The Culture of Violence and the Scramble for Political Power in Oyo State, Nigeria (1999-2006)

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper examines the place of political culture in the entrenchment of political stability, constitutionalism and democratic consolidation, using the case study of Oyo state, Nigeria. It contends that the militarization of politics, excessive politicisation state policies, opportunities for rent-seeking, implosion of a culture of impunity and selfishness of the elite have contributed to acrimonious politics in Nigeria. The case study of Oyo state was used in this research work because it is reflective of the role played by political violence, especially with the use of primordial political culture as a tool in shaping political contestations between 1999 and 2006. The aftermath of these acrimonious contestations, it was revealed, was the neglect of the basic business of government by the leadership and the criminalization of politics.

Introduction

The struggle for political space has been an integral part of African governance and politics. In Nigeria the largeness of the public space, occasioned by the relative weakness of the private sector, the availability of petrol-dollar and existence of opportunities for rent seeking activities have been responsible for the country's politics of underdevelopment and violence. A large number of Nigerians either aspires to become politicians or are covertly engaged in some political activities for pecuniary gains. A corollary is that politics becomes a struggle for selfish aggrandizement and enrichment rather than a means of rendering service in order to improve the lives of the people. The significance of these is that Nigeria's democracy is entrapped in a vicious circle of unending tension, political disorder and risk of instability. Consequently, political struggle has become acrimonious due to the tilted playing field during political contestations. Political offices are shared as a result of pacted agreements, election malpractices or both, in a game characterized by conspiracy against the will of the people.

Nigeria transited to democratic governance in 1999, in a transition programme whose elements were status quo preservation and the reinforcement of modes of political dominance by privileged groups and interests. The character of politics in Nigeria did not change in essence after the transition of 1999 as the emergent political class seemed not to have learned any lesson from previous failed attempts at democratizing. Violence, character assassination, ethnicity, religious bigotry and other problems were elevated as parts of the defining characteristics of politics in the country. Interestingly, political culture seemed to have been enlisted to serve the interests of a selfish political class. Against this backdrop, the work attempts to proffer answers to the following research questions: What are the major cultural currents that run through the politics of the people of Oyo State? How did these affect the scramble for political power? What are the impacts of such currents on the observance or violation of the constitutional provisions in the process of struggle for political space? Why did these situations occur and what are their implications for the politics of Oyo State? These are the main issues shall be addressed in this paper.

The case study of Oyo state was used in this research work because it is reflective of the role played by political violence, especially with the use of political culture as a tool in shaping political contestations between 1999 and 2006. This led to series of political crises in the state, which climaxed with the illegal removal of the Governor in 2006 and serious crisis of governance afterwards. Against this backdrop, this work seeks to investigate the role played by political culture in the political crises witnessed in the struggle for political space in Oyo state and the aftermath of the crises. The work is divided into four parts namely the introduction, conceptual framework, overview of Oyo state politics (1999-2006), political trend, and conclusion. …