Critical Issues in Ethnic Leadership and the Imperatives of State Building in Nigeria

Iwara Eno Iwara



The British colonial rule in Nigeria created a tripartite ethnic delineation of the country which housed the ethnic communities within the country's colonial unitary administrative structure. This structure invariably explains the ethno-genesis and the ethnic tensions that later followed the initial myths that the country was associated with during colonial rule. Unfortunately, it was on the basis of this arrangement that ideational factors developed over which the political behaviour of the ethnic leaders and their clusters was shaped.

Suberu (1999:8) argues that the rise of ethno-political consciousness along regional lines, to a large extent prevented the rise and success of Nigerian nationalism. According to this argument, the consciousness it creates, rather promotes ethno-regional nationalism as a way of achieving political power. One of the most dangerous developments arising from the quest for power by ethnic leaders is that the ethnic leaders' interest for power has produced elements of origins of national security dilemmas in the country (Omololu,Senior Lecturer, Lead City University, Ibadan.2013). Ethnic leaders are usually desirous of political power at all costs,





using various political machinations and utilising as well as promoting ethnic military outfits for realising their ethno-regional ambitions at the expense of state interest or the common good.

The activities of the ethnic leaders speak volumes. The politics they lead is unconven­tional; their political socialisation is usually education for domestication, which prepares their subjects for antagonistic acts in the society, intolerance of political opponents, terrorism, kidnapping and other forms of criminality. For instance, the activities of some ethnic leaders of the Kanuri ethnic extraction that motivated the insurgency in North-East of Nigeria, and that of some Igbo leaders that have been motivating the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra for the Igbo, are clear examples. All these indices of leadership vices generate tensions in the Nigerian society and promote not only centrifugal tendencies, but

also exclusivist politics and mass politics which over politicises the Nigerian State.

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