CONTRIBUTION OF SUBNATIONALISM TO NATION BUILDING IN NIGERIA. (POLITICAL SCIENCE PROJECT TOPICS AND MATERIALS)
1:1 Background to the Study
Subnationalism in Nigeria is as old as the country and stems from the character of the Nigerian state which cannot be dissociated from the role the colonialists played in the creation of the country. Before the intrusion of the British into what is now known as Nigeria, the various ethnic and cultural groups that make up the country existed as autonomous political entities. These entities had their own political systems, social and religious values distinct from one another (Okafor 1997). The aim of the colonialists in bringing these entities together was purely for exploitation of capital. To facilitate this, they employed divide and rule tactics so as to consolidate and preserve British foothold with little interest in the social, economic or political development of the country or its people (Asia 2001).
Consequently, British colonial policies, were not tailored to foster unity among the disparate groups that constitute Nigeria, rather it was intended to exploit the varied differences, create distrusts, suspicions and cleavages among them (Uzoigwe 1996). The entrenchment of these differences and competition among the ethnic groups to control the soul of the Nigerian state led to several violent confrontations between them prior to the country’s independence (Okafor 1997). The post-colonial regimes that succeeded the colonialists, instead of carrying out comprehensive reforms of the Nigerian state so as to reduce subnationalism, had largely continued the pattern of the receded colonialists (Adejumobi 2002). These successive post independence regimes failed to initiate far-reaching policy measures to coalesce ethnic differences into positive ventures that could create a pan Nigerian identity. Instead, most of the policies undertaken were rather aimed at suppressing ethnic consciousness and minimize the challenge it poses to the legitimacy of the state or the authority of the incumbent regime. The result of this is the heightened hegemonic contest for power at the centre by the ethnic groups that make up Nigeria.
This competition for ethnic domination has over the years, assumed varying forms in the politics of Nigeria. At one time or the other, the ethnic groups that are disadvantaged in this game have either attempted secession or had threatened to secede from the country. For instance, the attempt of the Igbo dominated former Eastern Region to transform into the Republic of Biafra between 1967 to 1970 was crushed by the Federal government, thus consigning that ambition to history. But since the end of that war, the Igbo who used to be part of the tripod on which the Nigerian state was established has been crying of marginalization and exclusion from full integration into the Nigerian society (Nnoli 2008). In the Niger Delta region, the minority ethnic groups perceive themselves as second class citizens of Nigeria, and have been crying out for recognition (Osaghae 1995, Ikelegbe 2001). This cry for recognition preceded the country’s independence, but the Ogoni uprising of the 1990s gave impetus and fillip to the agitations in that region and from which other groups have taken cue from. The same applies to the Yoruba where perception of injustice against the group, stems from the annulment of the presidential election held in June 1993, which was widely believed to have been won by a Yoruba man in the person of Chief Moshood Abiola. The natural effect of all these developments is the emergence of groups as offshoots of these perceptions of marginalization portraying their activities as attempts to redress the marginalization of their particular ethnic group.