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Nigeria. By: Magen Olander, Savannah Nixon, Taelor Hartley, Brittany Cole. Topics being covered. Sovereignty Authority and Power Political and Economic Change Ethnic Cleavages and Effects Political Institutions Public Policy Economic Change and Globalization Political Culture

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By: Magen Olander, Savannah Nixon, Taelor Hartley, Brittany Cole

Topics being covered
Topics being covered

  • Sovereignty

  • Authority and Power

  • Political and Economic Change

  • Ethnic Cleavages and Effects

  • Political Institutions

  • Public Policy

  • Economic Change and Globalization

  • Political Culture

  • Citizens, Society, and State

  • Media Roles and Interest Groups


  • Capital: Abuja

  • President: GoodluckJonathan

  • Population: 167 million (seventh most populous in the world)

  • Composed of 36 states

  • Official language: English

  • Religion: Primarily Islamic and Christian (minorities: Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.)

Ethnic groups
Ethnic groups

  • Nigeria is an extremely ethnically diverse country, with the “national question,” or the survival of the unity of the country, as a major concern to modern inhabitants.

  • Nigeria’s political traditions and ethnic cleavages were mainly formed during the colonial period by the imperial British enforcing authoritarian rule, religious influence, and individualism from a westernized country. Other factors such as the geographical influences with Nigeria being one of the largest and most populous countries in Africa have resulted in an even greater rift between the three major cleavages. They include:

  • Hausa-Fulani: Mainly located in the Northwest and predominately Muslim.

  • Igbo: Located in the Southeast and primarily Roman Catholic, but with a growing number of protestant Christians.

  • Yoruba: Located in the Southwest religiously split with 40% Muslim, 40% Christian, and 20% native religions.

  • These three ethnic groups have very little in common and generally cannot speak one another’s languages. They live separately on their own sides of the country and virtually no contacts or compromise on political issues is reached.

  • The vast differences between the ethnic groups can be comparable to those of Mexico, with the Mestizo v the Amerindians which cause great political conflict as well.

Effects of ethnic cleavages
Effects Of ethnic cleavages

  • The result of the drastic differences between the major ethnic groups has resulted in the constant disagreement in how political power should be distributed and how the government should be structured. Neither the citizens or the leaders can agree on the basics of who should rule and how, and this is magnified by regional disagreements and hostilities, the tendency to solve problems by military force, and authoritarian leaders.

  • Constitutionalism has also eluded Nigeria with military and civilian leaders freely disobeying and suspending constitutional principles, or even draft new constitutions altogether. This creates the lack in the legitimacy of the government.

  • Coup d’etats, or regime change by military force, and political leader assassinations are part of Nigeria’s political culture and have occurred numerous times since the revolution of 1960, and with the collapse of the government came the redrawing of the state boundaries several times.

  • Military enforced regime changes have also occurred within Iran and China, also greatly affecting the overall trust in the government the citizens contain.

Effects of ethnic cleavages1

  • When the British imperialists established rule over Nigeria they predominately settled in the South, establishing a more westernized style of economy and culture. The shift away from agriculture and more towards trade and developing a mercantilist system with the mother country of Great Britain led to the overall economic and development cleavage present today. With the south more developed economically it led to a greater availability to education and a higher quality of life for citizens when compared to the north, and resulted in northern resentment and tension.

  • Ethnic and religious cleavages have led to some of the biggest challenges for the Nigerian state. Shari’a, Muslim law, is practiced in many northern states, and there is fear among Christians that a Muslim leader will attempt to impose it at a national level. There is also fear that an Igbo-led government would lead to lack of equitable distribution of the oil reserves of the southeastern region.

  • Nigeria’s lack in legitimacy and corrupt government can be compared to the Russia, with patron clientism extremely prevalent in both.

Biafran war
Biafran war

  • The Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War, 6 July 1967 – 15 January 1970, was an ethnic and political conflict caused by the attempted secession of the southeastern provinces of Nigeria as the self-proclaimed Republic of Biafra. The conflict was the result of economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions mainly between the Hausa-Fulani of the the north and the Igbo of the southeast of Nigeria. Over two and a half years of the war, one million civilians died from famine and fighting. The war became notorious for the starvation of some of the besieged regions during the war, and consequent claims of genocide by the Igbo people of the region.

  • The military governor of the Igbo-dominated southeast, Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu, citing the northern massacres and electoral fraud, proclaimed with southern parliament the secession of the south-eastern region from Nigeria as the Republic of Biafra, an independent nation on 30 May 1967. Although the very young nation had a chronic shortage of weapons to go to war, it was determined to defend itself. Although there was much sympathy in Europe and elsewhere, only five countries (Tanzania, Gabon, Côte d'Ivoire, Zambia and Haiti) officially recognized the new republic.

