Vol. XXI, Issue 1 (Winter 2014): Cameroon and Nigeria



Gloria Emeagwali
Chief Editor

Walton Brown-Foster
Copy Editor

Haines Brown

ISSN  1526-7822


Olayemi Akinwumi

Ayele Bekerie

Paulus Gerdes

Alfred Zack-Williams
(Sierra Leone)

Gumbo Mishack

(South Africa)



Jennifer Nicoletti
Academic Technology, CCSU

For more information on AfricaUpdate
Prof. Gloria Emeagwali
CCSU History Dept.
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050
Tel: 860-832-2815


Table of Contents 


In this issue of Africa Update we reflect on the negotiations for independences in Cameroon in the 1960s. The author, Ngam Confidence Chia of the Department of History, Diplomacy and International Affairs,  introduces us to the configuration of political groups and societies in the Bamenda region and argues that the negotiators Ahidjo and  Founcha tried as best as possible to secure the interests of their various constitutencies. A federal constitution was finally agreed to by both parties at the July 1961 Foumban conference with some degree of satisfaction from delegates from both French and British Cameroon. In this issue, we have also a careful scholarly analysis and evaluation of the Fourth Republic in Nigeria, 1999 to 2007.  Dr. Adeolu Durotoye, the author, concludes that there was much to be desired during this critical era of Nigeria's democracy.  In fact the polls were manipulated and election results compromised in various ways. He argues that elements of the old, discredited, autocratic regime resurfaced.  Even so there were areas of positive growth, he points out.

We thank the contributors to this issue of Africa Update for their illuminating and scholarly contributions.

Professor Gloria Emeagwali
Chief Editor

The Realities of Bamenda, Cameroon, 1960s

Ngam Confidence Chia
Researcher and Assistant Lecturer
Department of History, Diplomacy and International Relations

E. N. S Maroua - Cameroon
E-mail: nconfi@yahoo.com or ngamconfidence@yahoo.com

The history of Cameroon since October 1st 1961 is a story of two territories that were far different in political upbringing, social orientation and worldview. They bonded and have paced together through a combined force of negotiation and sacrifice. In this setup, they have over the years deployed alternating means of asserting their identities and forms of cohabitation. In their various encounters and competing trends, they are seen to have deployed alternating strategies to negotiate better treatment or favors from the central government. Critically observed, the North West Region of Cameroon, known and held popularly as Bamenda, has put up a fascinating way of responding to the series of changes that have affected the Cameroon political landscape within this time frame.   By tracing the history and contribution of the North West Region taken here simply as  Bamenda, this article maps out the different methods, tools and procedures adopted and used by the people of the North West Region to assert themselves in Cameroon history in 1960. It argues that a high spirit of political sensitivity and self-confidence combined to define the Bamenda peoples' political mind-set and prompt responses to the sometimes rough, evolving and unpredictable political topography of Cameroon. This work situates the Bamenda people's history in their wider Anglophone Cameroon context including their ever increasing search for compatibility.

The history of reunification of the two Cameroons and the metamorphosis they underwent is incomplete without a special focus on the concerted actions of the people of Bamenda or the North West provinces. Indeed by mere stroke of fate, divine providence and genuine political calculation, Bamenda, and by extension the North West Province, became pace setter in most political events that have marked the history of reunification for the past five years. This article. besides presenting the somewhat double role played by the Bamenda people both in building and restricting efforts at unity, equally goes further afield to argue that the colorful response so far put up by these people were just tactful strategies for full attention, greater recognition and an ever growing willingness for their territory to be treated as an equal partner in the evolving political landscape of Cameroon.

Bamenda in Perspective

The area known as Bamenda taken by this paper to mean the capital town of the North West Province and the conglomerates of ethnic entities that reside throughout this region, has undergone and may continue to undergo changing appellations.1 The people comprise of a mixture of people that can be roughly categorized into five different groups. They are for the most part people with claims of Northern origin as far as the Ndobo area around the Bakim River. This corresponds mainly to the Nso, Kom, Bafut, Nkambe, Bum, Babanki, Bambui and a number of groups in the Ndop plain. The second are the Chambas notably the Balis who equally claim a northern origin but are believed to have built a spirit of bravery which occasioned them to fight and conquer a number of established groups of people as they negotiated their ways to their present sites in the Bamenda-Western Plateau. The most prominent ones in the North West Province are the Bali  Nyongha and Bali- Kumbat .The third is the Ngemba ethnic group that claimed to have migrated from a basin around Nigeria or just from around the present day Widikum area. In the present North West administrative jurisdiction are mainly the people of Wing, Mankon, Meta, Pinyin and Santa. The fourth which has closer connectivity with the third are those who have been named differently by early ethnographers as the people of the Aghem federation. They claimed to have migrated from Nigeria and settled in different locations around the North West Province. This group is essentially called the people of Aghem and Esimbi, found in the present Menchum division. The fifth is a significant number of the Hausa and the Fulani people who for purposes of long and short distance trade and abundant pasture to feed their cattle,  found themselves settled in areas like Nso, Babanki, Kom, Nkambe, Bamenda, Santa and Awing.

The North West Province happened to have been one of the last regions to be affected by the tentacles of German colonization; cosmetic system of administration and forms of government which the whole machinery of colonization sought to implant almost everywhere without due respect for functional local realities.2  This system of administration had complete neglect of the realities of traditional states. In this process, the colonialist fought hard to ensure application of their administrative principles. This was the root cause of the resistance encountered both by the Germans and the British colonial systems in Cameroon from 1884 to 1961.Though diametrically different in structure, tone and affection in the domain of foreign policies, the British and the Germans desired as much as possible to rule Cameroon with the use of local resources and man power.3 Obsessed with this goal, the Germans and the British fought hard to raise their colonial doctrine to the heights of religious dogma and grappled in vain to convince the people of Bamenda to accept its effective application, on the ground, without question. The resultant effect was that two systems of administration that shared different profiles, agents and law enforcement mechanisms were bound to co-exist.

