National Integration and the Survival of Nigeria in the 21st Century

Article excerpt

Nigeria is bedeviled by myriad problems which, despite its oil riches, inhibit its development and even threaten its continued existence as a sovereign state. The author examines Nigeria's socio-political and economic circumstances and concludes that many of its problems stem from its origin as an artificial colonial construct which lumped together a variety of separate peoples. Fragmentation is seen as a distinct possibility unless its citizens can be induced to accept a new sense of Nigerian identity, involving a commitment to the survival of the present state as a cohesive entity. This would necessitate a number of radical changes, not only in the political and economic structure of the country but also in the psychology of the people.

Keywords: Nation; Nationality; Nationalism; Nigerian National Integration; Social Mobilization; Nigeria.

Many [Nigerians] deceive themselves by thinking that Nigeria is one....This is wrong. I am sorry to say that this presence of unity is artificial.1

Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no "Nigerians" in the same sense as there are "English," "Welsh" or "French." The word 'Nigerian' is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.

Benedict Anderson2

The statements above capture the true condition of Nigeria prior to 1960 when she won her political independence. There has not been any positive change in this regard since then. Instead, the relationship among the constituent ethnic nationalities and religious groups has worsened drastically in spite of all pretenses to the contrary. Nigeria is not an ethnically homogenous society, having come into being accidentally, as it were, as a product of British imperialism. Today, rather than integrating into a cohesive community with a common sense of national identity and destiny, citizens of Nigeria are returning more and more to primordial affiliations for identity, loyalty and security. Instead of forging a united front and presenting a concerted effort to face the challenges of development in an increasingly competitive and globalised world, Nigerians are busy waging ethnic and religious wars, struggling for control over resources, resisting marginalization by dominant ethnic groups, and contending with diverse problems of basic survival.

Why have attempts at national integration failed abysmally in Nigeria?

Nationality and Nation

According to Marxist doctrine, the development of social division of labor, barter relations and unequal property relations produced modern nation-states3 which are more complex than ethno-nations based on a common kinship and cultural ties. These latter, like earlier clans and tribes, are based on the ties of blood, and on common origin, language, custom, beliefs, and everyday features of life and culture. Clans are made up of the extended members of a family, while tribes are made up of several clans, and ethnically homogeneous nations may have millions of people. But most modern nation-states are even more complex, being multi-ethnic territorial units linked economically and politically under a common government. Their populaces do not necessarily have any traceable blood relationship, but are united by a common culture and language. Going by the above, the Ijesha, Egba, Itshekiri and Ijaw peoples of Nigeria may be rightly described as tribes while the more general classifications of the "Igbo" "Yoruba" and "Hausa" stand for nationalities, and Nigeria as a multi-ethnic state made up of different tribes and nations.

Modern multi-ethnic nations, frequently described as states or nation-states, became common in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries4 with the economic integration of different regions, thereby strengthening the ties between people from different nationalities, and fostering the rise of a common language and common cultural features. …

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