The Second Republic and Its Fall
One of many hurdles that Nigeria had to overcome in the attempt to return to civilian rule, and then to have such a new system entrenched, was the fact that competitive politics encouraged recourse to sectional identification. On the one hand, there is need for a understanding of the nature of the dynamics of Nigerian society, especially with regard to the phenomenon of ethnicity. On the other hand, the theoretical formulations which already exist concerning the nature of politics in segmented societies must be confronted so that a closer approximation between such themes and the sociopolitical realities of Nigeria can be achieved (Joseph, 1987:43).
The American-style constitution of the second Republic (1979-1983) was designed for Nigerians type of democracy where natural affairs rather than state are promoted to avoid the pattern of British parliamentary system where the winner-takes-all pattern. The parties in America conform to the Constitution due to their disciplinary disposition. In Nigeria, political parties were following the British style of politics, where “distribution of revenues among the politician and their clients at national, state and local levels”, are the order of the day (Shehu, et al; 1999:34). Bitter conflicts abounded within the political parties in both states and the federal level over the distribution of the spoils; hence, the inability of the politicals to manage the conflicts led to the demise of the democratic government in the Second Republic and the return of the military government.
In the program of transition to the Second Republic, the military leaders’ primary concern was to prevent the recurrence of the mistakes of the First Republic. They believed that if the structures and processed of government and politics that had proved inappropriate in the First Republic could be changed, a stable and effective civilian government was therefore designed to address those fundamental issues, which were historically divisive, and to establish new political institutions, processes, and orientations. The second aspect of the transition involved the making of a new constitution and appropriate institutions. Decree number 25 of 1978 enacted the 1977 Constitution. It differed from the First Republic in 1963, in that, it introduced a United States type presidential system (Nwoked, 199:73). Previously, the executive branch of government derived its powers from the Legislative. Under the 1979 constitution, the President and the Vice-President as well as state governors and their deputies, were elected in separate elections. Furthermore, while senate was largely a ceremonial body in the first Republic, the new constitution gave the Senate and the House of Representatives coequal powers.
There were other provisions in the 1979 Constitution that aimed at eliminating past loopholes. The first was the federal character principles, which sought to prevent the domination of power by one or a few states, ethnic groups or sections of federal center, and by one or more groups in the states and local government. The Second Republic was born in the elections for the state and federal offices that took place in five rounds during July and August 1979 (Diamond, 1999:434). Even though it was successful, but its image was dainted largely due to the administrate bias stemmed from the presidential election controversy of 1979. In general, the election was considered to be fair and free but the events that took place during the election such as fraud, victimization and electoral malpractices gave room for some of the votes to be disputed and thereby created an avenue for an election tribunal to be conducted.
As a result of the ambiguous result of the 1979 Presidential election, its legitimacy was challenged, when UPN opponent Chief Obafemi Awolowo questioned the results of it that had the UPN candidate, Shagari, who supposedly won 25 percent of the vote in only twelve, and hence not quite two-thirds of the nineteen states. “The ruling of the electoral commission that he was elected because he had won 25 percent in “twelve and two third states (i.e, a quarter of the vote in twelve states and two-thirds of a quarter in a thirteenth) was bitterly challenged by the UPN, but upheld by the Supreme Court. The controversy engendered lasting political enmity between NPN and UPN that was too heavily color subsequent political developments” (Diamond, 1995:434).
The political tension spread to engender political alliances. The formation of a government by NPN, with the backing of NPP, being third largest party, whose nominees were offered ministerial, legislative and other positions, in a way, recreated a similar alliance identical to NPC-NCNC accord of the First Republic. The NPP frustration in this alliance system was manifested in its ability to affect the policies of the federal government and claim a larger share of the spoils. One faction of the NPN was of the view that too much share of executive and legislative offices had been given to NPP in return for its legislative cooperation, while the Yoruba faction of the NPN felt unease with the Northern and Eastern alignment of political forces which they figured might “perpetuate the exclusion from the presidency (Shehu et al, 1999:54).
Disappointed with the lack of consultations and patronage, the NPP-NPN accord never worked as it intended, and, consequently, on July 1981, the alliance collapsed. At first, “the NPP state governors joined non-NPN governors in protesting against the appointment of presidential liaison officers to the state capitals, where they could act as a focus for NPN patronage and undermine the political pre-eminence of state governors. All the non-NPN governors strongly opposed the federal government’s proposal for the division of revenues between federal, state and local governments” (Shehu, et al; 1999:34).
Meanwhile, the informal alliance became more important for the NPN, and this also cut sharply across region and ethnicity. Many of the tacit collaborations with the NPN came from the two Igbo states and from elsewhere outside the party’s far northern base. These developments raised the possibility of a historic realignment in which two political parties, one being conservatives and the other progressive, would contest for power on a national basis (Joseph, 1994:6).
