Nigeria After Independence
At the time of independence, in 1960, Nigeria appeared to be one of the most promising countries in all of Africa. Its strengths were represented by a lively civil society, a high level of higher education, including university, an agriculture that, although backward, ensured food self-sufficiency, despite a territory poor in infrastructure and a rapidly growing population.. However, these positive elements were matched by some factors of instability that would eventually condition the whole subsequent history of Nigeria. On the one hand, it was a question of the difficult relationship between the multiple ethnic groups, the different regional realities, a rich South, which during colonialism had already become an integral part of world trade, and a poor North; on the other hand, the impact, on a mainly agricultural economy,1956) and the exploitation of the most important oil fields in sub-Saharan Africa, all located in the south between the Niger delta and Biafra. The tensions and contradictions generated by these factors have rarely been recomposed, leading to frequent political crises and chronic economic and social instability. The Nigeria already exceeded in 1995 the 100 million residents, divided into 250 ethnic groups (among the main ones, the Haussa Fulani to the North, the Yoruba to the SW, the Ibo to the East and the Ogoni to the SE, the Ijawa to the S) and belonging to different religions (Christianity, Islam and animism). The coexistence that has always been difficult between the different ethnic groups did not find a convincing solution in the federalist choice, adopted at the time of independence on the basis of the regional division of the colonial period, abolished in 1966 and then immediately restored until the recognition of 36 in 1998.States.
According to INSIDEWATCH.NET, the inability to guarantee adequate representation for different ethnic groups – power and government were almost entirely the prerogative of the Islamic North and in particular of the Haussa, in continuity, moreover, with the colonial tradition – determined a constant tension between the groups resulted in conflicts, riots and, in 1967, with the secession of Biafra (the eastern region dominated by Ibo), in a long and dramatic civil war. This war was not only tribal but also economic, and a bloody confrontation between elites more modernized and more traditional groups. The other key problem was represented by oil which, if it ensured huge resources, also ended up monopolizing the economic structure, making it particularly vulnerable to changes in prices on international markets, as well as constituting a powerful source of corruption and subjecting the Nigeria interference by the large multinationals in the sector, all present in the country. The contradiction of this story can be exemplified in the trend of per capita income, which from the relatively high values of the previous decades (in 1980 it was 1000 dollars) in 1998 fell below 300, making Nigeria one of the 20 poorest countries in the world, or in the GDP growth rate which reached 10 % per annum in the 1970s and dropped to 1 % in the 1980s, up to the petrol paradox: Nigeria is the sixth world exporter of oil, but it is also the country where it is almost impossible to find fuel, other than through the black market, and where state-run refineries use less than half of their production potential in a combination of inefficiency and corruption. The ethnic and regional contrasts, on the one hand, and the fragility of oil revenues, on the other, were therefore at the origin of all the innumerable convulsions of the most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa. From 1960 to 1998 there were, in all, alone 10 years of civil government, between 1960 and 1966 and between 1979 and 1983 ; for the rest, military governments followed one another with the affirmation of single strong personalities. The demographic and economic weight, but especially the military (an army of almost 80. 000 men in 1997) also did the Nigeria a sort of ‘gendarme’ region, which progressively increased his intervention in the affairs of neighbors, using so unscrupulous of the forces of ECOMOG (ECOWAS Monitoring Group), the military monitoring force of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), to support, in crisis situations, warring groups and factions, such as, for example, in Sierra Leone or Liberia.
The government of E. Shonekan, born in a situation of dramatic fracture between the state apparatus and civil society, after the cancellation of the 1993 elections and the consequent resignation of General I. Babangida, had a short and troubled life. In November 1993, in fact, unable to cope with a new wave of social protests caused by the elimination of state subsidies to petroleum products and the consequent increase in the prices of the latter, Shonekan resigned and full powers were assumed by the Chief of Staff of the armed forces, general S. Abacha, who again forbade the carrying out of any political activity, gave life to provisional organs of government and promised the convening of a national conference to decide on the future constitutional structure of the country. In an attempt to contain the widespread social malaise, the regime announced (February 1994) the abandonment of the economic reform program, launched in 1986in agreement with the International Monetary Fund, but at the same time assumed increasingly repressive and dictatorial characteristics. Arbitrary arrests (M. Abiola was jailed, on charges of treason, in June 1994), summary executions of opponents, suppression of newspapers and outright violations of human rights were repeatedly denounced by Amnesty International, while in the first half of 1994 the the country was again crossed by religious and ethnic clashes, between Christians and Muslims in the central Nigeria and between different ethnic groups in the south-eastern states. In an apparent reaction to diplomatic pressure, the regime appeared to start in June 1995 a partial liberalization with the removal of the ban on political activity, but the execution, in November 1995, of the writer K. Saro Wiwa and eight other activists of the movement for the protection of the Ogoni ethnic minority, in defiance of the appeals of the international public opinion, mobilized against the death sentence, cost Nigeria the suspension from the Commonwealth, the tightening of the sanctions, already imposed by the European Union in 1993, and a diplomatic crisis with the United States and the South African Republic. The story of Saro Wiwa, arrested in 1994, had drawn international attention to the conditions of the Ogoni, a small ethnic group in the coastal area of southern Nigeria, who had been fighting for years for its very survival against the threat posed by the wild exploitation of oil resources by international companies.
In January 1996, Abacha set 1998 as the date for a return to civil administration and announced the creation of 6 new states, but the real spaces of expression continued to be very precarious, while the levels of corruption in the regime increased enormously. The political climate worsened further when between December 1996 and May 1997 Lagos was the scene of numerous attacks targeting military targets. Abacha’s sudden death in June 1998 (in July Abiola also died in prison) accelerated the transition to civil power. His successor, General A. Abubakar, in fact, quickly launched a program of liberalization of political life with the support of the United States and the European Union, released many political prisoners and set the times and procedures for legislative consultations and presidential. The elections saw the return to the field of retired general O. Obasanjo, a Yoruba Christian, imprisoned by Abacha in 1995, who had previously ruled the country from 1976 until 1979, when he handed over the presidency to civilians, and the whose candidacy found many support also in the north of the country. Held in February 1999, on the whole regularly according to the international control bodies, the legislative consultations marked the victory of the People’s Democratic Party, which won 59 out of 109 seats in the Senate and 206 out of 360 in the House, followed by the All People Party (24 and 74) and by Alliance for Democracy (20 and 68). Obasanjo, leader of the winning party, was elected in the same month of February, with 62 % of the votes, to the presidency of the Republic. The new president officially took office on May 29 1999.