Nigeria - History
In the northern cities of Kano and Katsina, recorded history dates back to about 1000 AD. In the centuries that followed, these Hausa kingdoms and the Bornu empire near Lake Chad prospered as important terminals of north-south trade between North African Berbers and forest people who exchanged slaves, ivory, and kola nuts for salt, glass beads, coral, cloth, weapons, brass rods, and cowrie shells used as currency.
In the southwest, the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo was founded about 1400, and at its height from the 17th to 19th centuries attained a high level of political organization and extended as far as modern Togo. In the south central part of present-day Nigeria, as early as the 15th and 16th centuries, the kingdom of Benin had developed an efficient army; an elaborate ceremonial court; and artisans whose works in ivory, wood, bronze, and brass are prized throughout the world today. In the 17th through 19th centuries, European traders established coastal ports for the increasing traffic in slaves destined for the Americas. Commodity trade, especially in palm oil and timber, replaced slave trade in the 19th century, particularly under anti-slavery actions by the British Navy. In the early 19th century the Fulani leader, Usman dan Fodio, promulgated Islam and that brought most areas in the north under the loose control of an empire centered in Sokoto.
Several dominant themes in Nigerian history are essential for understanding contemporary Nigerian politics and society. First, the spread of Islam, predominantly in the north but later in southwestern Nigeria as well, began a millennium ago. The creation of the Sokoto Caliphate in the jihad (holy war) of 1804-8 brought most of the northern region and adjacent parts of Niger and Cameroon under a single Islamic government. The great extension of Islam within the area of present-day Nigeria dates from the nineteenth century and the consolidation of the caliphate. This history helps account for the dichotomy between north and south and the divisions within the north that have been so pronounced during the colonial and postcolonial eras.
Second, the slave trade across both the Sahara Desert and the Atlantic Ocean had a profound influence on virtually all parts of Nigeria. The transatlantic trade in particular accounted for the forced migration of perhaps 3.5 million people between the 1650s and the 1860s, while a steady stream of slaves flowed north across the Sahara for a millennium, ending only at the beginning of the twentieth century. Within Nigeria, slavery was widespread and bore social implications that are still evident. Conversion to Islam and the spread of Christianity were intricately associated with issues relating to slavery and with efforts to promote political and cultural autonomy. Third, the colonial era was relatively brief, lasting only six decades or so depending on the part of Nigeria, but it unleashed such rapid change that the full impact is still felt in the contemporary period.
All evidence suggests the early settlement of Nigeria millennia before the spread of agriculture 3,000 years ago. The earliest culture in Nigeria is identifiable by the distinctive artifacts of the Nok people. These skilled artisans and ironworkers flourished between the fourth century BC and the second century AD. in a large area above the confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers. The Nok achieved a level of material development not repeated in the region for nearly 1,000 years.
Long before 1500, much of present-day Nigeria was divided into states, which can still be linked to the modern ethnic groups that trace their history to the origins of these states. These early states included the Yoruba kingdoms, the Edo kingdom of Benin, the Hausa cities, and Nupe. In addition, numerous small states to the west and south of Lake Chad were absorbed or displaced in the course of the expansion of Kanem, centered to the northeast of Lake Chad. Borno, initially the western province of Kanem, became independent in the late fourteenth century.
The sixteenth century marked a high point in the political history of northern Nigeria. During this period, the Songhai Empire reached its greatest limits, stretching from the Senegal and Gambia rivers in the far west and incorporating part of Hausaland in the east. At the same time, the Sayfawa Dynasty of Borno asserted itself, conquering Kanem and extending its control westward to Hausa cities that were not under Songhai imperial rule. For almost a century, much of northern Nigeria was part of one or the other of these empires, and after the 1590s, Borno dominated the region for 200 years. Despite Borno's hegemony, the Hausa states wrestled for ascendancy among themselves for much of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
By 1471 Portuguese ships had reconnoitered the West African coast south as far as the Niger Delta. Portugal's lasting legacy for Nigeria was its initiation of the transatlantic slave trade. The Portuguese monopoly on West African trade was broken at the end of the sixteenth century when Portugal's influence was challenged by the rising naval power of the Netherlands. The Dutch took over Portuguese trading stations on the coast that were the source of slaves for the Americas. French and British competition later undermined the Dutch position, and Britain became the dominant slaving power in the eighteenth century.
