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Nigeria @ 59: The Journey Thus Far

By Africa Today


Sharing birth year with British Aviator, Steve Jones, renowned Argentine Soccer Legend, Diego Maradona, movie actor, Anthonio Banderas, Adele Givens, and the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, Nigeria undoubtedly has came of age in many regards.

Though other African countries such as Mauritania, Somalia, Burkina Faso, The Republic of Congo, and the Asian giant, China among others celebrates their independent this moment, Nigeria’s peculiar circumstances so far is very unique.

 it is worthy of note  to say that, the road to independence was not very rosy, whereas the preceding events shortly after independence calls to question or recommendation in accordance with different schools of thought in the country.

However from the pre-historic Igbo-Ukwu to the pre-colonial kingdoms and empires such as Kanem-Bornu, Hausaland, Oyo empire, Benin, Sokoto Caliphate, Igboland and the Delta city states to the post-independence four regions, many Nigerians held the view that the merging of the Northern and the Southern protectorate which is otherwise known as amalgamation was not done with due consideration and due acceptance of all the ethnic nations, a situation that has snow-ball into what the

Country is facing.

As a young nation after the Union Jack of Great Britain was lowered and the Nigerian flag raised, signifying the formal declaration of independence of Nigeria on 1st October 1960, hopes were raised in view of the crop of young Nationalists such as Herbert Macaulay, Anthony Enahoro, Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Margaret Ekpo, Aminu Kano among others.

Despite the multi-faceted tribal and ethno- religious groupings in the country, the nationalist after a painstaking struggle for independence hoped to have bequeath to Africa a country that will become a model for both develop and developing nations of the world.

Shortly after independence, a new constitution established a Federal System of government modeled after the United Kingdom with an elected Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as the Head of Government and the ceremonial president, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe as Head of State.

 Following the United Nations supervised referendum, the northern part of the trust territory of the Cameroons joins Nigerian-Northern region in 1961, while in October the

Southern Cameroons United with Cameroon to form the Republic of Cameroon.

Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe hitherto became the President after the country became a Republic in 1st October, 1963. Having becoming a republic in 1963, the young marriage was stressed by long-standing ethnic competitiveness, educational inequality, and economic imbalance, hence aggravated by the 1962-1963 census.

With endemic conflicts as Southern leaders complained of northern domination and the north fearing that Southern elite was bent on capturing power, snowballs into the boycott of the federal election of December 1964 which almost brought the country to the brink of collapse.

The breakdown of law and order in the West following the fraudulent elections of 1965 otherwise known as the point of no return, gave rise to a dramatic political event and the change of the socio-political history of the then young nation. In 1966, a group of young army officers led by major Chukwumma Kaduna Nzeogwu, major Timothy Onwuatuegwu, Emmanuel Ifeajuna amongst others having being dissatisfied with the corruption, high handedness of political elites, carried out the first coup d’état killing the then Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of Northern Region, first finance minister, Festus

Okotiebo, Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun, among others, whereas Nnamdi Azikwe, Michael Okpara and Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu escaped the assassination, Hence culminated in what was nicknamed Igbo coup.

The unsuccessful nature of the coup and the rise to power of major general Johnson Thomas Umunuakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi as the military head of state gave rise to what later became the “July rematch” masterminded by Lt. Col. Murtala Muhammed, Yakubu Gowon and Theophilus Danjuma led to the killing of Aguiyi-Ironsi and Lt. Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, hence Yakubu Gowon appointed the Head of State.

Put together, the activities of 1966 cannot whisk away in view of change of system of Government from a federal system of government to unitary system of government with the controversial promulgation of decree 34 of May 24, 1966, otherwise called the unification decree.

The decree started the death of regionalization while many scholars believe was healthy for young growing nations and saw to the centralization of power.

Also, the perceive lack of Igbo humility and misconception of the January coup as been masterminded by the Igbo led to the anti-Igbo pogrom from 29 May, to 29 September 1966 led by Nigerian Army and replicated by Various Northern cities.

The unceasing killings of the Igbos and people from southern extraction force the then military Governor of the Eastern region, Lt. Col. Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to demand for certain rights of his people leading to the Aburi accord known to have been the last chance of preventing outright war.

Unable to resolve issues arising from the coup, pogrom and irreconcilable matters, the country delved into a civil war from 6 July 1967 to 15 January 1970 with more than 2 million Biafran civilians starved to death. Hundred thousand military casualties and hundreds of thousands displaced.

General Gowon after the war in 1970 declared No Victor, No Vanquish with the introduction of Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Reintegration otherwise known as 3Rs, with the intention of rehabilitating the devastating south-east so as to forge on as one nation.

Interestingly though, in the midst of all this, Nigeria revenue accrued from Agricultural proceeds such as palm produce, Cocoa, Rubber, groundnuts, cottons and others led to the building of most of the existing institutions such as the university of Ife, later turn Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Ibadan, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Liberty stadium Ibadan, Cocoa House, Ibadan among others, before the advent of oil boom of 1970’s.

Although two military coups took place between July 1975 to 13th February 1976 leading to the overthrowing of General Yakubu Gowon and assassination of Murtala Ramat Muhammed, Nigeria still conducted the election in 1979 that ushers in the second republic and Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National party of Nigeria became the president.

The democratic experience was short lived as major general Mohammadu Buhari overthrew the government on December 31, 1983.

In the area of economy, a major feature of Nigeria’s economy in the 1980’s and 1970’s was its dependence on petroleum, which accounted for 87% of export receipts and 77% of the federal government revenue up to year 1990.

Indeed, gross national product-GNP per capita per year decreased to 4.8percent from 1980 to 1987, which led to the World Bank’s classification of Nigeria as a low-income country in 1989.

The era of coup came to a halt in 1999 after close to three decades of military dictatorship, hence ushering in the forth republic which has lasted close to 20 years.

However, having return back to democracy in 1999, it is worthy of note to underscore the leadership trend in view of the annulment of June 12 1993 presidential election, and formation of interim national government headed by Ernest Shonekan, the death of military dictator Sani Abacha and return to democracy via conduct of election by Abdusalami Abubakar.

However, from 1999 when the reign of leadership was handed to chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria has witnessed tremendous transformation with the introduction of global system for mobile communication-GSM, establishment of Economic and financial crimes commission to tackle terrorism financing, electoral reform, establishment of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps-NSCDC, establishment of 9 federal Universities across the six geopolitical zones.

Meanwhile, there are also many challenges facing the country such incessant industrial actions by unions of different sectors, insecurity, poverty, unemployment, corruption, ineptitude, mismanagement of resources, bad leadership among others. But there is still hope for the present and generation unborn.

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