Nation-building is the process whereby people transfer their commitment and loyalty from smaller ethnic groups, villages or petty principalities to the larger central political system. The goal of Nation-building is the creation of a nation-state, problems of groups/national identity and loyalty have overcome by members of this or that society. To make people to transfer their age old loyalty from their principal simple close, functional, micro social and political formation to a new, strange, complex, abstract, macro political structure require political and social engineering.
The new political state must face and skillfully manage the challenges relating to identity, legitimacy, penetration, and distribution in order to consolidate the authority of the new state over its citizens. When the state fails to meet and response to these crises of political development, violent conflicts becomes inevitable. Given the natural suspicion among the people under this arrangement, participation and distributional crises are the greatest threat to national stability and order.
In other words, power must be collectively exercised in a most inclusive manner, just as the authoritative allocation of values requires transparency, democracy, constitutionalism and equity amongst the different members of the society. Interestingly, the possibility of fulfilling the above categorical imperative which are the determinants of whether or not pluralism would be conterminous to violent conflict and conditioned by a number of factors; the nature and character of the state, the degree of state autonomy, the ownership of the means of production in the state, the degree of unity or disunity amongst the ruling elite in the state, the volume of economic surplus available within the state and democratic character of the state and its ruling elites.
The Nigerian state was a product of colonial imperialism, hence it was not only an imposition by an alien authority for predatory and exploitative purpose, the Nigerian state from the word go was alienating, undemocratic, exploitative, authoritarian, and anti-people. Though its various policies the colonial state in Nigeria deliberately created the conditions for disunity, political and monumental violence as witness today in Nigeria.
Conceptualization of Conflicts and Violence
Conflict cannot be wished away in any human organization and society whatever the size, ideological orientation, and physiological disposition, the pursuit of divergent and contradictory interest, or groups provides the bedrock for external conflicts in societies. Whenever there are changes or the possibilities of alteration in the prevailing social orders and privileges, especially as it affects resources appropriation and accumulation by individuals or groups in the society, conflict necessarily develop. This is equally applicable when political positions, are at the core of the change.
Conflict is not only dysfunctional and disjunctive, conflicts are better seen as the anti-thesis to a prevailing thesis and conditions which has caused to serve the purpose of society, and in whose bowel a new synthesis and conditions for social advancement and human development can emerge if the process is systematically manage, consciously directed programmatically transformed.
A universally constant fact pertaining to conflicts is the fact of its impossibility outside the struggle and competitions over resources that are not limited. Though this scarce resources may be power, given its scarcity, one can safely say that all conflict have economic character, that is, are a product of the problem of scarcity and the need to either secure one’s individual or group privileges protest perceived injustices and inequalities in allocation of resources, and or strive to obtain without regards whether others are currently having a larger and bigger share of available scarce resources.
The twin problematic of violence and democracy which is our concern in this write up is concerned with power. Therefore, the political economy framework offers us a very vigorous and systematic basis for interrogating and understanding the issues and contradictions these twin concerned generated and continue to generate in Nigeria politics. The point of departure of the political economy analysis is the necessity of interrogating the dynamics and contradictions between the substructure and superstructure in order to do a proper analysis and understand conditions of social existence in any social formation, or between different social formations.
Class societies according to Karl Marx arc riddle with irreconcilable differences and contradictions. Given these conditions every class society like Nigeria is necessarily conflict ridden. These contradictions and conflicts are products of struggles over the appropriation and accumulation of values, material and spiritual needs of life, and ultimately power. Unfortunately rather than being a mediator of class struggle the capitalist state being a product of the irreconcilability of class antagonism and contradictions sides with the minority class that control the instrumentality of the state. This non-neutrality of the state from the class struggle process is more endemic under a dependent capitalist system like Nigeria where the state is the ticket to wealth and politics is the authority to appropriate and privatize public funds with criminal impunity. Conflicts, therefore is rooted in the conditions of productions and reproduction of human existence in capitalist society like Nigeria. This is due to the institutionalization of domination and exploitation of many by the few. This is possible to the absence of democracy and or the caricature of democracy we practice in Nigeria.
The inability of democracy to change the exploitative condition of the people and the reality of their continued disempowerments for the escalation of violent conflict in Nigeria within the context of democratization, question of social justice have limited utility, and economic marginalization is heightened due to the fallout of neo-liberal globalization. Hence the preference is for ethnic justice, exclusiveness, corruption, injustices, domination and executive gangsterism, legislative lawlessness and miscarriage of Justice is now the order of the day.
Political Conflict in Nigeria
There is virtual absence of consensus on the fundamental issues that are necessary to unite Nigerian multinational into a nation-state. There are large groups of people who have not adequately imbibed the majority value and beliefs. Accordingly, among such groups, there are wide spread perception of deprivation, alienation, inequality, marginalization and neglect. The consequences arc disillusionment and frustration on the state and its symbols of authority, where there is manifest political intolerance or ruthlessness on the part of the agents of the state, a climate of violent conflict is created.
What therefore is the way forward to ensure sustainable democratic governance in Nigeria?
