Happy Independence Anniversary – Nigeria is 55 Today

Nigeria - Happy Independence AnniversaryOfficial Name:  Federal Republic of Nigeria

Capital: Abuja

Population: 183,523,432 (2015)

Major Languages: Yoruba, Ibo, Hausa, English (official)

Religions: Indigenous beliefs, Christianity, Islam

Currency: Naira & Kobo

Natural Resources: Petroleum, Tin, Columbite, Iron ore, Coal, Limestone, Lead, Zinc, Natural Gas

Location: Western Africa, bordering the Gulf of Guinea, between Benin and Cameroon

Geographic Coordinates: 10 00 N, 8 00 E

Map References: Africa

Area: Total: 923,770 sq km (Land: 910,770 sq km – Water: 13,000 sq km)

Land Boundaries: total: 4,047 km
Border Countries: Benin 773 km, Cameroon 1,690 km, Chad 87 km, Niger 1,497 km

Climate: varies; equatorial in south, tropical in center, arid in north

Terrain: southern lowlands merge into central hills and plateaus; mountains in southeast, plains in north

Elevation Extremes: Lowest Point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m – Highest Point: Chappal Waddi 2,419 m

A Brief Description on the History of Federal Republic of Nigeria

Pre-Independence: Although the areas of savanna and coastal forest which make up contemporary Nigeria have been inhabited for thousands of years, archeology and linguistics give us only fragmentary glimpses into most of that history. By approximately 2500 to 2000 years ago, iron-working cultures, such as the Nok, were thriving in central and southern Nigeria. The Nok produced sub-Saharan Africa’s earliest terracotta sculptures of human figures, establishing what was to become an important tradition of highly-skilled artistry, preserved in many later West African societies. Linguistic evidence also shows that the Nigeria-Cameroon border area was likely the source of the Bantu group of languages, which covers most of sub-Saharan Africa and which is linked to the spread of iron-working.

Over two millennia, and particularly between the 11th century and European colonial conquest in the late 19th century, the area in and around Nigeria was home to a number of sophisticated and influential societies. Among the most important were the northeastern kingdom of Borno, the Hausa city-state/kingdoms of Katsina, Kano, Zaria, and Gobir in northern-central Nigeria, the Yoruba city-states/kingdoms of Ife, Oyo, and Ijebu in southwestern Nigeria, the southern kingdom of Benin, and the Igbo communities of eastern Nigeria.

Extensive trading networks developed among these societies, and northwards across the Sahara. By the 11th century, new links to the equally prosperous societies of North Africa flourished as Muslim merchants of diverse ethnic origin crossed the Sahara with camel caravans. This contact also facilitated the spread of Islam in Borno and the Hausa states of the north.

Portuguese explorers arrived off the coast of modern-day Nigeria by the 1470s. Soon, European powers were regularly exchanging spirits, cloth, hardware, guns, and gunpowder for slaves along the West African coast. Slavery in various forms existed in West Africa before the Europeans arrived, as it did in most other parts of the ancient and medieval world. With the slave trade across the Atlantic, however, the volume, the commercialization, and the brutality all expanded on an unprecedented scale. Customary rights and privileges that slaves retained in many local societies were stripped away.Nigeria - Happy Independence Anniversary

In 1500, Africans and persons of African descent were probably a minority of the world’s slave population. By 1700, they had become a majority of the world’s slave population. As many as eleven or twelve million of the estimated eighteen million or more slaves exported from Africa since 1500 came from West and Central Africa. Along with Angola, the Bight of Benin (western Nigeria) and the Bight of Biafra (eastern Nigeria) were key points of embarkation for slave ships over a long period of time. The centrality of the Nigerian coast in the North Atlantic slave trade is evident in the continuing influence of West African culture in the Caribbean and North America.

The consequences of the slave trade were devastating. How much the trade diminished total African population is disputed, but the most serious effects were social and political. The trade helped foster wars, raiding, and exploitation of the weak by the powerful. Rulers and cultures who were reluctant to participate were edged aside by Big Men–rulers or merchants who used the system to increase their power and profits.

During the 19th century, the abolition of the slave trade cleared the way for expansion of trade in agricultural produce from Africa to Europe, particularly palm oil from the West African coastal areas. The coastal enclave of Lagos became a British colony in 1861, a center for expansion of British trade, missions, and political influence. Late 19th century and early 20th century Lagos was also a center for educated West African elites who were to play prominent roles in the development of Pan-Africanism as well as Nigerian nationalism.

