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Democracy in Nigeria at the dawn of the 21st century

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  1. Introduction.
    1. Mr Obasanjo's efforts to transform the most populous country in Africa into a consolidated democracy.
    2. Plan for the assessment of democratic prospects in Nigeria.
  2. Nigerian politics: A new civilian era?
    1. Rapid transition toward democracy.
    2. Obasanjo's prompt action against the military establishment.
    3. The continuous influence of the Nigerian military over national politics.
    4. Consequences of the enduring importance of army men in the country's politics.
  3. Democratic challenges.
    1. Understanding the complexity of Nigerian politics and ethnic politics.
    2. The peoples lack of identity.
    3. Alarming situation in the Niger Delta.
    4. Profound implication in the persistence of ethnic issues.
  4. Concluding comments.
  5. References.

?« Democracy is good, » says Godwin Eweye, a video-store owner, « but Nigeria is not yet fully democratic. »? A few days only after Nigeria's 2003 parliamentary elections, this local comment illustrates the enduring difficulties that the country faces in its attempt to consolidate its young democracy. After more than thirty years of nearly uninterrupted military rule, Nigeria experienced in 2003 its first successful civilian-to-civilian transition, when former general Olusegun Obasanjo was elected president for the second time after his 1999 victory. Mr Obasanjo was already known for being the only Nigerian military ruler ever to have stepped down in favour a civilian government in 1979, and he is considered ?a decent man? by most observers and foreign powers.
Still, his efforts to transform the most populous country in Africa into a consolidated democracy stumble upon huge obstacles, stemming mostly from the army's awful record in ruling the country. In his first term President Obasanjo has taken courageous steps toward bringing the military under civilian control, but two very delicate issues remain to be addressed. First, the long-lasting ethnic conflicts that have plagued the country since independence show no sign of fading, especially in the highly sensitive region of the Niger Delta, where most of the countries oil reserves are concentrated. Second, the economic situation is disastrous, living standards are among the lowest in the developing world, and the debt burden is crippling. Hidden behind both concerns is endemic corruption and state pillage at all levels of government, a situation that President Obasanjo has not yet attempted to tackle correctly.

[...] The Military and the Crisis of Democratization in Nigeria?, The Journal of Modern African Studies (Jun 1996), 193-225 Ihonvbere, Julius O., 1999 Presidential Elections in Nigeria: The Unresolved Issues?, Issue: A Journal of Opinion (1999), 59-62 Levin, Michael D., New Nigeria?, Journal of Asian and African Studies (Jun 1997), 134-144 Moore, Mick, ?Political Underdevelopment?, 10th Anniversary Conference of the Development Studies Institute, 7-8 Sep 2000, http://www.ids.ac.uk/ids/govern/pdfs/PolUnderdevel(refs).pdf Njoku, Raphael Chijioke, ?Deconstructing Abacha: Demilitarization and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria after the Abacha Government and Opposition (Winter 2001), 36: 71-96 Nwazota, Kristina, 2003 Elections: A Democratic Online NewsHour, July 2003, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/africa/nigeria/election_challenge.html Ukiwo, Ukoha, ?Politics, ethno-religious conflicts and democratic consolidation in Nigeria?, The Journal of Modern African Studies (2003), 115-138 Walker, Judith-Ann, ?Civil Society, the Challenge to the Authoritarian State, and the Consolidation of Democracy in Nigeria?, Issue: A Journal of Opinion (1999), 54-58 The World Bank Group, ?Nigeria at a glance? Sep 2004, http://www.worldbank.org/data/countrydata/aag/nga_aag.pdf Young, Crawford, Impossible Necessity of Nigeria: A Struggle for Nationhood?, Foreign Affairs (Nov-Dec 1996), 139-143 Anonymous, ?Put-putting to democracy?, The Economist (Apr 17th 2003 - http://www.economist.com/background/displaystory.cfm?Story_ID=S%27%29H0%2DRQ %5B%22%200%22%2C%0A) Anonymous, ?More pain, little The Economist (Jul 26th 2001 - http://www.economist.com/background/displaystory.cfm?Story_ID=S%26%28%28%28% 2CPQ%5F%2A%0A) Human Rights Watch, ?Country Summary: Nigeria?, January 2005 (http://hrw.org/wr2k5/pdf/nigeri.pdf): 3 Judith-Ann Walker, ?Civil Society, the Challenge to the Authoritarian State, and the Consolidation of Democracy in Nigeria?, Issue: A Journal of Opinion (1999), 54 Anonymous, ?Nigeria's new broom?, The Economist (Jun 17th 1999 - http://www.economist.com/background/displaystory.cfm?Story_ID=S%26%298%28%2F RQ7%2A%0A) Raphael Chijioke Njoku, ?Deconstructing Abacha: Demilitarization and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria after the Abacha Government and Opposition (Winter 2001), 36: 75 Njoku, ?Deconstructing Abacha?: 75 Julius O. [...]


[...] Levin studies the brutal repression of the Ogoni rebellion by the Abacha regime, and concludes that Nigeria is at a turning point, where Nigerians no more see their leaders as nation builders[17]. At the time, both thought that democratisation was the only way forward. It may indeed be the case, but for the moment the liberalisation of Nigerian politics has only led to further chaos. Ukoha Ukiwo describes the new situation aptly: ?After many years of authoritarian rule, when the military clique and their civilian collaborators privatised the Nigerian state, politicians in the emergent Fourth Republic are anxious to take control of the state and oil wealth. [...]


[...] This effectively ensured loyalty from the highest ranks of the army, at least in the short term. In effect, no coup has ever come close to succeeding since that period. However, as early as 1999, Judith-Ann Walker noted that the alleged triumph of civilian rule was not that clear-cut; since Mr Obasanjo's victory was in a large part due to active support from rich generals. In this sense, many analysts and political aspirants, Obasanjo's victory is not a triumph for democracy but merely a eulogy to formal military rule?[4]. [...]

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