Nigeria gained independence from the United Kingdom on 1st October 1960 and in October 1963 declared itself the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The first political parties in Nigeria tended to reflect the main communities, with the Nigerian People’s Congress (NPC) being conservative Muslim, the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) was Christian dominated and the Action Group (AG) was a left of centre party which reflected the world mood of the time.
The first post-independence government was a coalition of the NCNC and the NPC.
In January 1966 a group of army officers overthrew the government, but another coup followed in the July. Unrest remained in the country, especially around the massacre of Igbo and in 1967 the Igbo dominated eastern region of the country declared independence and established itself as the Republic of Biafra. This led to civil war which lasted until 1970 and the defeat of Biafra.
Military government continued and in 1975 another coup took place when Gen. Murtala Mohammed took over and announced that he would return the country to civilian rule by 1 October 1979. He was, however, assassinated and Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo took over.
A constituent assembly was formed, a new constitution drafted and elections held in 1979 to a 449 seat House of Representatives and 95 seat Senate. Five political parties took place and all five gained some representation in the bicameral National Assembly. The lead party was the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), with the United Party of Nigeria a close second. Shehu Shagari of the NPN was elected President.
In 1983 the NPN massively increased its hold on both houses and Shehu Shagari won once more. However the elections were marred with violence and accusations of ballot rigging.
In the December of 1983 the military took control once more and Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari took over. However, he was overthrown in 1985 by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. He in turn promised a return to civilian rule but it wasn’t until 1992 that elections were held with only two parties allowed to run for office. On 12th June 1993 presidential elections were held but were annulled.
In December 1993 the Defence Minister Sani Abacha assumed control and resumed a military junta which promised a return to civilian rule. However, there followed a period of turmoil and executions of opponents which came to an end when Abacha died of a heart attack in June 1998. He was replaced by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar who released political prisoners, set up a national electoral commission and delivered elections in 1998 and 1999.
The 1999 elections were won by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) with 206 of the 360 seats in the House of Representatives. In that year Olusegun Obasanjo was elected President with 62.78% of the vote.
Obasanjo went on to win the 2003 Presidential election and the PDP won every election for the Senate and House of Representatives (2003; 2007; 2011) until 2015.
In 2007 Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the PDP candidate, won the Presidential election with 69.82% of the vote but tragically he died of pericarditis on 5th May 2010. Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan took over as President and he was elected President in his own right in 2011 with 58.89% of the vote.
Although the Jonathan administration was making progress on a number of fronts his administration was perceived as corrupt and indifferent to ordinary people. In April 2014, 276 schoolgirls were abducted in Chibok in the north-eastern state of Borno by the Boko Haram group. Boko Haram had been around since 2002 but exploded into a frenzy of violence in 2009 and had been responsible for murders and abductions ever since.
The failure to find the girls, apparent indifference to their plight and demonstrable shortcomings of the Nigerian armed forces and police seemed to define the Jonathan administration.
Meanwhile the opposition had been organising itself and on 6th February 2013 the centre-left All Progressive Congress (APC) was founded as an alliance of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). By November 2013 the APC had seen five serving state Governors and 49 legislators defect from the PDP to the APC. Over the next year more followed and the PDP found themselves without a parliamentary majority for the first time.
By 2015 the APC was a real force to challenge the supremacy of the PDP and people were beginning to think for the first time that the PDP could be beaten. Ironically it took an old military dictator who claimed to be a reformed democrat to lead the APC into the general election of 2015.
Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari who had ruled the country from 1983 to 1985 became the APC Presidential candidate. When the final results for the 2015 general election were announced the PDP had been reduced to a regional party in the south-east of the country. Buhari was elected President with 53.96% of the vote; the APC took 225 of the 360 seats in the House of Representatives and 60 of the 109 seats in the Senate as well as the majority of the state governorships.
The post-election period could have been violent but both leaders called for restraint and on 31st March incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan said “Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian.” And so the transition of power from one party to another for the first time since the turmoil of the 1990s was a peaceful celebration of democracy in Nigeria.
The President is elected by popular vote for a four year term and may serve a maximum of two terms
The National Assembly is a bicameral body. The Senate consists of 109 seats. There are 36 states each with 3 seats plus an additional one from Abuja the capital. Members are elected by popular vote to serve a four year term. The House of Representatives has 360 members elected to serve a four year term.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Nigeria at joint 136th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 28 (where 100 is least corrupt).