Nigeria Political System

Political system

Today’s Constitution was adopted in 1999 and applies to Nigeria’s “Fourth Republic”. The Constitution is a modified version of the one adopted in 1979 with the United States Constitution as a role model. According to it, Nigeria is a federal republic with presidential and multi-party systems.

The president is head of state and government as well as commander-in-chief and has extensive powers of power. They are elected in general elections of four years and can be re-elected at one time. For victory, at least 25 percent of the vote is required in at least two-thirds of the states. All ministers appointed by the president must be approved by the Senate (see below), and there must be at least one minister from each state. This means that the government becomes unwittingly large and expensive in operation; Nigeria consists of 36 states as well as the federal district of Abuja.

The National Assembly, which establishes laws, consists of two chambers. The Senate has 109 members: three from each state and one from the Federal Capital of Abuja. The House of Representatives has 360 members, all of whom represent equal constituencies. In both chambers, the members are elected by majority vote in one-person constituencies and the term of office is four years. A bill must be adopted by both chambers before it is submitted to the President for approval. If the president does not approve the proposal, it will still be law if both chambers again adopt it by a two-thirds majority.

At independence in 1960, Nigeria consisted of three regions, one northern, one eastern and one western (compare Geography and Climate). They then became four, who were divided into twelve states during the 1967-1970 Biafra war. The number of states then gradually increased until 1996. Former military dictators used the division as a way to prevent outbreak attempts and strengthen central government control. Not least, it was about securing control over the oil money.

Each state has a people-elected governor and a state assembly. At the local level there are over 700 municipalities with elected representatives.

Short for NI, Nigeria is a divided country – ethnically, religiously and economically. Concerns have long been high in northern Nigeria for being at a disadvantage compared to the more developed, wealthy and affluent southern Nigeria. To balance the South’s economic takeover, Northern Nigerians have wanted to secure strong influence in the federal government. The military dictatorships after the end of the civil war in 1970 were dominated by Northern Nigerians. Since civil government was introduced in 1999, an informal agreement, zoning, has existed that is intended to guarantee continued influence in the northern states by alternating the presidency and other important posts between people from the north and south – and between different religious and ethnic groups.

Political parties

The party system is weak after the many years of military dictatorship, when parties were banned and regime critics were persecuted. Most of the parties mainly focus on ethnic or regional affiliation. The parties are primarily platforms for people who seek political influence.

Of parties formed before the 1999 elections, only those who won a certain proportion of votes in the previous municipal elections were allowed to participate. The result was that only three parties were allowed to stand. One of them completely dominated until the 2015 elections, but by then the four largest opposition parties had come together in a party that managed to win both presidential and parliamentary elections. The same happened in the 2019 elections.

The then newly formed party is called the All Progressives Congress (APC). It can be described as a center-left portion. APC joined the former Nigerian Action Congress of Nigeria Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN) formed in 2006 through a merger of several parties, All Nigeria Peoples Party (All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP), which is conservative and is based in the north, the Congress for Progressive Change (Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) formed in 2011 through an outbreak of ANPP, as well as parts of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA)). APC’s candidate, former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, won the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections.

In July 2018, the APC erupted when a faction that no longer supported President Buhari’s government formed the Reform APC (R-APC) under the leadership of Buhari ally Buba Galadima. R-APC accused the government of incompetence.

Government Party 1999–2015 was the People’s Democratic Party (Peoples Democratic Party, PDP), which had its own majority in both chambers. It is considered a relatively reform-friendly middle party. In the 1999 elections, the PDP was the ethnically and regionally broadest party, but it was strongest in the north and was largely funded by retired generals. In the two subsequent elections, the PDP also strengthened its position in the south, with the help of a strong party apparatus and weakness and division of the opponents. In 2014, internal tensions led to a long series of layoffs from PDP to the then newly formed APC. However, in the summer of 2018, some of the jumps returned to PDP. Behind this lay a battle for loyalties ahead of the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Nigeria Urban Population



State of emergency in the north

The unrest drives tens of thousands of people to flee and, on New Year’s Eve, causes the president to announce emergency permits in four areas. Among other things, parts of the country’s borders are closed to Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Bloody Christmas in Northern Nigeria

Some 70 people, most Islamists, are killed in fighting between the army and Boko Haram in Damaturu and Maiduguri. On Christmas Day, up to 40 people are killed in several blast attacks against mainly churches. The most serious is being carried out near Abuja.


Remediation after lead poisoning scandal

The government decides that contaminated land in the state of Zamfara should be decontaminated on lead that has been spread in conjunction with gold diggers smashed boulders. In the scandal revealed in 2009, at least 460 children died and 4,000 were injured.

“Boko Haram threatens US interests”

This is the conclusion of a congressional report in the United States.

Further Boko Haram violence

More than 100 people die in new Boko Haram attacks, including in the city of Damaturu in the northeast.


Suicide bombing against the UN headquarters in Abuja

The attack requires 23 people’s lives and some 80 are injured. Boko Haram takes on the blame.


Boko Haram violence in Maiduguri

Continued attacks force thousands to flee their homes in the capital of Borno state.


Boko Haram attack in Abuja

This is the first time that the Islamist sect is conducting a suicide attack, against the police headquarters in the capital. Reportedly, only the assailants and a guard are killed when the explosion occurs in a parking lot. Over 70 cars are damaged.


Jonathan takes over

May 29th

Violence and blast attacks in several states in the north follow, Boko Haram is believed to be behind at least some.


Jonathan wins the presidential election

April 16

The president receives 59 percent of the vote. Muhammadu Buhari (CPC) gets 32 percent, Nuhu Ribadu (ACN) 5.4 percent and Shekarau (ANPP) gets 2.4 percent. Sixteen other candidates share the remaining votes.

Elections to the National Assembly

April 9

PDP backs quite a lot but still has its own majority in both chambers.


Goodluck Jonathan presidential candidate

He gets a clear mandate as the PDP’s candidate, with 66 percent of the vote.