As in Europe and parts of the Americas, most Africans tilled the soil. Their skill in farming was derived from the development of iron production, which may have begun in West Africa while Europe was still in the Stone Age. Iron implements increased agricultural production that in turn spurred population growth. By the time of European contact with the West Coast of Africa, a number of large empires had risen. Almost five hundred years ago ships captained by Europeans began transporting millions of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. This massive population movement helped create the African Diaspora – or dispersal of Africans to the New World.
A large majority of slaving activities took place along the West African coast, chiefly between the Senegal River to the north and the Bight of Biafra in the south, though some slaving expeditions stretched around Cape Horn to today’s Tanzania. Slaving forts, such as James Fort, Sierre Leone and Cape Coast were a vital feature of the slave trade, and served as a central clearinghouse where slavers could exchange material trade goods for human chattel. Thirty-six of the forty-two known slaving fortresses were located in Ghana. Aside from Ghana, Africans were shipped from eight African coastal regions, later dubbed the "slave coast," including Senegambia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Liberia region, Gold Coast, Bight of Benin, Bight of Biafra, Central Africa, and Southeast Africa (from the Cape of Good Hope to the Cape of Delgado, including Madagascar).
Thus, the slave trade had the greatest impact upon central and western African. West Africa supplied 3/5ths of the slaves for exportation between 1701-1810. Existing evidence indicates that half of the kidnapped Africans were exported to South America, 40 percent to the Caribbean Islands, 7 percent to British North America, and 3 percent to Central America. Overall, at least twelve million Africans -- numbers vary widely and no estimate can be made with certainty -- were kidnapped, sold into slavery in Africa and shipped to the Americas from 1450 to 1850. This figure reflects only the numbers of Africans exported to the New World who arrived alive. Perhaps one-third of all kidnapped Africans perished before being forced onboard a slave vessel, and perhaps another third died on the voyage across the Atlantic.
Following a triangular route between Africa, the New World and Europe, slave traders from European countries delivered Africans in exchange for products such as rum, tobacco, and especially sugar, the products European consumers desired, and to fill labor shortages in the Americas. African kingdoms, eager for European trade goods, warred against each other to gather captives to supply a portion of the Africans demanded by European slavers.
By the end of the eighteenth century, the area that was to become Nigeria was far from a unified country. Furthermore, the orientation of north and south was entirely different. The savanna states of Hausaland and Borno in the north had experienced a difficult century of political insecurity and ecological disaster but otherwise continued in a centuries-long tradition of slow political and economic change that was similar to other parts of the savanna. The southern areas near the coast, by contrast, had been swept up in the transatlantic slave trade. Political and economic change had been rapid and dramatic. By 1800 Oyo, a constitutional monarchy, governed much of southwestern Nigeria, while the Aro, another polity, had consolidated southeastern Nigeria into a confederation. Both Oyo and the Aro confederacy were major trading partners of the slave traders from Europe and North America.
In the first decade of the nineteenth century, two unrelated developments that were to have a major influence on virtually all of the area that is now Nigeria ushered in a period of radical change. First, between 1804 and 1808 the Islamic holy war of Usman dan Fodio established the Sokoto Caliphate, a loose confederation of emirates centered in northwestern Nigeria. By the middle of the nineteenth century, when the Sokoto Caliphate was at its greatest extent, it comprised 30 emirates and the capital district of Sokoto. All the important Hausa emirates, including Kano, the wealthiest and most populous, were directly under Sokoto. Second, in 1807 Britain declared the transatlantic slave trade to be illegal, an action that occurred at a time when Britain itself was responsible for shipping more slaves to the Americas than any other country. Although the transatlantic slave trade did not end until the 1860s, other commodities, especially palm oil, gradually replaced it. The shift in trade had serious economic and political consequences in the interior, which led to increasing British intervention in the affairs of Yorubaland and the Niger Delta.
Following the Napoleonic wars, the British expanded trade with the Nigerian interior. In 1885, British claims to a sphere of influence in that area received international recognition and, in the following year, the Royal Niger Company was chartered. In 1900, the company's territory came under the control of the British Government, which moved to consolidate its hold over the area of modern Nigeria. In 1914, the area was formally united as the "Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria."