In any case, the traditional system and the colonial system were forced by this new intercourse to negotiate alternative networks to support their original structures. An outgrowth of this was what Nyamnjoh termed “mutual self-denial”.4  These changes occasioned special changes and forms of negotiations among the above discussed ethnic entities of the North West Province .In the main, the five different groups practiced a form of centralized traditional administration where power, authority, command or leadership was vested in  the hands of a single individual who went by different appellations like Fons.5 Surrounding them were a battery of regulatory societies who catered for the daily business of their states. In such setup there was a form of representative democracy since there was a council both at the palace and regional level with a membership freely chosen by trusted elders. The centralized structure failed to create “center- periphery considerations” or “a depreciation complex” where power and the feeling of belonging depreciated as one moved away from the nucleus of authority or central command. There was therefore no reason for the negotiation of any form of network of recognition, consideration or compensation by individuals or groups to exert belonging. It is however argued that the failure to question royalty was linked to the absurd belief.6 Common to the age of absolutism, that, royalty operated within the spirit and full direction of divine providence. This blind submission to the whims and caprices of royalty and its accessories helped to keep some stability among the different groups, though inter-ethnic wars were still largely common..

These were the structures, convictions and loyalties that were uprooted by colonialism and modernization. In Bamenda or the entire North West Province of Cameroon the first colonial concept that significantly helped to destroy blind obedience to royalty and created a spirit of awareness on the mind-set of the Bamenda people was Christianity. The teachings of Christianity succeeded in the main in destroying the basic tenets of tradition. Christianity did not only concentrate on teaching about Christ and the advantages of leading an upright, honest and accountable lifestyle but also took further steps to point out those aspect of African tradition that were considered counterproductive. By so doing, the concept of royalty and the personalities that incarnated it gradually shifted away from the position of central command to the restricted end of traditional elegance which in time also became a subject of scorn. The British colonial authorities after their assessment reports carved out the Bamenda area into 23 different Native Authority areas under different Fons. Most of them were instructed to rule purely with their traditional competence. This further helped to sustain the campaign carried out by the missionaries against traditional administration.

Along with the egalitarian teachings of the Church were forms of awareness created by the Christian Schools and colonial instruction centers. At this level the missionaries and the colonial office were seen to be involved in almost the same kind of business. They were out to train clerks, liaison officers, messengers and interpreters who could ease their work on the field and also provide understandable records whenever an opportunity presented itself. A noticeable outcome of the broad based education program en vogue, was the emergence of an elite class who were pointedly few in number but enormous in their determination and influence. Besides being politically aware, most of them though still relatively traditional in outlook and mentality were no longer fully prepared to be led by traditional leaders. A cross section of them understood that in the ensuing dispensation, leadership was supposed to rotate only on the shoulders of people with fine brains like themselves. In this mode of thinking, they came to see the Fon as individuals with second class leadership skills occupying offices backed by tradition.

The constant negotiation for full recognition after independence had its foundation in this background. The constant negotiation for full recognition also grew from the special circumstances surrounding the political platform adopted at independence. To this could equally be added the fact that, the breed of political leaders that negotiated independence was blessed with a rare openness which warranted awareness at every level.7

They were the likes of people like John Ngu Foncha,  Augustine Ngom Jua and JK Kangsen all majoring from the Catholic Schools,  S T Muna, Rev Ando Seh and Sam Boja from a protestant background and Sama Ndi a product of the NA school in Kom.  They were all the members of the Southern Cameroon House of Assembly that collapsed as a result of the Eastern regional crises.8  To this list should also be included some of the architects of this Bamenda spirit like Benard Nsokika Fonlon who though not a deputy like others in the Eastern Regional House, equally awakened minds to some of the absurdities of unification.

The Network

All politicians in Anglophone Cameroon insisted that their territory be given Independence first and foremost. As an independent state they could negotiate the nature of a possible union.9 Their positions taken in the various meetings leading to the reunification amounted to nothing - because the plebiscite questions had nothing to do with that possibility. Indeed, British or the UNs' blatant refusal to permit the third option as one of the questions to be chosen by the people in the Cameroons, tilted the balance and pattern of loyalties to a new direction. To the people in the Northwest, the Wum, Nkambe and Bamenda divisions, and by extension all of the Cameroons, the absence of the third options, placed them out of their comfort zone “which in any case, only gave them the unimagined opportunity to dine and wine with devils they did not know ……. even for the time being.”10 With regards to the negotiation,  J.N.Foncha who was and still is  accused of failing to push through the third option, had to peg his political  aspirations on Ahidjo who was definitely aware that the Independence of French Cameroun was only a matter of time.

Though the plebiscite questions and the ultimate results chartered new horizons of bewilderment to many people like A.N.Jua and S.T Muna in the North West Province, it somehow fell within the reasoning of most political shades in Southern Cameroons at the time.11    E.M.L Endeley and his CPNC  and    P.M. Kalle and the KPP parties prayed to see the British Cameroon flower and blossom either within the evolving Nigerian political configuration after 1961 or as an independent territory. Other political parties wanted at best, reunification, though the timing, form and content differed intrinsically. In this circumstance Foncha found a much- ready audience to imbibe his reunification idea.12  Haunted essentially by the failure to secure the third option before from the UN as a result of British manipulation, Foncha had  more pro - unificationist  feelings from French Cameroun than Endeley and his group had from Nigeria.   N. N. Mbile was frank enough to give a vivid picture of this feeling towards reunification when he asserted among other things that:

