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The Roots of Political Instability in an Artificial "Nation-State": The Case of Nigeria

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The Nigerian "nation-state" is an artificial project of European 19th century colonial endeavor in Africa. As a cobbled variety of the state in Europe and North America, its pretence to the concept of state has not spared it from the contradictions of its awkward past. The immediate implication of this failure is the persistence of political instability. In this paper, I argue that as a "state", its construction is not only flawed and absurd, it has remained unsuccessful as well. The primary reason for that lies in the respective refusal by both the British and the Caliphate undertakers of the Nigerian colonial state and its post-colonial successor to acknowledge the resilience of the distinct groups and identities that were forced into Nigeria. I also argue here for a new paradigm that locates political conflict and instability in Africa within the dialectic of state-civil society dissonance situated in a a context-specific articulation of three concepts: construction, entrenchment, and transformation. I argue further that nation-states are stable or unstable to the extent that they are able to fulfil the tasks of construction, entrenchment, and transformation. That solution to Nigeria's political instability lies in first by unraveling its present constitution, and secondly by the evolution of a new entity which accepts a new dialogue that proposes a challenge beyond formal construction of state apparatuses to an active relationship of entrenchment and transformation.

Affiliations: 1: Doctoral student, Center for Research on Military Organization, Department of Sociology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, U.S.A


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