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Democratization and the national question in Nigeria (1999-2007)

K Olayode


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 of Nigerian.s urban communities. This problem seriously hampers efforts at national integration as it applies to the building of a nation-state out of the 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. It is in this regard that this paper explores how the resurgence of ethno-nationalism and religious extremism pose a major threat to democratic consolidation in Nigeria. The study attempts to answer the following questions: Is the simultaneous spread of democracy and of ethnic conflicts an accident of history, or 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.

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print ISSN: 2343-6530