As Diamond notes:
Despite the increasing polarization between the ruling NPN and the UPN led opposition, there was some cause for hope in the fact that this clearage was far less centered on ethnicity and region than was political conflict in the First Republic. As a result of not only expanding education and communication, but also the deep inequalities and contradictions engendered by oil boom, class and ideology were coming to play a more significant role in political conflict.
This was seen to have developed in both Kano and Kaduna states where PRP party conflict centered on class and ideology. According to Diamond, “three interrelated crises developed along this line in 1980 and 1981. The first was a deep split in the leadership of the PRP, not unlike that in the Action Group in 1962, stating that the stance of moderation and national political accommodation was espoused by PRP President Aminu Kano and his aides, while it was the two elected governors of Kano and Kaduna who favored confrontation and a more radical, ideological approach. The latter faction was the larger of the two, containing most of the PRP’s youth support, founding intellectuals, and legislative representatives. They supported the participation of two governors in the meetings of the nine opposition governors, while the party establishment opposed it and ordered it to cease. Out of mutual expulsions, two opposing party structures emerged, each claiming to be the genuine PRP. In a controversial decision early in 1981, FEDECO officially recognized the Aminu Kano faction, further eroding the legitimacy of that crucial regulatory body (Diamond, 1995:435).
The internal division in the Kaduna state political party was further aggravated by the deepening statement that existed between the radical governor of the state and the state legislators over the struggle to dismantle the class-based power of the emirate system. Governor Balarabe Musa, who was cognizant of the NPN majority in state Assembly, went ahead with his radical program in “abolishing exploitative local taxes, investigating land transactions, and inaugurating a mass literacy campaign” was impeached with the backing of PRP establishment. The country’s opposition forces condemned this action as undemocratic and unconstitutional, which perceptively caused the Second Republic to be viewed as undemocratic (Diamond, 1995:436).
This political cleavage continued in July, 1981, in Kano, where violence broke between interests supported by the NPN and the governing PRP establishment faction, that led to the burning down of most state government physical infrastructure, “culminating in the tragic death of Dr. Bala Mohammed, the political adviser to the governor” Abubakar Rimi (Ottman, et al, 1999:36). Initially, it was assumed that what provoked this act of violence was a letter Governor Rimi wrote to Emir of Kano, implying of his immediate removal which implicityly was a reminder of his predecessors dismissal by Ahmadu Belto by the premier in 1961. But other evidence and the coordinated nature of the destruction and its organization indicated that the riot was meant to disrupt the administration’s agenda for any radical change. Those who supported the Governor and the radical PRP believed strongly that NPN and the PRP establishment faction were behind the conspiracy to inflict destruction on Rimi’s administration who draws an overwhelming support of the state legislative and, therefore, will be impossible to be impeached. The polarizing effect of this political cleavage manifested in the impeachment of the deputy governor of the state, whom the PRP establishment faction was backing; a pure retaliatory move.
Both the intense and recurrent conflicts between NPN and the opposing political forces did not pose an immediate danger to the Nigerian democratization, but the intolerance and desperation that the political parties were exhibiting were the danger signals that the press noted “with increasing alarm..as the politics of bickerings, mudslingingslies, deceit, vindictiveness, strife and intolerance that are again creeping back into the country’s political scene” (Subenu, 1994:213). The most immediate concern for both independent observers and opinion makers in the folding political violence of the Second Republic were the mounting casualties that had characterized the clashes between the “thugs of rival political parties, the politicians and party factions.” For example in both Borno and Oyo states, high incidents of attacks that caused the death of enormous proportion of political supporters were reported. The proliferation of these violent clashes intensified as the 1983 elections draws near, both rival hired bullies and rival candidates in both leading parties were fighting each other. As a consequence, the growing political violence forced many states to institute a temporary bans on public meetings and assemblies, which alerted a lot of people to be concerned for their safety. With the reflection of public cynicism, the press sounded an alarm to the public in reporting thus: “we are tired of celebrating politics as a rite of death if politics cannot inspire recognition and respect for fundamental human rights, the credibility of the captains of out ship of state is certainty at stake… We can ask to be saved from politicians and their notoriously bloody style of politicking” (West Africa, September 2, 1979:1791).