In 1885 at the Berlin Conference, the European powers attempted to resolve their conflicts of interest in Africa by allotting areas of exploitation. The conferees also enunciated the principle, known as the "dual mandate," that the interests of both Europe and Africa would best be served by maintaining free access to the African continent for trade and by providing Africa with the benefits of Europe's civilizing mission. Britain's claims to a sphere of influence in the Niger Basin were acknowledged formally, but it was stipulated that only effective occupation would secure full international recognition. In the end, pressure from France and Germany hastened the establishment of effective British occupation and the creation of protectorates in northern and southern Nigeria.
Frederick Lugard, who assumed the position of high commissioner of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria in 1900, was occupied with transforming the commercial sphere of influence inherited from the Royal Niger Company into a viable territorial unit under effective British political control. His objective was to conquer the entire region and to obtain recognition of the British protectorate by its indigenous rulers, especially the Fulani emirs of the Sokoto Caliphate. Lugard's campaign systematically subdued local resistance, using armed force when diplomatic measures failed. Lugard's success in northern Nigeria has been attributed to his policy of indirect rule, which called for governing the protectorate through the rulers who had been defeated. If the emirs accepted British authority, abandoned the slave trade, and cooperated with British officials in modernizing their administrations, the colonial power was willing to confirm them in office. Lugard's immediate successor, Hugh Clifford (1919-25), introduced a diametrically opposed approach emphasizing Western values. In contrast to Lugard, Clifford restricted the power of the northern emirs by scaling back indirect rule, while in the south he saw the possibility of building an elite educated in European-style schools.
British colonialism created Nigeria, joining diverse peoples and regions in an artificial political entity with little sense of a common Nigerian nationality. Inconsistencies in British policy reinforced cleavages based on regional animosities by attempting simultaneously to preserve the indigenous cultures of each area and to introduce modern technology and Western political and social concepts. In the north, appeals to Islamic legitimacy upheld the rule of the emirs, so that nationalist sentiments there were decidedly anti-Western. Modern nationalists in the south, whose thinking was shaped by European ideas, opposed indirect rule, which had entrenched what was considered to be an anachronistic ruling class in power and shut out the Westernized Nigerian elite.
Administratively, Nigeria remained divided into the northern and southern provinces and Lagos colony. Western education and the development of a modern economy proceeded more rapidly in the south than in the north, with consequences felt in Nigeria's political life ever since. Following World War II, in response to the growth of Nigerian nationalism and demands for independence, successive constitutions legislated by the British Government moved Nigeria toward self-government on a representative, increasingly federal, basis.
Nigeria was granted full independence in October 1960, as a federation of three regions (northern, western, and eastern) under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary form of government. Under the constitution, each of the three regions retained a substantial measure of self-government. The federal government was given exclusive powers in defense and security, foreign relations, and commercial and fiscal policies. In October 1963, Nigeria altered its relationship with the United Kingdom by proclaiming itself a federal republic and promulgating a new constitution. A fourth region (the midwest) was established that year. From the outset, Nigeria's ethnic, regional, and religious tensions were magnified by the significant disparities in economic and educational development between the south and the north.
Nigeria's fundamental problem was an inability to devise a political arrangement which would provide both national unity and safeguards for the separate interests of its more than 250 tribal groups. In colonial days the British lumped these peoples together for administrative convenience and called the area Nigeria. At independence, tribal allegiances were still far stronger than national feelings. Under the original federal system each of the major tribes (Ibo, Yoruba, and Hausa-Fulani) dominated a region which embraced its own homeland as well as those of lesser tribes. The central government featured a parliament in which the conservative Northern Moslems held the deciding vote. This arrangement was devised by the British as a means of inducing the reluctant northerners to accept the federation. Southern Nigerians, more modern and generally Christian or animist, found themselves either junior partners in the federation or in opposition. The system soon ran into serious trouble when the major tribes were unable to agree even on census results or to conduct fair parliamentary elections.
On January 15, 1966, a small group of army officers, mostly southeastern Igbos, overthrew the government and assassinated the federal prime minister and the premiers of the northern and western regions. The federal military government that assumed power was unable to quiet ethnic tensions or produce a constitution acceptable to all sections of the country. Its efforts to abolish the federal structure greatly raised tensions and led to another coup in July. The coup-related massacre of thousands of Igbo in the north prompted hundreds of thousands of them to return to the southeast, where increasingly strong Igbo secessionist sentiment emerged.
