Politics and Economic Development in Nigeria

By Tom Forrest | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

Recent images of Africa in the West have depicted the continent in the throes of great political instability and economic stagnation or decline. 1 A corrupt and authoritarian leadership, personal rule, ineffective government, poor policies, and unproductive patterns of accumulation are variously held to blame. Applied to Nigeria, these images seem exaggerated and too general. Although state policies have often been inefficient, inconsistent, and wasteful, there is a long-term capitalist dynamic at work. The federal system of government has evolved, and the pattern of political competition has kept strongly authoritarian rule at bay. In the struggle to govern a recent colonial creation of great complexity and create a national identity, there have been some achievements; and I will argue that the prospects for material progress are not as gloomy as the perpetual talk of crisis implies.

The study is focussed largely, though not exclusively, at the level of national politics and the macroeconomy. In both major sections, a chronological approach is used. The study begins in Part 1 with a historical introduction to Nigeria's political economy. Part 2 (Chapters 3-6) contains an account of contemporary political development in Nigeria since 1970, when a civil war that had lasted for thirty months ended with the defeat of secessionist Biafra. Major issues and conflicts in Nigerian politics, the dynamics of regime change, and the challenges that have arisen from ethnic, religious, and regional divisions are identified. The political, ideological, and social context within which state power has been exercised and the federal system of government has evolved is examined.

In Part 3 (Chapters 7-10), the focus is on the evolution of economic policy, economic institutions, and economic performance. These issues are examined in relation to the overall priorities and capacities of the state under different regimes and to the longer term dynamics of capitalist development.

The division into parts reflects the fact that political and economic aspects of Nigerian society can be separated analytically. Such a separation helps to clarify their character and the nature of their interaction. Both

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