Revisiting Ethno-Nationalism in the Niger Delta of Nigeria: An Interrogation of its Achievements and Prospects

Lysias Dodd Gilbert


Although ethnic pluralism, ethnicity and ethno-nationalism are pervasive characteristics of the contemporary international system, the upsurge of violent ethno-nationalism in Nigeria at the commencement of the current civilian dispensation in 1999 was unprecedented. Several groups from hitherto marginalized parts of the country, capitalized on the statutory regime of human rights and rule of law provided by the democratic space to articulate their discontentment. Similarly, due to the enveloping underdevelopment and poverty resulting from decades of obvious environmental pollution, political marginalization and disregard of the Niger Deltans by the Nigerian state and the Multinational oil companies (MNOCs), youths resorted to the formation of belligerent ethno-nationalist groups. Consequently, insurgent ethno-nationalism worsened insecurity, de-legitimized the status of the state and threatened its continued existence as a corporate entity; with dire consequences, until late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua granted general amnesty to those involved in violent ethno-nationalism in the Niger Delta on 25 June 2009. Against this backdrop, this study derived from a doctoral thesis submitted to the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, re-examines the achievements and prospects of ethno-nationalism in the Niger Delta. It argues that members of the political elite and few leaders and members of  the insurgent ethno-nationalist groups are the major beneficiaries of the struggle. Furthermore, with the use of Gramsci's theory of hegemony, it posits that if the causal factors that gave rise to ethno-nationalism are not tackled, counter-hegemonic forces will soon re-emerge in the region.

Keywords: Ethno-nationalism, hegemony, Niger Delta, Nigeria, political elite 

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