The department of political science universiy of maiduguri

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Center for distance learning
University of Maiduguri.

A reading manual for distance learning students on
Advanced Diploma in Public Administration

Course: Nigerian Government and Politics.

Preferred by:
Ibrahim umara

Office number D 238

Topic 1

Table of contents

1.0 introduction to Nigeria’s political history

1.1 Introduction

1.2 Objectives

1.3 In-texts

1.3.1 Nigeria’s pre colonial political organization

1.3.2 Colonial political arrangement

1.3.3 The political economy of colonial Nigeria

1.4 summary

1.5 self assessments

1.6 references

1.7 suggested readings


1.1 Nigeria as a nation has undergone series of transformations in its political history. Historically the various societies that made up today’s Nigeria had their peculiar political arrangements, particularly central among them were known all over the world for their socio cultural and politico economic powers. They include among others the great Kanem Borno, the Fulani caliphate, the Benin, Oyo and Calabar empires and kingdoms. When the Europeans came they forced as to live together under federal arrangements that is today known as Nigeria.

1.2 objectives

The students are expected to understand by the end of this topic, Nigeria’s political history, before, during and after colonialism and appreciate how these events shape our political life today.

1.3 In-texts

The government and politics of Nigeria has undergone series of transformations, ranging from the ancient politics and governments in pre colonial periods to colonial and the post colonial epochs. many forces contributed in shaping Nigerian government and politics and in many ways help us understand the present predicaments of our country. Thus it is pertinent to classify our political developments into the followings: The pre colonial; the colonial; and

the post colonial period

1.3.1 The pre colonial period has never known what is called Nigeria, because the empires and the kingdoms that existed from within the present day Nigeria lived differently and their politics and governments were practiced peculiarly to suite their cultural norms and values. These empires and kingdoms includes: the Kanem Borno empire, the Sokoto Caliphate; Oyo Empire; the Benin Kingdom; the Calabar Kingdom; the Jungle Republican arrangement of Igbo Communities; the sedentary Tiv of central Nigeria and many other political arrangements were practiced before the arrival of the European colonizers.

The Kanem Borno, Sokoto and the Oyo empires have semblance of political control based on monarchical arrangements rooted on dynastic succession of power. They interrelated through commerce and even exchanged ambassadors; for instance the relations between the Hausa states and Borno had antedated the Fulani jihad due to the utilization of common trade routes from their regions to the Middle East, known as the trans Saharan trade. The Sokoto caliphate also had contact with the Oyo and Oyo in turn had not only commercial ties with Benin but has common ancestral background with them. These empires lived and related with one another peacefully, even though with some minor skirmishes occasioned by rivalries mostly due to expansion of frontiers; most notable was the Jihadist attempt to capture Borno and their westwards expansion up to Illorin. Such developments sow the seeds of resentment among these people, even before the arrival of the colonial masters and such rivalries exist up to date between the proud Kanuris of the north east and the Hausa Fulani conglomerates of north western Nigeria.

The contact with the West intensified the rivalry due to increase demand for slaves, as they were exported to the world to till the soil for plantation agriculture which led to industrial revolution in Europe. During that time, these kingdoms sent their men to raid for slaves, so that they would have sufficient supply of gun powder and other instruments that could only be exchanged with slaves. Thus the middle belt became the potential field for slave raids as there was no strong kingdom that would protect them. These activities also made those in the areas to resent the powerful empires and the majority Ethnic groups in general. However as time goes on the excess raw material that led to industrial revolution rendered the use of human labor secondary to machine and this irrelevance changed the illegitimate trade (slave trade) to legitimate trade (formal partition of Africa) among European powers as colonies.


Colonialism, an expression of expansionist tendencies characteristic of many states, involve the control taken by a state of an area and people other than its own. Economic penetration through trade was usually followed by political penetration, and this occurred until almost the entire non European world was divided among European powers and Nigeria was not an exception.

Colonial experience has undoubtedly had an impingement on the political and socio-economic development of Nigeria. As a matter of fact the Nigerian economy was largely shaped in order to cater for the needs of the colonial master, and hence emphasis was laid on the development of agriculture and mining for the production of raw materials for British industries.

The British colonial administration was surely successful in the promotion of cash crop productions and this led to a decline in staple food production which resulted in famine and malnutrition. The main characteristics in the sphere of trade, was British monopoly and exploitation, until the establishment of marketing boards to control the sale of agricultural goods.

