Identity Politics and the Search for an Ethnic Consensus: Indigenizing a Canadian Model for Nigeria

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Since the end of military rule in 1999, Nigerians have intensified the search for a new structural, organisational, and administrative paradigm for their nation. Various interest groups have made strident calls for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference or a Conference of Nationalities to restructure the country. Pro-establishment politicians, particularly those with a direct stake in the current administration, reject the modalities outlined by the advocates of national conference and are rather seeking to restructure the country through constitutional amendments. They too accept in principle the need for restructuring although they would prefer to work within the confines of the 1999 constitution. There is therefore a consensus, across the national firmament, that the present configuration of the country, a witches brew of federalist and unitary principles, is not workable, not least because the power symmetries do not reflect a balance among the various ethnic nationalities that make up the country. The cries of marginalization echoed by virtually all the ethnic and geopolitical groupings in the country are a clear manifestation of the nation-wide dissatisfaction with the current arrangement. There is clearly a need to find a workable system, an ethnic and multicultural consensus, on which to build a virile and united nation. The paper seeks to bring to bear on this search a Canadian paradigm, cooperative federalism and multiculturalism as a model, which can be studied and its fundamental assumptions adopted and/or adapted for Nigeria. Canada shares with Nigeria a common historical experience. As former British colonies, they have inherited common traditions, particularly in the field of law and jurisprudence, in administration, social organisation, and legislative behaviour. Both nations are federal in structure and both are ethnically heterogeneous. Canada’s historical evolution and constitutional development have been shaped by what a commentator described back in 1840 as ‘two nations warring in the bosom of a single state”. Since then relations between English Canada and French Canada have been the major issue around which national cohesion has evolved. How have Canadians been able to achieve a correlation between power symmetries and ethnic nationalism? How have they been able to maintain their nation’s structural integrity in the face of French Canada’s demands for sovereignty? What methods have they employed to resolve the demands and contradictions of identity politics? How can these be indigenised in Nigeria? These are some of the questions and issues which are explored in the paper.
Contact the University of Lagos Library for full text OR any of the following; Dr. (Mrs.) Y. A. Zaid ( OR Dr. C. O. Okiki (
Constitutional development , Federalism , Constitutional amendments. , Legislative behaviour. , Jurisprudence , Sovereignty , Ethnic nationalism , Identity politics