The Limits of Postcolonial Democratisation: Decolonisation and the Persistence of Colonial Institutions in Nigeria
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In the early 1960s, Nigeria was seen as an example of successful decolonisation, and when civil war broke out in 1967, the conflict was simplified and misunderstood as interethnic or religious violence. In reality, the failure of electoral democracy was the result of a complex history in which colonial legacy played a formative role. Using Wunyabari Maloba’s concept of incomplete decolonisation, and source material consisting of colonial policy documents, correspondences and newspaper articles, this thesis explains how the persistence of colonial institutions inhibited the development of true and sustainable democracy in postcolonial Nigeria from 1960 to 1975. Tracing political institutions, imposed by the British during the 1950s, this thesis analyses to what extent these institutions persisted during the first fifteen years of independence in Nigeria, and assesses how compatible they are with democratic values. The British paternalistic methods of “building democracy” seemed successful on the outside, but behind the façade of electoral democracy, colonial attitudes and institutions transferred to the First Republic. Some important traits of British colonialism that persisted in Nigeria include the flawed system of federalism, the intolerant stance against political opponents, and the disregard for public opinion. The political system had authoritarianism, tribalism and exclusion built in due to its colonial roots, which led to internal colonialism, and inhibited national unity and democratic party politics. The colonial institutions slowly tore the country apart, resulting in the devastating Biafran War and a vicious cycle of authoritarianism.