Nigeria gained independence from British role on October 1, 1960. Three years later, on October 1, 1963, Nigeria became a Republic thus breaking all ties with the British Crown only to retain her status as member of the Common wealth. The first President of the then young nation was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe while the first Prime Minister was Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. On January 15, 1966, some members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria toppled the Civilian Government in a military putsch, including the suspension of some portions of the Federal Constitution, the appointment of military governors for the four regions, and the initiation of the unitary system of government in Nigeria through the promulgation of Decree 34 of 1966. However, the military government of Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon which came into power in a counter coup of July 29, 1966, reinstated the federal structure of government by repealing Decree 34 of 1966. On May 27, 1967, Lt. Col. Gowon created 12 states from the former four regions, namely: Lagos, Mid-Western, East Central, Rivers, South Eastern, Benue-Plateau. North Eastern, North-Western, Kwara, Western, North Central and Kano.
On May 30, 1967 following nationwide disturbances, the government of the then Eastern region, headed by Lt. Col. Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, broke away from the Federal Republic of Nigeria by declaring the Eastern Region of Nigeria the Republic of Biafra. The Federal Government declared this move a rebellion and decided to nullify it. This led to the 30 months civil war which ended in victory for the Federal Government on January 12, 1970.
General Gowon’s government was toppled in another military coup on July 29, 1975 by General Murtala Muhammed. General Muhammed carried out sweeping political reforms which brought about the creation of seven additional states, increasing the total number of states in 1976 to 19. His government also introduced apolitical programme aimed at returning the country to civil rule in 1979. Following the unsuccessful coup of February 13, 1976, in which General Muhammed lost his life. General Olusegun Obasanjo became the Head of State and pledged to implement the programmes of his predecessor. Obasanjo’s administration handed over power to a democratically elected civilian government led by Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who became the first Executive President of Nigeria on October 1, 1979. After four years of civil rule, the Military stepped in again on December 31, 1983, when Major-General Muhammadu Buhari took over the reins of state. Major General Babangida became the military president through another coup on August 27, 1985.
The Babangida administration started by creating two more states, Akwa-lbom and Katsina in 1987, and another nine state – Abia, Delta, Enugu, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Osun, Taraba and Yobe on August 27, 1991. The administration embarked on a transition programme of handing over power to a democratically elected civilian government in 1993. Two political parties, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC) were later established. The Presidential election which followed was annulled. The Babangida administration ended on August 26, 1993 when the President stepped aside for an Interim National Government (ING), headed by Chief Ernest, Shonekan. After the resignation of Chief Shonekan, General Sani Abacha then became the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces on November 17, 1993.
This regime convened a National Constitutional Conference to review the Constitution with the aim of setting up a permanent democratic structure for the country. It appointed Military Administrators to head the thirty states of the federation on December 8, 1993. The Government received the report of the National Constitutional Conference on June 27, 1995. In October 1995, the Head of State made a broadcast in which he listed out the programme on the return to democracy. Under this programme, the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) conducted Local government Election on non-party basis in 1995. It later registered five political parties under which it conducted National Assembly Election in 1998.
On October 1, 1996, six states were added to the existing thirty states bringing the total number of states to thirty six (36). The new states are: Bayelsa. Ebonyi, Ekiti, Nassarawa, Gombe and Zarnfara. Also 183 local government areas were created. The administration established the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). This was sequel to the approval of new pricing for petroleum products in 1994. The function of the Fund was to manage all monies accruing as a result of the new pricing and to ensure their use in the execution of projects that are of benefit to the people e.g. road Construction/Rehabilitation; education, drugs, food supply etc. On November 27, 1996, the Abacha administration inaugurated the vision 2010 Committee to conduct a study and draw up a long-term programme for the successful harnessing and control of the country’s resources. The government of General Sani Abacha which was dogged by crises arising from the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential elections came to an end following his death on the 8th of June, 1998. General Abdulsalam Abubakar was appointed by the Provisional Ruling Council as Head of State on the 12th of June 1998.
On coming to power. General Abubakar took urgent steps to diffuse the tension which had characterised the later years of General Abacha’s rule. These steps included improving the human rights records of the country through the release of prominent political prisoners and some convicted of coup-plotting. The steps also included the reconciliation of the country with the international community, and the promise to return the country to democratic rule on May 29, 1999.In order to facilitate the return to democratic rule, General Abubakar established the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to register political parties and organise elections that would usher in a democratic dispensation.
In October 1998, the Independent National Electoral Commission provisionally registered nine political associations to contest the December 1998 LGA elections. At the conclusion of the exercise only the following political Associations were registered as political parties, these are the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) the All Peoples Party (APP) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD). Elections conducted under the platform of these parties include the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections in January 1999. The National Assembly and Presidential elections were held in February 1999 after which Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo was declared winner of the presidential election. He is expected to assume power by May 29, 1999.
Since democracy was restored in the country there has been a gradual and impressive transformation of the political landscape. In 1999 only 3 political parties contested elections in Nigeria. But in 2003, 25 new political parties were registered by the national Electoral body, bringing to 28 the number of political parties that contested the 2003 elections.
The key test to the political future of Nigeria still lies in an enduring civilian governance. Elections conducted by civilian administration in 1965 mad 1983 had failed and led to military interventions. Nigerians are, therefore, now strongly determined, more than ever, to lay a solid foundation for an enduring democracy that would be the pride of future generations of Nigerians. The present civilian government has shown its commitment to even development of the country and cases of marginalization in certain parts of the country. Today, Nigeria enjoys peace inspire of periodic crises, because consultation in handling issues. The administration is determined to transform the country, in line with democratic principles, into a land of opportunity, equity, of government’s use.