Friday, 18 May 2012

A Review of the Crisis of Nation-Statism in Nigeria

In spite of Nigeria’s return to democracy on May 29, 1999, the struggles for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Nigerian nation-state have continued to rage. If anything, these struggles have intensified due to the release of hitherto suppressed grievance and claims, and the retreat of naked military authoritarianism and the return of
(choice-less) democracy. Militant ethnic movements such as the Odu’a People’s Congress (OPC), the Arewa People’s Congress(APC), the Igbo People’s Congress (IPC), and the groups in the Delta, have emerged to contest the political space with the formal ‘democratic’ institutions that are firmly under the control of the hegemonic class.

Thus, under democratic rule, the crisis of nation-statism has continued to fester. The post-civil war ruling elite – a coalition of civilian politicians and (ex) military officers – has not been able to hegemonise its own nationalism beyond imposing a centralised logic of accumulation and the appropriation of oil rents, while it manipulates ethnicity and religion in its fractional politics, thus contributing to conflict and crisis. In these crises, intellectuals have been immersed in terms of advancing the various cases for the restructuring of the Nigerian federation. Following the annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential elections allegedly won by a Yoruba philanthropist, Chief Moshood Abiola, by a Nupe General (from the North), the National Question had assumed greater prominence. The events of the time resulted in demands for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC). Such demands were ignored or blocked by General Abacha, his successor General Abdulsalami Abubakar, and are also being blocked by the current President. Yet rather than subside, the demands for restructuring have increased.

In the Niger Delta, violence has continued to rage, and state repression has continued unabated. Protests against the state and oil companies are common and incidents of the invasion of oil company installations by protesting youth have continued. In the same way, inter-community violence over contesting claims to oil are ravaging the region, even as the Nigerian army in November1999 destroyed the town of Odi in the Niger Delta to protect oil interests.

The intellectuals of the Niger Delta largely continue to support the struggle for self-determination and resource control. What this implies is that ethnic nationalism as articulated by these intellectuals, and force fully promoted by ethnic militias, continues to exacerbate the crisis of nation-statism in Nigeria. Intellectuals have been able to produce knowledge, and advance ideas with which the post-independence integrative nation-state project is being interrogated, and will eventually influence the future form and modalities for its resolution. The point should be made that demands for restructuring do not imply a call for the dismemberment of Nigeria. In real terms, they are demands for renegotiating the basis of the federation, as well as the social contract between the Nigerian state and its citizens. The Pan-African logic in the age of globalisation remains critical and relevant to the survival of the nation-state in the continent. The challenge perhaps is for the nation-state to be reconstructed in ways that represent the hopes, interests and identities of the people, whose consent remains ever so critical to its legitimacy and stability. In is on this equitable basis and the new social contract that Pan-Africanism in the 21stCentury can be revolutionised and be made relevant to the interests of the African people.

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