After gaining independence in 1960 from Great Britain, Nigeria fell prey to civil war and the first of many military coups in 1966. Democracy was briefly restored from 1979 to 1983, but for most of its independent history, Nigeria was ruled by a series of military juntas. The last major military ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha, died suddenly in 1998. His successor, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar promised a transition to democracy, and accordingly a new constitution was adopted on May 5th, 1999. Elections were held and retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, who had previously governed Nigeria as a military ruler, was elected the new president.
The end of military rule brought about a new era of regular elections as well as the return of civil liberties, free press and an end to arbitrary arrests and torture, although human rights violations still occur regularly. Nigeria also began a long campaign against the bureaucratic and military corruption that had paralyzed its economy and severely tarnished its international reputation.
Ever since May 5th 1999, Nigeria has enjoyed steady democratic progress although not devoid of economic, tribal and religious challenges.