Opinion: Nigeria, how did we get here? – By ROSEMARY EGABOR


As a young Nigerian who has lived to see politics in our country go from average to worse with regard to good governance, I felt it was necessary to look through the history of politics in Nigeria to track where its citizens and leaders got it wrong and also focus on politicians, today’s politics and how it has affected the development of our country.

Our path to democracy began when the federation of Nigeria was granted full independence on October 1, 1960. The Monarch (British) of Nigeria was still the Head of State but legislative power was vested in a bicameral parliament with executive power in a prime minister. The federal government was given exclusive powers on foreign relations, defence, commercial and fiscal policies, there was substantial measures of self-governance for the country’s three regions (North, East and West).

Then, political parties represented the main ethnic groups. The Northern People’s Congress represented largely the interest of the Hausa-Fulani in the northern part of Nigeria, the National Council of Nigerian Citizens represented the interest of the Igbo in eastern Nigeria while the Action Group represented the Yoruba in the West.

During the 1959 elections in preparation for Nigeria’s independence, the NPC won 134 seats in the 312 seat parliament, the NCNC with 89 seats and the AG 73 seats. The first post-independence government was formed by a conservative alliance of the NPC and the NCNC with Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as the first Prime Minister. Nigeria then proclaimed itself a Federal Republic in October 1963 with Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe as the first President.

From January 15, 1966 began the successive military governments with Gen. JTU Aguiyi Ironsi from January 15, 1966 to July 1966; Gen. Yakubu Gowon, August 1966 to July 1975; Gen. Murtala Mohammed, July 1975 to February 1976 and Gen Olusegun Obasanjo, February 1976 to 1979. Democratic governance returned with Shehu Shagari under the flag of the National Party of Nigeria as the elected president in 1983.

The military came to power again in December 1983 to August 1985 under Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. From August 1985 to August 1993, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. He annulled the famous June 12 presidential election in which Chief Moshood Abiola of the Social Democratic Party won. I can say for sure that I was old enough and conscious of the unrest in the country with riots and protests in different parts of Nigeria which I personally experienced. Babangida handed over to Ernest Shonekan in August 1993 to November 1993, Gen. Sani Abacha, November 1993 to July 1998 (Nigeria’s 7th coup), finally Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar from July 1998 to May 1999.

Abubakar appointed the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct elections that brought in Obasanjo as a civilian president in 1999 under the People’s Democratic Party ending 16 years of consecutive military rule.

From my view, the military hangover on leadership has no doubt played some significant roles in the way our politicians govern today. For more than a decade, the government in power did not take into cognisance the people that elected them to serve and manage their collective resources for the benefit of the nation. To them, government is a source of enriching themselves. What those in government need to understand is that the relationship they have with the people who voted them into power is like that between the employer and the employee of which the goal in this case is good governance and the reward is Vote-in, bad governance Vote-out.

Today, politicians are ill-prepared for the task ahead in terms of personal capacity development. Through their godfathers and unidentified sources of money, they feel qualified, seek for power and satisfy their greed to the detriment of the people they were elected to serve. In Nigeria, our people have been a sleeping giant; a country with people that never question the motives and actions of those in power; a country with people that seem satisfied in their little corners. Are our people ignorant? Where are our youths? Demanding good governance is not a privilege but a right.

In the 70s and 80s, we had student associations that were the voice of the people and constructively made their positions known on issues affecting the country and good governance including the infamous Structural Adjustment Programme introduced by Babangida in 1986 whose effect we still feel till today. Unfortunately, today, our students and young ones are more concerned about the material things of life without hard work.

As a result of SAP in 1986, the obnoxious devaluation of the naira started at N1 to $1 and today N350 to $1 for a country that is solely import-dependent with no clear plan on export oriented goals. About 20 years after, we are still talking about diversification of the economy.

There must be a limit as to the use of Federal Character in appointments; competence should not be sacrificed in strategic areas like technology, engineering and science that will accelerate the development of the country.

The judiciary has a major role to play in improvement of Nigerian politics especially in the areas of justice delivery. Anarchy would be the order of the day when people cannot get justice from the court. The recent directive by the Chief Justice of Nigeria to have a special court to try corrupt cases is a welcome development. This will help in eliminating unnecessary delays perpetrated by some lawyers in the country who are only interested in abuse of court processes.

Nigerians must support this government in its fight against corruption or good governance will be a mirage. Speaking of good governance and no one being above the law, the case of the South Korean president comes to mind. Park Guen-Hye (2013 to 2017) was the first woman president of the country but was impeached on December 9, 2016 on charges related to influence peddling by her top aide, Choi Soon-Sil. The impeachment was upheld by the constitutional court to remove her from office on March 2017. She has since been in detention and undergoing a lower court trial for charges of abuse of power and bribery. She has been replaced with a new president, Roh Moo-Hyun. This shows how a government can be effective.

The Independent National Electoral Commission should ensure compliance to the laws of campaign funding in Nigeria. The 2010 Electoral Act, as amended, states the spending limit for example the position of governorship is N200million. It is the duty of INEC to ensure compliance.

Today, we have yet to know what a senator or member of the House of Representatives earns. In other countries like the USA, it is in the public space through the Member Representative Allowance and Senators Official Personnel and Office Expense Account.

I must state categorically that Nigerians are part of the problems of our democracy. The various government agencies must continue to sensitise the people to the need for good governance and voting for the right candidate. It is pertinent to mention that the Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project has been very active in the demand for good governance.The citizens, in particular, must be made to appreciate the importance of participating in the political process and challenging unpopular government decisions and actions. The media and other news sources should play the crucial function of advocating for citizens’ understanding of government activities, public policies, and development plans.

So, did we ever get it right as a country? We never got it right from the point Abubakar handed over power to Obasanjo, as the people have never demanded good governance and accountability from those elected into office and that is why we are where we are as a country. Punch

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