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Rejecting Continuity and Rupture

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Arguments for Historical Syncretism in Understanding Bureaucracy in Contemporary South-Eastern Nigeria

image of African and Asian Studies
For more content, see Journal of Asian and African Studies.

Patronage and financial corruption are rife in the contemporary Nigerian state and have gained widespread social acceptance, indicating a belief that it is legitimate to appropriate state resources for personal gain. In this paper I concentrate on the historical antecedents of this state of affairs. Focusing on the Igbo-speaking south-east of the country, I argue that an understanding of contemporary Nigeria must be based on a syncretic analysis: that is, a combination of influences from pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial eras. Despite this, the colonial era should not be downplayed as an influence, as some have sought to argue. In particular, I argue that the imposition of warrant chiefs in previously acephalous communities with participatory governance engendered a belief that government did not belong to local people.

Affiliations: 1: UCL Institute for Global Health30 Guilford Street, London WC1N


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