The day 1st October 1960 ushered in an independent Nigeria. Here was a newly born nation under the leadership of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe which brought into existence the First republic in 1963. The North, South, East and West formed a united Nation with a dream for a united and better Nigeria. This dream of a better Nigeria was negatively altered when in 1966 Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu led what became the first coup to overthrow the government of Nnamdi Azikiwe. General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi took over power but after 6 months, a counter coup took place and the General Yakubu Gowon led regime came into power in a bid to unite the North and South but events from the coup and counter coup ignited a civil war which lasted from 1967 to 1970.
After the civil war, a third coup took place and this quick coup was unsuccessful even though it led to the death of the head of the regime General Murtala Mohammed. Major General Olusegun Obasanjo took over power from his dead boss. Hope beamed in 1970 when a successful political process started with the resignation of Obasanjo. This democratic process paved way for the second republic with the emergence of the Shehu Shagari-led government. But this democratic era did not leave a good mark on Nigerians and was cut short by a junta led by General Muhammadu Buhari who was discipline minded.
Barely two years in office, General Muhammadu Buhari was sent packing by a coup which ushered in General Ibrahim Babangida who ruled from 1985 to 1993. This regime oversaw the conduction of elections which never materialized leading to chaos as the winner of the 1993 elections M K O Abiola was never inaugurated and the third republic remained an aborted foetus.
The resulting chaos brought in the Ernest Shonekan-led national government which ruled for just 83 days paving way for a junta led by General Sani Abacha which took over the reins of power and ruled from 1993 to 1998. The death of General Sani Abacha brought in General Abdulsalam Abubakar who ruled for almost a year, after which he resigned to give the fourth Republic a right of life.
Elections in the fourth republic saw the emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo who ruled for 8 years and in 2007 he handed over to Umaru Musa Yar’adua in what went down history to be the first democratic handover in the country. The government of Umaru Musa Yar’adua was cut short by death and his vice Goodluck Ebele Jonathan took over. While he completed the term of his late boss, he ran for elections in 2011 which he won and his attempt to stand again was unsuccessful leading to the emergence of the All Progressive Congress’s candidate and one time military ruler Muhammadu Buhari making it the first time a democratic opposition party has taken the reins of power in the country.
55 turbulent years characterized by a civil war, numerous coup d’états, corruption, high-profile assassinations, terrorism, and a host of other ugly events have plagued the nation which have lasted 29 years under military rule and 26 years of civilian rule. It is true all has not been well, neither are we far from what our founding fathers who fought, bleed and died for this freedom of ours wanted. But like Desmond Tutu says, “Hope is the ability to see that there is light despite all the darkness”, we must first accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope as there is no nation in the world with the diverse, confidence, and talented black people like Nigeria.
We have succeeded in building a democracy which is a model other countries are emulating and an economy second to none in the continent even though there is still much work to be done in regards to the later.
A little love, A little trust, a little tolerance and a little patriotism will help improve and unite us.