While Nigerians naturally wished that Southern Cameroons should remain within the Federation they were not over enthusiastic about the idea. In contrast, the almost fanatic support enjoyed by the unificationists from the Cameroun Republic was poorly matched towards us, the pro-Nigerian advocates.13

Foncha and other political heavy weights began meeting in Buea in May 1961 to determine the shape of the re-unified nation. They soon grew to discover that there was a mighty future for them. Haunted by a burning desire to negotiate new ways in the evolving political topography of  British Cameroons, political leaders decided to bury their past in order to build the future of their country as a team. These feelings were substantiated in the 1961 conference in New York which had the prime aim of negotiating the best platform that the union was to take. 14

A joint statement issued at the end of that meeting sufficiently reiterated among other things that a workable future for Southern Cameroons could only be built if both sides buried their grievances. All of them took steps to:

(a) Declare a truce in the political War, calling on every of our members to reframe from any provocative acts and utterances.
(b) Work together towards the achievement of a happy and prosperous nation.
(c) Return home together treated to a warm reception by people of all political shades at the lone Tiko Air Port at the time
(d) To make no utterances that may accuse and glorify a party as a loser and victor [AND]
(e) Endeavor to convince all Southern Cameroonians to understand beyond any iota of doubt that they were returning home as a single team prepared more than ever, to forge a healthy nation for their children within a federal framework.

Compromise and sacrifice were required from both ends in the political landscape of the  soon- to- be- created West Cameroon because it once more attempted, even for the time being, to bring together strange political bed fellows who grappled amidst difficulties to create lasting political negotiations. Though Ngoh, Mbile and Aka16 argue that Foncha's vacillating attitude tremendously weakened the negotiations for a loose federation, the decision by all political leaders in this territory to work together was an indispensable bold step in the right direction.

The Negotiation

From the 26th to the 27th of June 1961 Foncha convened a meeting of all political and socio-cultural shades of opinions operating in Southern Cameroon in Mankon Bamenda to set out the rules, form and content of the kind of federalism envisaged. In staking for a unification program Foncha was definitely dreaming of a kind of federal experiment within which all the states will find every reason to come together. He hoped, as Aka pointed out vividly, to lay a foundation for a country which will be:

Truly independent and neutral with an open door policy and [much More Like]a beautiful bride committed to no one and courted by all nations, eager to share potentials of the Country[ and in that capacity staging] as the envy of Africa because of its unparalleled historical precedents including the many unique possibilities [alongside the] unlimited opportunities for social progress that the future promised[or that were largely looming in the blues].17

To him, Ahidjo and French Cameroun despite their political upbringing and by extension philosophical orientation were still essentially brothers that had been accidentally put asunder by the sledge hammer of colonial intrigue. The Bamenda conference in the mind of Foncha was to work out this kind of unique political configuration which if tenaciously applied, could set the standards to many yet to be independent African states of that era. Southern Cameroonians of all walks of life had the opportunity to match their words with action, in the Mankon meeting. In attendance was Foncha himself and ST Muna for the KNDP;  N.N.Mbile in his capacity as Endeleys' deputy; and P.N.Motomby Woleta as General Secretary of the CPNC.18  The One Kameroun Party (OK) was represented by Ndeh Ntumazah and Albert Mukong while the chiefs were represented by Galiga III of Bali and Oben of Mamfe. Though approaches and expectations differed, these people were out to negotiate and defend a comfortable network for themselves and the succeeding generations. They were definitely not aware of impending intrigues from their French counterparts but of the complexities of building everything from scratch. In this spirit, Foncha never minced his words in his key note address to the delegation in attendance:

The constitution that which we are about to recommend is being drawn from scratch.it is [intended] to bring two different cultures together into a workable form. As something just beginning, it is not contemplated that it will be perfect at once. It has to grow steadily and may I remind all delegations that constitutional conferences can only be successful when all concerned argue their points with conviction which stems from sincerity of purpose. This is where cooperation is needed.19

This notwithstanding, Willard fervently argues that Foncha's proposal at the Bamenda all party conferences were weak-willed and in that capacity, failed to prepare the southern Cameroonian for the task that awaited them in the union.20 As per the reasoning of Foncha diagnosed in his address above, there was definitely a need for full collaboration so that the delegations could implant strong pillars to stand the weight of la Republique in the soon to be effected Federal union. This address equally indicated that his early negotiations with Ahidjo amounted to nothing worth genuine consideration in such a high profile meeting. In a way, his speech sounded like a surprise to most members in that meeting who were so eager to know the content and nature of the discussions that had been so far undertaken by Foncha and Ahidjo. This eagerness made Ndeh Ntumazah representative of One Kamerun to address the delegates emphasizing that:

We have been informed now and again of constitutional talks that have been going on between the Government of Southern Cameroons and the United Kingdom's Government on one hand and the Government of the Kamerun Republic on the other. We think it is not only importantly but absolutely necessary that we be given a full and complete [sic] report of these consultations...21

Pointedly, the delegates at this conference were burdened by the overriding zeal of negotiating a comfortable network within which their intrinsic identities will not be swallowed up in the Federation. In this spirit, there were some disagreements in the structure of the union but all of them aspired for a loose federation with a ceremonial president. In this kind of political framework, they hoped not to sacrifice their culture and philosophical orientation which differed largely with that of their French counterparts.

