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Nigeria: National Groups and Religions Act as a Centralizing or Decentralizing Force in Africa, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 390

Essay

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. Its existence is indicative of Britain’s frantic efforts to divest itself of its imperial commitments after the Second World War. This is primarily evident in the name chosen, which simply means, ‘Niger Area’ and has little or no historical significance. It is also evident in the miscellaneous tribes, clans, linguistic and religious groups that were thrown together to form a single national entity.

Nigeria is primarily comprised of three ethnic groups, the Hausa, the Igbo and the Yoruba. Ethnic diversity is heightened even further by the existence of 371 identifiable tribes in Nigeria. This diversity is further complicated by the existence of three broad linguistic families consisting of dozens of sub-languages. Finally the religious divide whereby the north is Islamic and the south Christian has been another locus for dissension and public order. This poly ethnic mix has had a de-centralizing effect on Nigeria as decisions are often made along ethnic and religious rather than national lines. This is probably best exemplified by the concept of prebendalism. This is a sense of entitlement to the wealth of the country by government ministers and officials disbursed along personal, tribal, religious and ethnic lines.

The negative effects of these competing identities and loyalties have been transformed to positives through Nigeria being politically structured along federal lines, similar to the United States. This allows key areas of governance to be centralized at the federal level. Subsidiary powers however are decentralized to the state level and are constitutionally protected. The political configuration has also allowed a national identity to develop that exists alongside a range of other family, tribal, clan and religious identities. This is turn has allowed Nigeria to play a key role in international institutions such as the African Union, ECOWAS, ECOMOG, the International Criminal Court, the UN, the Commonwealth and OPEC. If Nigeria can hold its internal structure together, along with its democratic credentials, it has the wealth, resources and richness of cultural diversity to be an example to the rest of Africa of economic success as well as a guarantor of regional peace.

Bibliography

Nigeria: History and Politics [online] available at http://www.iss.co.za/af/profiles/nigeria/politics.html accessed on 11th September 2011

Obianyo N. E. (2007) Citizenship and Ethnic Militia Politics in Nigeria-Marginalization or Identity Question? -The Case of Massob Nnamdi Azikiwe University [online] available at http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/ati/diversity/pluralism/pl3/Obianyo%20paper.pdf accessed on 11th September 2011

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