UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A commitment to reform : the constitution and politics of Nigeria’s second civilian regime Myers, Jayson S.


On 1 October 1979, thirteen years of military rule came to an end in Nigeria. A new constitution was promulgated, the result of an exercise in institutional reform intended to overcome the political problems that, in the 1960s, had led the country to military rule and civil war. Nigeria's constitution is to provide the structural framework for a system of government capable of responding effectively to the exigencies of economic and social development, a government which is also non-exclusive of the diverse communal and regional interests of a plural political society. The constitutional document is-the product of four years of debate among Nigeria's civilian and military leaders. Erected on a set of fundamental principles set forth by the Federal Military Government, many of the political institutions the basic law establishes — a charter of rights, an executive presidency, a redefined federal system — are new to Nigeria. However, the disputes which shaped the constitutional deliberations are reminiscent of the partisan and communal rivalries that have.plagued'previous regimes. The political problems engendered by sectional conflicts and by the conditions of economic underdevelopment remain a potent feature of constitutional rule in Nigeria. The process of constitutional reform, and the provisions of the basic law, have been subject to popular criticism. Partisan rivalries continue to rage over access to political office. The checks and balances established by the constitution are part of a cumbersome system of government. A strengthened federal government still finds itself in conflict with regional administrations. Nigeria's new constitution establishes the institutional framework in which political activity is to take place. Since 1979, the nature of that activity has been determined by political forces similar to those that prevailed under the country's first, ill-fated civilian regime.

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