In all of this, the delegates debated and settled on some key issues which they viewed to be capable of putting in place their much dreamt about “loose Federation” The proposal to be taken to the Foumban constitutional talks as agreed by the delegations at the Bamenda all party Conference were (a) that the seat of the Federal capital was to be transferred or moved from Yaounde back to Douala,22 (b) that the French Legal System in all its ramifications should be applied only in French Cameroun while the British Legal System(Common Law)be applied in British Southern Cameroons,(c) that the President as head of the federal state should have nominal powers with more powers vested on the Federal states,(d)that a bicameral legislature be created with the maintenance of a House of Chiefs and the customary Courts in Southern Cameroons,(e)that state citizenship and federal citizenship were to be treated separately AND among other things (f) that a quota of ministerial portfolios at the federal level was to be reserved for each state.23

The Foumban Arrangements

Ahidjo and Foncha continued meeting after the Bamenda all party conference. The Foumban Conference of July 17th-21st 1961 was attended by people of all walks of life in both French and British Cameroon.24  Though both delegations were preoccupied with the frank exchange of views to draw up an acceptable constitution for the Federal Republic, they had contrasting views on the nature of the federation. As indicated earlier, Ahidjo wanted as much as possible to put in place a strongly centralized structure, which by the logic of his argument, was capable of nurturing and safeguarding national unity. Foncha and the Southern Cameroon delegations on their part wanted a loose Federation with a kind of ceremonial president as head. Though personal interest seemed to be at the center of each argument put up in favor of the nature of the federation, the two camps were definitely battling to instill the kind of political structure they mastered best.25  At best, there was a growing need for the two delegations to understand the proposals of each state within the context of its history for anything of substance to be effected at Foumban. This understanding could not come without a significant deal of tolerance which warranted readjustments on both sides. It was for these reasons that most of the points advanced by the Southern Cameroon delegations at the Bamenda All Party Conference were never bought on wholesale basis by Ahidjo and his delegation. This also goes a long way to explain why the Southern Cameroon delegation found it sufficiently difficult to swallow “hook line and sinker” the centralized federal scheme proposed by Ahidjo and his delegation at Foumban.

The difficulties encountered by both delegations and states enabled them to accept the federal structure proposed by Ahidjo easily. In rethinking Cameroon unification, accusation has been levied on Foncha for “concealing the draft constitution” proposed to him by Ahidjo before the Bamenda all party conference and failing to prepare the southern Cameroon delegations and the people therein for the Federal experiment.26 It suffices, however, to note that the federal constitution that was finally accepted and allowed to be fully developed at Foumban was an experiment that upheld some of the pertinent stakes that could guarantee an effective network of power and opportunities for West Cameroon. Even if Ahidjo hated unification to the core as it is argued and only accepted it reluctantly, he  however had the skills of leadership and persuasiveness to convince the Southern Cameroon delegation to accept far less than what they aspired to get. The final resolutions of Foumban were arrived at through negotiations. West Cameroon identity and cultural values were still protected in the new constitution.



The Travails of Democracy in Nigeria's Fourth Republic: 1991 - 2007
Dr. Adeolu Durotoye**
Department of Political Science
Ibadan University, Nigeria


This article is a study in democratic consolidation in Nigeria. The third wave of democratization that swept through Africa from the early 1990s brought hope that democracy is after all not an aberration to the continent of Africa. Many heaved a sigh of relief when Nigeria, expected to lead other African countries by example by virtue of its size and resources, returned to a democratic regime in 1999, after it had wasted such an opportunity 6 years earlier when the military junta of General Ibrahim Babangida annulled an election adjudged by both local and international observers as the freest and fairest in the history of Nigeria in 1993.

Since 1999, how far has Nigeria gone in its democratic journey? This is the task this paper has set for itself. The article will explore different paradigms of democratic consolidation in its discourse of Nigeria's 4th Republic. The performance of the different institutions of democracy in Nigeria's 4th democratic enterprise will be assessed. To be sure, we will weave our thesis around whether Nigeria's 4th attempt at democracy has been a success or not.

The article is organized in four sections. Section one will look at the state of the debate on democratic consolidation in Africa towards forging a timely assessment of the trends of democratization in Africa. Section two will dwell on the different practices that were considered antithetical to democratic consolidation between 1999 and 2007, while also looking at the different institutions of democracy in Nigeria's 4th republic. Section three beamed a searchlight on the menace of political violence and political assassinations during the period under review. Section four discussed 2007 general elections in Nigeria.

The State of the Art in Democratic Consolidation in Africa

Different writers have written on the state of democracy in Africa.  A school of thought had given a sordid picture of the democratization project in Africa. Said Adejumobi's work on Elections in Africa is very instructive here. (Adejumobi: 2000). “Election rigging and brigandage, violence and election annulment are common practices. The trend is towards a reversal to the old order of despotic political rulership under the guise of civil governance. Elections in their current form in most African states appear to be a fading shadow of democracy, endangering the fragile democratic project itself.” (p.59). He lamented that although elections constitute the most important element in the conception and practice of democracy, elections and the electoral process have become the major victims in the dangerous descend of African “democratic regimes' towards ‘democratic retreat”. He elucidates the functions of elections in a democracy as including a symbol of popular sovereignty and the expression of the “social pact” between the state and the people, the defining basis of political authority, legitimacy and citizens' obligations, the kernel of political accountability and a means of ensuring reciprocity and exchange between governors and the governed, and a basis for leadership recruitment and socialization. (p.60). Using the examples of Zambia and the Gambia, among others, Adejumobi stated “In most African countries, recent developments suggest that elections are only an expedient political exercise of ruling regimes, partly because of their economic implications in terms of external aid flows and economic assistance, and partly because of their public relations advantage in propping up the political profile of the regime in the international arena. Even where those regimes came into power through popular elections as in Zambia, they have since relapsed into autocratic rule, conducting “fabricated” elections. Thus the dominant practice is that most rulers organize an electoral “coup d'état” which ensures their “selection” in the name of a popular electoral process. The tactics employed include stifling opposition parties and reducing them to docility, covertly corrupting the electoral process or embarking on outright election rigging” (p.66). The scenario described above approximates to what has been tagged elsewhere “liberal Machiavellian election” (Huntington, S. and C.R. Moore, C.R:1970)