In northern Nigeria, Muslim reformer and empire builder Uthman dan Fodio established the Sokoto Caliphate in the early 19th century over the Hausa trading states. A predominantly Fulani aristocracy ruled over the majority of Hausa-speaking commoners, including both merchants and peasants. Expansion of agriculture, trade, and crafts made this area probably the most prosperous in tropical Africa in the 19th century, engaged in trade both to the coast and through the traditional routes over the desert to North Africa.

At the end of the 19th century, Britain began aggressive military expansion in the region, in part to counter competition from other Western countries and to break down monopolies which local traders had established in commodities such as palm-oil, cocoa, and peanuts. Britain declared a protectorate in the Niger delta in 1885 and sponsored creation of the Royal Niger Company in 1886. A protectorate was declared over northern Nigeria in 1900. Despite the loss of sovereignty, however, the strong political and cultural traditions of these societies initially enabled many to accommodate nominal British rule with little change in their way of life.

Just as in the United States, the late 19th and early 20th centuries marked a resurgence of racism in the British colonial empire. Educated Africans were excluded from the civil service, and African entrepreneurs were discriminated against. Top-down colonial authority was put in place through what was called “indirect rule,” which used existent or invented traditional authorities to govern African communities. “Chiefs” became the agents of colonial rule, while checks and balances that often had previously constrained their authority were diminished.

The slogan “Divide and Rule” helped guide administration as well as conquest. Although the North and South were formally consolidated in 1914, disparities of education and religion were reinforced. In the North, the British limited Christian missions, restricted education, and reinforced the feudal rulers. In 1939, Eastern and Western Nigeria were separated, leading to the structure of three separate regions which was in place at independence. Within each region, one ethnic group predominated—the Hausa-Fulani in the North, the Yoruba in the southwest and the Igbo in the southeast. The system fostered rivalries not only between the regions, but also between the dominant group and “minorities” within each region.

Resistance to colonial rule took many forms until independence in 1960. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who died in 1996 at the age of 91, was one of the continent’s leading nationalists. Women’s resistance to taxation led to a revolt in Aba in eastern Nigeria in 1929 and to massive protests in Abeokuta in the west in the late 1940s. The Islamic populist movement led by Aminu Kano in the north opposed not only British rule but also the feudal aristocracy.

The political scene leading up to independence, however, was dominated by three regionally based parties: the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) in the east, the Action Group (AG) in the west, and the conservative Northern People’s Congress (NPC) in the north.Nigeria - Happy Independence Anniversary

Post Independence: Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation gained independence in October 1st 1963 from the British. Ever since that day, Nigeria remained an uneasy federation of distinct regions. The political class of each region used its authority to harass opponents and to pursue it own interests. At the federa level, the Northern People’s Congress, led by northern region premier Ahmadu Bello and federal prime minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was the leading force in a coalition with the NCNC, while the AG was excluded from power. After openly corrupt elections in 1964, the NCNC was also excluded from national power. The gap between the rich and the poor widened, and protests mounted. In January 1966, middle-ranking members of the Nigerian military staged an attempted coup. This was suppressed by federal troops, but resulted in the installation of a military junta, led by Igbo officers. Regional animosities flared, prompting massacres of Igbo-speakers living in the north. The following year, eastern leaders responded by declaring a separate Republic of Biafra, igniting a three-year civil war. Despite intense ethnic polarization and perhaps as many as one million killed during the war, the winning federal government followed a policy of non-retribution. Subsequent division of Nigeria into smaller states produced larger representation for ethnic groups other than the big three.

Successive military governments promised to return Nigeria to civilian rule, but it was more than a decade before Lt.-Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo fulfilled this commitment. They also promised to end civilian corruption, but General Murtala Muhammad, the most energetic in the drive against corruption, was in office only for less than a year in 1975-76 before an abortive coup attempt resulted in his death. In 1979, Shehu Shagari, leader of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), was elected president of the Second Republic. However, neither the regional tensions nor the issue of corruption had been resolved. The Shagari regime was notoriously corrupt and incompetent. On December 31, 1983, the armed forces again deposed the government. The coup, led by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, initially enjoyed the support of many Nigerians, who had become disillusioned with the corruption of civilian officials.

When Gen. Ibrahim Babangida assumed power in 1985, the military government again promised to restore democracy. Despite initial indications of the military s commitment to this goal, hopes for a swift transition began to fade by the end of the decade. The schedule was repeatedly revised and the government made increasingly intrusive attempts to “manage” the process of political party formation.

