Nigeria: Federalism, Elections and Coups post-independence.






Nigeria from the build up towards independence to the succession of coups and military interventions that heralded federalism, General Gowon, and the Biafran crisis.

One of the key issues is inter-tribal rivalry:  To what extent does that phenomenon cut through african politics and all too often cause the squandering of political stability and effect national economic policy?

See the papers etc that I have starred especially.

*  Time line of Nigerian leaders - useful.

1959 Elction, the coups of 1966 et seq. and through to Shagari.
Read this  - useful background as well as a comparative history of Nigeria - read pp. 4-18 if not p.21

and this is very good considering it is quite old and was very contemrporary when it was written. Have a bit of a go at it if you can.
The key pages are pp. 33 - 67

*  This paper is slightly eccentric in places (esp where the writer mentions Hegel! but broadly good analysis

Nigerian Federalism and its fortunes - see attached.

Biafran War:
Have a watch of this - BBC summary of Biafran War.

and much as I hate to say it the Wikipedia page on the Biafran war is excellent.

Here is a set of biographies of the leading characters in the Biafran War



What is Federalism: what are its characteristics


its functions


its aims


its problems.?


At the beginning of formal British indirect rule in 1901, Nigeria was divided into two regions: Northern and Southern, both of which were divided into provinces.


Bernard Bourdillon the Governor-general initiated and laid the foundation of federalism in Nigeria in 1939 by creating three provinces.


He later handed over the constitution to his successor Arthur Richards and it became the Richards Constitution of 1946.


Division of the country into three regions by the then Governor of Nigeria Sir Authur Richards under the Richard constitution of 1946 gave more support to the emergence of Nigeria as a federal state. The Macpherson constitution of 1951 gave further concrete support in the sense that, the constitution appointed lieutenant Governors to head these three regions and granted legislative power to the legislative and executive councils that were established.

The Lyttleton constitution of 1954 removed the final shade of a unitary system of government from Nigeria by establishing a true federal state in the sense that it shared powers between the central and the regional governments. To avoid constitutional conflicts that might arise between the central and regional governments, a supreme court was established to handle such conflict...


After independence, Nigeria constitution has continued to retain the federal system imposed by the departed colonialists but with some minor modification.


With the approach of independence, power over the regions was given to Nigerian-born citizens, and regional legislatures were established. By the time that Nigeria had declared itself a republic and replaced the post of Governor-General with the post of President, a national bicameral parliament was established and the country was considered a federation of the three regions. The Mid-Western Region was formed from the Western Region in 1966, and Lagos, the capital, was effectively governed as an unofficial fourth region outside the bounds of the Western Region.


Thus...From 1901 to 1958, the number of regions was increased to three through both acquisition of territories and partition from existing provinces. However, while native-born chiefs and clerks were appointed to govern the provinces, the regions were governed by the British-appointed colonial authorities, and such regions were made dependent upon the colonial authorities for martial law, manpower and management of resources.


It was not a question of a country that was originally unitary, being broken into federating units, but of formerly totally independent kingdoms, Empires, nations and Autonomous communities being brought together, and ending up in a federal union.

In line with this historical evolution of Nigerian federalism, it should be noted that, the choice of federalism as the preferred system of government for Nigeria was not accidental.


Given the heterogeneity of Nigerian polity, the founding fathers of Nigeria adopted the federal system as the most viable option of protecting the core interest of the federating units.


This was demonstrated in the federal constitution, especially in the 1963 federal republican constitution, that clearly defined the jurisdictions of the federating units. For example, each of the federating units had its own constitution, one of the key properties of federalism.


It should be noted that, before the attainment of independence by Nigeria in 1960, the federating units Eastern Nigeria, Northern Nigeria and Western Nigeria were, in all intents and purposes independent entities. That the three federating units attained their independent in 1957 (Eastern and Western Nigeria) and 1959 (Northern Nigeria) further buttressed their respective sovereignty. If they had wanted, there was nothing preventing any of them to go their separate ways as independent states in the international community in 1957 and 1959 respectively.


When some blame the British amalgamation of 1914 as the source of Nigeria problems, they should be reminded of the lost opportunity exhibited by Nigerian leaders to disengage from the forced amalgamation when they had the choice in 1957!