1.3.3 Import and export trade of West Africa was monopolized by giant British firms, and these firms did not re invest their huge profits in Nigeria, but repatriated them to their home country. Further, the industrialization level was low in Nigeria and substantial mining was undertaken with ownership of production and control vested in British companies. The labor was small and unskilled. In a nut shell the Nigerian economic resources continued to be exploited rather than being developed and Nigeria became more than ever before a chief provider of raw materials to international capital.

Another legacy was the monetization of the Nigerian economy by the colonial administration, they introduced banking and currency in the country, the use of trade by barter and commodity currency such as cowries (WU RIE), iron bar, cloth, salt, gold, silver, dry fish, and other medium of exchange had come to an end with the introduction of paper and metal currencies.

This monetization of the Nigerian economy completed the circle of the incorporation of the Nigerian economy into the orbit of international capitalist system. This has indeed transformed the social and economic structures of Nigeria. Thus the Nigerian economy remains agrarian, disarticulated and underdeveloped and therefore these obviously have produced impediments on the political development of Nigeria and indeed responsible for continuous political and economic crises in the country.

Nigeria was bequeathed with an underdeveloped and dependent economy, that was bound to the colonial umbilical cord of international capitalist established pattern of trade.

Nigerian leaders were confronted with formidable political and socio economic problems. The state became the main agent of economic development as there were few large companies owned by Nigerians. This imbalance was created as a result of the growth of market economy.

The leaders who inherited new, weak and inexperienced bureaucracy had undertaken the immense task of reorganizing the country. However primodialism and other associated identities polarize the leaders along cleavages. The control of machinery of government, itself was the ground over which minor skirmishes and conflicts between officials and politicians were fought.

Although the politicians and the public servants had advocated for neutral civil service protected from partisan political interference, such process as Nigerianization, regionalization and the assertion of political authority over British authority became issues of first political imbalance excercebated by emotional nationalism and hunger for power on the one hand and by skepticism, conservatism and distrust on the other.

1.4 The triple heritage of Nigeria had combined to alter our process of political development as a result of series of discontinuity from every phase of our political development. However the most devastating among these changes is the influence of colonialism that has transplanted alien socio cultural, political and economic lifestyles today, due to unequal relationship between us and the metropolis.

1.5 Self assessment exercise

Describe pre colonial political settings in Nigeria

Define colonialism?

How has colonialism helped in shaping Nigeria’s political economy?

1.6 References

Ade Ajaye (1987) A ground work of Nigerian history

Ibadan, Heinemann press

Ige Bola (1989) peoples, politics and politicians of Nigeria

From 1949-1979

Lagos, Longman

Schwarz, Jr (1965) Nigeria: the tribes, the nation or the race-

The politics of independence

Cambridge, mass: ITT Press

Sklar, R.L (1963) Nigerian political parties

Princeton, NJ: university press.

1.7 Suggested readings:
Ade Ajaye (1987) A ground work of Nigerian history

Ibadan, Heinemann press

Ige Bola (1989) peoples, politics and politicians of Nigeria

From 1949-1979

Lagos, Longman
Schwarz, Jr (1965) Nigeria: the tribes, the nation or the race-

The politics of independence

Cambridge, mass: ITT Press

Sklar, R.L (1963) Nigerian political parties

Princeton, NJ: university press.

Topic 2

Table of contents

2.0 Nigerian nationalism and transfer of power

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Objectives

2.3 In-texts

2.3.1 Meaning of nationalism

2.3.2 Emergence of interest groups

2.3.3 Nigerian nationalism and competition for political power

2.3.4 Political party formation

2.4 summary

2.5 self assessments

2.6 references

2.7 suggested readings

Nigerian nationalism like other nationalist movements was organized to challenge foreign occupation of our land and subsequently succeeded in achieving independence which was also characterized by sub- nationalism, inflicted and is still inflicting casualty in Nigeria’s development. We shall be studying


Emergence of interest groups and political parties; the campaign for independence; and transfer of political power to Nigerians.

Within each of these topics we would appreciate how Nigeria became divided along ethnic and regional affiliations.


By the end of this topic the reader would be able to understand

The meaning of nationalism

How interest groups and political parties emerged and

How the country was finally governed along sub- national divide.

2.3.1 Nationalism refers to a feeling of oneness and a desire to achieve freedom from foreign domination/occupation. Those who organized the movements were known as nationalist leaders. Their movements considered the nation state as paramount for the realization of socio cultural as well as political and economic emancipation of the people.

