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  • Contesting Multiculturalism: Federalism and Unitarism in Late Colonial Nigeria

    Wale Adebanwi

    Chapter from the book: Ashcroft R. & Bevir M. 2019. Multiculturalism in the British Commonwealth: Comparative Perspectives on Theory and Practice.


    Chapter 9 traces the history of cultural diversity in Nigeria, showing how it is intimately connected to colonial forms of rule and the influence of these on negotiations around independence. The chapter shows that the constitution adopted during decolonization was largely the result of British practices of rule which constructed not just the country itself, but also the discourses through which the indigenous groups understood each other. This created an overall understanding of multiculturalism as a “menace,” and a broader suspicion of polycentric government. The compromised form of federalism that resulted was based on the existing administrative regions, which became competed with the nation as loci of loyalty. The institutionalization of a tripartite balance of power was inherently unstable, and glossed over much greater underlying diversity in any event. The intersection of British colonial governance and cultural diversity thus contributed to the following civil war, only after which arose a more stable form of devolved government that better reflects Nigeria’s vast diversity.

    How to cite this chapter
    Adebanwi, W. 2019. Contesting Multiculturalism: Federalism and Unitarism in Late Colonial Nigeria. In: Ashcroft R. & Bevir M (eds.), Multiculturalism in the British Commonwealth. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.73.i

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

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    Additional Information

    Published on July 12, 2019