• Short Summary

    Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is now one year away from a scheduled return to civilian rule.

  • Description

    Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is now one year away from a scheduled return to civilian rule.

    SYNOPSIS: The end of the civil war with Biafra, in January 1970. Secessionist officers in plain clothes enter to offer their surrender to General Gowon, after two and a half year fighting. There had been military rule since 1966. Now, more than eight years after the war, Nigeria's over 70 million people are in sight of being governed by a civilian administration.

    The post-war years have seen changes in the Nigerian economy. Agriculture, once the source of most of the country's export earnings, has experienced prolonged stagnation. Production of some crops, like groundnuts, has suffered a marked decline. But farming is still important. More than half Nigeria's workforce still find employment on the land, providing food for a rapidly growing population.

    Oil-based products and the export of crude oil are now the heart of the economy. But there have been problems here too. The oil boom outpaced the development of transport facilities, which were designed to cope with a simpler and smaller economy.

    In 1975 a peak of over 400 ships queued to unload at Lagos. Massive imports to help counter internal shortages blocked harbours. Most was caused by uncontrolled orders from the Defence Ministry, for cement. The result, a shortage of basic items, including petrol.

    Against this background, the administration of General Gowon faced increased opposition. Four months after opening this car assembly plant, General Gowon was out of power, ousted in a bloodless coup while attending the OAU conference in Kenya. He had led the country for almost nine years.

    Gowon's successor, Brigadier Mohammed, was assassinated after six months as leader. But, during that time he began important changes. The most dramatic, the ??? to rid the public services of corruption and inefficiency.

    Nigeria's present leader, Lieutenant General Obasanjo, was chosen soon after the assassination. He has continued the programme of changes, and set October 1979 for change to civilian rule.

    Despite the change in leaders, and the will by the administration to move to civilian rule, there are still difficulties. There have been violent demonstrations this year over rising bus fares, and opposition to a controversial Land Use Decree.

    And there are still the major problems of coping with Nigeria's tribal and religious differences. Political parties are now legal, but those formed on ethnic or religious grounds are banned.

    In the months running up to the change-over, Nigerians will discover if the army can maintain the balance between greater political freedom and keeping law and order. It is likely that many of the present military administration will resign their commissions to stand in state and federal elections, and as civilians, continue to play a leading part in Nigerian affairs.

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    Film ID:
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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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    Available on request
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