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Title:Democratization and the national question in Nigeria (1999-2007)
Author:Olayode, KehindeISNI
Periodical:Contemporary Journal of African Studies (ISSN 0855-4412)
Geographic term:Nigeria
ethnic conflicts
political conflicts
nation building
Abstract:The proliferation of ethnic militias and the intensification of ethno-regional nationalism demanding a re-negotiation of the federalist foundations of the Nigerian State have resulted in the escalation of ethno-religious conflicts in many Nigerian urban communities. This problem seriously hampers national integration as it applies to nation-state building from disparate ethnic, geographic, social, economic, and religious elements in the country. Foundational issues, which had hitherto been classified as non-negotiable in the constitution-making process of the late 1980s, appeared to have been re-invented in recent times. These issues constitute the core of the 'national question', which has lingered and remained unresolved since independence. This paper explores how the resurgence of ethno-nationalism and religious extremism poses a major threat to democratic consolidation in Nigeria. The study answers the following questions: is the simultaneous spread of democracy and ethnic conflicts an accident of history, or are they mutually connected processes? Is ethno-nationalism compatible with the legal framework of a nation-state? Does democracy exacerbate conflicts or does it help resolve them? How could multi-ethnic societies like Nigeria resolve the contradiction between democratization and conflicts? The paper argues that competitive political parties and open elections tend to mobilize and politicize regional, ethnic, religious and racial solidarities in divided societies. This again tends to intensify disintegrative processes of fragile states without contributing to their stability or legitimacy - at least, in the short run. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French [Journal abstract]