Macquarie University
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Ethno-tribal politics in Nigeria: colonial foundations, postcolonial reconstructions

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posted on 2022-03-29, 02:50 authored by Mohammed Sulemana
Nigeria is known for its perverse and ferocious web of ethno-tribal identity politics. Since the early post-independent years, problems associated with ethno-tribalism have posed a significant challenge to the country's progress. In searching for a political institutional response, Nigeria at independence adopted the federal spirit upon which imperial Britain founded its Nigerian colony in 1914. Federalism, an entirely foreign and novice political system, was to become not only a solution to the plethora of economic and political problems but just as importantly it was perceived as the sole remedy to the endless legacy of upheaval, disunity and conflict. However, after half a century of attempts, the country is plagued by intransigencies associated with ethno-tribal politics. From this background, this research brings a fresh perspective to Nigeria's protracted ethnic challenge by answering questions like: why has ethnicity continued to remain decisive in postcolonial Nigeria? And why has ethno-federalism done little to rid the Nigerian postcolonial state of the autocratic legacies of colonialism? The thesis employs an historical method, Africanist and postcolonial themes and draws from the frameworks of prominent authors such as Eric Hobsbawm, Benedict Anderson and crucially Mahmood Mamdani. This thesis argues that the federal solution to Nigeria's ethnic challenge failed because; firstly, its socio-legal character has glorified autocratic colonial traditions, and secondly, federalism represented an obsession with high politics to the detriment of how the socio-legal foundation of postcolonial institutions create ethnic sentiments on the low, everyday spheres of society. The thesis therefore argues that a policy that is meant to respond to the enduring and negative manifestations of ethno-tribalism must focus on the multiple political arenas of Nigerian society: a departure from measures applied thus far.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. African identity and the colonial architecture -- Chapter 2. The colonial invention of Nigeria -- Chapter 3. Postcolonial Nigeria : ethnicity and low politics -- Chapter 4. Conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 58-69

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Department, Centre or School

Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Noah R. Bassil


Copyright Mohammed Sulemana 2014. Copyright disclaimer:






1 online resource (iv, 69 pages)

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