Biafran war continued
Biafran war continued

  • By the end of April 1969, after almost two years of bloody and destructive war, the envisioned quick victory had eluded the Federal side, the rebel territory had been drastically reduced in size but the Biafrans were still holding on.  More peace conferences were held but none achieved a cease fire and an end to the war.  The Federals embarked on a strategic envelopment of the remaining Biafran enclave.  By the Christmas of 1969, it was obvious that the end of the civil war was near.

  • A final surrender of Biafran forces took place in 1970 when Ojukwu fled to the republic of Côte d’Ivoire, leaving his deputy Philip Effiong to handle the details of the surrender. To the surprise of many in the outside world, the threatened massacres did not occur, and genuine attempts were made at reconciliation.

  • The war cost Nigeria a great deal in terms of lives, money and its image in the world. Reconstruction, helped by the oil money, was swift; however, the old ethnic and religious tensions often remained. Military Government continued in power in Nigeria for many years, and people in the oil-producing areas claimed they were being denied a fair share of oil revenues. Laws were passed mandating that political parties could not be ethnically or tribally based; however, it has been hard to make this work in practice.

Political institutions
Political Institutions

  • The Executive

  • The Legislature

  • The Judiciary

  • The Military

  • The Bureaucracy

  • Political Parties/Elections

The executive
The Executive

  • Nigeria experienced indirect authoritarian rule by the British until its independence in 1960. The British government assigned chiefs and other natives to rule with the sole purpose of benefitting the British economy.

  • From 1960-1979, Nigeria attempted to follow the British parliamentary style of government. However, the extreme ethnic cleavages made it impossible to define a majority party or for a prime minister to attain legitimacy.

  • In 1979, the country switched to a presidential system with a popularly-elected president who has been the most powerful political force in the country. All 7 of the military leaders and the 4 civilian leaders concentrated power in the hands of the executive.

  • The presidents have often appointed senior officials without legislative approval, and neither the legislature nor the judiciary has consistently checked executive power. The president also appoints government ministers, but he must assure that they come from all of the 36 states.

  • This executive system is very similar to that of Mexico’s transitional democracy where policymaking is greatly centered on the presidency. Both countries are slowly working towards checks on their presidents, however, many corrupt and repressive tactics such as both countries’ versions of the patron- client network are still utilized.

The legislature
The Legislature

  • The Nigerian legislature has taken several different forms since independence, and it has been disbanded a number of times by military rulers. After the parliamentary system mentioned earlier failed, it was replaced by a presidential system with a bicameral legislature, known collectively as the National Assembly.

  • Both legislative houses are based on that of the United States’ system with the upper house of The Senate and the lower house being The House of Representatives.

  • Senators are elected directly by popular vote with equal representation for each state. House members are elected by plurality, and like the senators, represent many different ethnicities.

  • Nigerian legislatures under military governments have had almost no power, and even under civilian control, the legislature has only recently become an effective check on the president’s power. Either house can originate legislation, but it does not become law until formally passed by both houses ad assented to by the president.

  • Besides the United States, this legislature is also quite similar to that of Iran because even though the Iranian legislative body is technically unicameral, the Assembly of Religious Experts has functioned as an upper house since 1989. Both are directly elected by the people, and both legislative bodies are subsidiary to their executive counterparts. (The Supreme Leader in Iran’s case)

The judiciary
The Judiciary

  • During the early years of independence the Nigerian judiciary actually had a great deal of autonomy with the courts combining British common law with traditional or customary law, including sharia in the Northern Region. They were known for making objective decisions and for operating independently from the executive.

  • However, the years of military rule destroyed the court system by undermining court decisions and even setting up their own type of judicial system outside of the regular system. Judicial review was suspended, and the president appointed his supporters as judges.

  • Today the judiciary is charged with interpreting the laws in accordance with the Constitution, so judicial review exists in theory. Court structures exist at both federal and state levels, with the highest court in the land being the Supreme Court.

  • The court structure is complicated because individual states may also authorize traditional subsidiary courts, with the most controversial being the Islamic sharia courts, which now function in twelve of the predominantly Muslim northern states.

  • In theory, this system is very similar to the U.S. with judicial review and interpretation of the Constitution. However, in practice, it is more like Iran in that sharia law is a big influence and the executive (President/Supreme Leader) may overrule its decisions.

