ETHNIC IDENTITY POLITICS: NIGERIA AS A CASE STUDY

Studenteropgave: Speciale (inkl. HD afgangsprojekt)

  • Dickson Onwuka Uduma
4. semester, Udvikling og Internationale Relationer, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
INTRODUCTION Nigeria as a nation is an aggregation of several nationalities. In real terms, it is a pluralistic and multi-faceted society, both in terms of religion and composition . It has about 450 different ethnic groupings . According to 1991 officially certified census by Nigeria Population Commission, it has a population of 88.9 million with a growth rate of 2.9% per annum . This makes it the most populous country in Africa and the largest concentration of black race in the world . An estimated 37.7% of the populations are urban dwellers while 62.3% are rural based. The life expectancy rate is 52 years, literacy rate is 45% and the fertility rate is 5.7% while infant and maternal mortality remain high . According to African Development Report of 2009, Nigeria “had a robust GDP growth rate of 6.3%, particularly in the non-oil sector” . This fact is also validated by the CIA world fact book which confirms the GDP growth rate at 6.2% in 2008 .Yet “54% of the people in Nigeria live in poverty” . These indicators place it in the list of developing economies. The important issue to note here is that majority of the population are rural based and mainly farmers, which makes land a hot issue in Nigeria today – especially between Hausa – Fulani who are mainly nomads and other subsistence farmers in the country, both depends on land for pastoral and planting of crops. This has also led to land conflict between natives and Fulani nomads in most part of the north. This so because the nomadic Fulani travel long distances with their cattle from their state of origin to other parts of the country in search of grazing land, only to live their permanently without any land rights from their hosts. They subsequently establish settlement and in time find it difficult to go back to their state of origin. This is made possible by the provision in the constitution which allows Nigerians to freely live in any part of the country they wish. This is specially the case in the central part of Nigeria, where there has been clashes between these groups of nomads and indigenes . The diversity of languages, customs and tradition gives the country a rich cultural diversity. The predominant group in the Northern part of the country is the Hausa – Fulani group who are mainly Muslims. Other smaller minor groups are Kanuri, Nupe, Tiv , Idoma, it is also important to highlight that among these minor groups, the Idoma, Tiv, Jukun, Birom are mainly Christians living in the predominantly Muslim northern part of the country . The Yorubas dominates the western part of the country and evenly split between the Christian and Muslim faith. The major ethnic group in the south-east are the Catholic and evangelical Igbo, with the Ibibio, Efik, and Ijaw (the fourth largest group) making up a sizeable part of the population. These are mainly Christians and animists. There is more religious homogeneity in this part of the country than anywhere else in the country . This could explain the reason while religious crisis is less prevalent in the region. The primary means of communication is English Language, although the three primary native languages are widely used, Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba languages. Evidence suggests that there has been contact among the groups before the arrival of the Europeans in the 15th c, studies shows that it was intra and not inter-regional. It is also factual that problems, conflict and misunderstanding had existed in the past but peaceful method of arbitration has always been found among the various groups . The abolition of slave trade in the 19th century and the development of mercantilism brought Nigeria and Europeans into real contact which later developed into colonialism. It began in the 15th century with arrival of the Portuguese, but the first formal threat of colonialism began in 1861 with the annexation of Lagos and the declaration of its crown colony by Britain. By 1900, the protectorate of southern Nigeria has been declared, while formal colonization was concretized with the amalgamation of Northern protectorate and colony and protectorate of southern Nigeria in 1914 with Lord Fredrick Lugard as the first British governor It is suffice to say that Nigeria is a British creation by uniting the various entities into a single country today known as Federal Republic of Nigeria. The colonial experience of Nigeria may not be the main thrust of the thesis but will be discussed as the project goes deeper where it may be relevant in unraveling the research question especially in the area of constitutional development during the colonial era. It will be vital because it shaped the political, economic, educational and religious thinking in the country. The amalgamation brought together the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, the Colony of Lagos and protectorate of Southern Nigeria into one country. This was done to serve the interest of Britain without the consent of the various ethnic nationalities through referendum or any other consensual procedure; analysts believe that the seed of ethnic struggle for power was sown at the time . What is certain was that Nigeria achieved political independence in October 1st 1960, from Britain. Since independence, there has been struggle among the various ethnic nationalities in Nigeria over natural resources and political power that has led to civil conflict between 1967-70.This war was fought between mainly Igbo dominated Biafra and Nigeria, over Three million of its citizens mainly of Igbo-extraction were killed . The causes of the war are very controversial. The general consensus among historians, social commentators, and political scientists was fear of domination and struggle over economic resources . Today in Nigeria, there is serious rivalry among the major ethnic groups over issues such as power and resource sharing formula; the status quo is being resisted by the minor ethnic groups especially in the Niger-delta region that produces the bulk of crude oil in the country which Nigeria depends today for most of its foreign exchange, which is affecting oil production in Nigeria. There are many conflicts brewing in the country today for control over politics, religion and revenue sharing formula just to mention but a few . The struggle is in triangular form between the north and south, between the major ethnic nationalities on one hand, and the Nigerian federation against the Niger-delta who desire to control their natural resources . Successive governments have tried to find solution for the above mentioned problems all to no avail. The military which has ruled Nigeria has tried both autocratic and dictatorial methods as a solution instead Nigeria slides deeper into disunity and underdevelopment. Unfortunately, since 1960, Nigeria has experienced all kinds of political and economic strategies, which instead of giving positive result turns the country into the worst economic mismanagement and corruption. It is noteworthy to say that aforementioned ills has made the Niger Basin bastion and stronghold for ethnic militia seeking separation, self determination and control of their resource rich states . They blamed their suffering and poverty on past and current leaderships of the country. No doubt that this state of affairs in one of Africa’s richest country is affecting Nigeria in its quest to achieving sustained development: economic growth, poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability. 1:2 RESEARCH QUESTION AND OBJECTIVES Based on the above background, the overall aim of this research work is to answer the following questions: • To what extent has ethnic identity politics affected national integration? • What steps has government taken to address the fall out of the various ethnic identity motivated crises in the country? Ultimately, the objective is to examine if the series of ethnic disturbances has affected the cohesion of Nigeria as a nation. Secondly, what steps has the federal government taken to address the unintended fall out of the crises and to determine if the government has put in place mechanisms and institutions to prevent future occurrence. As a guide to answering the overarching research question, I will document the causes of ethnic conflict in Nigeria, types of ethnic conflict and Niger delta crisis. This is important as it will help throw more light on the weightiness of ethnic issues in the country. It will also be relevant in understanding the role of the federal system in Nigeria.
SprogEngelsk
Udgivelsesdato2009
Antal sider24.213
Udgivende institutionAALBORG UNIVERSITY
ID: 17244242