Other sources of public disillusionments apart from political violence and intolerance marked the transition of democracy in the Second Republic. The major political parties were fraught with cynicision which was “bred by the constant stream of suspensions, expulsions and defections from the various political parties, which split not only the PRP, but later the GNPP and, to a lesser extent, the NPP as well” (Diamond, 1999:431). The constant disarticulation and instability of party structures strongly points to the fact that abounded a total lack of “democratic commitment among politicians who seemed obsessed with the quest for personal power and wealth” (Diamond, Ibid: p437). Another area where public disillusionment manifested pro…was in the exposure of government corruption of public officials, who, in 1983 were alleged to have mishandled import licenses worth of 2.5 billion including other succession of other scandals that involved mismanagement of the government funds. A shocking dramatization of how bad things came to be during the Second Republic was shown when fire destroyed the thirty-seven story building headquarters of the Nigerian External Telecommunications in Lagos in order to destroy the files and documents that will reveal fraud and embezzlement by the government officials.
Included in all these, was the impact of the mismanagement and the corruption in all levels of government which estimate counted in billions plus the decline of Nigerian oil revenue from 24 billion in 1980 to 10 billion in 1993. As a result the economy was plunged into depression. Being as indebted heavily internationally, the import of raw materials and basic commodities were disrupted also engendering the laying of industrial workers thereby causing the price of stable food and household goods to increase. The effects of shortages aggravated the well-connected to hoard for profiteering purposes, including the inability of the state government not to pay the salaries of its workers or to purchase drugs for hospitals, and many services. As stated by Diamond, “everywhere one turned in 1983, the economy seemed on the edge of collapse (Diamond, 1995:439). Still, the amassing of wealth by the politicians and contractors were still in progress, as they displayed their fortune publicly in disregard of their sensitivity.
The deeply rooted disenchment in the Second Republic was becoming a broad base phenomenon, as it was apparent that change was needed, either to reform the system or get rid of all the incumbents in power through elections. By the middle of 1983, a large number of Nigerians had come to conclusion that the only alternative to the present government was another military rule. In the preparation of election process, the two-week registration of votes in August 1982 was flawed, which “ended amid widespread protests of incompetence, partisanship, and fraud.” Many electorates were outraged during the preliminary voter registration in March, 1982, in seeing that millions of names were either missing or mangled. A further disturbing trend was the refusal of FEDCO to register new opposition party and “to cope with the staggering logistical preparations for five successive elections with ten of millions of voters in nineteen states” (Diamond, 1994:p57).
The opposition parties were not only worried by the NPN administrative incompetence, but with their “full control of federal patronage and extraordinarily well-financed national political machine, the NPN was a formidable national contender, even with its sorry performance in office” (Joseph, 1987:48). The only option that the opposition had in winning a victory in the upcoming presidential election of 1982 was for other parties to unite behind a common ticket. After months of negotiations under the rubric of Progressive Parties Alliance (PPA), they could not produce an agreement that would have allowed for the one ticket because none of the surviving political giants- Azikiwe and Awolowo- will step down for another. With this opposition internal disagreement, NPN capitalized on it in their campaign to label them as the parties of ethnic bigotry with religious interest.
The apparent division of the opposition signaled early before the 1983 election, that Shagari’s reelection bid was almost assured. It was expected that some of the known corrupt governors will not be reelected and that certain degree of electoral fraud and rigging will take place. But, the surprising aspect of the election that no one was prepared to accept was the scale of NPN landslide victory, which the electoral official with the collaboration of NPN agents managed “to prevent the opposition party agents from observing the polling and vote counting” (Oyediran, 1998:142). With improper returns, and any crucial check on the voting procedures, NPN not only won the presidency but increased both their National Assembly representative and the governorship in both the Igbo and Yoruba states. The violent protests that stemmed from the election resulted in loss of lives and property damage, but cannot be compared with the 1965 post-election crisis in the Western Region. By the time the Shagari inauguration took place in October 1, 1983, and after taking steps to reshuffle his Cabinet, the country was again heading to a brink of collapse.
Muhammed Buhari Regime (1983-1985: The Fall of the Second Republic
The Military take over of Mahamamadu Buhari on 31 December, 1983 was rather expected. Just like the coup of eighteen years before, was widely celebrated with widespread popular approval. The new government invoked the memory of Murtala Muhammed and declared itself an offshoot of the last military administration (Carver, 1991:29).
As documented by Ottman; “the leading figures in the military junta of Buhari..were predominantly northern in origin and conservative in outlook. They were drawn from the generation who had been encouraged by northern ministers, notably Shagari himself, to join the army and make up the northern quota of recruits to the officer Corps in the 1960s. They shared training, war-time experience in the federal cause and personal friendships and had connections with their civilian counterparts in the Kaduna Mafia'” (Ottman, 199:39). The Coup leaders justified the second return of the army in Nigeria politics by stating that the country needed to be redeemed from the “the grave economic predicament and uncertainty that had been imposed on the country by the inept and corrupt leadership of the civilian government has imposed on the country” (Diamond, 1999:440).