Nationalism is characterized by a feeling of community among a people based on common descent, language and religion. Before European colonialism, nationalism emerged as a distinctive movement, because states were based on religious or dynastic ties, citizens owed loyalty to their religion, tribes, or ruling family concerned with clan, tribe, village, or province; people rarely extend their interest nationwide.

Nigerian nationalism was largely anti colonial nationalism i.e. nationalism expressed within the confines of her boundary because like other colonial states of Africa, Nigeria was created within arbitrary and artificial boundaries. Nigerian nationalists during the independence struggle rendered their loyalties to sub national units. In otherer words sub nationalism was submerged within wider nationalism.

Inferiority complex and tendency to imitate as well as other psychologically damaging efforts of European rule gave rise to a cultural awareness and pride in African past. Instrumental arguments supported emotional appeals which condemned colonial rule as authoritarian, bureaucratic and exploitative.

2.3.2 Nationalism became more assertive in mid 1940s, spurred by the rampant capitalist nature of unemployment and run away inflation. This consequently led to the formation of political parties and interest groups for the purpose for articulating people’s grievances after the Second World War. Though conflict existed during that period, but it was by no means a class conflict between the educated elites and the colonial administrators. I.e. conflict between collective interests of an economic class against established exploitative foreign bourgeoisie. It should however be stated that certain economic interest were involved in the struggle.

Some traditional elites like the emirs, chiefs and elders identified with the nationalists while others kept away. Professional groups like doctors, lawyers, merchants and contractors became more prominent in early congresses of political parties. This category of people sought full social status through Political enfranchisement and political power. The petity bourgeoisie class made up by teachers, clerks and small scale business men sought to develop the state to the benefit of all. Members of the colonial bureaucracy merely expected to profit from government indigenization policies. Urban workers sought to improve wages and conditions of employment through trade union activities. Cash crop farmers sought equal terms of trade through interest groups. Religious associations were used as plat forms of expressing dissent. This became the more reason why Africans founded their own self governing churches and broke away from the white dominated ones, was because of their suspicion to the institutions. It seems to Africans that the white dominated churches were used as a tool of exploitation. People believed that Christianity was government’s front troop to soften the hearts of the people and gather riches of the land while they look at the cross.

Interest groups and trade unions were formed due to the activities of the colonialist which led to a massive rural urban migration which consequently resulted in greater sense of social and psychological insecurity, because they found themselves in new and strange environment, and formation of these interest groups was a rational response to these problems and they as well served as instruments of new ideas and grounds for political leaders. However because of division within its rank labor activities were kept at low ebb.


Nigerian political parties and other loosely structured organizations served as a vehicle for African nationalism. Party formation in Nigeria had took dimension with the registration of Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) headed by Sir Herbert Macaully which brought together various interest groups to press for political independence. Unfortunately with the death of Macaully, Dr Namdi Azikwe took over as the leader of that party, but the arrival of chief Obafemi Awolowo from London paved a way for the establishment of Yoruba cultural association called Egbe Omo Oduduwa (EOO) , which attracted most Yoruba members of the NNDP. This challenge to Zik’s leadership was seen as the beginning of politics of regionalism and ethnicity in Nigeria. The northern politicians considered EOO as threat to their quest of political power and thence responded by forming a cultural association called JAM IYAR MUTANAN AREWA ( Northern Peoples Congress). That reaction by the north to the western attempt to establish their political consolidation left zik with few NNDP supporters who were mostly Igbos, based in Lagos, thus the Igbos deciced to call Zik to Onetsha and form National Convention for Nigerians and Cameroon’s which later became National Convention for Nigerian Citizens. (NCNC).

The Egbe Omo Oduduwa had transformed itself into a political party which was to be Action Group (AG), that remained active in the west; the Jamiyer Mutanan Arewa was also registered as a political party known as the Northern People Congress (NPC) and retained their consolidation in the north; National council for Nigerian citizens also retained the support of the easterners. Those three political parties laid the foundation of a tripartite political segmentation of Nigeria whose impact lasted for long. In addition, these major tribal groups with different socio- cultural and historical background agreed with the federal system of political arrangement to accommodate these diversities for administrative and political convenience. Thus Nigeria adopted a federal system and had operated within three regions i.e. the Northern Province with Kaduna as its capital; the West with Ibadan and the East with Enugu as their capitals respectively.