Richard Joseph indeed pronounced in his work that lack of elections in a democracy will lead to a state of “political decay”. “Renewal in democratic systems usually occurs via elections. Any political system which does not undergo such will ultimately atrophy and suffer decay”. (Joseph, R: 1990). Patrick Chabal: 1998, (pp.289-303) reviewed the state of democracy in Zambia and Kenya under Chiluba and Moi respectively. Although a review of the number of African countries that have embraced democratization since the 1990s may show that democracy is being consolidated in Africa, Chabal observed “there are also indications that the process of democratization, such as it is, is fraying at the edges. In the first place, there is the persistent claim that multi-party elections are controlled and distorted, when not actually rigged, by incumbent regimes. Secondly, there is the nagging doubt that democratically elected regimes have every intention of subverting the momentum for political liberalization by ruling much as the previous one-party regimes did. Thirdly, there are very obvious limits to the actual democratic nature of functioning multi-party systems, chief of which seems to be that such systems have no place for political opposition. Finally, and most ominously, there is the unavoidable fact that where multi-party elections have failed to bring about genuine improvements, Africans have begun to lose faith in “democracy' (P.290).

Another school of thought argued that only a “home-grown” democracy will survive in Africa. Guy Martin:1993, in his contribution to this debate noted “…economic and political change in Africa will succeed only if it is a home-grown, indigenous process, initiated by the African people themselves, taking into account their own historical, social and cultural values and traditions.” (p.7). According to him, real democracy goes beyond dormal trappings of democratic political systems. “Any effort to superimpose a specific narrow formula of democracy could lead to mere formal compliance, such as allowing multipartism without “real democracy”. In this context, “real democracy” means substantive (as opposed to formal) democracy. Real democracy goes beyond the formal trappings of democratic political systems (such as multipartism and elections) to include such elements as accountability and genuine popular participation in the nation's political and economic decision-making process. If democracy is to be sustained over time, firm foundations for democratic institutions must be created in accordance with local circumstances, and a democratic culture firmly grounded in African values and traditions must be built”. (p.7)Claude Ake felt the same way. (Claude Ake: 1993). Ake was right to say that the present nature of democracy in Africa has not transferred power to the people but rather “there is an increased awareness among Africans that the monopoly of power enjoyed by failed leadership has to be broken in order that power can be transferred to the people…That is why demonstrations for democratization persist in spite of repression” (p.240). He also dwells on the nature of the African ruling elite; “in the case of many African leaders of the (democracy) movement, democracy is largely a strategy for power, not a vehicle for popular empowerment” (p.240).

A third school of thought argues that African democracies have been bedeviled by lack of strong political institutions necessary to solidify democratic practices.

In his work on “Democratic Transitions in Africa since the 1990s, published in Africa Update, Vol. XIII, Issue 3 (Summer 2006):, this author reviewed the state of democratic consolidation in Africa and concluded, “To be sure, about 40 of the 48 sub-Saharan African countries had undergone significant political reforms in the early 1990s, with some concluding the first competitive elections in a generation. However, few political institutions were strengthened by regime transition. In most cases, the State's ability to respond to citizen's needs, by ensuring law and order throughout the nation, and by providing basic services to low-income populations is still seriously deficient in many countries. Judicial and legislative institutions remained weak, while past practices of clientelism, rent seeking, and fraud remained well and alive. Although one-party and military rule have become defunct, ruling parties have continued to embark on a monopolistic style of rule while opposition parties, the press, labor unions, and other pressure groups have not proved strong enough to enforce the accountability, and transparency needed for democratic governance”.

Obasanjo's Undemocratic Practices and the Institutions of Democracy

Enormous harm was done to politics and democracy in Nigeria's 4th Republic. “Many people in the opposition believe that the President has bequeathed, even foisted, on the polity and political process a culture of impunity that is at once undemocratic and disdainful of the Constitution and the rule of law. Apart from his alleged disregard for the law, which is said to make him disobey rulings of courts, the President is also accused of introducing into the electoral process, in his party and invariably in the country's political system a strange tradition of hand-picking of candidates by a cabal of political elite. Critics point to the way he single-handedly imposed the presidential candidacy of  Umaru Musa Yar' Adua on the party and the manner he went about ensuring his victory at the polls, using state institutions to muscle opposition and enhance his anointed person's chances”. It is believed that  Obasanjo has aided the perpetration of the most fraudulent election process in Nigeria, which in itself is an act of corruption but Obasanjo seems unperturbed by this criticism insisting that “democracy is not a destination. It is a journey and there's no country in the world that would say it has reached the end of the journey of democracy.” (Tell Magazine) Nigeria's 4th Republic witnessed a measure of undemocratic and sometimes dictatorial practices on the part of the executive arm of government symbolized by President Olusegun Obasanjo. On more than one occasion, the President had to battle impeachment moves by the two houses of the National Assembly for engaging in “unconstitutional and impeachable” practices. In 2002, members of the House of Representatives release what they called Obasanjo's impeachable offences. The House requires one-third of the total 360 members to kick-start the process of impeachment, which amounts to 120 members; while a two-third (240 members) is required to effect the impeachment on the floor of the House. Obasanjo was accused of running the country like his Ota farm.

Unilateral Declaration of the Office of the Vice-President Vacant

President Olusegun Obasanjo's decision to unilaterally declare Vice President Atiku Abubakar's seat vacant for moving to another Political Party was clearly unconstitutional. The 1999 constitution clearly stated that the VP seizes to hold his office on account of death, ill-health capable of undermining his office, resignation or impeachment. Obasanjo used the PDP national executive committee meeting on the eve of December 25 2006 to declare the office of Vice President Atiku Abubakar vacant and withdrew all the privileges attached to Atiku as Vice President. He did not stop there, he ordered a sack of all the VP's security, protocol and domestic staff; and also sealed up his office and residence.

