The Politics of Independence: A Case Study of Nigeria From 1960-1970


Kofi Johnson

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science & Public Administration


This thesis is on the "Politics of Independence" in Nigeria. On October 1, I960, Nigeria gained independence as a federation with three main regions: Northern, Western and Eastern. Unruffled by the complicating factors of political disturbances or a white settler minority like Kenya, the change from the British to independent Nigeria was smooth. Two years after independence, however, the first major crisis broke out in the Western Region which consequently precipitated further crises until the federation reached a breaking point in January 1966. In that month Nigeria's government led by Balewa was toppled by a military coup.

The thesis attempts to show that the smooth transfer of power notwithstanding, the difficulties that beset Nigeria after independence had their roots in British colonial policies from the British decision on amalgamation in 1914 to the constitutional problems of the 1950's. The thesis shows this by historically reviewing the impact of the early British policies and by analyzing the effects of the several constitutions introduced in the 1950's.

Specifically this study attempts to answer the following questions: Was the original amalgamation of the two Nigerias a mistake? How were the regions in Nigeria formed? Was the creation of three regions in Nigeria an arbitrary creation for the interest of the British? Was federation an optimal solution for the Nigerian problems? Were the British responsible for the crises that beset an independent Nigeria.

The thesis concludes that the British policies regarding the questions vitally affecting Nigeria before and after independence were inadequate and that the major problems in Nigeria were the direct result of British policies and rule. Rather than establish two countries as the cultures dictated, the British chose to force an amalgamation which is still the root of Nigeria's difficulties.

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