Historicizing Ethnic Politics and its Impact on Nation Building and Nationalism in Nigeria in the 21st Century

AKUBOR Emmanuel Osewe


In 1960, when the country gained independence from colonial Britain, analysts had predicted rapid development especially as it relates to national integration, economic sufficiency and viable leadership role at the regional and sub regional level. It was indeed this hope (coupled with the abundance of human and natural resources) that earned the country the name Giant of Africa. However, almost fifty two years after, it is clear that Nigeria is  far from attaining the much expected goal, as the country is still wrapped up in series of crises ranging from ethnic agitation for local autonomy, group struggle for self determination/self government, plundering of the nation’s treasury by a few individual to outright attempt by militia groups(claiming to represent the various ethnic nationalities) to eliminate other groups by use of force and other weapons of destruction (this started with kidnapping and vandalization of pipelines  and cables in the Niger Delta area with the most recent revolving around the activities of the Boko Haram group in the northern part of the country).  All these have led to scholars questioning the genuineness of the supposed unity with which the country fought and gained independence, while some others have simply described it as symptoms of failed state. The argument therefore is that although it is believed in most quarters that there was actually a united force which agitated for independence, but the ethnic politics which the major actors played in the course of the struggle as well as their activities immediately after independence is impacting on nation building and nationalism in post colonial Nigeria. Even after independence (especially periods when the country seems to be faced with issues that threatened her national unity, various government both military and civilian have introduced programs and policies meant to instill civic nationalism in Nigeria. Some of these examples includes state creation efforts which were partly meant to break ethnic hegemony; the National Youth Services Corps scheme meant to foster national unity and integration after the civil war; the introduction and practice of Multi-party system which was meant to break ethnic politics as well as the two party system of the military administration in the 1980’s, which also focused on attaining political party unification in Nigeria. These and many other wonderful programs and policies  have been introduced by governments in Nigeria, yet they all failed middle way achieving party unification, national unity/ integration and instilling civic nationalism in Nigeria . This paper employing the historical methodology and quantitative analysis is thus an attempt at historicizing ethnic politics in the struggle for independence, deeply examine how and why the various programs and policies of the government since independence (with particular reference to the National Youth Services Corps scheme and the political party system have failed to  work as well as  instill civic nationalism in Nigeria, its impact on nation building and nationalism in the 21st Century Nigeria and the way forward.

Keywords: Nigeria, Ethnic Politics, Nationalism 

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3178 ISSN (Online)2225-0964

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