The justification was that the VP, having joined another political party, lacked a platform that could allow him to continue to occupy that office, and the office was now deemed vacant. According to Obasanjo's party, this satisfies the provision in Section 146 (3) (C) to the effect that the Vice President's seat can become vacant ‘for any other reason'.”

According to section 143. (1) of the Nigerian constitution, the President or Vice-President may be removed from office in accordance with the provisions of this section.

(2) Whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly:

(a) is presented to the President of the Senate;

(b) stating that the holder of the office of President or Vice-President is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office, detailed particulars of which shall be specified…

Sections 144, 145 and 146 make further provisions in that misconduct; permanent incapacitation; death; resignation or impeachment represent the only other bases upon which either post holder can be removed. The president, by declaring the position of his VP vacant appeared to have assumed the position of the legislature, and the judiciary. The Supreme Court has since ruled that the president does not have the constitutional right to remove his deputy.

Unilateral Withdrawal of Public Funds

The President was accused of withdrawing 2.1billion naira from the excess crude oil funds in March, 2006. Following speculations that the presidency had been fiddling with the fund, President Obasanjo quickly opened up that he had made the withdrawal to supplement the cost of the extension of the national census. Curiously, Obasanjo did not bother to inform the National Assembly. In a letter to the House of Representatives, Obasanjo claimed $17, 290,067; (about 2.1 billion naira) was withdrawn after he had convened an emergency meeting of the “stakeholders”. He mentioned only some state governors and the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission as the stakeholders who apparently induced him to make the withdrawal. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria expressly forbids such. Section 80(3) of the 1999 constitution states that no monies shall be withdrawn from any public fund of the federation, unless the issue of those money has been authorized by an Act of the National Assembly. So, the President in this case disregarded the constitution. He claimed to have held a meeting with some governors he did not mention even when the 1999 constitution did not permit him to withdraw such monies with the governors' approval.

Non-Implementation of the Budget

Obasanjo become infamous for breaching the constitution with reckless abandon, since the advent of his government in 1999, the president did not fully implement any of the annual budgets approved by the National Assembly. Instead, selective implementation of the Appropriation Act was the rule rather than the exception.

Unilateral Granting of Loans to Foreign Countries

In 2004,Obasanjo unilaterally granted Ghana and the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe unauthorized loans. Only when uproar broke out across the country over the presidential largesse did he dash to the National Assembly to legitimize unconstitutional indulgence. In the heat of the frenzy to pay off the debt owed the Paris Club of Creditors, the Senate passed a motion forbidding Obasanjo from dabbling into the federation account. In a letter to the Senate dated September 9, 2005, Obasanjo had requested for approval to withdraw $2.4billion from the account as the government's counterpart fund for the Power Sector Development Scheme (PSDS). He also requested for $12.4 billion to settle the balance of the debt owed the Paris Club. In its resolution on the letter, the Senate told the president that PSDS fund would be obtained only after it had been appropriated by relevant authority as required by law. It, however, approved the $12.4 billion to settle the balance of the debt owed the Paris Club. The president was alleged later to have withdrawn the $12.4 billion from the federation account instead of the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account which the senate specified in addition to the withdrawal of the$2.4 billion PSDS fund without waiting for the approval of the relevant authorities as required by law. The House of Representatives Committee on Public Finance and Appropriation disclosed that investigations conducted clearly showed that impeachable offences have been willfully committed by the same man who had sworn to uphold the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The panel's chairman, Hon. Farouk Lawal, bluntly stated that the president's action was, indeed, padded with irregularities. According to him “the series of constitutional violations by the president is legion, flagrant disobedience of court order, unauthorized use of the military such as Odi and Zaki Biam,the withholding of the local governments of Lagos State funds against the ruling of the Supreme Court just to mention but a very few. Constitutional democracy as it is operated in Nigeria is predicated on the rule of law, but in a situation where those that swore on oath to uphold the constitution, are wantonly violating the constitution, then such characters on the political landscape should be tactically eased out of the system, so that the country can have a sustainable democratic culture, thereby deepening the roots of democracy in the country”.

In 2002, Ghali Umar NaAbba, the then speaker of the House of Representatives, and his colleagues made frantic efforts to stop what they perceived to be an emerging dictatorship that had no regard for the rule of law. Some of the allegations of impeachable offences against the President and the relevant sections of the constitution he breached included (a) disregard of the Supreme Court ruling with respect to the release of local government funds to Lagos State. This is contrary to Sections 235 and 162 (5) of the Constitution. (b) Extra Budgetary spending is against section 80 (1) & (4) (c) Falsification of 2005 budget ( in any form) is against the provision of section 80 (2,3 & 4). (d)Non-implementation of budgets and disregard for rule of law against sections 1 (2) and 80 (e)Abuse of power section 15 (5)Violation or misuse of section 305 (e)Loans to Sao-Tome & Principe, section 80 (f)Accomplice in the Anambra State saga based on the admission contained in the Presidential letter to the former Chairman of the People Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Audu Ogbeh. (g)Obstruction by not providing the National Assembly with his ministry's book as the Minister of Petroleum Affairs, sections 88 and 89. (h) Promoting an economic policy that negates the provisions of section 15 of the Constitution (i)Promoting a university education policy that negates sections 18 (1c) and 4(3) (j)A privatization policy that violates sections 162 (c&d) and 15 (5) (k)Violation of section 15(5) by employing two of his children and making his son a de facto oil minister (l)Making El-Rufai the Chairman of the Federal Capital Territory” (see Vanguard Newspaper: Impeachable offences: How far can the Reps go this time?, May 15, 2005).

