Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Institutional Basis of Ethno-Regional Competition for Resources in Nigeria

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Institutional Basis of Ethno-Regional Competition for Resources in Nigeria

Article excerpt


The statement of this article is that the spatial distribution of federal expenditures makes a particular difference in regional share of national resources and the overall politics of resource allocation. Whether this is true of Nigeria's federalism is investigated historically and comparatively within the framework of Regional Competition for Resources. As early scholars of fiscal sociology--Joseph Schumpeter and Rudolf Goldscheid--wrote, fiscal politics (the pattern of government spending) is the more important determinant of state form and resultant inter-group relations than capitalism and modem rational bureaucracy as Marx and Weber separately claimed for the emergence of modem Western Europe. (1)

Regional competition for resources may arise from the differences in resource endowments between a federation's constituent parts. It follows that if those who control political power at the center are from the poor regions, the sharing of national revenue will tend to reduce regional fiscal disparities. In other words, revenue allocation tends to be driven by fiscal equalization rather than efficiency motive. Allocation is done to satisfy the economic interests of the dominant group controlling political power. (2) This is a major source of conflict and instability in many African states. The control of political power with the aim of using it to appropriate economic resources for the development and benefit of one's own region becomes the standard mode of regional competition. Hence, a high correspondence can be observed between control of political power and control of economic resources in Nigeria)

As Robert H. Bates has argued, the group that is disadvantaged tends to mobilize its ethnic identity to demand redistribution in its favor. (4) Simultaneously, the group that is advantaged mobilizes its members to resist redistribution of both political and economic powers. This is noticeable in the unsettling contentions over the offshore and onshore dichotomy Bill/Act between the minorities in the oil-producing areas and the rest of Nigeria.

In the setting of regional competition, the regional group may be based on ethnic identity or what Onigu Otite terms neo-ethnicity and para-ethnicity. In his words, neo-ethnicity "thrives on the notion of wider common identity and common fate and visions of shared politico-cultural ideology, with a dynamic content characterized by interactions involving religion, contiguous ethnic territory, statism and sustained tradition of old political cleavages and alliances." (5) On the other hand, para-ethnicity is "anchored on statism and territoriality while component groups still particularize their exclusive relationships." (6) He gives examples of these types of ethnic formations as the regional Committees of Elders proliferating in Nigeria.


Is it valid to speak of ethno-regional competition for resources with so much evidence of individual accumulation, say, in Nigeria? Henry Bienen suggests that one way to knowing elite's thinking about the structure of inequality is to "look directly at the attitudes of civil servants and military personnel toward the distribution of income" through "interviews and by analysis of statements of self-definition of roles and interests." (7)

Ethno-regional competition may escape notice if at the outset the objective is to demonstrate the individual material advantage underlying group consciousness, as is Bala Takaya's focus on the "Kaduna Mafia." Takaya asserts that the Kaduna Mafia developed as an individual political survival strategy) This included mobilization around one united north involving selective rewards, inputting government policy in favor of its inner core, attempted conversion of political power into economic power through private enterprises that from the beginning will thrive on sucking the public, etc. …

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