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Women, the State, and the Travails of Decentralizing the Nigerian Federation

Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome


Slightly less than four decades ago, Nigeria became independent from colonial rule. The mandate as defined by the nationalist inheritors from the postcolonial state was clear: reforms of the structure and function of the state were imperative. First, the state had to be deracialized; also, to facilitate rapid economic growth, the state had to take over the commanding heights of the economy, one of its most important tasks being the creation of a national bourgeoisie. The decentralization of power was one of the pronounced goals. However, the Nigerian state maintains its essential character as a colonial imposition. It is bifurcated, Janus-faced, over- centralized. The indirect rule system that was introduced during colonialism persists, since there are a few citizens, composed overwhelmingly of male members of the state created bourgeoisie, a few token women, and many subjects, composed of the poor, and the overwhelming majority of women. The decentralization that has taken place thus far is a decentralization of despotism. In de facto terms, most Nigerians stand in relation to the state, as subjects, not citizens. Until the rights of citizenship are extended to all Nigerians, particularly women, through decentralization that allows full participation in the political process, the state will remain remote from the people. It will also not reach its full potential. By continuing to exclude women, the state and the Nigerian federation remain incomplete.

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

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