In the wake of Yar'Adua's death, The PBS NewsHour published an outline of Nigeria's leaders, under the rubric "Nigeria's Post-Colonial Political Turmoil." Fair enough, and ever since archetypical man-of-action Nzeogwu* decided he wasn't messing about, it really has been a turbulent cascade, and sobering to re-read even in the drab copy of foreign service wonks. Stories of the many intrigues that have characterized Nigeria to date were always the midnight snack of my mates and I defying curfew in school, and many of these names are vivid folk heroes and villains to me. In a recent visit to my parents' they and my Uncles and family friends had even more lurid tales of the machinations surrounding the turnover of power from Yar'Adua to Goodluck Jonathan, and I do wonder where these will fetch up in the endless drama of the Stumbling Giant of Afica.* Nzeogwu is an extraordinary person whose Wikipedia page does him no real justice. I recommend to anyone interested in African politics to find one of the several books about him, and about the seismic events he set in motion. You can hardly do better than the volume by later twice head of state Olusegun Obasanjo himself, if you can find it in print in the West. Anyway, in their chart is a surprising omission. Nigerians will spot it in an instant.
- Tafawa Balewa (Northern People's Congress)
- J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi (Military)
- Yakubu Gowon (Military)
- Olusegun Obasanjo (Military)
- Shehu Shagari (National Party of Nigeria)
- Muhamaddu Buhari (Military)
- Ibahim Babangida (Military)
- Ernest Shonekan (Military)
- Abdulsalami Abubakar (Military)
- Olusegun Obasanjo (People's Democratic Party)
- Umaru Yar'Adua (People's Democratic Party)
- Goodluck Jonathan (People's Democratic Party)
It's more technically correct to have buried M.K.O. Abiola in the Babangida section, although it is the plain reality that Abiola never went from President-Elect to President.
Another observation is the procession from the "(Military)" to the "(PDP)." If Nigeria is to be a nation where ideas shine as brightly as individuals, then perhaps it's fitting that one of the brighter individuals who stands for some of the more "bottom-up" ideas for Nigeria's future, Donald Duke, publicly ditched the PDP. (Yeah, and I'm not sure what kind of statement it makes that Facebook is probably the best source for an event that has caused quite a few ripples among Nigerians everywhere).
The PBS timeline does make for interesting reflection, not least upon hope that Nigeria is in for times rather less defined by the drama of personages than have been since 1960.