Department of Political Science
University of Port Harcourt
This article critically analyzes the link between state legitimacy and the steady rise in identity-based political conflicts in Nigeria. It argues that underlying the varieties of identity-based struggles and their related violence in Nigeria are wider questions of state legitimacy and the politics of state state-building. The main thesis is that the enduring and increasing ethno-political and religious conflicts across Nigeria are to a large extent the crisis of state legitimacy and the legitimacy that the Nigerian government can generate. Both ethnic and insurgent groups contest the capacity and legitimacy of the Nigerian State, agitating for recognition and protection of their distinctive ethnic and political identities, which more broadly represent the desire for inclusion. Contradictorily, however, these identity-based demands are dialectically intertwined with the struggle by the Nigerian state to generate institutional legitimation to the extent that the adoption of strategies of repression as responses to ethno-political claims heighten ethnic consciousness, deepen ethnic animosity and foster ethnic fragmentation in the country.
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