Nigerian Democracy Will Be Twenty Five Years (25yrs) Old On 29th May 2024: BY OKOI OBONO-OBLA


I vividly remember the 29 May 1999 because it is one of the momentous events that have shaped and influenced the national life of Nigeria that took place that day.

It was the inauguration day of elected National and State leaders that were democratically elected after nearly 26 years of unbridled military dictatorship, in the country that resulted in the country becoming a pariah, among the comity of nations in the world.

On the 29 May 1999 was a bright and clear day in Calabar, and everyone was bubbling with enthusiasm and joy, on expectations of the inauguration of Mr Donald Duke, the third president democratically elected Governor of Cross River State.

I had mixed feelings; glad and apprehensive.

As a young lawyer, I had taken an active part in the struggle from early 1990 to 1999 to end military dictatorship in the country, and return of the country once again to democratic civil rule, but was truly lost on what prospects democracy would bring to the country.

On the morning of 29 May 1999 and in the company of my friend, the late Barrister Charles Duke, we went to U.J. Eusene Sports Stadium, Calabar, to watch the swearing into office as Governor of Cross River State, Mr Donald Duke, by the then Chief Judge of Cross River State, the Honourable Chief Judge, Honourable Justice Okonkon Ita (of blessed memory).
Simultaneously taking place in Abuja was the inauguration of the second democratically elected President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at the Eagle Square.

29th May 2024 will mark the 25th anniversary of the return of Nigeria to democratic civil rule.

Nigeria experienced military rule first on 15 January 1966, when the military toppled the post independence civilian Democratic administration.
The government of the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was supplanted by the military.

Major General Aguiyi Ironsi was to emerge as the Head of State and the Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The 1963 Constitution was suspended.
Also suspended were all the paraphernalia of democracy such as the Federal Parliament, which then comprised the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The military issued a decree also suspending/abolishing regionalism and replacing them with Group of Provinces, namely: Northern Group of Provinces; West Group of Provinces, Eastern Group of Provinces and Mid-Western Provinces.

From 15 January 1966 to 1st October 1979, the military ran the political governance of the country for 13 years.
After 13 years of running the country, the military decided to hand over to civilians in 1979.

On 1st October 1979, a former minister and teacher from Sokoto, Alhaji Aliyu Shehu Shagari, was sworn into office as the first democratically elected president of Nigeria
It also marked the transitioning of the country from a parliamentary system to a presidential system modeled after the American variant.

Unfortunately, that Democratic experience was ephemeral because on 31 December 1983, the military struck again and toppled the civilian government.
The military stayed in power from 1983 to 29 May 1999.

The celebration of 29 May 2024 is significant in so many ways.
Firstly, it marks the first time in the history of Nigeria, where a democratically elected government has run the affairs of the country consistently for 25 years in full stretch.

It has never happened because the democracy that was in place before the military coup of 15 January 1966 ended and lasted from 1960 to 1966, just six years.

I would not include the years from 1951 to 1959, because Nigeria was still under colonial rule, and even though its affairs were run by elected local officials, they were under the guidance and supervision of colonial administrators, who were taking fundamental decisions, from the colonial office in London.

Nigeria’s democracy is young and I dare say, even embryonic. Also, democratic institutions in the country are also young.

Expectedly, democratic culture, ethos, and values are yet to be ingrained on the people.

25 years in the life of a human being is nothing but a learning curve and process.

In May 2049, which is 25 years from now, democratic civil rule in Nigeria will have attained maturity and democratic culture and values more ingrained in our institutions, and people that will usher in economic growth, development and prosperity.

I believe no matter how imperfect our democracy is presently, there is a glimmer of hope that it is better than a military dictatorship.

Chief Okoi Obono-Obla

Disclaimer: The opinion expressed in this article is strictly that of the author, Okoi Obono-Obla and does not represent TheLumineNews, its agent or the organization the author works for.


Development Consultant, Writer, Editor-In-Chief/Publisher, Public/ Motivational Speaker, Public Affairs Analyst/Commentator, Social Mobilizer of high repute.

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