The military
The Military

  • The military in Nigeria always has been and continues to be a strong force behind policymaking. However, by becoming so active in political affairs, the military has begun to lose much of its original credibility and legitimacy.

  • Although the military is a strongly intimidating force in the Nigerian political system that has often blocked democratic reforms, it is important to understand that it is one of the few institutions in the country that is truly national in character. It is comprised of citizens from all regions, ethnic groups, and religious backgrounds and has held the country together despite all of the deep ethnic cleavages within the society.

  • Since its independence in 1960, Nigeria has experienced 7 military coups and dictatorships because of the major source of nationalism it lends to the people. Most of the generals have tended to rule under a system of patrimonialism, in which the president is the head of a complex patron-client system and gives benefits such as jobs to his supporters.

  • The fact that generals have been repeatedly overthrown indicates that the system is unstable, or that democracy and patrimonialism do not work together.

The bureaucracy
The Bureaucracy

  • The British put an elaborate civil service in place in Nigeria during colonial days, allowing Nigerians to fill lower-level jobs in the bureaucracy. After independence, the civil service remained in place, and has grown tremendously over the past few decades.

  • Many believe that the bureaucracy is bloated, and it is a generally accepted fact that it is corrupt and inefficient due to Nigeria’s patron- client network (prebendalism). Just as in China and Mexico, this practice invites corruption and bribery, and it usually means that the larger society is hurt because only a few people benefit from the favors.

  • However, this bureaucracy has been the main source of employment in Nigeria for people who are not involved in either trade or agriculture. After independence, Nigerians replaced the British and Indians who dominated the bureaucracy.

  • With the rapid increase of oil revenues, the size of the bureaucracy has grown at a very fast pace. However, this large amount of oil revenue combined with prebendalism has caused for a very corrupt system that now seems almost impossible to reverse.

  • This state-corporatist system of bureaucracy is very similar to that of both Mexico and China. Political leaders from all three countries tend to consider the opinions of their selected groups and supporters, and just like Mexico before the 1980s, many Nigerian government agencies are para-statals.

Political parties elections
Political Parties/Elections

  • Political parties in Nigeria have almost always been regionally and ethnically based. Unlike Mexico who developed a one-party system after its independence, Nigeria’s extreme factionalism led to the development of so many parties that it was almost impossible to create a working party system.

  • The resulting multi-party system has reinforced and deepened the already deep ethnic and religious cleavages. Parties also form around powerful individuals and are, therefore, very unstable and tend to fade with leadership changes.

  • Nigeria’s election history has been defined by both political violence and alleged fraud and corruption.

  • In an attempt to correct this problem before the election of 2011, AttahiruJega, a head official of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), was asked to draw up a new voter register, removing names that were obviously fraudulent. He also had ballot papers printed abroad to limit their supply and supervised a switch to the “open secret ballot” system.

Public policy policy making
Public Policy: Policy-making

  • Policy-making is concentrated in the presidency. Outside input comes from cabinet members who are established through a system of patron-clientelism.

  • Loyalty pyramid- Senior government officials influence policy. They are supported by a broader base of loyal junior officials. Those at the top of the pyramid receive spoils and have access to influence and wealth.

  • The system of self-interested rule and policy-making was put into place in the colonial times by the British and reinforced by years of military rule.

  • The average Nigerian citizen has very little involvement in public policy-making.

  • Patron-clientelism also exists in countries like China, Russia, and Mexico, but not in Great Britain.

Public policy economy
Public Policy: Economy

  • Oil revenue provides the country with the majority of its wealth. It accounts for about half of Nigeria’s GDP and 85% of its foreign exchange earnings.

  • Most Nigerian citizens have not profited from oil revenue whatsoever because it is pocketed by government officials and not pumped back into social programs for the general public.

  • Rentier economy- heavily supported by state expenditure, while the state receives rent from other countries

    • Nigeria is a rentier state and leases its oil fields to foreign companies.

  • Nigeria’s overreliance on oil makes it suffer economically whenever oil prices go down.

  • The economic structural adjustment program sought to restructure the Nigerian economy to decrease oil dependence.

  • Nigeria’s rentier states and dependence on oil resemble Iran. Iran is the fifth largest oil producer globally.

Public policy federalism
Public Policy: Federalism

  • Federalism is a primary goal most Nigerians have in mind.

  • Federalism allows true democratic rule to be more easily achieved by creating more points of contact between citizens and the government.

  • Multiple provisions supporting “federal character” have been input into the Nigerian Constitution.

