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Nigeria is bedeviled by myriad problems which, despite its oil riches,inhibit its development and even threaten its continued existence as asovereign state. The author examines Nigeria’s socio-political andeconomic circumstances and concludes that many of its problems stemfrom its srcin as an artificial colonial construct which lumped together a variety of separate peoples. Fragmentation is seen as a distinct possibilityunless its citizens can be induced to accept a new sense of Nigerian identity,involving a commitment to the survival of the present state as a cohesiveentity. This would necessitate a number of radical changes, not only in thepolitical and economic structure of the country but also in the psychologyof the people.

Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no “Nigerians” in thesame sense as there are “English,” “Welsh” or “French.” The word ‘Nigerian’ is merely adistinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.

The statements above capture the true condition of Nigeria prior to1960 when she won her political independence. There has not been anypositive change in this regard since then. Instead, the relationshipamong the constituent ethnic nationalities and religious groups has worsened drastically in spite of all pretenses to the contrary. Nigeria isnot an ethnically homogenous society, having come into being

accidentally, as it were, as a product of British imperialism. Today,rather than integrating into a cohesive community with a common senseof national identity and destiny, citizens of Nigeria are returning moreand more to primordial affiliations for identity, loyalty and security.Instead of forging a united front and presenting a concerted effort toface the challenges of development in an increasingly competitive andglobalised world, Nigerians are busy waging ethnic and religious wars,struggling for control over resources, resisting marginalization bydominant ethnic groups, and contending with diverse problems of basicsurvival.Why have attempts at national integration failed abysmally inNigeria?

which are more complex than ethno-nations based on acommon kinship and cultural ties. These latter, like earlier clans andtribes, are based on the ties of blood, and on common srcin, language,custom, beliefs, and everyday features of life and culture. Clans aremade up of the extended members of a family, while tribes are made upof several clans, and ethnically homogeneous nations may have millionsof people. But most modern nation-states are even more complex, beingmulti-ethnic territorial units linked economically and politically under acommon government. Their populaces do not necessarily have anytraceable blood relationship, but are united by a common culture andlanguage. Going by the above, the Ijesha, Egba, Itshekiri and Ijawpeoples of Nigeria may be rightly described as tribes while the moregeneral classifications of the “Igbo” “Yoruba” and “Hausa” stand fornationalities, and Nigeria as a multi-ethnic state made up of differenttribes and nations.Modern multi-ethnic nations, frequently described as states ornation-states, became common in Europe in the eighteenth andnineteenth centuries

with the economic integration of different regions,thereby strengthening the ties between people from differentnationalities, and fostering the rise of a common language and commoncultural features. It also produced relatively stable communities “with

features characteristic of modern states.Essentially, today’s “nation-states” are politically organized communitiesof people that may be made up of one or more nationalities but whichpossess a more or less defined territory and government in addition tosovereignty and a common sense of identity and destiny a well as acommon socio-economic system. Apart from frequently involving the integration of severalnationalities, modern multi-national-states may come into existence when one or more nationalities become the driving force in the creationof a centralized political state. In other instances, multi-national statesmay emerge when the ruling classes of a nation-state, with centralizedstate power in their hands, subjugate other nationalities, which areusually at a lower level of economic development. This is how manybourgeois states in the 19

These empires latermetamorphosed through various political and economic stages intoindependent political states, with many of them still struggling throughdifferent phases of integration in an attempt to become nations in thetrue sense of the word. This is the situation in which many of the multi-national states of Africa, including Nigeria, find themselves.From the above, we can infer that for there to be a coherent multi-national sovereign-state, there must be a common economic life, whichneed not be capitalistic in orientation.

, a common territory, sovereignty andcertain peculiarities of the people’s social psychology, bordering on acommon sense of identity and belongingness. These peculiarities areusually expressed in the specific features of the culture of the givenpeople, which distinguish its culture from that of other peoples”

Marxists and the advocates of what is described as the orthodox theory of the nation areof the view that the emergence of nations is necessarily a product of capitalist social formation.Critics like Samir Amin, however, contend that this view thrives on a confusion of one of thehistorical expression of the srcin of nations with its essential precondition. For some details of these views, see Emmanuel Hansen,

we may conclude that the important distinction between a nation-stateand a multi-national state is that while the former is made up of peoplefrom a single nationality or from several nationalities that have becomeso integrated that they have evolved a common sense of national identitytranscending their previous nationalities, the latter is made up of severalnationalities that have not yet evolved a common sense of nationalidentity but, in a fundamental sense, hold on to and strive to perpetuatetheir different identities.

Nigeria is one of the states that owe their existence to theimperialistic activities of Britain, which by virtue of a superiortechnology and economy subjugated people from diverse nationalitiesand organized them to construct Nigeria in 1914, with the amalgamationof the Northern and Southern protectorates. By the time Nigeria wonher independence from Britain in 1960, its artificial srcin, coupled withother factors, had bequeathed it a number of fundamental problems,one of which is the challenge of integrating, into a cohesive socio-political whole, the various entities and strange bed fellows that werelumped together by the colonialists.

What the creation of Nigeria as a single political entity did was tobring together people of different nationalities “under a single territorialand institutional framework, [and] widened their social space as a resultof greater inter-ethnic interaction through the institution and practice of the colonial system and thus created a common historical experience of economic exploitation, political and administrative oppression andcultural oppression.”

Nonetheless, the peoples making up the country were not effectively integrated toward the end of evolving a true sense of national identity and commitment to the survival and development of the nation. One factor responsible for this is the class interests andpolitical ambitions of the “African petty bourgeoisie, the class that wasto become the standard bearer of modern African nationalism.”