The Third Term Agenda

Third Term Agenda is a term which was used to describe alleged, controversial attempts by supporters of Nigerian President Olusẹgun Ọbasanjọ to change the constitution to allow for a third term in office. The 1999 constitution had provided a maximum of two terms of office for the President. This led to a political media uproar in Nigeria, which resulted in a bill which recommended for the amendment of the constitution to be defeated in Nigeria's Senate. President Olusegun Obasanjo's allies wanted him to amend the constitution in order to run for a third term in 2007. The argument was that the President needed more time to implement his economic reforms. Though the president himself maintained that he would respect the constitution of the country, he was no doubt behind the efforts to amend the constitution allegedly to prolong the tenure of the President and the State governors. The Vice President openly opposed the third term agenda. He had told the BBC that “We have seen how tinkering with the constitution to allow for tenure elongation in some African countries led to sit-tight dictatorships”. Despite Obasanjo's attempts to distance himself publicly from the effort, it was widely seen in Nigeria as emanating from his office. In another breath in an April 2006 interview with The Washington Post, Obasanjo said that he had not decided whether to run again but that a third term would allow him to complete initiatives he started in his previous seven years in office. "The reforms that we are putting in place have to be anchored, anchored in legislation, anchored in institutions," he said. Opposition lawmakers alleged that millions of dollars in bribes were offered to those who agreed to support a third term. To cheers from opponents, the president of the Senate, Ken Nnamani, ruled that a voice vote had defeated the measure introduced by Obasanjo's allies and that "the Senate has said clearly and eloquently that we should discontinue other proceedings on this amendment." The proposed amendment needed two-thirds of the vote to pass in Nigeria's federal and regional Parliaments. The rejection of the constitutional amendment that would have got a third term for the president was the major achievement of the legislative arm in the 4th Republic.

It is generally believed that the Nigerian judiciary has fared well in the 4th Republic going by many landmark political cases it has handled. The judiciary upturned 3 impeachment cases that were carried out unconstitutionally in some of the States. In the few months leading to the April elections, the performance of the judiciary inspired a lot of public confidence. The judiciary won public's confidence because it was the only body or institution that stood up to Obasanjo's bidding over the issue of whether Vice-President Atiku Abubakar should be allowed to contest the presidential poll or not. The Supreme Court, in an 11th hour ruling just days before the April 21 ballot, cleared Abubakar to run after he had been disqualified by the electoral commission INEC on grounds he was indicted for corruption by the anti-graft body EFCC. The speed and courage with which cases were disposed of prior to the 2007 elections was an indication of what is possible if the judiciary is truly determined to perform its important role in deepening democracy.

More decisions had been delivered against the government than at any time in the history of the Nigeria. The Supreme Court helped to illuminate the dark areas of the constitution.

Judiciary watchers contended that the dismissal of some state high court judges who aided and abetted the subversion of the constitution in the impeachment of governors in Ekiti, Plateau and Anambra states had salutary effect on the bench.

Even the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which by law was supposed to be neutral abandoned its assignment as an arbiter and became openly partisan pretending at the same time that it was neutral. The Supreme Court justices appropriately upbraided both INEC and the police during the declaration of the office of the vice president's saga. This posture of independence of the judiciary is unsurpassed in the annals of Nigeria's political history.

The Media and the Civil Society

The Nigerian media was up and doing in its function as the 4th estate of the realm. For instance, between 1999 and 2007, the media reported more than 70 incidents of election-related violence leading to more than 70 deaths. The media was very dispassionate with its reporting of the 3rd term moves by the president and his apologists. The fact that some electronic media covered the third term debate live cautioned the senators who knew their constituents were watching. Nigeria has a very vibrant civil society. This is partly due to the many years of military dictatorship that has thrown up myriads of civil society organizations originally established to oppose military dictatorship. The civil society is expected to check corruption and abuse of power (whistle blowing), stimulate and lead debates on national issues, engender free flow of information. The media is a barometer for testing the effect and efficacy of government's reforms, collaborate in diagnosis and feedback, perform monitoring functions on the government, and its programs, and forge strategic alliance with the legislature to ensure constituency feedback information sharing.

The Political Parties

The Political parties, especially the big three-PDP, AC, and ANPP resorted to selection of party candidates thereby barring popular candidates who may not be in the good books of the political godfathers and party leaders from contesting most of the elections.

Besides, the PDP has been accused of killing democracy in the country by deliberately subverting opposition parties through blackmail and planting of moles in their ranks.

The political parties are anything but democratic in their activities especially in the selection of candidates.

The Military

At the time of his swearing-in in 1999, many Nigerians were cynical about the chances of the government lasting long.

The fear of the military staging a comeback hung thick in the air. The president himself must have sensed it, because his very first action in office was the unexpected but tactical retirement of all military chiefs and their immediate replacement. That action was followed by the retirement of all military officers who had held political appointments in the preceding military regime. The steps were widely applauded and they sent a clear message to the barracks and officers' messes that the military must henceforth subject itself to control by civil government. Obasanjo's military reforms brought about a cordial civil-military relations especially at the top of the echelon. Immediately Obasanjo was sworn in, he engaged the services of the MPRI. MPRI is a US based consulting outfit made up of retired military and intelligence officers is a training, simulation and government services company of highly skilled and experienced military, law enforcement, diplomatic and private sector leaders with uncompromising professionalism who apply integrity, innovative ideas and integrated solutions to defense and national security challenges. With more than 3,000 employees worldwide, MPRI serves the national security needs of the US government, selected foreign governments, international organizations and the private sector with programs of the highest standards and methodologies of proven effectiveness. MPRI had been engaged in training the Nigerian military in the art of civil-military relations to ensure that the Nigerian military is subservient to the civilian authority. The MPRI engagement has not gone down well with most top officers of the Nigerian military who felt MPRI had other hidden agenda and this indeed led to the removal of Obasanjo's first Chief of Army Staff, General Victor Malu who refused to cooperate with the officials of MPRI arguing that doing so will pose a threat to national security.

