The Politics of Self – Determination in the Third World: the Nigerian Experience

Topics: Capitalism, Colonialism, Africa Pages: 45 (17206 words) Published: March 8, 2013
The present geographical entity called Nigeria emerged as a colonial state in 1914 following the amalgamation of the then Northern and Southern protectorates by Sir Frederick Lugard. Until October 1st 1960 when she gained independence, Nigeria was a British colony. Presently with a population of over 150 million people, Nigeria remains the most populous nation in Africa. She has over 350 different ethnic languages and dialects, making her a highly heterogeneous society. The Hausa – Fulani, Yoruba and Ibo remain the dominant ethnic groups. There is a major division along religious lines with the north made predominantly of Moslems, while the middle belt and southern part of the country is dominated by Christians and worshippers of African traditional religions. According to Toyo (1985), for the purpose of managing this ethnic diversity, Nigeria has witnessed changes from a centralized system of government with three regions to a federal system that is decentralized. These experiments appear not to have achieved their aims as the political arrangement still remains unstable at present. Shively (1977) argues that the instability is because like most African colonies, Nigeria was not constructed for internal coherence, but rather for the administrative convenience of the British colonial government. Prior to the integration of Nigeria into the world capitalist system through colonialism, agriculture dominated the local economy. The pre-eminence of agriculture as a major source of revenue for the federal government continued throughout the colonial period. This prior marked the development of agriculture from subsistence level to the production of cash crops like cocoa in the western part of Nigeria, palm kernel in the eastern part of the country and groundnut in the northern part of Nigeria. At independence in 1960, the reliance on agriculture was still prominent as oil accounted for only 1 percent of federal government revenue. Presently, oil accounts for 95 percent of government revenue relegating agriculture to the background. Oil brought easy money to Nigeria. Foreign firms found and extracted the oil, and according to Beckman (1986), the Nigerian government simply opened its coffers and watched the dollars gush in. Sadly, the rising oil money since independence has made Nigerians, on average, poorer than they were even in the early 1970s. This situation is due to mismanagement and corruption by those in leadership positions. Just as government opened its coffers for oil money to gush in, so also have government officials swollen their bank accounts illegally with oil money. Cheap oil revenue in Nigeria made hard work unrewarding. Access to state power becomes a sure source of wealth rather than hard work in industrial production sector. This brings undue pressure to bear on government, consequently, government and its institutions have become the only source by which individuals and groups within the country could achieve both their political and economic interests. Due to the combinations of political and economic powers in the hands of the post-colonial state, power is overvalued and by extension, over used. Politics is therefore seen as a source of acquiring material wealth and not just a means of acquiring state power for allocation of resources. This is because acquisition of political power either through democratic or violent means also guarantees acquisition of economic power. These dual roles of the Nigerian state- arising from the combination of political and economic factors have found expression in the slow political and economic development since independence in 1960. At the political level, it is easy to point to the frequent changes in government as a product of high stake in the political power. The country has witnessed nine military coups; five...

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