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PROJECT TOPIC: ETHNIC POLITICS AND DEMOCRATIC CONSOLIDATION IN NIGERIA’S FOURTH REPUBLIC: THE AKWA IBOM STATE EXPERIENCE

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CHAPTER ONEINTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDYAccording to Ukpe, (2015:27), before colonialism, there was no Nigeria as we have today. Until 1914, the various people living within the geo-political entity now called Nigeria had their separate existence. The only thing that connected them, according to Dudley (1982:36), was bitter internecine warfare between them. It is the Europeans that forced the natives into an uneasy union when they took over the territory. There was, and there still is, a sharp distinction between the various regions of the country formerly three, namely; the North, the West, and the East; now six (North central, North East, North West, South East, South-South and south west).The entire North was, and is still occupied by the Hausa, Fulani; the West by the Yoruba and the East by the Igbo. The characteristics of these regions re-enforce the gulf between them. The north has savannah vegetation, while the south and the East has a Mangrove or Rain Forest Vegetation. Moreover, within these three regions there exists other sub-groups who maintained their separate identity (Ukpe, 2015:30).The customs of these major groups and also those of the sub-groups are in contract distinction to one another. Their languages, mores and beliefs are different. The major religion in the North is Islam and that of the South is Christianity. In dress, diet and deportment, there are marked differences between these groups. While the major dress of the Hausas is “barbariga” and the major food is “tuwo shinkafa”, the major ideas of the Yorubas is “Sokoto” and “buba” and their major food is “amala”. “Usobo” or loin cloth is very popular with the Efiks, the Ibibios and the Annangs of South-South Nigeria for dress while “Ekpang Nkukwo” is their major food (Ukpe, 2015:31).

Over and above all these, the different groups had their distinctive political organisations which prove that they had nothing to do with one another before the Europeans came. An understanding of these facts will enable one to appreciate the plural nature of the Nigeria nation-state. The faculty foundation upon which the disparate ethnic groups were crammed together to form the country today called Nigeria has created central political problems for the country since independence (Ojiako, 1981:1). This problem is ethnic pluralism.It has been difficult to find a means of bringing about real integration of these desperate people. Concretely, from Akwa Ibom State in the South-South to Sokoto in the North West, one still encounters the diverse tongues and conflicts cultures (Ojiako, 1981:4). Thus, Nigeria is highly popularized and functionalized nation-state. It is not only split along ethnic lines, but also actions cultural, linguistics and religious lines. Due to this segmentation and cleavages, conflicts connected with cultural values, social identity, material records, etc are deep-rooted in the country’s body-politics.Ethnic conflicts and communal divisions between the various regions of Nigeria have bred a lot of ills in the country. Military coups, corruption and improprieties in public life can be traced to these disparities. The political hegemony of the North over the south till 1999 has resulted in power imbalance, until the recent ascension of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and later, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to the presidency. Before this time, the hegemony of the North had created frustration that had threatened to tear the country apart. In order to correct the mistakes of the 1914 as politicians would say (Ukpe, 2015:32).

The ethnic scene has been dominated by rivalry and hostility between the major ethnic groups. These are reflected in attacks in recrimination in Newspapers controlled by them and in the struggle for leadership of labour unions, political parties and professional organisations (Okwudiba, 1980:226). Political processes such as elections are characterised by vehement violence and serious fraudulent practices designed to secure advantages for the political parties representing the interests of these groups. Thus, the principal cause of violence in Nigerian politics is ethnic chauvinism and self-aggrandizement.P.C. Lloyd observed that “Nigeria’s problems do derive in large measure from the tensions which have arisen between the large ethnic groups” but he added that hostility derives not (solely) from the ethnic differences but from competition between people of wealth and power (Oyediran, 1979:6). Those who posses either pecuniary power or political power had resorted to using their ethnic base as a launching pad to catapult themselves into greater heights while subjecting those from other ethnic groups.Self-aggrandizement and materialism is a very outstanding characteristic of the Nigerian society. The crave for wealth has become a deep-seated epidemic such that every professional is affected. The ethnics of some professionals have been mortgaged for the desire to get rich quick; from the police to the armed forces; and from banks to business. In government, efficiency has been exchanged for settlement politics. This phenomenon has eaten deep as a cancer into the Nigerian polity (Ukpe, 2015:32).

1.1.1 THE PEOPLE AND CULTURE OF AKWA IBOM STATEAccording to Ukpe (2015:48), Akwa Ibom State is a state in Nigeria. It is located in the Coastal South-Southern part of the country, lying between Latitudes 40321 and 50331 North, and Longitudes 70251 and 80251 East. The state is bordered on the East by Cross River State on the West, by Rivers State and Abia State, and on the South partly by the Atlantic Ocean and partly by Cross Rivers State.Akwa Ibom is one of Nigeria’s thirty six (36) States with a population of over five (5) million people and more than ten (10) million people in Diaspora. It was created in 1987 from the former Cross River State and is currently the highest oil and gas producing State in the country. The State’s capital, Uyo has over five hundred thousand (500,000) inhabitants, (Ukpe, 2015:48).

1.1.2 HISTORY AND DEMOGRAPHYAccording to Ukpe (2015:49), history has it that the people of Akwa Ibom State arrived in what is now Nigeria between 1200-1500 BC. Akwa Ibom State was created out of Cross Rivers State on September 23, 1987. The main ethnic groups of the State are Ibibio, Annang and Oron. But there are other sub-ethnic groups such as Eastern Obolo, Eket and Ibeno. The people are predominantly of the Christian faith; the Ibibio is the largest group, while the Annang, which form the second largest group, speak a variant dialect of the Efik languages. The Oro (Oron) is an ethnic group (akin to Efik) found in five of the State’s Local Government Areas. Located at the Ocean and contiguous to Oron is a group of Ibibio called Eket. The Annangs, Efik and Ibibio languages belong to the Benue-Congo language family, which form part of the Nigeria Congo group of languages.


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