The political economy of Nigeria's relentless conflict

E. Wayne Nafziger


This article considers Nigeria's continuing conflict since independence, providing a valuable case study that illustrates the complexity and specificity of the factors and processes that engender conflict within countries. It argues that a major source of this conflict has been the domination of the Federation by the traditional ruling Fulani aristocracy and their allies in the Northern Region, who controlled rents from petroleum in the Delta. It discusses how the British establishment of a tripartite regional structure during colonialism enabled the traditional aristocracy to control the North, with a majority of Nigeria's population; the Northern victories in the clashes over census design; the dominance of petroleum in government revenue and foreign exchange; the negative post-1983 growth amid cycles of boom and bust; and the resulting urgency of the high-stakes rent seeking for controlling mining revenue paid by multinational corporations. Despite the expansion from three regions in 1960 to 36 states in 1996, the lopsided power of Northern elites has remained and so have the conflicts.

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