Nigeria | Military Coups Shift Power
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Military Coups Shift Power
Gowon's nine-year rule was ended in 1975 in a bloodless coup that made Army Brig. Muritala Rufai Mohammed the new chief of state. The return of civilian leadership was established with the election of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as president in 1979. An oil boom in the 1970s buoyed the economy and by the 1980s, Nigeria was considered an exemplar of African democracy and economic well-being.
The military again seized power in 1984, only to be followed by another military coup the following year. Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida announced that the country would be returned to civilian rule, but after the presidential election of June 12, 1993, he voided the results. Nevertheless, Babangida did resign as president in August. In November the military, headed by defense minister Sani Abacha, seized power again.
Corruption and notorious governmental inefficiency as well as a harshly repressive military regime characterized Abacha's reign over this oil-rich country, turning it into an international pariah. A UN fact-finding mission in 1996 reported that Nigeria's “problems of human rights are terrible and the political problems are terrifying.” During the 1970s, Nigeria had the 33rd highest per capita income in the world, but by 1997 it had dropped to the 13th poorest. The hanging of writer Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995 because he protested against the government was condemned around the world.