By Lara Maupin, a social studies teacher at Thomas Jefferson
High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia
Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation - one-fifth of
all Africans are Nigerian. Nigeria is also the world's eighth largest
oil producer, although the majority of Nigerians remain poor. Stability
in Nigeria is important not only for humanitarian reasons but for the
overall stability of West Africa. Nigeria is especially important to the
United States since it is its fifth largest supplier of oil and after
9/11 the U.S. has tried to reduce its reliance on oil from the Mideast.
For most of its 40 year history, Nigeria has been ruled by the military.
This will be the first civilian-run election in Nigeria in over 20 years.
Thus, it is important to examine the recent elections in Nigeria and understand
the development of democracy there.
45-50 minute lesson, your high school students will examine the troubled
history of Nigeria, the recent elections, and the challenges facing emergent
democracies in developing regions of the world. This lesson is especially
relevant in a world history or comparative government class but may be
used in any social studies class in which African studies or current events
are examined. You may extend your study of Nigeria and Africa with one
of the suggested activities given below.
to understand the recent history of Nigeria and the impact of history
and geography upon current events in the region.
the current challenges facing Nigeria as a new democracy and a developing
standards of free and fair elections in democratic nations.
Students will need copies of the handouts and articles
cited below or computers with Internet access. No special textbooks or
materials are required although maps of Africa and books on the history
and geography of Africa may certainly be useful.
to National Standards
the history of Nigeria with your students. (Printer-friendly
· 1500s: height of Songhai Empire
· 1650s - 1860s: slave trade results in forced migration of millions
· Early 1800s: spread of Islam in the region, especially in the
· 1903: British conquest of the region is complete
· 1914: northern and southern protectorates are merged and the
British Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria is formed
· 1960: Nigeria gains independence from Great Britain
· 1965-66: Charges of voting irregularities and riots followed
elections in these years
· 1966-1970: Civil War
· 1970-1975: Gowon Regime
· 1975-1976: Murtala Muhammad Regime (assassinated in February
· 1970s: oil boom
· 1976 - 1979: Rule of General Olusegun Obasanjo; he voluntarily
gives up power to a civilian government
· 1979-1983: Second Republic under President Shehu Shagari
· Dec. 1983: The military seizes power in a coup led by Major
General Muhammadu Buhari
· 1993: Moshood Abiola reportedly wins presidential election
yet the military annuls the election and imprisons him; he dies in prison
nearly 4 years later
· November 1995: Nine government critics, including Nobel Prize
winning author Ken Saro-Wiwa, are publicly hanged; other nations denounce
· June 1998: General Abdulsalami Abubakar is sworn in as Nigeria's
president after the unexpected death of General Abacha, who had ruled
for the previous five years
· Summer 1998: Military leaders agree to an election
· February/March 1999: General Olusegun Obasanjo wins presidential
election with a reported 63% of the vote. Former President Jimmy Carter,
who observed the elections, states: "There was a wide disparity
between the number of voters observed at the polling stations and the
final result that has been reported from several states."
· 2000: Muslim-Christian violence sparked by the introduction
of Sharia (Islamic law) in several Northern states - its use in criminal
cases may be considered a violation of the constitution.
· Aug. 2000: President Clinton visits Nigeria
· Nov. 2002: Muslims riot in response to a newspaper article
about a planned beauty pageant to which they object
Note that Nigeria has been ruled by military leaders for much of
its 40-year history. What might account for this? Consider and analyze
the following statement by General Abdusalami Abubakarer:
"All along - as far back as 1979, '72 - the military have been
wanting to hand over, but because of one thing or another, the politicians,
the civilians, fail to do things correctly and the military thought
they should intervene to correct these anomalies."
a 1999 NewsHour interview with President Obasanjo, see: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/africa/july-dec99/nigeria_10-29.html
your students read and discuss the following
NewsHour story on the elections in Nigeria.
Incumbent Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian former military leader from
the south, won an overwhelming victory (62%) in this week's presidential
elections in Nigeria. This result was expected, especially since on
April 12, the president's party won a majority in both houses of Nigeria's
National Assembly. The party of his main rival, Muhammadu Buhari (32%),
a Muslim former military leader from the north, has called the elections
fraudulent and has rejected the results. International election monitors
have expressed concerns about reports of voting irregularities.
your students meet in small groups and role-play acting as an international
elections committee. Ask them to determine:
· Standards for free, fair, democratic elections (Would
they be the same for all nations? Do we expect no irregularities as
reported by a free press and independent observers, some small amount
of irregularities, or simply improvement over the past?)
· Using what you know about Nigeria from the NewsHour Extra
story, try to determine whether or not Nigeria has met the standards
(How is this determined and by whom?) What else about the situation
does the story not tell you? If you were a reporter what other angles
to the story would you need to research to answer this question?
· Consequences for nations that do not meet the standards (public
denouncement by other nations and international organizations, recourse
in domestic or international courts, economic sanctions, severing
of diplomatic ties, military action, etc.)
Students share the results of their discussions. Differences in
group determinations are discussed. [See the information taken from
the Carter Center below)
The 2003 Nigerian Electoral Process: Second Report by the National
Democratic Institute and The Carter Center (28 March 2003)
As noted in its November 2002 pre-election assessment report, NDI
and The Carter Center believe that an accurate and complete assessment
of any election must take into account all aspects of the electoral
process. These include:
the legal framework for elections
· an accurate and complete voters register
· the campaign period
· the voting process
· the counting process
· the tabulation of results
· election petitions and the application of sanctions for election
· the process for the transfer of power
activities in the pre-election period, including electoral preparations
and the overall political environment, must be given considerable
weight when evaluating the democratic nature of elections. The team
does not pre-judge the overall process in this report and realizes
that no election can be viewed in isolation from the political context
in which it takes place.
