News & events


The Roots of Political Instability in Nigeria

30 November 2009
12:30 - 13:00

Date :

30 November 2009

Time :

12:30 – 13:00


Dr. E.C. Ejiogu, Assistant Research Professor, Center for Innovations, Department of Sociology, University of Maryland, College Park, USA

The Roots of Political Instability in Nigeria analyses the pre-colonial authority patterns of the three principle people who make up the Nigerian super-state: the Hausa-Fulani, Ibo and Yoruba. It uses the framework from Harry Eckstein’s congruence theory, which states that stability and effectiveness of any government is shaped by societal patterns of authority and in particular, the closeness of fit between non-governmental authority patterns and those of the polity, i.e. the state or other governing unit, to analyse and compare the Hausa-Fulani’s highly autocratic state with the Igbo village-based participatory democracies, and the Yoruba’s “constitutional monarchies” based on popular participation and consent. Nineteenth century British rule in the Lagos colony originally was congruent with traditional Yoruba patterns, but from the 1890s onwards, colonial officials, following Lord Lugard’s lead, imposed autocratic authority patterns derived from those of the Hausa-Fulani to the entire Niger basin. The book’s use of theory drawn from political sociology to interpret the historical evolution of authority patterns and rule during this transition is exceptionally good. Its documentation of the nature and frequency of violent resistance to traditional and colonial rule is itself a major contribution, and provides strong support for the theoretical argument. 


The book then extends the analysis to the post-colonial period, showing that Yoruba and Igbo, including military officers from those people, continue to oppose the autocratic practices of the northern-dominated federal government. He shows, for example, that differential patterns of education and recruitment into the officer cops virtually ensure subsequent conflicts between men with sharply different norms about authority and governance.

The Roots of Instability in Nigeria will gain recognition as a major reinterpretation of Nigerian politics. The country’s 49-year old history of instability and corruption is not fully explained by failures of post-colonial institutional design, unequal distribution of resources or predatory rivalries among ethnic elites. All may be relevant, but are conditioned by and derived from a fundamental lack of congruence and consonance among authority norms and practices that extend from pre-colonial times to the present.

The book points out that similar dissonance among authority patterns characterises a number of other African states, not all of them and pre-empts future comparative research to test the author’s propositions elsewhere.

Dr Ejiogu is Assistant Research Professor in the Center for Innovations, Department of Sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and Adjunct Professor of sociology at the School of Professional Studies, Trinity University, Washington, DC, USA.  He holds a PhD in comparative sociology, military sociology, and political economy from the University of Maryland, College Park.  His research interests are in issues of state, state building, citizenship, development, national and international security particularly in Africa, and elsewhere in the non-European world.  He is well published in peer-reviewed journals and other publications.  He is also a well-traveled journalist and a columnist with Business Day (Lagos, Nigeria) where he’s currently on leave.

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