In a move that gave greater autonomy to minority ethnic groups, the military divided the four regions into 12 states. The Igbo rejected attempts at constitutional revisions and insisted on full autonomy for the east. Finally, in May 1967, Lt. Col. Emeka Ojukwu, the military governor of the eastern region, who emerged as the leader of increasing Igbo secessionist sentiment, declared the independence of the eastern region as the "Republic of Biafra." The ensuing civil war was bitter and bloody, ending in the defeat of Biafra in 1970.
Following the civil war, reconciliation was rapid and effective, and the country turned to the task of economic development. Foreign exchange earnings and government revenues increased spectacularly with the oil price rises of 1973-74. On July 29, 1975, Gen. Murtala Muhammed and a group of fellow officers staged a bloodless coup, accusing Gen. Yakubu Gowon's military government of delaying the promised return to civilian rule and becoming corrupt and ineffective. General Muhammed replaced thousands of civil servants and announced a timetable for the resumption of civilian rule by October 1, 1979. Muhammed also announced the government's intention to create new states and to construct a new federal capital in the center of the country.
General Muhammed was assassinated on February 13, 1976, in an abortive coup. His chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, became head of state. Obasanjo adhered meticulously to the schedule for return to civilian rule, moving to modernize and streamline the armed forces and seeking to use oil revenues to diversify and develop the country's economy. Seven new states were created in 1976, bringing the total to 19. The process of creating additional states continued until, in 1996, there were 36.
The Second Republic
A constituent assembly was elected in 1977 to draft a new constitution, which was published September 21, 1978, when the ban on political activity, in effect since the advent of military rule, was lifted. Political parties were formed, and candidates were nominated for president and vice president, the two houses of the National Assembly, governorships, and state houses of assembly. In 1979, five political parties competed in a series of elections in which a northerner, Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), was elected president. All five parties won representation in the National Assembly.
In August 1983, Shagari and the NPN were returned to power in a landslide victory, with a majority of seats in the National Assembly and control of 12 state governments. But the elections were marred by violence, and allegations of widespread vote rigging and electoral malfeasance led to legal battles over the results.
On December 31, 1983, the military overthrew the Second Republic. Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari emerged as the leader of the Supreme Military Council (SMC), the country's new ruling body. He charged the civilian government with economic mismanagement, widespread corruption, election fraud, and a general lack of concern for the problems of Nigerians. He also pledged to restore prosperity to Nigeria and to return the government to civilian rule but was stymied in his attempt to deal with Nigeria's severe economic problems. Despite relative popularity for its no-nonsense approach in tackling corruption, the Buhari government was peacefully overthrown by the SMC's third-ranking member, Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, in August 1985.
Babangida moved to restore freedom of the press and to release political detainees being held without charge. As part of a 15-month economic emergency, he announced stringent pay cuts for the military, police, and civil servants and enacted similar cuts for the private sector. Imports of rice, corn, and wheat were banned. Babangida orchestrated a national debate on proposed economic reform and recovery measures, which reportedly convinced him of intense opposition to an economic recovery package dependent on an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.
The Abortive Third Republic
In early 1989, a constituent assembly completed work on a constitution for the Third Republic, and political activity again was permitted. In April 1990, mid-level officers tried and failed to overthrow Babangida, and 69 accused coup plotters were later executed after secret trials before military tribunals. In December 1990 the first stage of partisan elections was held at the local government level, followed by gubernatorial and state legislative elections in December 1991; turnout was low but non-violent. However, Babangida canceled primaries scheduled for August and September 1992 due to fraud. All announced candidates were disqualified from again standing for president once a new election format was selected. After delayed promises for elections in 1990, the government finally held a presidential election on June 12, 1993.
In what most observers deemed to be Nigeria's fairest elections, early returns indicated that wealthy Yoruba businessman M.K.O. Abiola had won a decisive victory. But on June 23, Babangida, using several pending lawsuits as a pretense, annulled the election, throwing Nigeria into turmoil. More than 100 persons were killed in riots before Babangida agreed to hand power to an "interim government" on August 27. Babangida then attempted to renege on his decision. Without popular and military support, he was forced to hand over to Ernest Shonekan, a prominent nonpartisan businessman. Shonekan was to rule until new elections, slated for February 1994. Although he had led Babangida's Transitional Council since early 1993, Shonekan was unable to reverse Nigeria's ever-growing economic problems or to defuse lingering political tension.
