|History of the Government/Politics of Nigeria|
Up until British Colonialization in the 1800's, Nigeria was divided in three distinct ethnic groups. In northern Nigeria were the Hausa-Fulanis, who began practicing Islam as a result of trade with the Middle East. Unlike the other two regions, they were governed by an organized autocracy. The Yoruba people made up what is now southwest Nigeria. In east and southeast Nigeria, the Ibo people were formed. The Yoruba and Ibo governments were largely a series of autonomous tribal villages, in these lands for the most part there was no true national government.
In the fifteenth century, slave traders from Portugal became established in Nigeria. At the height of the slave trade, as many as 22,000 slaves a year were removed from the country, leading the land to be known as the "Slave Coast". The Nigerians were "saved" by the British, who came in 1807 and shut down the slave trade. Unfortunately, they also established an colonial government. A system of "indirect rule" was established where the British gained the cooperation of already existing tribal structures in Nigeria. The Hausa-Fulanis of the north proved more resistant to British rule, than other groups, but eventually gave in as well. In 1914, the colony had expanded to, and became named as, what is now modern-day Nigeria.
Independence and the First Republic:
Nearly immediately after Nigeria was truly formed, groups began seeking independence. Naturally, these movements were factionalized, with the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons in the Ibo southeast, the Yoruba Action Group in the southwest, and the Northern People's Congress in the Hausa-Fulani northern lands. These groups had a difficult time working together, but eventually they overcame the British in 1960. They established a system of government similar to the British parlimentary system, but with some federalist additions in the form of three states, one for each of the Ibo, Hausa-Fulani, and Yoruba areas. Not suprisingly, this government created conflict between these three groups, due to the fear that one group would take over the others. The first republic was brought down in January 1966 in a military coup led by Ibo Major General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi.
Military rule, the Second Republic, and more military rule:
Within six months of Ironsi coming to power, his government was taken down by another military coup, this time coming from Yakubu Gowon of the north. The Ibo faction of the east did not appreciate being ruled by Gowon, and hence, led by Odumegwu Ojukwu, they declared their independence, forming the republic of Biafra. This led to a civil war between the Gowon-led Nigeria and the Ojukwu-led Biafra, which resulted in over 600,000 deaths. The ultimate result of this was Ojukwu losing on May 30, 1967 and Biafra being reincorporated into Nigeria. By July 1975, the Ojukwu-led military government was taken over by Murtala Mohmammed, due to anger over broken promises regarding a return to civilian rule. Mohmammed was subsequently assassinated, and replaced by Olusegun Obasanjo(the current president as well) in 1979. He created the Second Republic, which was a civilian-led government somewhat similar to that of the United States. This time, the civilian government was successful in staving off ethnic conflict. Instead it was brought down by widespread nepotism, bribery, and other forms of corruption. By 1983, another military coup was successfully staged by Muhammed Buhari. Two years later that regime was brought down by Ibrahim Babangida. The Babingida regime looked to restore civilian government. However, when actual elections were held in 1992 and 1993, Babingida was dissatisfied with the results and called a halt to said elections. The anger over this forced Babingida's resignation, and he turned power over to a new leader who in two weeks was the victim of a military coup by Sani Abacha. Abacha was an opponent of democracy, but eventually true elections were held, and Obasango made his second rise to power.