Academic journal article Nebula

State Violence and the Writer: Towards the Dialectics of Intellectual Militancy in Transcending Postcolonical Nigerian Contradictions

Academic journal article Nebula

State Violence and the Writer: Towards the Dialectics of Intellectual Militancy in Transcending Postcolonical Nigerian Contradictions

Article excerpt

   Take justice
   In your hands who can
   Or dare, insensate sword
   Of power
   Outherods Herod and the law's outlawed
   ... Orphans of the world
   Ignite! Draw
   Your fuel of pain from earth's sated core

--Wole Soyinka, A Shuttle in the Crypt, 1972

The Nigerian State as Epiphenomenon of Violence: A Prolegomenon Nigerian history since colonial incursion is awash with political violence, crude use of power and deepening socio-economic crises. The principal factors that shaped this tradition are couched in hegemony, capitalism and politics of exclusion (Nwosu 2006:24; Kukah 1999:16), which underpin the logic of imperialism. Fundamentally, this pattern has left an aftertaste of lingering State violence, which is an epiphenomenon of this culture clash. Simply put, imperial violence and its concomitants are replicated in Nigeria's postcolonial State violence and political culture. The tyrannical State violence replicated is a function of colonial administrative subterfuge, which was modelled upon administrative convenience--even when the colonialists have left the Nigerian political space. Accordingly, "... the processes of the establishment of Western hegemony were designed in such a way as to make their stranglehold survive well beyond the period of their stay" (Kukah 1999:15). Thus, the compliant system of administering the colonial amalgam, Nigeria, is what Ogundowole in his book, Colonial Amalgam, Federalism and the National Question dubs "denationalisation policy" (1994: viii). This phrase is correlative of the British "Indirect Rule" policy in colonial Nigeria, which is largely the bane of the Nigerian State; and arguably, Nigeria's postcolonial contradictions stem principally from this policy. Since colonial Nigeria was ground on the anvil of violence, its corollary, the postcolonial Nigerian State is not lacking in crude use of power and violence as well as "coercion and hegemony" (Dirks 1994:4) in the execution of its grisly political objectives.

As a consequence, the Nigerian political class has appropriated the mechanics of political operation left by the colonialist; this has given rise to postcolonial political elite, whose business is to advance the underdevelopment project initiated by the imperialists for the furtherance of its interests. In this vein, Richard Joseph sees this political opportunism as "clientelism" (1992:55) or prebendalism, which is a penumbra of "alliance of the purse and the gun" (Soyinka 1973: 134) and postcolonial tragedies. It is in the context of this national malaise that Claude Ake in his important book, Democracy and Development in Africa illuminates the nature of the postcolonial Nigerian state:

   Since the colonial State was for its subject, at any rate, an
   arbitrary power, it could not engender any legitimacy ... At
   independence, the form and function of the State in Africa
   did not change much. State power remained essentially the
   same: immense, arbitrary, often violent, always threatening.
   (1996: 3)

Since Nigeria's political independence in 1960, ensuing administrations have virtually towed the path of violence--as ensconced by the colonialists in order to contain people's dissatisfaction as well as to muscle opposition arising from the masses. Consequently, the most effective way to guarantee domination as well as private accumulation of wealth by the ruling class is the creation of the totalitarian State (Sklar 1979:537; Diamond 1987:569). These regimes have equally run the State as a private business, thereby personalising State power and liquidating constitutional authority. Since independence, Nigeria has passed through eight military jackboots in this order: Major-General J.T.U Aguiyi Ironsi, General Yakubu Gowon, General Murtala Mohammed, General Olusegun Obasanjo, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Babangida, Generals Sani Abacha and Abdusalami Abubakar. Accordingly, the civilian governments have taken the public space as a private business, thereby militarising the public sphere to ensure compliance from the masses. …

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