Nigeria And The Problem Of Regional Integration

2036 words - 9 pages

THE STORY OF NIGERIA during the postcolonial era has been one of a search for the constitutional and political arrangement that, while allowing for the self-expression of its socially and culturally diverse peoples, would not hinder the construction of a nation out of this mosaic. In this search, the country has experienced cycles of military and civilian rule, civil war, and peaceful reconstruction.

If any nation typified political scientist Richard Sklar's characterization of the African continent as a "workshop of democracy," it would certainly be Nigeria. The country has experimented with different federal, state, and local government systems, learning more about its needs, resources, ...view middle of the document...

Nigeria became politically independent on October 1, 1960, after about seven decades of colonial rule by the British. Prior to colonial rule, most of the groups that today make up the country were often distinguished by differences in history, culture, political development, and religion. The major differences among these precolonial groups pertained to their sociopolitical organization: anthropological and historical studies usually distinguish between societies that were centralized ("state") and those that were noncentralized ("stateless"). To the former category belonged the Sokoto Caliphate and the emirates of the north that, together with the Kanem-Bornu Empire, were advanced Islamic theocracies. Also included in this category were the Benin, Oyo, and other western kingdoms, as well as the Igala Kingdom in the middle belt (see Glossary) or lower north. In these centralized systems, there were clear divisions between the rulers and the ruled, usually based on wealth and ascribed status. Institutions of a distinctly political nature, as well as taxation systems, were already established. Of all the centralized systems, the Sokoto Caliphate with its vassal emirates had the most advanced form of state organization. Not surprisingly, it provided the model for the British colonial policy of indirect rule, i.e., the governance of indigenous peoples through their own institutions and rulers.

By contrast, in noncentralized systems such as those of the Igbo and other eastern and middle-belt groups, there was a diffusion of political, economic, and religious institutions and practices. Also to be found was a large measure of egalitarianism, democracy, and decentralized authority. Under the colonial policy of indirect rule, "traditional" rulers (known as warrant chiefs) were imposed on these stateless societies.

In the immediate precolonial period, a pronounced religious gulf separated the northern from the southern peoples. Islam had been introduced to the Hausa states and other northern parts in the fifteenth century, but it did not dominate until the jihad of 1804, which extended Islamic influence to most parts of the north and even to towns on the southern fringe, such as Oyo and Auchi. The southern peoples were devotees mainly of traditional religions who underwent increasing contact with, and exposure to, Europeans and Christianity. In some areas of the south, such as Benin and Warri, the penetration of Christianity dates to the fifteenth century. When the north experienced contact with Europeans much later, the spread of Christianity and other Western influences was slowed by the strong attachment to Islam. This fact explains in part the uneven rates of economic and educational development between the northern and southern peoples that have persisted to this day, with important consequences for government and politics.

It should not be assumed that the various population groups in precolonial Nigeria were completely separated from...

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