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Provincialism as Nationalism: Nigerian nationalism and its discontents
There seems to be a fundamental disconnect between Nigerians’ search for nationhood and the strategies for achieving this. Arguments made by many Nigerian leaders tended to suggest that national unity can only be served by satisfying some entrenched provincial interests that are geographically concentrated and politically organized. So, while many parade nationalist credentials, what propels them range from the ethnic to the religious and regional considerations. The bewildering diversity that has come to define the country has created a wide sense of antagonism and suspicion. The attempt by the colonial government and some regional elites to create super-ethnic groups and subordinate other ethnic groups has further contributed to the tension. Years of living together have not only continued to entrench the mistrust and antagonism but unfortunately created a rabid sense of ethnic and or regional uneasiness. Unfortunately, all these have coalesced into a kind of provincialism that has bred a debilitating sense of entitlement. Every attempt to heal the breach has continued to fail due to the inability to come to terms with our “Nigerianness.” This article is devoted to identifying the underpinning historical flaws that led to this crisis. While there is no single answer for this, the paper posits that nationalism has been defined to mean a process where the interests of particular groups or regions must be paramount. It further discusses how regionalization has blended with ethnicity to create a provincialism that has refused to come to an end several decades after independence. This has severely circumscribed Nigerian capacities to work towards a common goal.