Nigerian Politics

President Nnamdi Azikiwe 1963 1966
President Yakubu Gowon 1966 1975
General Murtala Muhammad 1975 1976
General Olusegun Obasanjo 1976 1979
President Shehu Shagari 1979 1983
General Muhammadu Buhari 1983 1985
General Ibrahim Babangida 1985 1993
President Ernest Shonekan 1993 1993
General Sani Abacha 1993 1998
President Olusegun Obasanjo 1999 2007
President Umaru Yar'Adua 2007 2010
President Goodluck Jonathan 2010 2015
President Muhammadu Buhari 2015 2020

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country and the central gravity for the continent's emerging democracies. The country has access to a complex array of media, foreign and domestic, electronic and print, as well as growing use of the Internet. Nigerian public figures and opinion leaders utilize and are influenced by all forms of media and communication systems, but electronic media are most pervasive in Nigerian society and have the strongest reach to mass audiences. Surveys have shown that about 67 percent of Nigerians get their news from radio, 20 percent from television, 10 percent from newspapers and handbills, and 3 percent from the Internet.

Roughly half of Nigeria's population lives in northern Nigeria, speaks Hausa as a first language, or uses Hausa as a second language or lingua franca. This group is predominantly Muslim while southern Nigeria is largely English speaking and Christian. While many southern Yorubas are also Muslim, Islamic scholars (and Nigerians Muslims themselves) make a clear distinction between Yoruba Muslims and those from the north.

There are differences between how elites process information and effective strategies to influence elite opinion, and how average Nigerians get their information and formulate opinions. Nigerian public officials are very dependent on the opinions of other African government officials, pay real attention, and envy the success stories of other African and non-aligned countries. Nigeria has a large ego, and the peer review mechanism is an important self-assessment and policy formulation toll in Nigeria.

It is important to distinguish between influential political actors that are within the government and those outside it. Those in government influence policies and are respected for the positions they occupy, but they may not have the same clout after vacating their offices. Conversely, there are retired military leaders and political actors whose opinions remain crucial to policy decisions well after they had left the government. Top political party leaders, religious leaders, labor leaders, traditional rulers, youth leaders, and academics have varying levels of influence in the government's decision making process. Retired past military leaders still retain significant influence while Muslim clerics are the most influential in northern Nigeria. Journalists are important in informing the public and mobilizing public opinion, but have little direct influence as individuals.

Nigeria is now enjoying the longest period of civilian rule since independence in 1960. The first civilian republic ended in a military coup in 1966, ushering in a devastating civil war and several more military governments. In fact, during the 33-year period from 1966 until the fourth republic came into being in 1999, civilians only governed for four short years. Historically, therefore, the dearth of democratic experience has created enormous challenges to institutionalizing democracy in the Nigerian fourth republic.

Nigerian politicians often hire thugs to intimidate their opposition. Both sides use them. "Depending on how greedy or ambitious the local politician was, they would sometimes use more of their services, sometimes less, but both sides. All parties are involved.

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. In 2003, President Obasanjo was re-elected in contentious and highly flawed national elections and state gubernatorial elections, which were litigated over 2 years. Since 2006, violence, destruction of oil infrastructure, and kidnappings of primarily expatriates in the oil-rich Niger River Delta 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 [he had first served as President from 1976 to 1979, and then served two terms under the new Fourth Republic]. 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. The May 2006 defeat by the National Assembly of the third term initiative was the culmination of a number of positive trends in Nigerian democratic development. The concept of a Nigerian nation appeared to have taken root. Moreover, civil society and the public itself had roles in defeating the presidentís third term gambit, signifying their growing influence in national politics.

Nigerian opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari on 31 March 2015 took a historic victory in presidential elections, receiving congratulations from incumbent Goodluck Jonathan. The result marked the first time in Nigeria's history that an incumbent president was ousted at the ballot box and also heralds the end of a 16-year rule of Jonathan's Peoples Democratic Party.

For the first time in the 2015 election, Buhari, a northern Muslim, received wide support from southwestern states, with the exception of Ekiti State. This was not the case in Buhariís failed presidential attempts of 2003, 2007 and 2011. Needless to say, Buhariís historic win in the southwest had much to do with the fact that in this geopolitical zone, the influence of Islam and Christianity is roughly equal.

When he took office on 29 May, Buhari would inherit a government that was borrowing to pay its bills and still had not passed a 2015 budget. Buhari inherited a treasury depleted by the global drop in the price of oil, Nigeriaís biggest export. He was responsible for figuring out how to put Boko Haram down for good, and what to do about the legions of people that had fled across Nigeria and over its borders. And he was up against an entrenched political culture in Nigeria that allowed corruption to flourish for years. Fulfilling election promises of change, in short, would be a lot harder than making them.

Many of the top leaders of the APC are former PDP members who defected when the party formed as a union of Nigeriaís main opposition groups in 2013. How truly different his government would be from the PDP would only become known after the inauguration.

The final stage of a historic election cycle in Nigeria began 11 April 2015 when voters returned to the polls to elect governors and other state representatives. The 36 state governors are said to be among the most powerful politicians in Africa's top economy. With 29 of the races contested, turnout appeared to be weaker than in the national presidential election two weeks earlier.

Nigeria's newly ascendant All Progressives Congress party won at least 18 of 29 state governor positions that were at stake in the elections. But in southern Rivers State, the party says violence and tampering compromised the vote. Nigeriaís Independent National Electoral Commission declared Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party the winner of the gubernatorial election in Rivers State, the heart of Nigeriaís oil production.

Join the mailing list


privacy policy