First, it is clear that conflict and dissent constitute an integral part of any democratic process. However, in order to avoid its escalation into violence, it should be institutionalized by keeping it within manageable limit according to the rule or fair play and such bargaining techniques as reconciliation and arbitration. Such institutionalized method of conflict resolution will impact positively on the threat or use of violence as a technique of settling differences. Collective bargaining methods are panacea for making democracy work.
Second, it is important for policy makers to recognize that conflicts and violence is cardinal facet of the democratic process. Accordingly, while it is hoped that compromise will be maximized and violence minimized, policy-makers must realize that violence often accompanies demand upon the political system. Every society is dynamic and changing and must always be ready to cope with challenges which exert pressure for change. The Nigeria experience shows that, given our diversities and many area of disagreement every group is out to protect its own interest and value. Third, democratic governance requires that leaders must try to ameliorate the social, political and psychological forces in the society which drive individuals and groups to violent action. It is futile to try merely to repress the violence, for violence is just a hash symptom of deep-rooted socio-economic and political malaise. Towards this end, policies and programmes that qualify and well-being of the citizens must be vigorously put in place. There must be help toward social and economic security. The issues of human resources development capacity building and utilization must be tackled with urgency and the necessary political will.
Obviously, underdevelopment is not the absence of development, because every person have developed in one way or another and to a greater or lesser extent. Underdevelopment makes sense only as a means of comparing level of development. It is very much tied to the fact that human social development has been uneven and forms a strictly economic view-point, while some human groups have advance further by producing more and becoming wealthier.
The moment that one group appears to be wealthier than others, some enquiry is bound to take place as to the reason for the differences. At all times, therefore, one of the ideas behind underdevelopment is a comparative one. It is possible to compare the economic conditions at two different periods for the same country and determine whether or not it had developed.
In some quarters, it has often been though wise to substitute the term “developing” for “underdevelopment”. One of the reasons for so doing is to avoid any unpleasantness which may be attach to the second term, which might be interpreted as meaning underdevelopment mentally, physically, morally or in any other respect.
The social services provided by a country are of importance equal to that of its material production in bringing about human well-being and happiness.
It is universally accepted that the state has the responsibility to establish schools and hospitals, but whether these are provided by the government or private agencies, their numbers can be established in relation to the size of the population. The services are available in a country can also be measured indirectly by looking at the life expectancy, the frequency of the deaths among children, the amount of malnutrition, the occurrence of disease which could be prevented by inoculation and public health services, and the proportion of illiterates. In all these respects the comparison between the developed and underdevelopment countries huge and even frightening differences.
The Tragedy of the Moment
The tragedy of these times is that those who plunged this nation into so much needless stress have shown no remorse whatsoever for their actions shown no remorse whatsoever for their actions. For several years, they have systematically planted land mines on our path to greatness. Ethnic land mines, religious land mines, induced inter and intra party strife, arm twisting of the legislature and threat of banana peels, refusal to obey court orders, not to talk of the economic ruination of the common and the market women etc. I fear that the atmosphere is so polluted with spite, personal interest, untruths, distrust, pretense and vengeful intents, that even if every Nigerian resolved today to work with all the dedication possible to ensure a safe passage, the road to greatness will still be extremely difficult to traverse. Therefore, we need to be vigilant, alert and ready to frustrate every evil plot.
The just concluded Ekiti State Governorship Election, conducted on the 18th June, 2022, witness a lot of votes buying and selling. However, it was peaceful and the conduct of the voters in term of turn-out was impressive, the INEC performance is also commendable in term of distributions of materials which was timely and available, we urge INEC to build on the success of Ekiti State Governorship Election, particularly on the use of BVAS as more technological equipment where us for transmission of result which reduce rigging attitude of politicians which encourage confidentiality of the citizens in participation in the voting exercise. We call on INEC, Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to carry-out more activities on Voters’ Educations.
Conflict, crises and violent cannot be eliminated from human society. However, to avoid their escalation and the unpleasant consequences, political societies can be sustained only through the successful management in terms of prevention, resolution and transformation of conflict and crises of any kind. For the consolidation of Nigeria’s fledgling democracy civilian leaders must practice good governance. This requires imbibing the appropriate civilized attitudes which facilitate political co-operation and limit the stakes of engagement in politics. The leaders in public office must maintain an open government, discard a common sit-tight approach to political power in order to free our country Nigeria from too much dependent on bad agents to perpetuate a rule of mediocre and the status quo. Its recurrence must therefore be prevented.
Finally, it has become a categorical imperative to radically restructure the Nigerian Federation, and radically transform the dependent, exploitative and anti-people state system. Without this all the suggestion above will come to naught. As we said earlier, the structure to be achieved in terms of democratic institutionalization, human capital development, peaceful co-existence, violent free elections and society, and not the least, national integration, genuine democracy, that is democracy of empowerment and not liberal and market democracy is the ultimate cure of violent conflicts in Nigeria. This is the real challenge Nigerians are faced with, particularly as we work toward 2023 elections in Nigeria.
– Idris Miliki Abdul
Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR),
Lokoja, Kogi State.