The intensification of political rivalries during the first republic polarized the country along regino-linguistic appellations, inspite of this division the NPC/NCNC coalition formed a government leaving the AG in opposition. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the prime minister, a Hausa Fulani, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe became the governor general, an Igbo while chief Obafemi Awolowo, a Yoruba became the opposition leader. Sir Ahmadu Bello became the northern premier, Sir Samuel Akintola for the west and Michel okpara become the premier of the east. When these political posts are considered, it depicted a scenario of tripartite political control of the country by the three major ethnic groups.

Constitutional conferences which delayed Nigeria’s independence due to complex political arrangements also exacerbated demands for state creation. However the final conference resolved to adapt a federal system with a bicameral Westminster parliamentary system of government and the creation of more states.

Although it has been argued that despite the series of elections that was keenly contested, the aspiration of the west Minster system were distorted due to the absence of truly national political parties with strong presence in most parts of the Country.

The departure of the colonialists bequeathed the parliamentary system of government and the established a western value was expected to guarantee harmonious progress. The imposition enhanced the operation of this system, however fraud with difficulties. This was because of the fact that Nigerians had little knowledge about the hopelessly mismatched west Minster model with the ongoing ethnicity and regionalist orientation of the Nigeria’s founding fathers. Magarette Pails observed that:

The Nigerian general public may not be well informed about the details of the Westminster model (neither British general public, but they have a shrewd understanding of their needs and how to fill them). Further more the political parties that emerged in the first republic contested for political power by merely mobilizing primordial and parochial interests as opposed to national issues. On the whole political parties consolidated their power base in their respective regions with the regionalization of political power by the constitution.

The Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) was an offshoot of a cultural association called Jamiyer Mutanan Arewa (JMA) composed mostly of Native Authority (NA) functionaries and had made the party and the administration one and the same thing.

The National Council for Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) was the oldest of the three political parties which suspended its activities until the implementation of McPherson constitution. The party was described as a mass party, because its source of support were mainly various interest and value groups, it was to that extent a nationally based party. But within prevailing political atmosphere at that period which was characterized by regionalism, it was forced to rely largely on Igbo ethnic group for support in mobilizing the electorate.

The third major political party was the Action Group (AG) which somewhat like the NPC was an offshoot of cultural association the Egbe Omo Oduduwa (EOO). Like the two other parties AG derived its support from the Yoruba speaking people.

Apart from these three major political parties, numerous other political parties like the Borno Youth Movement (BYM), Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) and the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) were established. The formation of these minority parties was necessitated by the marginalization of the ethnic minorities and the underprivileged. They established political movements for their participation in public life and as a tool of forging alliance and power sharing with the dominant parties. After the elections, the NPC and NCNC formed coalition to establish a government and the AG formed the opposition.

2.3.4 By 1960 independent members switched to NPC there by giving it a working majority in the parliament and making NCNC an irrelevant party, and the NCNC hoped to regain its bargaining strength by pushing for the creation of more regions. In 1962 a national census was conducted in which each region inflated figures and accused each other of gross inflation, this led to the cancellation of the census figure by the prime minister. However, that figure was accepted by the coalition of NPC and the New Nigerian Democratic Party (NNDP) headed by Samuel Akintola and the NCNC had only to accept the figure.

After the elections into the western House of Assembly, which had become the main arena of political controversy and competition, members of the federal Electoral Commission refused to underwrite the elections and subsequently resigned, however the chairman of the commission announced the results which made the NNDP victorious in that election.

Having lost the election the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UGPA) hoped to win the western regional election and that hope was also shattered and consequently violence and revolt resulted in the west which was exacerbated by the refusal of people to pay taxes and enactment of decree that reduced the price of cocoa by half.

2.4 The nature of political game played by the politicians threatened the corporate existence of the country which gave rise to a military coup in January 1966 as a result of the following: Constitutional crises as a result of the office of the president and prime minister; the elections were characterized by massive rigging, fraud and thuggry; Census figures remained controversial; Revenue allocation was also contentious; The reliance on military; ethnicity and tribalism and the regionalist orientation of the economy through the commodity marketing boards and Western regional crisis, all added up to end Nigeria’s first republic

2.5 self assessments
-What do you thing characterized Nigeria’s first republic party formation?

-identify and explain major political parties that contested for election during the first republic.

-account for the factors responsible for the collapse of the first republic.

-how do you see the nature of interest groups and political parties formation during the first republic.

-what characterized alliance and counter alliance of the 1963 federal elections and mention the parties that form the alliance and name the new parties that emerged during this period.

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