With the country sliding into chaos, Defense Minister Sani Abacha quickly assumed power and forced Shonekan's "resignation" on November 17, 1993. Abacha dissolved all democratic political institutions and replaced elected governors with military officers. Abacha promised to return the government to civilian rule but refused to announce a timetable. Following the annulment of the June 12 election, the United States and other nations imposed various sanctions on Nigeria, including restrictions on travel by government officials and their families and suspension of arms sales and military assistance. Additional sanctions were imposed as a result of Nigeria's failure to gain full certification for its counter-narcotics efforts.
Although Abacha's takeover was initially welcomed by many Nigerians, disenchantment grew rapidly. Many opposition figures formed the "National Democratic Coalition (NADECO)" to campaign for an immediate return to civilian rule, and most Nigerians boycotted the May 1994 polls for delegates to a government-sponsored Constitutional Conference. On June 11, 1994, using the groundwork laid by NADECO, Abiola declared himself president and went into hiding. He reemerged and was promptly arrested on June 23. A series of strikes by petroleum workers and other unions initially brought economic life in Lagos and the southwest to a standstill, but by mid-August Abacha had dismissed the national union leadership, arrested his opponents, closed media houses, and moved strongly to curb dissent. In early 1995, Abacha alleged that some 40 military officers and civilians were engaged in a coup plot, including former head of state Obasanjo and his deputy, retired Gen. Shehu Musa Yar'Adua. After a secret tribunal, most of the accused were convicted, and several death sentences were handed down. The tribunal also charged, convicted, and sentenced prominent human rights activists, journalists, and others--including relatives of the coup suspects--for their alleged "anti-regime" activities.
In an October 1, 1995 address to the nation, Gen. Sani Abacha announced the timetable for a 3-year transition to civilian rule. Public turnout for his sham local elections in December 1997 and in April 1998 state assembly and gubernatorial elections was under 10%, and public reaction to Abacha's presidential nomination by the five accepted parties was apathy and a near-complete boycott. Widely expected to succeed himself as a civilian president on October 1, 1998, he remained head of state until his death on June 8 of that year. During the Abacha regime, the government continued to enforce its arbitrary authority through the federal security system--the military, the state security service, and the courts. Under Abacha, all branches of the security forces committed serious human rights abuses. Abacha was replaced by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who subsequently released almost all known civilian political detainees and decreased the number of reported human rights abuses.
Abubakar's Transition to Civilian Rule
During both the Abacha and Abubakar eras, Nigeria's main decision-making organ was the exclusively military Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) which governed by decree. The PRC oversaw the 32-member federal executive council composed of civilians and military officers. Pending the promulgation of the constitution written by the constitutional conference in 1995, the government observed some provisions of the 1979 and 1989 constitutions. Neither Abacha nor Abubakar lifted the decree suspending the 1979 constitution, and the 1989 constitution was not implemented. The judiciary's authority and independence was significantly impaired during the Abacha era by the military regime's arrogation of judicial power and prohibition of court review of its action. The court system continued to be hampered by corruption and lack of resources after Abacha's death. In an attempt to alleviate such problems, Abubakar's government implemented a civil service pay raise and other reforms.
In August 1998, the Abubakar government appointed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections for local government councils, state legislatures and governors, the National Assembly, and president. INEC held a series of four successive elections between December 1998 and February 1999. Former military head of state Olusegun Obasanjo, freed from prison by Abubakar, ran as a civilian candidate and won the presidential election. Irregularities marred the vote, and the defeated candidate, Chief Olu Falae, challenged the electoral results and Obasanjo's victory in court.
The PRC promulgated a new constitution, based largely on the suspended 1979 constitution, before the May 29, 1999 inauguration of the new civilian president. The constitution included provisions for a bicameral legislature, the National Assembly, consisting of a 360-member House of Representatives and a 109-member Senate. The executive branch and the office of president retained strong federal powers. The legislature and judiciary, having suffered years of neglect, are finally rebuilding as institutions and beginning to exercise their constitutional roles in the balance of power.
The Obasanjo Administration
The emergence of a democratic Nigeria in May 1999 ended 16 years of consecutive military rule. Olusegun Obasanjo became the steward of a country suffering economic stagnation and the deterioration of most of its democratic institutions. Obasanjo, a former general, was admired for his stand against the Abacha dictatorship, his record of returning the federal government to civilian rule in 1979, and his claim to represent all Nigerians regardless of religion.