- Why are
these elections in Nigeria especially important?
· Nigeria's democratic government is only about 40 years old
and fragile - this election marks the first time one civilian government
could hand over control to another.
· Nigeria is a leader in West Africa and because of its population
and oil reserves has the potential to be a leader in Africa and worldwide
- its stability and success are important. Nigeria has an impact on
its neighbors and plays a peacekeeping role in the region.
· Any unrest could escalate, causing a severe humanitarian crisis.
· In Nigeria's federal system, state governors (also elected
April 19) have considerable powers.
- What challenges
face Nigeria and other new democracies, especially those in developing
· debt (approx. $30 billion)
· corruption of government officials
· regional, tribal, and religious differences and clashes
· AIDS (relatively low rate in Nigeria provides an opportunity
to prevent further spread)
· building of civil society and institutions
· political repression
· restoration / availability of public services
· oil revenues that benefit only a few in power (reportedly siphoned
off by military, does not benefit those in oil-rich regions)
· development of infrastructure
· foreign and domestic investment
/ contrast the current situation in Nigeria with that in Iraq.
· recent/current transition to democracy
· history of repressive rulers
· desire of some for the rule of Islamic law
· massive oil reserves, profits in the hands of a few thus far
· past colonization by Great Britain
- What role
should the U.S. and other wealthy nations play in helping Nigeria and
other such nations develop economically and politically, if any? Students
should consider the history of slave trade and colonialism; the benefits
wealthy industrialized nations have gained from poorer nations, such
as raw materials; and the possible negative consequences of not helping
these nations. Then consider options such as the following.
· Forgive debts
· Invest in infrastructure, business, and education
· Provide training in the development of civil society and institutions
· Provide humanitarian aid
· Provide technology
Library of Congress
Triumph for Democracy"
than 100 Reported Killed as Riots Spread Across Nigeria"
1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Have your students read this classic novel. Assign the book in halves:
first Part One and then a week or two later Parts Two and Three.
activities for Day 1 / Discussion of Part One
Goal: To understand the characters and setting in the context of traditional
· Discuss areas of confusion, questions, and unfamiliar vocabulary.
· Read Yeats' "The Second Coming" and discuss why Achebe
might have taken the title of his book from this poem.
· Break students into small groups and have each prepare to present
one of the following topics to the rest of the class:
*cosmic order / religion
*Okonkwo's family - draw a kinship chart and explain what you know about
each member of the family
*the layout of the village
*values / things that are important to Okonkwo and the Ibo
*daily life among the Ibo
· Ask students to discuss or write about the following question.
How does your understanding and/or opinion of Okonkwo and his people
shift and/or change as you read Part One?
Finish the novel. Think about the following questions as you read. Take
notes and jot down your thoughts in response to each and bring these
*Is there anything any of the characters could or should have done differently?
*What does the author's message seem to be?
*What is your reaction to what happens in the rest of the book?
Suggested activities for Day 2 / Discussion of Parts Two and Three
Goal: To understand the impact of colonialism in Africa
Write a thoughtful and analytical response to the following questions.
Be sure to back up your claims with examples from the book. You may
use your book. How and why did "things fall apart" in Parts
Two and Three of this novel? What was your reaction to what happened
to Okonkwo and his people after the arrival of the English? What do
you think Achebe's message or intent was in this book?
· Large group discussion of timed writing and what happens in
the end of the book.
· Research other parts of Africa and the colonial impact / legacy
there. Present findings.
Have your students view one of the videos from this PBS
series. Ask them to take notes as they watch and then answer the following
questions. (Printer-friendly PDF)
· What region of Africa is featured in this video?
· Describe the landscape, climate, and wildlife of this region,
as seen in the video.
· What do you learn about the history of this region by watching
· Who are the main people you are introduced to in the video? Describe
· Do any of the people in the video go on a journey? If so, what
is the purpose of the trip? How long does it take? Why is it made? What
is the mode of transportation used? What is the outcome / importance of
· How do the people you see in the video make a living? Describe
their daily activities, employment, occupations, and lifestyle.
· What is the connection of the people in the video to the land?
How do they interact with and adapt to the places they live? What is the
importance of the land in their lives? What issues arise from how the
people use the land?
· Are both urban and rural places shown in the video? If so, compare
and contrast these places. How does city and rural life differ?
· Are there any rites of passage or rituals shown in the video?
If so, what is their importance in the lives of the people shown?
· Is the role of religion in the lives of the people discussed?
If so, explain.
· What surprised you as you watched the video?
· What questions does this video raise for you
You may wish
to use the videos in this series as a springboard for further study. Have
your students research one or more of the regions of Africa featured in
the series further. While researching have them consider the following
question: How does the history and geography of this region impact it
today? Students may present write about their findings.
Council for the Social Studies Thematic
Time, Continuity, and Change
People, Places, and Environment
Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
Power, Authority, and Governance
Production, Distribution, and Consumption
Civic Ideals and Practices
Author Lara Maupin teaches social studies at
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria,
Virginia. She is on leave during the 2002-2003 school year. She has a
Masterís Degree in Secondary Social Studies Education from George Washington
University and a Bachelorís Degree in Anthropology and Philosophy from
Mount Holyoke College.
To find out more about opportunities to contribute
to this site, contact Leah Clapman at firstname.lastname@example.org.