The National:

ON October 1 1960, Nigeria gained its independence from the UK with a new constitution establishing a federal system, an elected prime minister and a ceremonial head of state.

However, the country’s journey since then has been a complex one with democracy fragile and in a state of fluctuation ever since achieving independence.

By population, it is the largest country in Africa and is a multinational state inhabited by more than 250 ethnic groups. It is also the largest economy in Africa

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Here’s everything you need to know about the country after independence.

How did Nigeria gain independence?

Nigeria first became a British protectorate in 1901 with the period of rule lasting until 1960 when an independence movement led to the country being free of UK-rule.

Prince Vincent-Anene, writing for The Nonviolence Project, described the independence movement as “nonviolent” and that it was achieved in a number of ways including strikes, media coverage and trade unionism.

He added that it did not come as a “result of the British act of benevolence” but rather as a “consequence of various demonstrations of nonviolent actions”.

One such action for example was the Egba Women’s Revolt which protested against the imposition of British colonial taxation in south-west Nigeria with a number of groups meeting to express their grievances against unfair taxation.

Many women challenged this by refusing to pay taxes and striking.

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Elsewhere, the Aba women’s uprising of November 1929 saw protests by thousands against the unjust rule of tribal officials appointed by the colonial government.

Young nationalists in the Lagos area meanwhile founded the Nigerian Youth Movement in 1934.

What happened in the immediate aftermath of independence?

According to scholars Dr Leena Koni Hoffmann and Jon Wallace, it became clear after the Second World War that Nigeria would become independent.

The country’s general election of 1959 resulted in a victory for the Northern People’s Congress which formed a coalition government with the south-eastern dominated National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons.

This created the first ever Nigerian led self-government and paved the way for the nation to become fully independent.

Despite leaving the UK behind, the country remained a constitutional monarchy for three years with Queen Elizabeth remaining as head of state.

In 1963 however, the country became a federal republic with Nnamdi Azikiwe as its first president.

Military rule

However, despite an initial period of peace, democracy quickly deteriorated as a result of long-standing stresses caused by ethnic competitiveness, educational inequality and economic imbalance.

Elections were held in 1964 but the event only served to highlight resentment towards the domination of the central government by northern politicians while prime minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was assassinated as part of a bloody, failed military coup.

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In the chaos which followed, Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi seized power but ruled for only six months before being replaced by Yakubu Gowon, beginning a decade of rule by a “supreme military council”.

Civil war

Gowon’s administration was however rejected by Lt Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu, the military head of Nigeria’s eastern administrative region and in 1967 he led the region’s secession.

He declared himself president of the Republic of Biafra in protest against the Gowon regime with Britain arming the Nigerian military government.

A brutal civil war followed with Gowon himself overthrown in a coup in 1975 with his replacement General Murtala Muhammed being assassinated in 1976 before his deputy Lieutenant General Olusegun Obasanjo took charge and oversaw the transition back to democracy by introducing a US-style presidential constitution.

The constitution

Nigeria has its own constitution, created in 1999.

The constitution establishes the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.

The legislative powers are vested in a National Assembly with two chambers – a Senate and a House of Representatives.

It also outlines a number of fundamental rights including liberty, dignity, privacy and so on as well as the right to a fair trial.

So, what does this mean for how the country looks now?

According to Hoffman and Wallace, the civil war meant that oil revenues ended up in the hands of army officials and a “corrupt military elite”.

The country is currently ruled by Bola Tinubu (below), who won the February 2023 presidential elections.

However, there were demands that the election be cancelled over alleged fraud.

The National: Bola Tinubu (Ben Curtis/AP)

On top of this, Reporters Without Borders has said that it remains one of the “most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists, who are often monitored, attacked and arbitrarily arrested, as was the case during the 2023 elections”.

Although it points to there still being a large number of news outlets, it also says that “the level of governmental interference” as “significant”.

What can this teach Scotland?

Nigeria’s journey in the post-independence world is a complex one, with a number of issues still persisting years after a bloody civil war.

A number of issues which Nigeria was forced to confront are still relevant to Scotland, including establishing a constitution and deciding what to do with the monarchy.