The most urgent issue is democracy, understood not only as an end to military rule but also as the establishment of responsive political institutions which promote accountable government, prevent corruption, respect human and civil rights, and ensure popular sovereignty. For most Nigerians, the pressing problems of everyday survival are the highest immediate priority. Since the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria’s economy has been in crisis despite continued expansion in oil production. The real income index for urban households dropped from 166 in 1980 to 71 in 1986. The exchange rate for the naira has dropped from one to a dollar in 1985 to 79 to a dollar in 1996. And the list of dismal statistics could go on. Without the establishment of accountable government, however, the chances of addressing other pressing problems–such as the deterioration of living conditions and the collapse of once outstanding educational institutions- -are very low.

Nigeria has abundant human as well as natural resources to address its problems. Many of its outstanding leaders, however, are instead in prison or in exile. The prerequisite for addressing other problems is having a government that works and is accountable to the Nigerian people.

The electoral system imposed two political parties created by the military: the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Both parties chose wealthy Muslim businessmen to run for president. The NRC candidate was Bashir Tofa, from northern Nigeria; Chief Moshood Abiola, from the southwest, was the candidate for the SDP. Although both had been approved by the military, Abiola, a flamboyant media magnate and philanthropist, was seen as potentially more independent.

Nigerians eventually went to the polls on June 12, 1993 in what observers deemed one of the most peaceful and orderly elections in Africa in recent years. Abiola won 58 percent of the vote, including majorities in 22 of Nigeria’s 31 states. Even in the north, he won 43 percent of the vote, carrying 4 of the 11 northern states.

Nigerian hopes for a return to civilian rule were dashed when the military regime annulled national elections after votes were counted in June 1993. Since then repression has escalated to unprecedented levels, culminating in the execution of environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues in November 1995. Military ruler General Sani Abacha peddles another complex “transition” program, while internal protest is repeatedly quashed and the international community pays only sporadic attention. Like the anti-apartheid movement in the early 1970s, the Nigerian pro-democracy movement is faced with the challenge of building a coalition that can isolate a systematically abusive regime and promote a democratically accountable alternative. The situations differ in many respects, most notably in the lack of a racially-defined barrier between oppressor and oppressed. Nevertheless, the movement for democracy in Nigeria has similar strengths and faces comparably formidable obstacles as did its South African counterpart twenty years ago.Nigeria - Happy Independence Anniversary

Gen. Abacha has presided over a rapid deterioration of respect for civil and human rights. Although he has echoed the perpetual assurances of a return to civilian rule, he devised a protracted and centrally-controlled transition process guaranteed to keep him in power at least until late 1998. Local government elections held in March 1996 were boycotted by pro-democracy groups which saw the tightly regulated poll as an attempt to lend legitimacy to Abacha’s discredited transitional process. The Abacha regime has detained, indefinitely, thousands of labor leaders, pro-democracy activists, human rights advocates, and other political opponents, including President-Elect Abiola and the former head of state, Gen. Obasanjo. Chief Abiola’s wife, Kudirat Abiola, and others prominent in the campaign for justice and democracy have recently been the victims of assassination or attempted assassination. Efforts by minority groups to secure greater autonomy and control of Nigeria’s natural resources have been brutally suppressed, particularly in the oil-rich southeast where the government executed writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other leaders of the Ogoni people in November 1995. At the same time, the country faces a deepening economic crisis, aggravated by the failure of World Bank-sponsored structural adjustment program and the systematic misappropriation of oil revenues by Nigeria’s ruling elite.

Despite repression, human rights and environmental groups, trade unionists, educators, and others inside Nigeria continue to resist authoritarian rule. Internal opposition has been supported by a large and well-educated group of Nigerians living abroad, just as the South African exile community played a key role in the anti-apartheid struggle. International human rights groups and environmental groups have joined with Africa advocacy groups in focusing world attention on Nigeria. International community and African leaders, including South African President Nelson Mandela, also responded with intensified political, diplomatic, and economic pressure on the Abacha regime to secure the release of imprisoned leaders, to permit the return of exiled activists, and to facilitate the identification of a durable solution to Nigeria’s political crisis. The United States, the European Union, and the Commonwealth imposed limited sanctions on Nigeria, including a ban on arms sales and visa restrictions on Nigerian officials. There has also been increased international support for Nigerian organizations working for democracy and human rights.

These pressures have had more symbolic effects than substantive impact. They have fallen far short of more comprehensive sanctions demanded by Nigerian pro-democracy forces. Legislation introduced in the US Congress, but not yet voted on, would authorize additional economic sanctions, while still not including a comprehensive embargo on Nigerian oil.