  • The enthusiasm over federalism has negatively affected the bureaucracy. Because of the ethnic diversity in Nigeria, all ethnicities must be supported under a federalist system which gives way to disunity and corruption. Competition among ethnic groups is promoted rather than federal unity.

  • Federal systems exist in Mexico and Russia as well, but are also plagued with corruption.

Public policy democratization
Public Policy: Democratization

  • Nigeria’s experiments with democracy in the past have been unsuccessful and consistently ruined by military coup d’etats.

  • Democracy has become more promising in Nigeria’s government more recently. Promising signs of democracy include:

    • Checks and balances: President Obasanjo attempted to change the Constitution to allow for a third presidential term, but the legislature rejected it.

    • Court decisions: The Supreme Court made rulings to defend against corruption, especially in the case of Abubakar’s attempt to run for president. The Court has removed some officials from office as well.

    • Revivals of civil society: Civic and religious groups that were once driven underground by military rule have resurfaced and been more open in public policy issues.

    • Independent Media: The media during the 2007 elections was important in preventing fraud and corruption.

    • Peaceful succession of power: The transitions between presidents in 2007 and then again in 2010 were the first peaceful transitions in Nigerian history

  • Democratization in countries like Great Britain has been established for a long period of time, but Mexico has more recently moved from a more authoritarian regime to a democratic one.

Economic change and globalization
Economic Change and Globalization

  • The British established the area that would become Nigeria in 1860 as a trading outlet, where they made use of natural resources and cheap human labor. The British influence was the strongest in the south because of the ports and coast.

  • In 1939, the country was split into the peanut-producing north, cocoa-producing west, and palm-oil-producing east. These provincial divisions roughly corresponded to the major ethnic groups in the country.

  • At the time of independence, Nigerian political leaders attempted to to make the country self-sufficient; this failed due to the Biafran war, theft of much of the states oil reserves by military dictators, and fluctuation in oil prices.

Economic change and globalization1
Economic Change and Globalization

  • 2nd largest economy in Africa

  • Privatization in Nigeria has led to criticism and many protests from citizens because of employment losses and income reductions.

  • Political leaders believe privatization will give way to economic growth.

  • The military ruler Babangida began a structural adjustment program for Nigeria in the 1980s and allowed Nigeria to receive aid and loans for development projects from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Privatization of many national industries occurred.

Political culture
Political Culture

  • Nigeria lacks a sense of national identity due to being one of the most fragmented countries in the world.

  • Ethnic identification matters more as a sense of pride.

  • Many rural Nigerians are not well informed on the politics happening in their own country know little about current policies.

  • Cities are booming with people willing to take a stand on just about anything they disagree about.

  • Corruption is a major part of Nigerian political culture stemming from patron-clientelism and the amount of wealth the political elite has.

  • The majority of Nigerians are currently dissatisfied with the political system.

  • The political system of Nigeria is not yet a democracy and citizens are generally encouraged to be subjects of the government rather than active participants.

  • Islam and Christianity have intensified ethnic conflict.

Citizens society and state
Citizens, Society, and State

  • Poverty: About 60% of Nigerians live below the poverty line, and many are in absolute poverty meaning they are without the means to survive.

  • There is a huge gap between the rich and the poor. The GINI index is a .44 and the outlook of closing the gap is bleak.

  • Health: There is a high rate of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and 1 out of every 11 AIDS sufferer in the world is Nigerian. The government has made the HIV/AIDS epidemic a secondary priority leaving it up to small underfunded nongovernmental organizations.

  • Literacy: Nigeria's overall literacy rate is 68%, with a gap between the male literacy rate at 75.7% and the female rate of 60.6%. High rate compared to the rest of Africa but below the world average.

Citizens society and state1
Citizens, Society, and State

  • Cleavages: Nigerian is one of the most fragmented in the world with cleavages based on ethnicity, religion, urban/rural differences, and social class.

  • Nigeria, like Russia, has had to contend with civil war and the repercussions it brought about. Russia, with the ongoing conflict in Chechnya and Nigeria, with the Biafran Civil War in 1967-1970.

Interest groups and media
Interest Groups and Media

  • Even with the presence of military rule presidents have generally allowed a free press to exist and interest group membership to be maintained.

  • In Nigeria’s postcolonial history many formal interest groups and informal voluntary associations have actively sought to influence political decisions

  • Since 1999 many have strengthened, served some centripetal forces, encouraging Nigerian unity while others have created centrifugal influences causing Nigeria to fragment further along ethnic lines.

  • Along with the influence of interest groups, student activism has played a large role in Nigerian politics.

  • The overall civil society has been largely active.




  • Ethel Wood- AP Comparative Politics