10 Problems of Democracy in Nigeria

Democracy is a type of government which prioritizes the ruled and emphasizes the ruler’s understanding of himself or herself as a servant whose major aim should entirely focus on the common progress and development of the people it is ruling. In this content, we shall be discussing the 10 challenges and problems of democracy in Nigeria.

This form or system of government itself is not inherently a problem in Nigeria. But it has surrounding problems by reason of the systemic national difficulties. It is the way democracy is practiced and the numerous challenges faced in its implementation that present issues. Theoretically, democracy offers a system of government that allows for the representation of diverse groups, protection of human rights, and the establishment of rule of law.

However, the effectiveness of democracy in Nigeria is undermined by various factors.

While democracy offers a framework for governance that can promote stability, development, and inclusivity, these challenges need to be addressed to realize its full potential in Nigeria. Strengthening institutions, fostering political will, promoting transparency and accountability, and addressing socio-economic issues are crucial steps toward making democracy work more effectively in Nigeria.

Nigeria, like many democracies, faces several challenges that hinder the full realization of its democratic potential. Addressing these challenges requires concerted efforts from the government, civil society, and international partners to strengthen democratic norms and institutions.


Widespread corruption at various levels of government undermines public trust, diverts resources from essential services, and hinders economic development. Corruption erodes trust in democratic institutions and processes, leading to a lack of faith among citizens in their government and electoral system.

Democratic principles are often not fully or properly implemented due to systemic issues such as corruption, weak institutions, and electoral malpractices. In every national setting, accountability is highly important. The lack of it may be catastrophic. The actual truth is, there is often a lack of accountability and transparency in governance, with public officials rarely facing consequences for misdeeds, leading to a culture of impunity.

Electoral Malpractices

Quite close to this is political violence and intimidation. The use of violence and intimidation by political actors disrupts democratic processes and discourages citizen participation. This illegal activity, that is, the use of violence by political actors to achieve their aims disrupts democratic processes and instills fear among the electorate. Issues such as vote buying, electoral violence, rigging, and manipulation of results compromise the integrity of elections and the legitimacy of elected officials.

Ethnic and Religious Tensions

Nigeria’s diverse ethnic and religious landscape often leads to tensions and conflicts, affecting national unity and making it difficult to achieve cohesive governance. This¬†ethnic and religious diversity, while a potential strength, often leads to divisions and conflicts that undermine national unity and democratic governance.


Democratic institutions, including the judiciary and legislature, are often weak and susceptible to manipulation, reducing their effectiveness in checks and balances.

Economic Troubles

Another very existent problem facing democracy in Nigeria is the economic challenges which may serve as bottleneck to the cooperative efforts of all in the polity. Unemployment, and inequality make it difficult for many Nigerians to engage meaningfully in the democratic process, as they focus on daily survival.

High levels of poverty and inequality create social discontent and reduce citizens’ participation in the democratic process, as economic survival takes precedence. High unemployment rates, especially among the youth, lead to frustration and can fuel unrest and disenchantment with the democratic process.

Inadequate Infrastructure

Lack of infrastructure in the state can also stand as big problem to the effective implementation of the democratic system of government in the country. For instance, sectors such as transportation, education, and healthcare hampers development and the ability to deliver public services effectively also experience or are affected by this inadequacy.


Ongoing security issues, such as terrorism, banditry, herder-farmer conflicts, Boko Haram insurgency, and inter-communal conflicts, destabilize the country and hinder democratic processes. The truth is, acts such as these actually destabilize regions and impede governance and development.

Political Will

Sometimes, there is a lack of genuine commitment to democratic principles among political leaders, who may prioritize personal or group interests over national development and democratic norms.

Systems of Government in Nigeria Before Democracy

Before the present democratic system, Nigeria had experienced quite a lot of different forms of governance, including colonial rule and military regimes. Each of these forms has their own peculiarities. Dissecting them will help open your eyes to the embedded differences between the systems of government and the democratic form.

Colonial Rule (1861-1960)

  • British Colonial Administration: Nigeria was a British colony from the late 19th century until 1960. The British imposed a system of indirect rule, where traditional leaders were incorporated into the colonial administration, which created a blend of local and colonial governance structures.
  • Amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates (1914): The British amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates and the Colony of Lagos to form modern Nigeria. This was largely for administrative convenience and economic reasons.

Post-Independence Parliamentary System (1960-1966)

This period is another political phase in the history of Nigeria since the colonial era. It is the copycat of the British system of rulership in the period when the imperialist government was still in the country. The post-independence parliamentary system faced two different categories of dispensation, that is, the copycat system and the first republic.

  • Westminster System: At independence on October 1, 1960, Nigeria adopted a parliamentary system of government modeled after the British system. The country had a Prime Minister as the head of government and a ceremonial President as the head of state.
  • First Republic (1963-1966): In 1963, Nigeria became a republic, and the Governor-General was replaced by a President, who was still largely ceremonial. The parliamentary system continued until the first military coup in 1966.

Military Regimes (1966-1979, 1983-1999)

During this period, Nigeria also practiced the military system of government. Categorically, the nation experienced nothing less than two series of eras including a republic as intermission, that is, the Shehu Shagari civilian form of government. Below is an outline of the eras and the presidential system of political leadership of Nigeria:

  • First Military Era (1966-1979): The first military coup in January 1966 led to a series of military governments. General Yakubu Gowon ruled from 1966 to 1975, followed by successive military leaders until the return to civilian rule in 1979.
  • Second Republic (1979-1983): Nigeria briefly returned to a civilian presidential system of government in 1979, modeled after the United States system. President Shehu Shagari was the first elected President, but this period ended with another military coup in December 1983.
  • Second Military Era (1983-1999): The military took over again in 1983, with General Muhammadu Buhari and later General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha among those who ruled. This period was marked by political repression and human rights abuses. Following Abacha’s death in 1998, General Abdulsalami Abubakar initiated a transition to civilian rule.

Transition to Democracy (1999-Present)

This is the transition to the fourth republic. Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999 with the election of Olusegun Obasanjo as President and it has since then been operating in that system. Just as said earlier, this period has continued in the same boat till the present day, with subsequent elections and transitions of political power, marking the longest period of democratic governance in Nigeria’s history.

There is no argument over whether these different systems of governance have shaped Nigeria’s political landscape because it has, really. It has also continue to influence its current democratic practices and challenges.

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