During its many years of military rule, Nigeria descended into financial and political ruin. Once viewed as the pride of black Africa, Nigeria became synonymous with mismanagement and domestic chaos. In particular, the once vibrant agricultural sector has been weakened due to over reliance on the petroleum industry. Meanwhile, in recent years, petroleum prices have plummeted with decreased global demand and over supply. Real GDP growth was near 3.1% in 2003 and was expected to rise to 3.9% in 2004 owing to increased production in off-shore oil and gas production.
During his first term in office, Obasanjo faced a considerable challenge in restoring confidence in government. Issues such as corruption at all levels of government, inequitable distribution of the nation's resources, the adoption and imposition of Shari'ah law (the strict Islamic legal code that dictates severe punishments) by a number of northern states, and grinding poverty for the majority of Nigerians destabilized the country and threatened to derail his government. In particular, unequal distribution of the country's oil wealth has led to violent conflict between community activists and soldiers in the Delta where the governor of Rivers state, Marshall Harry, was murdered. For years, the Ibo have not had the opportunity to share in the petroleum wealth while the Muslim-dominated government and military have benefited financially. Furthermore, political opponents rightfully question the legitimacy of the Obasanjo government based on the degree of electoral fraud reported in the 2003 elections. While most international observers agree that electoral fraud was fairly widespread, they acknowledge that it did not alter the results.
Overall, it may be argued that Obasanjo succeeded in restoring civilian rule to Nigeria, a country that did not formerly enjoy a transfer of power from one civilian government to another. Under Obasanjo, civil liberties and political freedoms have evolved positively despite the presence of entrenched patronage networks. Obasanjo's goal to bring prosperity to the majority of Nigerians has not been met, however, and his government will be judged on whether it can restore economic growth, revitalize agriculture, and promote transparent and accountable government throughout the country. Failure to do so—in light of the tenuous legitimacy of his government—could trigger social crisis and the re-intervention of the military in government. In June 2003, the World Cup Association announced Nigeria as one of the six official bidders to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. This will be the first time it is held in Africa.