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Geo-political Review of Nigeria

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Historically, Nigerian ethnic groups had achieved a high level of integration prior to the colonial conquest. Long distance trade, migratory movements and socioeconomic inter-group relations had helped make ethnic and cultural integration an integral part in the evolution of modern Nigeria. Obafemi Awolowo’s view that “Nigeria is geographical expression and a country artificially created by the British” has been faulted on historical realities. This is in relation to the country’s diverse cultures, languages, histories, religions and worldviews. Historically, nations emerged from diversity and continued to adjust to historical and political processes. The evolution of modern France and Germany exemplify this process. In the case of Nigeria, pre-colonial ethnic migrants were in many places integrated and assimilated into their host communities.

The geo-political entity defined as Nigeria remained the most enduring hangover of the British colonialism. Before the 1914 popular amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates, each of the over 250 ethnic groups that make up Nigerian State existed to some extent independently and distinctively in culture and tradition, but not that they were not interacting with one another in favorable term. What happened in the 1914 episode of the northern and southern unification was reminiscence of a marriage, which may not be so pleasant but cannot be easily divorced. Consequently, the British displayed their political craft by introducing federalism. Still, the 1914 exercise it did not bring to bear the desired integration and inter-group relations. Arising from the problems inherent with federalism or federal arrangement, Federal Character Principle was introduced as a therapy.

In addition to the economic decline and associated problems, Nigeria and Africa at large suffers from continuing conflicts and security problems which has led to hostile inter-group relationships. Osei-Hwedie (1998) has also stated that multiparty politics has heightened ethnic and regional divisions that were intensified and consolidated under colonialism. African conflicts often have domestic and regional causes. This is due to problems associated with social, ethnic, cultural and religious differences in the context of massive inequalities in the distribution of power, wealth and other resources that make challenges to the status-quo inevitable. According to Deng and Zartman (1991) the fight against colonialism brought together different ethnic groups against a common enemy, and thus for a while, differences were put aside as such as in Nigeria, as a common front was crucial in the Nationalist struggles. The people have reconceived and sharpened their demands from purely social and •economic to political demands which have been refocused on relative autonomy and self-determination for their ethnic areas within the context of the Nigerian federation. All this has resulted in a circle of conflict between the government and the people and between the communities and other communities and their groups.

Ethnicity; Ethnicity has been perceived by various sociologists and anthropologists as a much corseted concept. It is a basis either for national separation or for political subordination. In practice, ethnicity tends to be used loosely to refer to commonality of language, religion, identity, national origin and even skin color. According to Bulmer (1986) along with many sociologists and anthropologists, the core element in ethnicity has to do with “memories of a shared past”, involving the collective memory of a people. The challenges and opportunities of contemporary ethnic relations in Nigeria are shaped within the framework of social, political, economic and cultural institutions. Contemporary trends, currents of opinion and attitude are influenced by significant events and woven into a porous configuration of local, regional and national relationships. The colonial masters introduced ’the principle of divide and rule” in the administration of pre-independence Nigeria thereby deepening the ethnic division in Nigeria. The colonial masters also left at independence a country that was ethnically and religiously divided. It was this situation characterized by suspicion and distrust that eventually resulted in Nigeria’s civil war experience regarded as the bloodiest political crisis .in Nigeria which was more of an “ethnic cleansing”, a terrible euphemism for genocide as it claimed over 30,000 lives of Igbo’s living in the Northern region. One cannot also forget the fallouts of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election which Chief M.K.O. Abiola was said to have won. Following the annulment and eventual incarceration, ethnic sentiments were provoked as political tension mounted. The annulment generated much resentment among the Yoruba ethnic group who saw it as a deliberate attempt to deny them the opportunity to rule the country, especially when the election was acclaimed to be the freest ever in the history of Nigeria. The consequent effect of this was disorder, chaos and violence in the Western part of the country and some other parts of the country. Ethnic rivalry is a major cause of Africa’s backward states. Thousands have beep manipulated during inter-ethnic clashes in Africa particularly in countries like Somalia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda, Chad, Niger Republic, Nigeria etc.

Conflicts and intergroup relations;

One of the earliest definitions of conflicts was by Karl Max (1818 -1883) a conflict theorist who defined conflict as the existence of divergent interests within a group or the result of each group or class trying to pursue her interest and in the process come against one another with conflict emerging. The World Bank Report on Nigeria (1996) described Nigeria as a Paradox: “the country is rich but the people are poor … Nigeria is rich in land, people, oil and natural resources. If more wealth had been channeled to the development of its people … Nigeria could have been poised for a promise”.

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