Unitary government and the challenge of political instability in Nigeria, 1966-1970
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Aguiyi Ironsi’s attempted restructuring of Nigeria through the Unification Decree of 1966 might have been well-conceived as a political stabilization and unity oriented policy especially given the turbulence that characterized the country’s First Republic and the circumstances surrounding his emergence as Nigeria’s military leader in January, 1966. However, the introduction of the ill-fated unitarism in replacement of federalism inadvertently further destabilized the country. Northerners became pessimistic about the dictates of the new political arrangement and were vehemently suspicious of the rationale for its introduction. The conflicting interpretations of the Decree eventually led to the fall of Ironsi’s government in July 1966, precipitating the problems of legitimacy, distrust and violence that formed the bedrock of the Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970. This paper therefore explores Nigeria’s political system before Ironsi, rationale for his Unification Decree and the unfolding chain of events that led to Nigeria’s war of unity.
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