Participatory rural development has evolved in the past 60 years as a development process and discourse that should encapsulate a wide range of views, voices and stakeholder contributions. How has this approach been followed in Nigeria‟s rural development practice? This paper reviews the practices and challenges of participatory rural development in Nigeria from a historical perspective emphasizing on the colonial system and post-colonial military and civilian governance. The paper observes that participatory development has not been practiced in the real sense of the concept in rural development in Nigeria. While highly centralized and top-down exploitative rural development practice dominated the colonial system up to the period of post-independence military dictatorship, not much significant difference have been observed within the current civilian democratic experiment. The paper argues that while long years of military rule in Nigeria have made it impossible for the development of effective institutional arrangements that could sustain true participatory democratic culture, a lack of citizens‟ capacity to participate in development intended for their benefit has posed the greatest challenge in achieving sustainable participatory rural development.