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Democracy on the African Continent: Colonialism, Tribalism and the Future. Country Focus: Nigeria. Democracy. Is democracy an instrument? A tool for achieving value based goals? Human rights Justice Is democracy dependent on the emergence of stable, diversified economies?

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Democracy on the African Continent: Colonialism, Tribalism and the Future

Country Focus: Nigeria


  • Is democracy an instrument? A tool for achieving value based goals?

    • Human rights

    • Justice

  • Is democracy dependent on the emergence of stable, diversified economies?

    • What is the role of an independent civil society?

Status – Liberal Democracy Commitment:

  • Benin

  • Botswana

  • Mali

  • Madagascar

  • Mauritius

  • Namibia

  • South Africa

Country Status: Economic Reform, Multi-party Elections

  • Burkina Faso

  • Malawi

  • Mozambique

  • Senegal

  • Tanzania

  • Uganda

  • Zambia

Country Status: Development without Democracy

  • Burundi

  • Eritrea

  • Gabon

  • Gambia

  • Niger

  • Ethiopia

Country Status: near collapse ?? “failed” ??

  • Angola ???

  • Cameroon

  • Chad

  • Congo

  • Nigeria ???

  • Kenya

  • Sierra Leone

  • Somalia

  • Sudan

  • Zimbabwe


Economic & Political Liberalization

  • Is democratization the only solution to systemic political crisis?

  • Are there economic alternatives beyond liberal market economies?

  • Does democracy spring from economic and social pluralism?

    • For some this is indeed the true explanation for the global spread of democracy.

    • How would these scholars address China?

    • Clearly there is a connection but it is not necessarily causal (Thus, liberal economies may be a necessary condition of democratization but they are clearly NOT sufficient conditions).

Western models applied to Africa?

  • Western policymakers handicapped by their fundamental misunderstanding of African nations, the conflicts, the needs, wants, demands of citizens.

  • Equivalent to statement “Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy caused the collapse of the Soviet Union”.

  • Democratic formation is not linear.

History and Political Culture: Decolonization and Nationhood

  • “The scramble of Africa”

  • Decolonization and the creation of national borders for independence occurred quickly and according to the convenience of colonial powers.

  • Result is a continent-wide structure of countries whose citizens have little reason to identify with one another (nationhood)

    • Cultural, economic, environmental, realities were ignored

    • Today extremely diverse groups of people must co-habit as “citizens”

    • Significant barrier to growth of a common identity (nation)…no “glue”, no common culture.

Civil Society in Africa?

  • The autonomous sphere between the state and the family or individual. This sphere limits governmental action (stops the entropy).

  • Artificial national borders enhance cultural and linguistic disunity…making it virtually impossible for an “autonomous sphere” to emerge.

    • Some local level groups: age, ethnicity, religion, self-help, local issue groups.

    • No systematic integration of these groups into the economy (subsistence production continues).

Explanation for absence of civil society?

  • Predatory state in post-colonial era has pushed people out of a broader society.

  • Tribalism, ethnicity, kinship enhanced.

  • These structures are so discrete that they cannot produce a broad base of support for anything => no chance for democracy.

  • Modern tribalism the dominant organizational form in Africa today.

    • Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Chad, Burundi

    • Chronic violence based in tribalism, ethnicity, kinship

Accountability via communication.

Education, citizen identification of public versus private.

Pro-modernization values.

Africans dispersed in rural communities.

Absence of education, no systematic national identification.

Anti-modernization values (subsistence).

Requirements of Democracy – Barriers in Africa

Religion provides social/economic foundation of traditional societies. Differences of faith are not reconcilable. This supercedes government action and reinforces ethnic/regional cleavages. Extreme poverty keeps other citizens from participation in the political system.

Economic re-adjustment?

  • IMF programs have forced structural adjustment in many African nations.

  • In many cases programs have enjoyed some success but still citizens remain poor, and large numbers of citizens are poorer than before.

    • Ex: Tanzania 50% of population at $1/day.

    • Conclusion: economic development before democratization?

    • Sources of Africa’s problems? Itself, international community, international trade system (complexity).

Africa and the World

  • Increasingly marginalized in global economy.

  • Debt increases with few options for reduction.

  • International community pushing democracy but not promoting rational economic development, i.e, 50% of a national population cannot stay in poverty if democracy is to stabilize and expand.

    • Equality of opportunity non-existent.

    • Personal rule emerged post-independence, lacks institutional foundation.


  • Population 149 million

  • Independence 1960

  • Democratic transition: 1979, 1989, 1995, 1999

  • President: Umaru Yar'Adua (2007)

    • Acting: Goodluck Jonathan

  • Religion: 50% Muslim, 40% Christian, 10% indigenous beliefs

  • Primary export: oil

Political Culture: Geography and Ethnicity

  • 250 ethnic groups

    • Size varies

  • Historically complex groups of peoples who interacted in trade, cultural diffusion, war for centuries

  • Current groups are geographically concentrated

    • Hausa-Fulani (north)

    • Igbo (southeast)

    • Yoruba (southwest)

Political Culture: History

  • 1800s dominated by various foreign groups

    • Goal of occupying groups: resource extraction and cheap labor (slave trade)

    • 1807-1850 slave trade eliminated; Trade in goods continued

  • 1914-1960 British colony

    • Colonial government inappropriate to Nigerian political situation, i.e., tribal divisions.

    • More authoritarian approach on the part of British authorities

      • One set of rules for the British; Second set for the Nigerians

      • Consequence is conflicting message about democracy

        • Democratic institutions

        • Authoritarian political culture


  • Religion reflects Muslim/Christian split from north to south

  • Challenges: traditional/modern?; 100s of traditions!

    • Hausa-Fulani

      • Islam

      • Militaristic

      • Northern region politically dominant

    • Yoruba

      • Christian (some Muslims or indigenous belief systems)

      • Southwest region, part of the commercially dominant south

    • Igbo

      • Southeast region, part of the commercially dominant south

      • Christian

Nigerian Nationalism

  • Return of freed slaves

  • World war II veterans

  • Educated returnees

  • Civil violence experiences

    • Coups prior to Biafran War

    • Biafran War coalition

    • Continued national recruitment by military

  • Domination of officer corps by elites

Effects of Fragmentation

  • Nigerians oriented toward political involvement are identified by

    • Exposure to formal education

    • Involvement in modern economy (participant versus subject or parochial orientations)

  • Pattern of involvement - clientelism

  • Limited legitimacy of opposition

  • High efficacy but low trust

  • Political corruption problematic

  • Two dominant democratic orientations:

    • Freedom and political accountability

Political Socialization

  • Agents of socialization

    • Family, nuclear or extended (polygamous in the north)

    • Schools, valued as necessary to advancement (community builders)

    • Language, linguistic pluralism

    • Newspapers, primary source of political information but limited by illiteracy

    • Mass media and propaganda – radio critical source

    • The state – launches propaganda

    • Urbanization

    • Religion

Political Recruitment

  • Politicization of the military

    • Recruitment of officers from university graduates

    • Recruitment according to ethnic group

  • Transfer of officer corps after Biafran war

    • 1966 independence movement of oil rich eastern region

  • Leadership of military and professed belief in civilian rule

  • Backing by administrative class

  • Exclusion of strangers

Nigeria and the Niger River Valley

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