When public attention and the media spotlight shifts off of Nigeria, diplomats tend to revert to business as usual, relying on the false hope that quiet diplomacy with the Nigerian government will eventually bring about the promised transition to civilian rule and avert further crises. The military regime is running a well-financed public relations campaign to convince African-Americans and others that it is sincere about change. Real progress toward democracy is unlikely, however, unless more significant steps are taken to weaken the military regime and to strengthen popular democratic forces.

Representatives of pro-democracy groups within Nigeria, hampered by difficulties of communication and recurrent repression, are best contacted when travelling or through overseas representatives.

In recent years, particularly since the death of military ruler General Sani Abacha in June 1998, Nigeria has undergone significant political change. Abacha’s successor, General Abubakar, successfully executed a transition to democratic rule, culminating in the elections of February 1999 when Nigerians voted in their first civilian democratic President and legislature in over 15 years.

Presidential System of Government:

Under the Presidential System of government, the executive is made up of the President, Vice President and the Ministers. After the President has been elected, he is free to choose anybody with good credentials and reputations as his Minister. The Ministers are individually responsible to the President who can dismiss any if found wanting.

Nigeria as the United States of America operates a single Executive system- a situation where a single person functions as both the head of state and head of government.

The Executive initiates most of the bills that are passed into law by the legislature arm. They also have delegated legislative powers which enable them to issue orders, proclamations etc.

It generates finance for the State through tax, rates, customs, and excise duties etc. it draws budget and presents to the legislative as finance and Appropriation Bill for its approval.

The Executive formulates policies for the government on the account of the internal and external affairs of the state. It recruits, train, deploys and monitors staff to ensure that government policies are realised.Nigeria - Happy Independence Anniversary

1999, The Year of Democracy

Former General Olusegun Obasanjo, previously a military ruler of Nigeria (1976-79), was inaugurated President on May 29, 1999, promising “fair and transparent government”, and vowing to tackle the difficult legacy of previous military regimes. However, one year on, Nigeria’s democracy remains fragile, and, despite some important positive developments, there remain serious challenges to the country’s stability and to the new political order.

Promising signs of democratic change came swiftly on the heels of Obasanjo’s inauguration, and included the creation of panels to investigate past corruption and human rights abuses, and the forced retirement of key military officers involved in previous military regimes. Nigeria became an active participant in regional affairs, helping to broker the Sierra Leone peace agreement and committing financial and military resources to the peacekeeping operation.

Nigeria’s democratic transition ushered in a new era in US-Nigeria relations. The end of Nigeria’s “international pariah” status was symbolized by President Obasanjo’s official visit to the US in October 1999. In the same month, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Nigeria and announced a proposal to increase US aid four-fold in support of the democratic transition. Nigeria represents an important economic partner for the US, with bilateral trade on the increase – from $4.9 billion in 1994 to $6.7 billion in 1996. The US imports 8% of its oil from the Delta region.

Despite these positive developments, Nigeria’s democracy remains fragile. Particularly problematic is the challenge of economic rejuvenation in the context of years of corrupt rule and a massive external debt burden, as well as the difficult issues of regional inequalities, ethnic and religious tensions, and the necessity for more equitable distribution of the wealth generated by Nigeria’s natural resources. Nowhere is this issue of responsible resource management and the need for democratic governance more urgent than in Nigeria’s oil-producing Delta region.

For years, the Niger Delta has been the site of a highly complex crisis, rooted in the long-term political and economic alienation of its communities, the destruction of their environment and the oppression of their peoples by the military state in league with the multinational corporations that exploit the region’s oil (Shell, Chevron etc). The reliance of past regimes on repressive tactics over dialogue, and their repeated failure to address the Delta’s fundamental problems, made this a human rights crisis and a threat to Nigeria’s stability.

While President Obasanjo visited to the Delta in June 1999 and promised to bring greater development to the region, events since then, in particular the violent military operation in Odi in November 1999, have raised questions as to the government’s credibility in taking a new and democratic approach to the problem. With rival minority ethnic groups competing for resources and political voice, and with the Delta communities engaged in a long-term struggle with the oil companies and security forces, the seemingly intractable crisis in the Delta remains a tinderbox in the new Nigeria.

