Oshadare Olabode Timothy, PhD

Department of History

Faculty of Arts, Management and Social Science

Nigerian Army University, Biu

Borno State, Nigeria


Adelekun Isaac Abiodun

Department of History and Diplomatic Studies

Tai Solarin University of Education Ijagun,

Ogun State. Nigeria.


The Nigerian political landscape has undergone drastic transformation since its independence in 1960. Prior to its transition to democracy in 1999, Nigeria had witnessed almost three decades of military authoritarianism and dictatorship. In recent times, repeated attempts to salvage the ailing democratic institutions in Nigeria have faltered. The recent upsurge in inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts across the country, coupled with the resurging calls for secession from various quarters in the country has not only cast strong doubt on the future of democracy in Nigeria, but has also fueled pessimism about the continued existence and survival of Nigeria as a political entity. Whether democracy will be fledged in Nigeria for the country to be fully positioned for sustainable development to aid nation building, depends on the government’s approach to resolving the underlying challenges of democracy in Nigeria. This paper explicates the need for rejiggering the existing mechanisms of democracy in

Nigeria and strengthening same for a sustainable nation building. This paper adopts a doctrinal research methodology to analyse some issues that are surrounding the sustenance of Nigeria’s democracy, as well as threats to nation building. This paper also makes viable recommendations for tackling the inherent challenges of democracy in Nigeria.

Keywords: democracy, institution, nation-building, Nigeria, challenges.


The global economic and political order which had been orchestrated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (IBRD) since the mid-twentieth century had precipitated the spread of democratization of governments across the world.[1]With the succour of the Western powers[2], hostile regimes in the third world countries were toppled while democratic governance was installed. Nigeria has not been left behind in this development. Prior to the relinquishment of political independence to the country, the British colonial government facilitated Nigeria’s political transition to indigenous democracy.

Since its independence, Nigeria’s democracy has been precarious and unstable.[3]In a stanchly heterogeneous nation with more than 200 ethnic groups within its borders, which were drawn by British colonialists, successive governments have struggled to forge a sense of national unity.4 The various regions of the nation have experienced varying rates of development and democratization.

Not long after political independence in 1960, the military interrupted Abraham Lincoln’s idea of the government of the people in Nigeria. After almost three decades of military dictatorship and authoritarianism, the military disengaged from Nigerian politics and ceded political power to a democratically elected government – firstly in 1979 by the Obasanjo military regime and finally in May 1999 by the Abubakar Abdulsalam military regime shortly after the demise of the Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s foremost military dictator.

The transition to democracy in 1999 earmarked the beginning of the Fourth Republic. More than two decades after, four different civilian regimes have emerged and transitions from one civilian regime to another have been witnessed. Sixty-two years after attaining political independence from Britain, the country is surprisingly yet to sustain proper democratic ethos, which is the catalyst for good governance and nation building.[4]In spite of the seeming success in democratic consolidation, democratic governance in the Fourth Republic has been enwrapped in a plethora of challenges such as electoral malpractice, ethno-religious rivalries, insecurity, weak democratic institutions, insurgency, poverty, corruption, and economic recessions, amongst others.[5]These challenges do not only weaken the democratic formulae but also constitute potent threats to the sustenance of democracy in the Nigerian polity.[6]

As it is, there are seeming hurdles in the path of Nigeria’s journey to strong democracy.[7]Achieving sustainable development for nation building through democratically facilitated good governance remains a challenge that stares the nation on the face.9 More than two decades of uninterrupted supposed democracy has availed the country enough drift to position it on a trajectory of nation building. Unfortunately, a host of issues and challenges surrounding the practice of democracy in Nigeria bedevil the long -due democratic rebirth of Nigeria. Thus, addressing these issues by majorly strengthening existing democratic institutions in Nigeria will put the nation on the pathway to sustainable development and efficient nation building.

This paper therefore examines the underlying challenges of consolidation of Nigeria’s democracy. This paper briefly traces Nigeria’s journey to democracy so far. By appraising the existing institutions of democracy in Nigeria, this paper proposes recommendations for strengthening extant democratic mechanisms in Nigeria. This paper also contends in strong terms that, amongst other recommendations, the existing institutions of democracy must be rejiggered and strengthened in order to facilitate nation building, economic growth and development, as well as the improvement of the standard of living of the Nigerian citizenry.

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