Tales of Democracy In Nigeria Explained

History of democracy in Nigeria and effects

Does Nigeria have a democracy? What is the evolution of democracy in Nigeria?

Two decades prior, in a vivid function held in the capital, Abuja, democracy in Nigeria became the talk of the town as Nigeria’s military gave over power to an elected civilian pioneer.

Generals had administered the oil-rich West African nation for the past 15 years and it seems like an impossible thing to handover.

The service was attended by heads of state and delegates from over 40 nations.

We have written about the full list of all Nigerian Presidents from 1960 to date. You should check that out.

The state of mind was cheery and the new president guaranteed prosperity to a large number of his compatriots who were in the stadium. A huge number of others viewed the service on TV.

Others tuned in to recently elected president Olusegun Obasanjo’s speech on radio. Yet, following 20 years of democracy and four presidents, where is Nigeria today?

What Exactly Is Democracy?

In the Nigerian setting, democracy in Nigeria is something much discussed — a set objective sought after with obvious energy however not yet achieved.

In any case, Democracy is a system of government where citizens are permitted to take an interest/participate in the proposition and making of laws.

From the beginning of time, various countries (including Nigeria) have had various concept of democracy.

Two of the most widely recognized forms of democratic government or types of democracy are direct democracy and representative democracy.

In a direct democracy, citizens are directly associated with creating laws, and in a representative democracy, citizens choose representatives who create laws for their benefit which is the sort of practiced democracy in Nigeria.

Democracy initially surfaced as a type of government in Ancient Greece around 800 B.C.E.

In Ancient Greece, all native male child, regardless of their wealth or what family they were naturally born into, could vote with respect to the government of the polis, or Greek city-state.

Democracy in Nigeria - Cleisthenes is the father of democracy
The father of democracy

The word originates from demos, “common people” and kratos, “strength”.  

Led by Cleisthenes, Athenians established what is generally held as the first democracy in 508–507 BC.

So, who is the father of democracy? Cleisthenes is today referred to as “the father of  democracy.”

Cleisthenes was an ancient Athenian lawgiver credited with changing the constitution of ancient Athens and setting it on a democratic balance in 508 BC.

It was because of these achievements that historians allude to him as “the father of Athenian democracy.”

History and Evolution of Democracy In Nigeria

Long before 1500, most of modern-Nigeria was partitioned into states related to contemporary ethnic groups.

These early states incorporated the Igbo Kingdom of Nri, the Benin Kingdom, Yoruba kingdoms, the Hausa cities, and Nupe.

Majority of these kingdoms were ruled by traditional rulers who executed monarchial rule over the people they administer.


Nigerian traditional rulers regularly get their titles from the rulers of independent states or communities that existed before the formation of modern Nigeria.

In spite of the fact that their bearers normally keep up the monarchical styles and titles of their sovereign ancestors, both their independent exercises and their relations with the central and regional governments of Nigeria are nearer in substance to those of the high nobility of old Europe than to those of real ruling rulers.

In the northern Muslim states, Emir is usually utilized in the English language, however names in the nearby languages incorporate Sarki, Shehu, Mai, Etsu and Lamido.

Oba is likewise utilized by the Yoruba peoples to allude to their different rulers, however different titles, for example, Ooni, Alake, Alaafin, Awujale, Olomu, Akarigbo, Orangun, Olu’wo, Eleko, Olumushin and Eburu are additionally utilized, explicit to the people as well as the region ruled.

In the southeast, Obi, Igwe and Eze are normal titles among Igbo rulers, however again there are numerous nearby titles among their quick neighbors, for example, the Ijaw’s  Amanyanabo.

It was years later after Nigeria had gained independence (the day of independence) that Nigeria experienced military rule.

Nigeria’s first military junta started following the 1966 Nigerian coup d’état which ousted Prime Minister Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

Tafawa Balewa - in the history of democracy in Nigeria
Tafawa balewa

Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi was made the Head of the Federal Military system of Government of Nigeria, yet was soon overthrown and killed in a coup in July of that year.

Aguiyi-Ironsi was succeeded by General Yakubu Gowon, who set up a Supreme Military Council.

Gowon held power until July 1975, when he was overthrown in a coup without any bloodshed.

Brigadier (later General) Murtala Mohammed, who succeeded Gowon.

Months later, in February 1976, Mohammed was killed by Buka Suka Dimka and others in a brutal coup endeavor, yet the plotters failed to kill Olusẹgun Ọbasanjọ, who at that point succeeded Mohammed as head of state.

Obasanjo in the evolution of Nigeria democracy
Olusegun Obasanjo

The Supreme Military Council was officially disintegrated when Ọbasanjọ gave up power to the elected Shehu Shagari, ending the first military regime and building up a Nigerian Second Republic.

Shagari was overthrown in the 1983 Nigerian coup d’état and succeeded by Muhammadu Buhari.

Muhammadu Buhari was then appointed Chairman of another Supreme Military Council of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces by the junta.

Buhari ruled for two years, until the 1985 Nigerian coup d’état, when he was overthrown by General Ibrahim Babangida, who appointed himself with the position of President of the Armed Forces Ruling Council of Nigeria.

Babangida guaranteed an arrival of democracy when he held onto power, yet he ruled Nigeria for eight years before he temporarily gave power to the head of state Ernest Shonekan in 1993 out of a move towards democratization process in Nigeria.

After two months, however, Shonekan was overthrown by General Sani Abacha while Babangida was visiting Egypt.

Abacha appointed himself Chairman of the Provisional Ruling Council of Nigeria.

Sanni Abuja
General Sanni Abacha

After Abacha’s death in 1998, General Abdulsalami Abubakar dominated and ruled.

He ruled until Olusẹgun Ọbasanjọ again became head of state through the 1999 democracy presidential race, and marking a return to democracy in Nigeria.

Democracy Day is June 12 denoted the day the military gave over power to an elected civilian government in 1999, marking the origin of democracy and  the longest continuous civilian rule since Nigeria’s autonomy from colonial rule in 1960.

It is a custom that has been held every year, starting in year 2000.

Is Nigeria’s Democracy Working?

How about we look at this from certain angles?


The nation’s economy has seen a boom since the start of democracy in Nigeria. Nigeria’s GDP has grown six-folds since 1999, as indicated by data from World bank.

In 1999, regardless of its immense oil riches, Nigeria’s GDP was a negligible $59bn. That figure soar to $375bn before 2017 ended.

Nigeria, the continent’s most populated nation, is still vigorously dependent on oil.

Petroleum provides in excess of 80 percent of total export revenue, as indicated by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

At the time when the worldwide oil price crashed in 2016, Nigeria’s economy was not saved. The nation went into a deep recession, the first time in 25 years.

The economy, the greatest on the continent ahead of South Africa, has not completely recuperate till date. Unemployment remains at 23 percent and inflation at 11 percent, as per official figures.

From the National Bureau of Statistics figures, 43 percent of the nation’s 190 million population is either unemployed or underemployed.

In spite of the ongoing economic problems, outrageous poverty is rampant. At least 87 million Nigerians live in critical poverty.

Nigeria’s poverty rate remains the highest among countries on earth. Straightforwardness International positioned the nation 144 out 180 in its 2018 corruption discernment files.

Related: Full list of all the states and capital in Nigeria


On the off chance that corruption isn’t dealt with immediately, it could cost Nigeria up to 37 percent of its GDP by 2030, as per PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a worldwide evaluating firm.

This cost compares to nearly $2,000 per Nigerian inhabitant by 2030, PwC said. President Muhammadu Buhari then declared an anti-corruption drive in the wake of his appointment in May 2015.


Since 2009, northeastern Nigeria has been hit by security challenges. Boko Haram, a gathering whose motto is to build up an Islamic state following a severe elucidation of Islamic law, has pursued a destructive insurgency.

The violence has slaughtered a huge number of people and constrained in excess of 2,000,000 from their homes.

The United Nations and human rights activists blamed both Boko Haram and security forces in battle of putting civilians, including numerous women and children in harm’s way.

The violence has spread to neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, provoking a regional military coalition against the armed insurgency.

As of late, the coalition forces have beat Boko Haram hideouts in the Lake Chad territory with air strikes just as propelling ground assaults.

image of coalition of forces in Nigeria's democratic history

Boko Haram insurgents kidnapped at least 276 young ladies from a secondary school in Chibok town.

Five years after the attack, more than 112 young ladies are still absent till date.

A total of 107 young ladies have been found or released as a major part of a deal between the Nigerian government and the boko haram.

Boko Haram supposedly has its largest camp in the tremendous Sambisa forest in Nigeria’s north east.

The forest stretches for around 60,000 square kilometers in the southern area of the northeastern state of Borno, which has experienced the full brunt of Boko Haram’s violence.

 Significantly more must be done in order to avert the operations of these insurgencies.


Under the military, press freedom was seriously limited. Whistleblowers confronted confinement and perhaps torment in custody.

After twenty years, Nigeria has a dynamic media with the nation likewise facilitating bureaus for a portion of the world’s major media groups.

Correspondents Without Borders ranks Nigeria 120 out of 180 in its 2019 press freedom record.

Benefits of Democracy In Nigeria So Far

The following are the benefits of democracy in Nigeria, as seen from different perspectives.


The Federal Republic of Nigeria, exhibiting a representative democracy, has three branches of government: the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches.

No branch can get more power than the other two in light of the fact that each is legally restricted with a progression of checks and balances.

Checks and balances are a major part of any democratic system, since they distribute power among various groups and in this way prevent a dictatorship from shaping.

This balance of power guarantees that the will of Nigerian citizens is enforced as opposed to the will of a small gathering of political leaders.


A key piece of democracy in Nigeria is majority rule, which is completed by voting. Be that as it may, unrestricted majority rule represents a threat to the freedom of a population’s minority members.

While trying to anticipate such threats, democracy in Nigeria today work inside a framework of laws that confine majority rule by ensuring all citizens similar rights.

Representative democracies further confines  majority rule by putting responsibility for legislation in the hands of elected representatives.


The citizens under a democratic rule in a nation like Nigeria are given the privilege to decide on political, social and economical issues.

Especially those called representatives, represent in making significant decisions, for example, the president.

This totally protect the individuals from any event they would not want to occur.

Another significant part of democracy in Nigeria is its legal system. All citizens retain legal rights ensuring, for instance, a quick trial and fair jury.

A democracy’s intrinsic respect for human rights and its built up rules giving rights to an accused person guarantee that all individuals are fairly tried and allowed the chance to defend themselves.


Democracy in Nigeria has made decision authorities owe their success to elections through the citizens, so they would feel appreciative to and be socially responsible for them.

This can fill in as their motivating factor to work for the citizens, as they have the ability to select the government of their preference.

What Are the Effects of Democracy In Nigeria

History of democracy in Nigeria has taught us that the will of the majority isn’t generally the ethical or moral position that one should take.

Nigeria has managed issues like slavery, discrimination, and gender inequality in the past since the inception of democracy.


Since the beginning of democracy in Nigeria, the degrees of conflicts in the country have diminished fundamentally.

There have been less conflicts in the last 20 years than any other time in the Nigerian history.

That implies there are less issues with violent rebellion inside democratic societies also.

Decisions must course through different legislative bodies or the individuals, which decreases the quest for war spontaneously. There also results in less coup endeavors inside this governing structure too.


Nigeria’s democracy however opens an opportunity for the full spread and evergreen corruption.

A democratic leader is in position for a restricted period. So there is a propensity to utilize power. When he loses his power, he can live in an alternate country and dodge the laws of the country.

Subsequently it is easy for industries and companies to invest and get undue advantages in Nigeria by bribing that state leader.

In a democracy, corruption chances can’t be controlled in as much as citizens of the whole country needs to keep away from it.


Also, There is no protection for the common man as the leaders themselves attempt to abuse or act mischievously in public.

Usually, even security personnel and police treat injustice in an unexpected way. They favor people with significant influence or well off and disregard the individuals who are sick or weak socially.


They urge unfair exchange practices to get support for political race campaigns.

This we can see as most politicians bolster rich individuals as an end-result of money related advantages like party funds and so forth.


The sole motto of the politicians is to get into power and stick to it. There are not very many leaders who work to help the country.

Democracy is intended to choose one who is eligible and has adequate experience to rule and lead the country forward.

However, parties vie for power without having the correct candidate for the post. So they utilize various means like money, protest, and strikes for publicity.

The political parties in Nigeria can even prevent the parliaments and Senate from exercising their functions.

In places where there are numerous parties in a house, We can see episodes wherein one party attempts to discourage the house and see that voice of others are not heard.

Likewise because of these politically incited strikes and protest, the common man is at a loss. During attacks, the shops and markets stay closed.

At the point when these raids run for a week and even months, income sources are at a detriment.


In dictatorial and communal rules you can see, journalists weep for their freedom and rights.

In any case, in democracy, media attempt to trick the citizens to such an extent that they can influence the voting behavior. In Nigeria, media channels work for a few or another party.

They even have no passion for Nigeria’s prospects. They even make news which can be problematic to the country’s security.

Their goal will be simply to depict one leader as evil and others as the privileged to favor their decision of political race results.

This is conceivable in light of the fact that couple of political parties or leaders control the media.


Democracy in Nigeria has a system where judgment is delayed. You can see that in kings rule, the punishments are serious as well as extremely fast after the crime is committed. However, in democracy, the sentence can be pronounced after each one of those associated with the case become old.


Not all Nigerian citizens participate in voting process. They don’t exercise their right to cast a ballot because of lack of interest or apathy. At times, they likewise don’t cast a ballot if the candidate of interest isn’t accessible.


Politicians in Nigeria attempt to pick up votes by emotional manipulation of minds of citizens.

This causes individuals to get associated emotionally to that party or leader. Doing as such, individuals vote them without considering different factors which can be abused.

Democracy In Nigeria Today

In Nigeria today, the voice of the individuals isn’t being reflected in the choices of elected officials.

Rather than asking how a policy may help Nigerians, officials ask how it would win them the following elections – how it would bring campaign donors and party godfathers and the amount it would create for the political race war chest.

This lasting campaign culture is a costly downside of the sort of European style democracy that was constrained on us.

The thing that matters is that America’s strong economy can assimilate the cost; Nigeria’s can’t.

Assurance of basic human rights and freedom of the press, the right to free political decision, and the right to cause deliberative contribution to governance have all been denied Nigerians in a way or the other under this democracy.

In expansive terms, our elections don’t verge on being free and fair. Candidates are forced.

There is no equality under the steady gaze of the law in this democracy.

Law is too strong for the weak and too weak for the strong

There are lots of models where public officials who are guilty of offenses are dealt with in a different way, either in light of the fact that they have a place with the ruling party, or on the grounds that they are ‘traditional rulers’.

These and many more examples show that there is a lot more to be done to make democracy in Nigeria better than it has been in the last 20 years.

Last Notes on Nigeria Democracy

Is democracy in Nigeria still worthy in the event that it drives definitely to the triumph of incompetents and con artists at the polls?

Would it be advisable for us to begin to put forth a defense that the sort of democracy that will bring about a greater Nigeria has to be modified?

Or then again, would it be a good idea for us to stay focused on democracy that depends on misrepresentation and misdirection?

These are questions for all Nigerians to answer.

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