Saturday, April 21, 2007

Nigerian Democracy

Interestingly enough, another African nation is making tentative steps towards democratic normalcy. Nigeria is set to make history. According to Le Monde, the coming elections will mark the ''first time since independence in 1960 that the power of Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa and its leading producer of oil, should pass from a civilian to another civilian.'' Believe it or not, this is something of a first for the entire continent.

Nigeria, like most of Africa, wasn't a state as such before the Europeans arrived. But, the area was home to a variety of tribes, kingdoms, and ethnic groups, with some of the strongest being the Songhai Empire, the Hausa states, and the Igbo and Yoruba peoples. This general state of affairs is, of course, not much different than the situation in Europe during the pre-modern period. Here, however, the situation changed quickly as parts of Western Africa came under the influence of the Royal Niger Company and then the British government in 1900. In response to increasing demands by nationalists, a common occurrance after World War II, Nigeria was granted independence in 1960.

From the beginning of independence, there were tensions and inequalities between the North and South, which errupted in the Nigerian Civil War, or the Biafran War, in 1967, when the South tried to succeed as the Republic of Biafra. Military rules lasted from 1975-1979, and a second Republic was attempted again in 1979. In 1983, the military again staged a coup. One might notice a pattern similar to what was observed in Uganda.

The Third Republic lasted from 1990-1993, and was again followed by the rule of a military dictator, Sani Abacha, which lasted until 1998. The Fourth Republic has lasted since 1999. Amazingly, this election will mark the first time that an elected civilian has succeeded an elected civilian in Nigeria.

It won't be easy. Violence and chaos has marked the election, and inter-communal rioting has marked recent years of the presidency. The elections have been poorly organized and haphazard, and corruption is suspected. Nevertheless, if Nigeria completes the election it will be a landmark, and some voters have reported success on that front.
Note: Admittedly, this is not the most interesting thing in the world. But, if you are following this blog, you have perhaps learned about two African nations in the last week, along with me. That's good for something, no?

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