Nigeria Briefing Paper

From a former superpower to a struggling developing

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Unformatted text preview: ween development and stability. From a former superpower to a struggling “developing country,” ethnic/religious cleavage and conflict can undermine national legitimacy and integration. Even though China is the most populous country in the world, the government has maintained control over its numerous linguistic and regional groups, occasionally using brute force to repress political opposition (as the events in Tibet demonstrate). While Nigeria is far smaller in population and size, it is still a giant on the African continent, with ethnic, religious, and regional differentiation constantly testing national authority and legitimacy. Many observers point to the role that ideology can play in managing (and suppressing?) diversity and building a national culture. The myriad of civilian and military leaders who have ruled in Nigeria have not identified or clearly articulated national ideologies to unify the people of this struggling West African country. As the case of China demonstrates, political ideology can play an important role in limiting identity-based fragmentation, but there are costs involved when this ideology substantially limits political freedoms. Nigeria Briefing Paper Copyright © 2005 by College Board. All rights reserved. Available at 3 Consolidating Democracy The legacy of colonialism and military rule, combined with a population divided along ethnic and religious lines, has challenged Nigeria’s transition to, and consolidation of, democracy. Prebendal tendencies that have deprived the general public of the benefits of its vast oil reserves have also undermined the legitimacy of political institutions, both authoritarian and democratic. The current democratically elected government has made substantial progress since it assumed power in 1999, but the fledgling democracy reintroduced in 1999 still remains a fragile experiment vulnerable to a return to military rule. Great Britain’s long, evolutionary path to parliamentary democracy sharply contrasts with independent Nigeria’s political history. Likewise, Mexico became independent from Spain well over a century ago, giving the country more time to institutionalize its political system and evolve toward a more democratic order. While it is not realistic to imply that Nigeria needs the same amount of time as Mexico and Great Britain to achieve democratic stability, we can distill from these comparisons that building political systems cannot be achieved overnight. Before passing judgement on Nigeria’s well-documented “failures,” it is essential for students of comparative politics to remember to accommodate the variable of “history” in the analysis. Benefiting from Natural Resources Nigeria’s oil-rich delta region generates enough revenue to address many of the country’s development woes, yet most of the population remains without access to basic government services. While political instability and prebendalism have contributed to this problem, there are other factors that infl...
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This document was uploaded on 04/02/2013.

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