Nigeria Briefing Paper

Nigeria Briefing Paper

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Unformatted text preview: s and a series of eight military leaders that ruled for a total of 28 years. It remains to be seen if the Fourth Republic can withstand the pressures of ethnic polarization and the seemingly insatiable desire of military leaders to assume control and “restore order” during times of political crisis. A brief review of the four republics, and the reasons for the collapse of the first three, provides some insights into whether the current Obasanjo government can build the foundation for democracy to finally flourish in a country with incredible potential to be a leader on the African continent. The First Republic that assumed power in 1960 was patterned after the British parliamentary system, with some characteristics of the American presidential system as well. Similar to the British system, there was a House of Representatives (called the House of Commons in Great Britain), which was popularly elected in single-member districts that generally corresponded to ethnic divisions. Consistent with the Westminster model, the Nigerian House of Representatives elected the prime minister and cabinet from its own members. There was also a Senate that was patterned after the British House of Lords, with tribal chiefs and traditional leaders playing a ceremonial role in the political process. There were also three Nigeria Briefing Paper Copyright © 2005 by College Board. All rights reserved. Available at 13 significant similarities with the American presidential system: (1) the federal structure developed during colonialism was retained, (2) a written constitution was promulgated which delineated the powers of government and rights of citizens, and (3) a Supreme Court was created to assure that the acts of the federal government were constitutional. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was elected the country’s first prime minister, serving as the head of the government. As a member of the British Commonwealth, the head of state for Nigeria was the British monarch. This arrangement lasted for only three years, when the constitution was amended to become a republic, with a Nigerian president replacing the British monarch as the head of state. Nigeria’s first president was Nnamdi Azikiwe. Despite this change, Nigeria opted to remain a part of the British Commonwealth system. In elections in December 1964/January 1965, Balewa’s northern-based party won a parliamentary majority, enabling him to form a new government. These elections were tainted by accusations of electoral fraud, political violence, and a boycott by some opposition groups. Throughout this period, ethnic identity quickly emerged as a primary organizing principle for political party development: the Northern People’s Congress was dominated by Hausa-Fulani from the north, the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens represented Igbos, and the Action Group was predominantly Yoruba. This was the start of a trend that has continued until the present. Indeed, the lack of cross-cutting cleavages has made it difficult for truly national political movements to emerge and challenge the ethnic/reli...
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This document was uploaded on 04/02/2013.

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