoples Progressive Party, PPP, Liberal Convention, LC, Peoples Front, PF, Peoples Solidarity Party, PSP.
The two decreed into existence by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida were
Social Democratic Party, SDP
National Republican Convention, NRC
Babagana Kingibe, SDP Chairman
Tom Ikimi, NRC Chairman
MKO Abiola, SDP Presidential Candidate
Bashir Tofa, NRC Presidential Candidate
Ahmed Kusamotu, NRC Chairman (later)
Anthony Anenih, SDP Chairman (later)
Iyorchia Ayu, Senate President, SDP
Agunwa Anekwe, House Speaker, SDP
Shehu Musa Yar’Adua
Prof. Eme O. Awa, Chairman, National Electoral Commission, NECO
Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, Chairman, National Electoral Commission, NECO
Mode of Govt.: Executive Presidential
There were many political associations like
Movement for Democracy and Justice, MDJ
United Peoples Party, UPP
Peoples Redemption Party, PRP
National Solidarity Movement, NSM
Democratic Advance Movement, DAM
Three political parties were registered after a set of conditions were instituted as prerequisites for registration as political parties and they are
Peoples Democratic Party, PDP
All Peoples Party, APP, now All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP
Alliance for Democracy, AD
Today, there are 50 political parties.
Those with elected members in public office are
Action Congress, AC
Peoples Progressive Alliance, PPA
Labour Party, LP, Accord Party, AP
Olusegun Obasanjo, President, 1999 – 2007, PDP
Atiku Abubakar, Vice President, 1999 – 2007, PDP, now the Leader of AC
Evan Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Anyim Pius Anyim, Adolphus Wabara, all past Senate Presidents, David Mark, incumbent Senate President
Imam Salisu Buhari, Ghali Umar Na’Abba, Aminu Masari, Patricia Etteh, all past House Speakers, Dimeji Bankole, incumbent House Speaker
Solomon Lar, Barnabas Gemade, Audu Ogbe, Ahmadu Ali past Chairmen, PDP
Vincent Ogbulafor, incumbent Chairman, PDP
Mahmud Waziri, Yusuf Ali, former Governors Bafarawa and Modu Sheriff, past Chairmen APP
Jolly Tanko Yusuff, Yusuf Mamman, Ayo Adebanjo, Ahmed Abdulkadir, Abubakar Song, Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa past Chairmen, AD. Present status: Extinct
M D Yusuf, MDJ
Anthony Anenih, one-time BOT Chairman, PDP
Balarabe Musa, PRP
General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, NSA 1999 – 2006
Ephraim Akpata, Chairman, Abel Guobadia, Maurice Iwu, all past Chairmen, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC
15 January 1966, Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu led four other majors to topple the government of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in Nigeria’s first coup. General Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, became Head of State
*25 July 1966, General Yakubu Gowon emerged Head of State after General Aguiyi-Ironsi
*27 July 1975 General Murtala Ramat Muhammed is Head of State after ousting General Gowon
*Another bloody coup by Buka Suka Musa Dimka, February 13, 1976
General Olusegun Obasanjo emerged as Head of State
*31 December 1983, General Muhammadu Buhari is Head of State after the Second republic was sacked
*25 August 1985, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida emerged as President
*17 November 1993, General Sani Abacha emerged as Head of State, following the removal of the Interim Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan, Justice Dolapo Akinsanya had rule the government illegal.
*8 June 1998, Abacha died; General Abdulsalami Abubakar took over
*29 May 1999 General Abubakar hands over to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo