Nigeria at 60: Has This Diamond Lost its Sparkle?

Nigeria at 60

Written by Anita Ayibatari

September 30, 2020

On 1st October 2020, Nigeria will be at 60 as an independent nation. October 1st, 1960 is a day Nigerians will never forget in history. Just as people remember birthdays and Christmas celebrations, so do people remember this day. It is an important day that marks the beginning of an era and launches these people into various struggles and experiences that have sharpened the heart and minds of the people in this country.

It has provided the people with either a sense of belonging or a sense of being an outcast. In the long run, the experiences leading up to the shouts of victory for our independence are worth celebrating. Before we dwell on how Nigeria will be fairing at 60, here is a brief history of Nigeria.

A Brief History of Nigeria From 1960 Till Date

Before the arrival of the foreigners and colonial masters, Nigeria wasn’t a country yet. It was more of a fragment of a puzzle. Different tribes and ethnicities thrived and flourished on their own. The moment the colonial masters landed in the area in the 17th and 18th centuries consecutively, things began to change. It started with the Trans-Atlantic slave trade which led to the loss of children and parents alike. The aspect of religion with which they won the hearts of many. It was still unclear to many the real reason behind all of this.

In 1914, there was the amalgamation of both the Northern and the Southern protectorates as the colonial masters tried their very best to unite the country. This didn’t entirely work as administratively, they were still divided. Nationalist movements then started, as young educated men like Nnamdi Azikiwe and others began the struggle for independence. This was a welcome idea as it became an eye-opener and led to other riots including the Aba Women Riot. These showed that the country seemingly was ready for its independence. Political parties like the Action Group (A.G), National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) were formed to show readiness for the country’s takeover.

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Nigeria’s Independence

Finally, on the 1st of October 1960, the country gained its independence, and then in 1963 of October 1st, it became a republic.

Nigeria’s First Republic

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the first Prime Minister of Nigeria. He formed an alliance with Nnamdi Azikiwe of the NCNC who was the Governor-General and later President of Nigeria.

The peace of this newly formed country wasn’t to last as the lengthened and unsettled conflicts and rivalries began to unfold leading to various riots and strike beginning in 1962 and it involved people from different ethnic groups. The imbalance in the country was great as every tribe feared that the other wanted to take power from them. This led to unrest in the country’s already fragile form.

The Nigerian Civil War (Also Known as the Biafran War and the Nigerian-Biafran War)

On the 6th of July 1967, the Nigerian Civil war came to play (also known as the Nigerian-Biafran War). The war was because the Igbos felt dominated by the Northerners and couldn’t take it anymore. They decided then to fi1ght against them. The reason for the civil war was because some military officers led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu had planned and executed a coup against the northerners in the north killing the then Sardauna Ahmadu Bello.

This was unexpected and caused unrest in the north as the northerners retaliated and attacked the Igbos in the north. The Igbos then decided they couldn’t take it and so they had to fight back. The war finally ended on the 15th of January 1970 with the Nigerians as the winners.

Post Civil War and The Second Republic in Nigeria

General Gowon through his charisma helped in incorporating Biafra back into Nigeria without apportioning blames. In 1974, he postponed the date to bring back civilian rule to 1976. This led to his overthrow before by General Murtala Mohammed. Murtala tried initiating various changes including moving the federal capital to Abuja amongst others. Murtala was assassinated in an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1975. This brought General Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Musa Yar’adua to the helm of affairs as the head of government and deputy respectively.

Obasanjo followed in the steps of General Murtala in trying to return the country to civilian rule. The first way to do this was to replace the British parliamentary style with the presidential system of government. Many political parties emerged but only five were registered. They include the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), People’s Redemption Party (PRP), Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNRP), and Nigeria’s People Party (NPP). Shehu Shagari, the candidate for the NPN narrowly won the 1979 election.

He was re-elected President in 1983 but there were complaints of election irregularities which he couldn’t handle and this led to the seize of power by the military plunging the country into another series of military regimes and coups.

Return to Military Rule in Nigeria

General Buhari started his regime off by stating his agenda called WAI (War Against Indiscipline). This was what he used to justify his coup stating the economy of the country was already in decline. He arrested and detained many politicians but also journalists. This wasn’t taken lightly as people didn’t see what social workers had to do with the economic collapse of the country.