Federalism it is but at what cost given evident problems?


The composition of the Government of the federation or any of its agencies, shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies


National integration is the awareness of a common identity amongst the citizens of a country. It means that though citizens belong to different castes, religions, regions and speak different languages, they still recognize themselves as one.



The majority ethnic groups are the Hausa-Fulani of the north, the Yoruba of the southwest, and the Igbos of the southeast.However, the relationship between these groups is characterized by fear and suspicion of domination of one state or ethnic group by another. Meanwhile, this suspicion and fear between groups is historical. However, it became pronounced when Sir Fredrick Lord Lugard began the process of subjecting ethnic groups with a history of mutual distrust and hatred together as one Nigeria.



various nationalities inhabiting Nigeria have not been welded into a nation in which all of them would have a stake rather it provided a favorable environment for mutual suspicion and distrust among the disparate groups in Nigeria (Bello,


Lack of adequate representation by the ethnic groups constitutes a great threat to national integration. In realization of some inherent cleavages of inequalities, the federal character principle was introduced. The effectiveness of this policy measure in fostering national integration as well as promoting national development in Nigeria has been one of the most controversial and problematic issues in any political, social and economic discourse. The problem is that despite the adoption of the federal character principles since 1979, achieving national integration has been very difficult. (Asaju & Egberi 2015)



Why has the Federal character principle failed in bringing about the desired national integration in Nigeria?



The federal character principle is anchored on the: ..distinctive desire of the people of Nigeria to promote National Unity, foster national loyalty and give every citizen of Nigeria a sense of belonging to the nation notwithstanding the diversities of ethnic origin, culture, language or religion which may exist and which it is their desire to nourish, harness to the enrichment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A federal character was introduced for equitable sharing of posts and even distribution of natural and economic resources



agitation for more states and the proposal for the creation of additional twelve states by the Committee on National Conference are indications of the unending agitations for more

representation by the various ethnic groups in the country.


rather than strengthen the national unity, the principle of federal character unfortunately ... enthrones ethnicity.''



Elections 1959 &1965


Let us look at Ogbeidi.




"At independence, expectations were very high

regarding Nigerias chances to develop rapidly

and become a strong democratic nation in Africa.

But this hope proved to have been misplaced as

the political class lost bearing of the right

direction and charted another course for Nigerian

politics, a dangerous course which wrecked the

First Republic, six years after independence, and

resulted in the abortion of democracy at infancy in

1966 when the military stepped into politics."



Ad the subsequent para: what are he probs that Ogbeidi highlights?


Is consciousness of the political class - the urge to take power - at the root of the probs?


and the refusal to give up power?


and Ogbeidi seems to suggest that this led to the 1966 Military intervention.


Northern Peoples Congress - Ahmadu Bello (Muslim; Haua-Fulani)

Action Group - Awolowo (Yoruba)

Nat Council of Nigeria and Cameroons NCNC (Azikiwe, Igbo)


NPC dominant; AG as opposition.


Is it key that the multi-party result of 59 was educed t a two party situation in 1964/65?


NNA - Nigerian National Alliance (NPC led)


and: UPGA - United progressive Grand Alliance - NCNC/AG led


and supported variously by minority parties.


Chaos. Boycotts etc


Plus: inflation, poverty, Tiv problem, labour unrest...



And what about Ifidon's explanation of a cycle of failure precipitating a coup?


Collective memories of past 'wrongs' combined with the reactivation of ethnic stereotypes and symbols ensures that everybody and not just a political elite is drawn into the struggle for ethno-political supremacy.



the source of recurrence of the transition from democracy in Nigeria is the struggle by mobilized groups, defined in ethnic and regional terms, to exclusively control a Nigerian state that is, considering its history and character, authoritarian and pre-modern. The simple response seems to be that the state should be reconfigured: decentralized, weakened and rendered less visible, that is, transformed into a kind of minimal state with abundant opportunities for genuine local self government.8 However, like the initiation of the

democratic regime itself, this can only be effected by an authoritarian government.

Since democracy fails because the state does, restructuring the state thus appears a more urgent objective than democratization.