After four years of independence, the Federal Republic of Nigeria is experiencing teething troubles. As Africa's most populous country, its role in contemporary history is significant. There are only nine nations in the world larger than Nigeria in population, and it is worthy of note that of these six are federal in structure. Ironically, our population gives us an advantage and places us under a handicap. Though it earns us prestige, it also causes us to be visited by a multiplicity of problems.
The election to our Parliament, which took place last December 30, brought some of these problems into sharp focus and precipitated a crisis. Whether the containment of the crisis will be permanent or temporary depends upon how those in authority take cognizance of the forces that are working to undermine the security of the state and the stability of the government.
The immediate causes of the crisis were the incompetent manner in which the electoral machinery was operated, the undemocratic nature of the electioneering campaigns which were featured by violence and lawlessness, the boycotting of elections in one-fourth of the 312 constituencies and the threat of secession by one of the four regions forming the Federation.
But there were remote political causes which accentuated the problems of federalism in the Republic and ultimately precipitated the December crisis. These were related to the exercise of executive, legislative and judicial power, the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, the creation of more states and the status of the Head of State.
Before the advent of British rule in Nigeria, most of our people were essentially democratic in their political institutions. There were exceptions in communities where strong men emerged and assumed power or usurped it, but such autocratic tendencies were generally resisted. This heritage of democracy has been preserved through the elders of the community, who became an instrument for the maintenance of law and order in their society. To ensure that the canons of ethics and law were not discarded, responsibility was
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