Major General Buhari and his deputy, Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon further justified the takeover by stating that rigging of the elections by the political parties would have illegitimately ushered the ruling party- NPN- into continued corruptive civilian rulership, thereby fostering the country’s economic downturn. For those reasons, the new military government sought to impose on Nigerian society the military virtues of order, discipline and central command under the direction of the Supreme Military Council, recreating the forms of military administration of Murtala regime. They also hurriedly made a bold move to tackle the problem of corruption and to curb further waste in the government. With the sacking of more than three hundred top officials in the civil service, police and customs, including the detention of hundreds of former politicians, the former President and Vice-President, ministers and legislatures, were also imprisoned. In a further move to reform the country of its ills, they authorized the seizing of cash from the homes of leading politicians, and froze their accounts. By cutting down the amount of import and reducing the travel allowances for Nigerian travels, they argued that Nigerian foreign exchange will be preserved. The raiding and the arrest of the operators of the Black market currency was a further justification of what their plans were (Othman, et al 1999:24).
These initial moves became very popular particularly among students, trade unions and other professionals. Even majority newspapers supported the new regimes mention to restore accountability to public life. But later in the early stage of Buhari, it became obvious that its intention was not implement the accountability measures. It began to act rigidly and even refused to be questioned and scrutinized by the media. And, with unprecedented harshness, arrogance, and impurity, the Buhari regime, turned on the Constituencies that had welcomed its arrival” (Diamond, 1995:441).
Public trust of the new military was further eroded when they announced several controversial decrees that they will use to administer the country militarily. Decree 2 enabled the government to detain people arbitrarily, to try people by military tribunals, and restricted the authority of the courts. Decree 3 provided for military tribunals to try former public officials suspected of corruption and misconduct in office. While Decree 4 limited the rights of journalists to criticize public officials (Othman, et al 1999:39). The death penalty was extended to cover a wide range of economic, violent and anti-social offenses, and public executions were introduced. With these coercive measures, the regime also was able to try politicians by giving them long prison sentences, without any chances of appeal. Both the public and Nigerian Bar Associated protested and boycotted the trials. Even though that the people were gratified to see that convictions were metted to the most corrupt politicians and for the acquittals of others who were innocent, but were equally concern for the permanent detention of some politicians without any charges. Worst still, was the consternation that grew among the public in the military government favoritism of the Northern NPN Kingpins who were not convicted or charged with any wrong doing. As Diamond observed, “the regime came increasingly to be dreaded as the military wing of the NPN” (Diamond, 1995:441).
Public disenchantment grew by the regime’s “repressiveness and arrogance in its assault on the press” (Diamond, 1995:441). Both Decree 4 and Decree 2 were used to justify the arrests. Many Nigerians journalists and editors in January 1984, which affected the news coverage and further alienated the masses and the intelligentsia.
Added to the public displeasure of the regime was the Nigerian Security Organization (NSO) tactics of obstructing public assembly and forcible detention of any group leader that are found to be organizing any public even that is against the government. This action by the Government further led to the banning of prominent interest group like the Nigerian Medical Association and National Association of Nigerian students.
The intensification of public disaffection was also engendered by the increasing economic hardship on the people which was exacerbated by the various austerity measures that the Buharis’ military government implemented. Some of these economic measures that the government introduced were in some ways effective in helping towards “balancing Nigeria’s external payments, they came at the price of deepening recession. During 1984, an estimated 50,000 civil servants were retrenched, retired or dismissed. Tens of thousands more industrial workers also lost their jobs as factories remained desperately short of imported raw materials and spare parts” (Diamond, 1999:442). The rate of inflation was up to annual rate of 40 percent due to the severe shortages of goods and so was the decline in GDP by and estimated 10 percent.
The repressive strategy of Buhari’s military further engendered deep resentment and bitterness among the people who feel that they had been denied of their personal freedom. In addition, according to Othman, “the military government was increasingly driven by dissension over strategies of economic management, the detention and trials of political detainees and the rising power of Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, the Chief of staff, supreme headquarters, and the driving force behind the regime’s authoritarian policies, and of the Nigerian Security Organization (NSO)” (Othman, 1999:40). Two factors were instrumental to the final demise of the military regime; one was the risking of what Diamond called “political convulsion”, an attempt to impose a monolithic order on Nigeria’s vigorously polaristic society (Diamond, 1999:443). The second factor was the regime’s declaration in July, 1985, of their intention or plan to return Nigeria to Civilian rule. These actions further isolated Buhari and Idiagbon from their military colleagues , including their arrogance in ignoring critical opinion even among its senior military ranks.