This led to another coup by General Ibrahim Babangida who presented himself as an affectionate leader but underneath was trying to frustrate the plans of civilian rule. He released those detained by Buhari and carried on the façade. He kept extending the date for the transition to civilian rule even as the people kept demanding it.

The Dawn and Death of the Second Republic

Finally, the government created two political parties Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC), and produced agendas for them. Local-level elections were held alongside state governors and legislatures. In 1992, he declared the election void but slated another date in 1993 which was held. Chief Abiola of the SDP won against Bashir Tofa of the NRC.

Babangida annulled the results before they became public. This led to yet another uproar as an Interim National Government led by businessman Ernest Shonekan was instituted. It faced many oppositions and was later overthrown by General Sani Abacha who was Babangida’s defense minister.

He stated the same promise of transition but never planned to go through with it. Abacha arrested Abiola when he declared himself President in 1994 and he died in prison in 1998. He killed and arrested protesters and anyone who stood in his way. Abacha ignored every rule in the country at the time. In June 1998, he died suddenly and there was a revival and flourish of political activities.

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General Abdulsalam Abubakar was appointed to take over and he set a timeline for the transition to civilian rule whilst freeing political prisoners.

Return to Civilian Rule and The Fourth Republic

After the death of Abacha, so many political parties were formed again and three were chosen including the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) whose candidate was Olusegun Obasanjo who was declared the winner. He was sworn into office on the 29th of May 1999. His reign saw many disputes including the Niger Delta militant issues as well as the Bakassi Peninsula dispute. He ruled fro two tenures; 1999-2003, 2003-2007.

Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was the PDP’s candidate and won the election in 2007 despite claims of election irregularities. Because of his ill health, his Vice Goodluck Jonathan took over on the 9th of February 2010 after he was voted by the National Assembly due to Yar’Adua’s prolonged ill-health. On the 5th of May 2010, Yar’adua died making way for the Goodluck to lead the country.

He contested for and won the election in 2011 although voting was halted in some areas due to a lack of electoral materials. His first term was filled with the Boko Haram unrest as they attacked various states and Christian organizations. They were finally declared a terrorist group in June 2013. In April 2014, they kidnapped 275 girls from a boarding school in Chibok in Borno which led to condemnation globally.

In May 2015, Muhammadu Buhari won the election and became the president. His administration has led to a lot of controversies with people attacking the government. But he has also created various social welfare programs to help alleviate poverty including the N-Power program amongst others.

Nigeria at 50 Golden Jubilee Celebrations

Nigeria clocked 50 in 2010. Although it was supposed to be a golden jubilee celebration, it came with so many controversies including the fact that people did not see the need to celebrate as they claimed the country was not doing anywhere close to its counterparts at 50. Even though 50 awards were given to eminent Nigerians and the new 18-meter independence tower was to be admired, a lot of Nigerians do not see the need to celebrate as they believe the country has failed them in more ways than one. As the anniversary fell close to the dawn of a new era, the people were anything but anxious as to what the new administration would bring.

Nigeria at 60 Celebrations

2020 isn’t the year we all look forward to. With the many shocks and terrible things that have happened over the past few months especially with the Covid-19 pandemic which has put a stop to the way of life as we know it and has led to a new normal. Nigerians are faced with looking for better and brighter days as a whole lot of citizens have lost a whole lot due to the pandemic whilst many more things have been put on hold.

The theme of this year’s celebrations for Nigeria at 60 will be “Together Shall We Be.” The government has already admitted the celebrations of this year will be lowkey and less grand due to the times. Already, an inter-ministerial committee on Nigeria’s 60th anniversary has been inaugurated and the new logo for Nigeria at 60 has been unveiled. The Sub Committee of the Interministerial Committee also came up with a challenge in which they are looking for talented, critical thinking and creative individuals or teams to produce the slogan, photograph, and a poem for Nigerians to mark the country’s 60th Anniversary, from 1st October 2020 to 30th December 2021. The celebrations are expected to last for a year, according to the Minister of Information and Culture.

Nigeria at 60 Logo

The 60th celebration will be called the Sapphire jubilee celebration and Nigerians will be looking forward to more democracy, and a whole lot of decrease in the price of commodities to make it more affordable for the poor masses. In the long run, it is unsure if Nigerians will be happier that the country is increasing in age with nothing to show for it. With Nigeria at 60, little wonder many feel like the fight of our heroes’ past is in vain.

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