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Independence, The Short-Lived Second Republic

federal election commission, Azikiwe, West African states, weak economy, NPN

Elections for the Second Republic were held in July 1979. Most parties received votes along ethnic lines, the exception being the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), which commanded support from several corners of the country and won the most legislative seats. The NPN fell short of a majority, however, and often joined forces with the Nigerian Peopleís Party (NPP), a mainly Igbo group led by Azikiwe. In the presidential elections, NPN candidate Alhaji Shehu Shagari won the largest number of overall votes, plus 25 percent of the votes in 12 of the 19 states and 20 percent of the vote in a 13th state. The results provoked a brief but important constitutional crisis: Did the constitution, with its mandate for the president to win 25 percent of the vote in two-thirds of the states, require Shagari to win 25 percent in 13 whole states (which he had not done)? Or did it require him to win 25 percent in 12 and two-thirds states (which he had done)? The federal election commission ruled in favor of the latter, giving the election to Shagari and no doubt undermining the new constitutionís authority.

Once in office, the new federal, state, and local governments embarked on ambitious programs of development to cure the weak economy. Although several of the initiatives were productive, many more were expensive and economically unsound. Others were riddled with corruption. In 1982 the world oil market collapsed, leaving Nigeria unable to pay its short-term debts, much less finance the projects to which it was committed. Eventually, the country was also unable to import essential goods.

In January 1983 the government ordered the expulsion of all unskilled foreigners, claiming that immigrants who had overstayed their visas were heavily involved in crime and were taking jobs from Nigerians. (There was more evidence for the latter than the former.) Between 1.5 and 2 million people, the majority of them Ghanaian, were forced to leave in less than two weeks. The move was widely condemned, especially by West African states, although it proved very popular in Nigeria. In the elections of 1983, the NPN claimed a decisive victory over several opposition parties, while observers cited widespread instances of fraud and intimidation.

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