The latest flashpoint to threaten Nigeria’s still-fragile democracy is the issue of religious violence, related to the opportunistic moves by some Muslim-dominated northern states to use the new democratic climate to propose the adoption of Sharia (Islamic Law). The religious issue has always been volatile in Nigeria, but has become increasingly divisive since the Sharia issue came to the fore in recent months. Religious protests and bloody clashes between Christians and Muslims have fueled further violent ethnic fighting throughout the country, already on the increase since the democratic transition, and hundreds have been killed and displaced.Nigeria - Happy Independence Anniversary

This most recent challenge to the still-young democratic government is viewed by many commentators as the most serious threat to the nation’s unity since its return to democracy. It is symptomatic of the difficulties inherent in establishing democracy in such an ethnically-diverse country after so many years of military rule.

Tested by such crises, Nigeria’s democracy remains fragile, and the challenges faced by Obasanjo and his government threaten to undo much of what has been achieved since military rule was ended. There are still many questions about the internal security of the new Nigeria. If 1999 was a critical year for democracy in Nigeria, 2000 will be no less critical in determining the country’s future shape and stability. The president faces the daunting task of rebuilding a petroleum-based economy, whose revenues have been squandered through corruption and mismanagement, and institutionalizing democracy. In addition, the OBASANJO administration must defuse longstanding ethnic and religious tensions, if it is to build a sound foundation for economic growth and political stability. Despite some irregularities, the April 2003 elections marked the first civilian transfer of power in Nigeria’s history.

2007 – 2010, Democracy Continues…

Despite some irregularities, the April 2007 elections marked the second phase of transfer of power in Nigeria’s history when President Obasanjo handed power to Alhaji Musa Yaradua the former governor of Katsina. President Musa Yaradua according to some people is the right fit for Nigeria. Who is he?President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, the Executive Governor of Katsina State, was born in Katsina Town, Katsina State in 1951. He started his primary education at Rafukka Primary School, Katsina in 1958. He left Rafukka for Dutsinma Boarding Primary School in 1962 from where he completed his primary education in 1964.

Between 1965-1969, Umaru Yar’adua was at Government College, Keffi in present-day Nasarawa State for his secondary education. He then moved to the famous Barewa College Zaria for his Higher School Certificate between 1970-1971. For his university education, Yar’adua attended the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria from 1972-1975 where he obtained the B.Sc Education/Chemistry. He returned to the same University from 1978-1980 for his M.Sc Degree in Analytical Chemistry.

Unfortunately, President Yaradua hindered from governing the country due to his illiness that continued to take a toll on him. President Yar’Adua travels to Saudi Arabia to be treated for a heart condition. His extended absence triggers a constitutional crisis and leads to calls for him to step down. The decision was taken in order to fill a power vacuum created when the ailing Mr Yar’Adua travelled to Saudi Arabia for treatment for a heart condition in late 2009. Although Mr Yar’Adua returned to Nigeria soon after this, he did not return to work, and Mr Jonathan continued to run state affairs. President Umaru Yar’Adua dies after a long illness. Vice-president Goodluck Jonathan, already acting in Yar’Adua’s stead, succeeds him.

Mr Jonathan, elected along with Mr Yar’Adua as his vice-president in 2007, had already been appointed temporary acting president by parliament in February 2010, after lengthy political wrangling.Nigeria - Happy Independence Anniversary

Mr Jonathan’s rapid rise to power was facilitated by the illness of President Yar’Adua

At his inauguration, he named bedding down the peace process in the Niger Delta, fighting corruption and enacting electoral and energy reforms as his main priorities. Analysts say Mr Jonathan is thought to lack a political base of his own, and is regarded as more of an administrator than a leader.

Goodluck Jonathan was born in 1957 in Bayelsa, a state in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Unlike Mr Yar’Adua, a Muslim from northern Katsina state, he is a Christian from the south. After studying zoology at university, he worked as an education inspector, lecturer and environmental protection officer before going into politics in 1998.

Elected deputy governor of his native Bayelsa state in 1999, he was promoted when the governor was impeached on corruption charges in 2005. Two years later, he was hand-picked to be Mr Yar’Adua’s running mate in the 2007 election, which the ticket won amid allegations of widespread vote-rigging.

A little-known figure in national politics, Umaru Yar’Adua himself was chosen by outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo as his successor, becoming the first civilian to succeed another without an intervening period of military rule.

Promising wide-ranging reforms, he was dogged by ill health during his three years in office, with the Niger Delta peace process seen as the sole issue on which he achieved substantial progress.

Source: http://www.nigeriainfonet.com/nigeriahistory.htm

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Longlife Nigeria… Longlife Nigerians

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Article by Nicholas

Nicholas Babatunde Lateef is a Blogger and Career Builder (Business and Educational Consultant). He is the Founder and CEO of MyEduGist. He has the passion to provide useful and quality update about Education, Examinations and Scholarships worldwide. You can also like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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