Political Violence and Political Assassination in the 4th Republic

Between 1999 and 2007, Nigeria witnessed the highest rate of politically motivated killings and violence compared to any of the three previous republics. With the incessant wave of politically motivated killings, political assassination was introduced as an instrument of politics in Nigeria. Although some of the killings were been discountenanced as ordinary murders, the timing of killings left no doubt that political assassinations were far too common occurrence during the period and actions by the government and police to stem the problem proved insufficient and ineffective. Just before the April 2007 general elections, Nigeria's police chief, Sunday Ehindero lamented the spate of political violence in the run-up to the elections. “Now coming down to the security situation in the country in relation to the 2007 elections, I have to inform you that we have arms in large quantities in our society; proliferation of arms and ammunitions in our society…There is a big threat of proliferation of arms and ammunitions in this country. Some politicians do carry arms during rallies…It is a truism that election plays an important role in our democracy; in fact, without election, there cannot be democracy. However, elections since the 1960s have had their own problems of violence and acrimony. As we approach the 2007 elections, there appears to be a spate of political violence. Politics is about competition for power and of all the criteria of development, be it social, economic or cultural; it is the political criterion that takes the lead particularly in our own system. This is because the stakes are high. That is why all methods are used to achieve political power, including violence. There ought to be a fundamental moral base in politics and the Machiavellian principle of the ends justify the means may not be acceptable. (Nigeria's Inspector General of Police (IG) Sunday Ehindero speaking to the Senate in the run-up to the 2007 elections).

The 4th Republic has witnessed a circus of unresolved Political Assassinations in Nigeria.

The 2007 elections

The April 14 and 21 State and Federal elections in Nigeria were marred by different kinds of malpractices bordering mainly, but not absolutely, on the manipulation of the electoral process by the ruling party, the PDP. Supported by the INEC (The Independent Electoral Commission), and the police, and in some places the military, and a retinue of thugs, the ruling party explored intimidation, ballot box snatching and stuffing, physical assault, and “votes allocation” to outwit its opponents and the wishes of the people. The elections petitions tribunals annulled most of the elections and new elections were ordered in many states across the country. The judiciary had proved as the bastion of democratic consolidation once again.

A few days after the elections, Nigeria's senate president, Ken Nnamani painted a bleak picture of general elections in Nigeria, leaving his audience that included former United States (U.S.) Secretary of State, Miss Madeline Albright, awe-struck. Albright led a delegation of the Washington D.C.-based global organisation, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), to monitor the presidential and National Assembly elections. According to Nnamani "Last Saturday's elections….were fundamentally flawed and foreign intervention is needed for the country to get it right in future…The problem we have had in Nigeria is that every succeeding election is worse than the previous one. In other words, the election of 1999 was better than that of 2003 and if care is not taken, (that of 2003) will be better than that of 2007." He also told his visitors that the proliferation of political parties was an albatross on the country's democracy, suggesting that the number be reduced to two in future. "The party in power enjoys monopoly because it has the resources, it has the size, it dictates the pace and you can't blame it. And with the proliferation, there is no way any of the parties will be strong enough to match the ruling party. … For as long as we practice impunity and the big party must win every place, it must muscle its way. If it can't do it by mobile Police, it does it with soldiers. As long as that is the case, we are deceiving ourselves. Our democracy is not growing”.


No doubt, a critical look at Nigeria's 4th Republic starting from 1999 to 2007 would reveal an admixture of both the positive and the negative. A regime analysis of Nigeria since independence will reveal that no government has been as focused as the Obasanjo's regime of the 4th Republic. One could say the development project which Claude Ake said never commenced because the political preconditions were generally nonexistent in Africa took off in 1999. This may be due in part to Obasanjo's experience having ruled as a military head of state between 1976 and 1979, and an assemblage of a team of technocrats who were not necessarily politicians. The president, especially during his second term of office, gathered a team of good economists under a new finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, previously a World Bank economist and vice-president. The team drew up an ambitious clutch of reforms focusing on job cuts in the public sector, investment in agriculture and infrastructure, and a new drive to speed up halting privatizations. Obasanjo also did well in the area of diplomacy winning respect for Nigeria in the committee of nations. His anti-corruption drive was also commendable. Although sometimes used as political instruments, the culture of probity has been strengthened by the intervention of agencies of scrutiny and investigation like the ICPC and EFCC.

It was clear however that democracy in Nigeria could not be described as “real democracy” during the period under study in view of the different kinds of anti-democratic practices by the political class. Election rigging and brigandage, violence and election annulment were common practices. The trend is towards a reversal to the old order of despotic political rulership under the guise of civil governance. One cannot but agree that elections in Nigeria in the period under study were a fading shadow of democracy, endangering the fragile democratic project itself. The use of state power and security privilege to harass and intimidate the challenger's machinery was widespread. Harassment of the opposition was the most intransigent legacy that has survived from the locust years of military autocracy, and those who are deeply concerned about the survival of democracy might be tempted to believe that this legacy could abort the survival of democratic values in the nation.

The role of the legislature and the judiciary during the period showed that all hope is not yet lost in the match towards democratic consolidation in Nigeria. Unlike most African countries, Nigerian democracy had been strengthened by strong political institutions necessary to solidify democratic practices. Democratic contest is alive even though battered.

**The author presented an extended version of this paper at Dartmouth College, Massachusetts, USA when on an exchange scholarly visit from the University of Ibadan. He was at Ibadan as Lecturer in the Department of Political Science. He was also a  Visiting Professor,  Department of Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga.


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