Contemporary Igbo nationalism and the crisis of self-determination in Nigeria

SOURCE: African Studies
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
DEPARTMENT: Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 7194
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/3486

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This article examines an aspect of Nigerian ethno-nationalism that has received relatively less attention compared to other ethno-nationalist mobilisations of the Ijaw, Ogoni and Yoruba ethnic extractions. As a direct response to the persistence of the 'national question' and a political culture that has structured power relations, political claims and recognition from the colonial to the postcolonial era, the advent of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) marks a reinvention of Igbo nationalism. Unlike other ethno-nationalist mobilisations, the salient character of MASSOB finds expression in its separatist inclinations, its rejection of a state-led process and rootedness in the aborted secessionist war for Igbo self-determination between 1967 and 1970. Given the contradictory 'pulls' and 'demands' of membership in the Nigerian public sphere, MASSOB's quest for self-determination assumes salience and intensity owing to the fact that it challenges the sovereignty and authority of the Nigerian state. This article emphasises the dialectical relations between ethnic groups and state, and it deploys ethnicity as a critical 'exit point' for marginalised groups in a multi-ethnic state. The foregoing lays bare the salience of ethnicity as a powerful political instrument, and unveils the fractured character of citizenship, and the enduring crisis of state ownership and national unity in Nigeria.