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Constitutionalism in Nigeria: A Conceptual Analysis of Ethnicity and Politics

Kelechi A. Kalu


In the 1999 Federal Constitution of Nigeria contentious issues are examined within the context of politicized ethnicity. Given that ethnic identities are part of all social formations, the question is -- when is ethnicity a contentious aspect of politics in Nigeria? Let us begin with the following propositions: First, in multiethnic states like Nigeria, the role of the state and government are critical in the management of ethnic relations. Second, as a political variable in Nigeria ethnicity is a colonial phenomenon. Third, unless politicized, ethnicity is not inherently conflictual. Fourth, ethnicity, a basis for communal organization of identity is a positive variable; therefore, fifth, ethnic-based conflicts in Nigeria are an outcome of various situational group competitions for saliency within a political platform managed by the government. However, since ethnicity mutates, it is not a fixed political category. This means that we must understand the situational context of ethnic relations in Nigeria’s constitutional experience. Contentious issues in the Nigerian State and Constitution are traceable to Nigeria’s colonial history and promises to remain an aspect of future Nigerian politics.

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West Africa Review. ISSN: 1525-4488 (online).
Editors: Adeleke Adeeko, Nkiru Nzegwu, and Olufemi Taiwo.

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