The new President took over a country that faced many problems, including a dysfunctional bureaucracy, collapsed infrastructure, and a military that wanted a reward for returning quietly to the barracks. The President moved quickly and retired hundreds of military officers who held political positions, established a blue-ribbon panel to investigate human rights violations, ordered the release of scores of persons held without charge, and rescinded a number of questionable licenses and contracts let by the previous military regimes. The government also moved to recover millions of dollars in funds secreted in overseas accounts.
Most civil society leaders and most Nigerians saw a marked improvement in human rights and democratic practice under Obasanjo. The press enjoyed greater freedom than under previous governments. As Nigeria works out representational democracy, there have been conflicts between the executive and legislative branches over major appropriations and other proposed legislation. A sign of federalism has been the growing visibility of state governors and the inherent friction between Abuja and the various state capitols over resource allocation.
In the years following the end of military rule, Nigeria witnessed recurrent incidents of ethno-religious and community conflicts, many of which derived from distorted use of oil revenue wealth, flaws in the 1999 constitution, and age-old disputes over the distribution of land and other resources. In May 1999, violence erupted in Kaduna State over the succession of an Emir, resulting in more than 100 deaths. In November 1999, the army destroyed the town of Odi in Bayelsa State and killed scores of civilians in retaliation for the murder of 12 policemen by a local gang. In Kaduna in February-May 2000 over 1,000 people died in rioting over the introduction of criminal Shar'ia in the state. Hundreds of ethnic Hausa were killed in reprisal attacks in southeastern Nigeria. In September 2001, over 2,000 people were killed in inter-religious rioting in Jos. In October 2001, hundreds were killed and thousands displaced in communal violence that spread across the Middle-Belt states of Benue, Taraba, and Nasarawa.
On October 1, 2001, President Obasanjo announced the formation of a National Security Commission to address the issue of communal violence. In 2003, he was re-elected in contentious and highly flawed national elections and state gubernatorial elections, which were litigated over two years. Since 2006, violence, destruction of oil infrastructure, and kidnappings of primarily expatriates in the oil-rich Niger River Delta have intensified as militants demanded a greater share of federal revenue for states in the region, as well as benefits from community development. For many reasons, Nigeria's security services have been unable to respond effectively to the security threat, which is both political and criminal.
In May 2006, the National Assembly soundly defeated an attempt to amend the constitution by supporters of a third presidential term for President Obasanjo. This measure was packaged in a bundle of what were otherwise non-controversial amendments. Nigeria's citizens addressed this issue in a constitutional, democratic, and relatively peaceful process.
Nigeria held state legislative and gubernatorial elections on 14 April 2007 as well as presidential and national legislative elections on April 21, 2007, in which more than 35 political parties participated. Nigeria missed an opportunity to strengthen an element of its democracy through a sound electoral process. Analysis of the process by most international observers did not conform to what Nigeria's National Electoral Commission (INEC) reported. US and international observers reported overall a seriously flawed process with credible reports of malfeasance and vote rigging in some constituencies. The scope of violence that occurred also was regrettable. There were considerable degrees of difference in the conduct of elections among states, but serious differences were also observed within states during the two polling dates. The main opposition parties, All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) and the Action Congress (AC), as well as numerous smaller political parties and the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) filed petitions to challenge the results of gubernatorial elections in 34 of Nigeria's 36 states. The Court of Appeal received 1,527 petitions, a tripling of the 527 petitions filed and received in 2003. INEC's principal problems included politicization and lack of independence, lack of transparency in its operations and decision-making, and persistent failure to make adequate logistical arrangements for both voter registration and polling.
With INEC's certification of the ruling party's presidential ticket as the winner with over 70% of the vote, Nigeria experienced its first transition of power between civilian administrations when President Obasanjo stepped down on May 29, 2007. Newly-elected President Umaru Yar'Adua, a moderate and a respected governor from the northern state of Katsina, pledged publicly to make electoral reform, peace and security in the Niger Delta, and continued electoral reform his top priorities.
Much reform remained to be implemented, but the Yar'Adua administration has shown restraint in allowing the legislative and judicial branches to operate relatively free. In October 2007 Patricia Etteh, the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, resigned over allegations of corruption, after intense legislative and public pressure. Of significance for Nigeria's system of checks and balances and the rule of law, on November 12, 2008 an appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that approved an opposition party's gubernatorial election appeal, effectively unseating the ruling party's incumbent in favor of the opposition candidate. By a 4-3 vote, Nigeria's Supreme Court on December 12 upheld the results of the presidential election and dismissed the appeals of the two other primary contenders.
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