March 31, 2011 / 11:37 AM / 7 years ago

TIMELINE-Nigeria's road to democracy

March 31 (Reuters) - Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and third biggest economy, holds parliamentary, presidential and state governorship elections over three weeks starting on Saturday.

Here is a timeline on Nigeria since independence.

Oct. 1960 - Britain grants independence.

1966 - Coup ends civilian rule for first time. Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi becomes head of state but is killed six months later in counter-coup led by General Yakubu Gowon.

May 1967 - After massacres of ethnic Ibos, eastern region tries to secede under name of Biafra. Civil war ensues in which 1 million people die.

Jan. 1970 - War ends with defeat of Biafra.

July 1975 - Gowon toppled by Brigadier Murtala Mohammed.

Feb. 1976 - Mohammed assassinated in abortive coup. His deputy, General Olusegun Obasanjo, takes over.

Oct. 1979 - Obasanjo steers country to elections.

1983 - Elections marred by widespread cheating. Another coup follows months later, led by General Muhammadu Buhari.

Aug. 1985 - General Ibrahim Babangida takes over in bloodless coup.

June 1993 - Babangida annuls presidential election as businessman Moshood Abiola is poised to win. Babangida steps down but interim government is ousted by General Sani Abacha.

June 1998 - Abacha dies suddenly. General Abdulsalami Abubakar takes over and promises return to civilian rule.

Feb. 1999 - Obasanjo, now a civilian, wins presidential election with 63 percent of the vote.

May 2003 - Obasanjo sworn in for second four-year term after elections marred by widespread irregularities.

April 2007 - Umaru Yar’Adua declared winner of polls so marred by intimidation and fraud observers deem them not credible.

Feb. 2010 - With Yar’Adua critically ill, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan assumes presidential powers. Parliament earlier recognised him as acting head of state in a bid to end uncertainty after Yar’Adua’s hospitalisation in Saudi Arabia.

May 2010 - Yar’Adua dies. Jonathan becomes head of state.

— Jonathan promises to ensure elections are free and fair and calls for electoral reform by the end of 2010.

Oct. 2010 - Car bombs kill at least 10 people near a parade to mark the country’s 50th anniversary of independence.

The Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the main militant group in the country’s southern oil heartland claims responsibility.

Jan. 2011 - Jonathan signs an amended constitution cementing the legal framework for presidential, parliamentary and state governorship elections in April.

— The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) declares Jonathan the winner of its presidential primaries and their candidate in the April 9 general election.

Feb. 2011 - Jonathan, the first head of state from the southern Niger Delta, begins campaigning for April election.

March 2011 - Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari launches his campaign for April elections, underlining the grass roots support he commands in the mostly Muslim north.

April 2011 - Parliamentary, presidential and state governorship elections. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: (Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;

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