Reasons for Political Instability in Nigeria after Independence

After gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria experienced periods of political instability that hindered the country's progress and development.


In this post, we shall look into the causes of political instability in the post-colonial Nigeria. At the end of this lesson, students should be able to enumerate the reasons for Nigeria’s political instability after independence.

Political Instability in Nigeria

After gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria experienced periods of political instability that hindered the country’s progress and development. There were many coup d’etat along the way from January 15, 1966 onwards which led to a long military interregnum. There was also a devastating civil war in the face of an imminent secession. There were several chaotic election crises like the “Operation Wet ẹ” crises in the Western Region of Nigeria in 1962.


Several factors contributed to this instability, ranging from economic mismanagement to social, political, and external influences.

Effective governance, adherence to the rule of law, promotion of transparency and accountability, and the fostering of national unity are essential for overcoming these challenges and achieving stability and prosperity in the Nigeria.

Image Credit: David Rotimi on Unsplash.

Reasons for Political Instability in Nigeria after Independence

The reasons for political instability in Nigeria after independence include:

  1. Economic Mismanagement: Politicians pursued prestigious and economically unviable projects that did not benefit the citizens, leading to wasteful spending and poor economic management.
  2. Embezzlement and Mismanagement: There were instances of embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds by different regimes, undermining public trust in the government.
  3. Election Rigging and Persecution of Political Opponents: Election rigging and the persecution of political opponents remained prevalent, undermining the democratic process and breeding political discontent.
  4. Disregard for the Constitution and Rule of Law: A lack of respect for the constitution and the rule of law eroded the foundations of a stable democratic system.
  5. Tribalism and Nepotism: The appointment of public officers and distribution of amenities based on tribal or nepotistic considerations fostered division and disunity among ethnic groups.
  6. Revenue Allocation and Resource Control Disputes: Disagreements over revenue allocation formula and control of resources among ethnic groups created tensions and conflicts.
  7. Political Interference in Military Affairs: Involvement of politicians in military affairs compromised the professionalism and effectiveness of the armed forces.
  8. Religious Intolerance and Violence: The widespread of religious intolerance and violence threatened national unity and social cohesion.
  9. Bribery and Corruption: Rampant bribery and corruption in various sectors undermined public trust in government institutions.
  10. Psychological Impact of Coups in Neighboring African States: Coups in neighboring African countries had a psychological impact on Nigeria, leading to instability and uncertainty.
  11. Desire of Political Leaders to Stay in Power: Prolonged stays in power by political leaders led to the concentration of power and the stifling of democratic principles.
  12. Inflated Census Figures: Inaccurate and inflated census figures manipulated by various regions or states contributed to political tension and disputes over representation.
  13. Economic Hardship: Economic hardships caused by inflation and unemployment added to social and political tensions.
  14. External Influence: Interference from big nations and international institutions sometimes played a role in exacerbating political instability in the country.
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