The Democratic Transition in Nigeria

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Submitted By maaarph
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The Democratic Transition in Nigeria

Challenges of Democratization
The election of Olusegun Obasanjo to the presidency of Nigeria in 1999 effectively brought an end to 16 years of military rule. Obasanjo became only the third head of government to be elected by the people (not counting the election of 1993, won by Chief Moshood Abiola but later annulled). Nigerians greeted the transition from military to civilian rule with widespread jubilation as they looked forward to a new era of stability, peace, and prosperity.

Nigerians had good reason to be optimistic about the future. After all, Obasanjo assumed the presidency with an avowed commitment to combating many of the ills that plagued the country. His pronouncements before and after his election suggested that he intended to follow through on this platform, bridging the cleavages between ethnic and religious groups, and guiding the country through the process of democratization. The general public's expectation was that the country's return to democratic governance would lead to the restoration of freedoms lost under the previous regimes. Nearly seven years later, it is worth examining Obasanjo's efforts to establish a new order.

A reflection of sorts took place when 40 Nigerians and other experts on the country attended a conference at the Kennedy School at Harvard in December 2002. They expressed their profound distress at the parlous state of Nigeria's democracy. Conference participants identified and suggested possible resolutions to Nigeria's nine critical governance problems: overcentralization, lack of transparency, lack of economic diversification, corruption, the sharia (imposition of Islamic law), lack of human security, human rights, a national conference to debate constitutional reform, and leadership. While recognizing the importance these problems, in this article I focus on only three of…...

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