Nigeria: Regional Politics and Dynamics
- Oliver OwenOliver OwenSchool of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford
The politics of Nigeria have often been considered a matter of managing social diversity in a political economy whose extremes have been exaggerated by oil money. But this story is incomplete without thinking instead more deeply about inequality, about political party origins and ideologies as well as identities, and about politics beyond parties and elections. Bureaucracy, mass mobilization, and everyday practice are equally important issues in Nigerian politics as the country moves through another economic transformation.
Nigeria’s political structures have been built around questions of managing diversity and allocating resources, and the country’s federal system embeds a tension between how much power is managed from the center and how much is devolved to the constituent states and local governments. As well as parties, legislatures, and executives, security institutions have been prominent in the country’s political formation, and public institutions are both formed around, and are vectors of forming, elite social networks.
Partly due to long-standing models of social legitimacy and partly as a result of the kind of identity politics Nigeria has chosen to manage diversity, models of citizenship based on localized belonging are pervasive drivers of political patterning. Political factions and parties, often characterized as election-winning aggregations of patron-client networks, also however embed distinct historical ideological traditions, which chart Nigeria’s movements between liberal capitalism and state-directed development and which have driven both domestic debates and a continental and regional leadership role.
Tensions around inequalities and the realm of the political more generally cannot be understood as a matter of governmental institutions alone but bring in religion, gender construction, labor movements, the media, civil society, and new social movements, as well as the “ineffable politics” of tactic, techniques, norms, and practices that fix the realm of the political as a key part of everyday social and economic life.