Independence, Return of the Military
initial election results, General Sani Abacha, Babangida, indiscipline, Katsina
On New Yearís Eve 1983, army officers led by Major General Muhammadu Buhari overthrew the Shagari government in a bloodless coup. Buhariís government enjoyed widespread public support for its condemnation of economic mismanagement, of government corruption, and of the rigged 1983 elections. This support waned, however, as the government adopted a rigid program of economic austerity and instituted repressive policies that included a sweeping campaign against ďindiscipline,Ē a prohibition against discussing the countryís political future, and the detention of journalists and others critical of the government.
Buhariís support withered and in August 1985, Major General Ibrahim Babangida overthrew him to wide acclaim. Babangida rescinded several of Buhariís most unpopular decrees, initiated a public debate on the state of the economy, and eased controls over business. These actions set the stage for negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for aid, a new round of austerity measures, and better relations with the countryís creditors. For a time, Nigeria achieved a measure of economic recovery.
Babangida maintained a firm grip on power, shuffling key officers from position to position to ensure they would not become too strong and forbidding political parties. Many Nigerians were disturbed by the generalís favoring of northern elite interests. In 1986 and 1990 Babangida faced and suppressed coup attempts. Other tensions escalated, particularly religious strife between Christians and Muslims; several states, including Kaduna, Katsina, and Kano, had severe religious riots in the early 1990s.
In early 1989, in preparation for a transfer to democracy, Babangida approved a new constitution that introduced only minor changes to the 1979 constitution. In May he lifted the ban on political organizations but refused to recognize any of the new parties, instead channeling politics into the government-created Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republic Convention (NRC). Federal legislative elections were finally held in July 1992, with the SDP winning a majority in both houses of the legislature. The presidential elections were delayed, finally held in June 1993, then annulled by the military when initial election results indicated that SDP candidate and wealthy publisher Moshood Abiola had won by a large majority. Babangida, however, claimed he still supported a transition to democracy and in August transferred power to an interim government. The new government lasted all of three months before General Sani Abacha, the powerful secretary of defense, overthrew it and assumed control. Among Abachaís first acts was the termination of all political activity.
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