Communal Conflicts in Central Nigeria: A Political Ecology Perspective
The extant literature on communal conflict has been characterised by two fundamental epistemological pitfalls: (1) terminological chaos arising from unsystematic definition, clarification, and operationalisation of basic concepts, and (2) paradigmatic obfuscation resulting from the conflicting theoretical perspectives on the subject matter.
With reference to Nigeria, the phenomenon of communal conflict has been largely associated with the dialectics of identity politics, with disproportionate emphasis on the ethno-religious convolutions. Contemporary anecdotal and scholarly narratives on communal conflict in Nigeria have, to a large extent, mirrored the essential deficiencies of the extant corpus of knowledge, as indicated above. Hence, there is a prevailing but implausible thinking that communal conflicts in Nigeria are essentially social-cultural and, in effect, identity based.
There is a pressing need to re-interrogate the existing conceptual and theoretical perspectives on communal conflicts in Nigeria vis-à-vis their analytical utility with a view to advancing scholarly knowledge in that respect. To this end, this chapter contends that, although communal conflicts in Nigeria have, more often than not, been symptomatic of antagonistic ethnic, religious, sectional, or clannish relations, the root causes of such conflicts have been well beyond these social-cultural categories. To be sure, ethnic or religious consciousness, or any differences to that effect, can hardly be salient enough to bring about communal conflicts. Same goes for all dimensions of primordial identity. What happens in reality is that primordial social-cultural factors serve as veritable ‘faultlines’ for catalysing communal conflicts, especially when the latter is accorded strategic partisan saliency through elites’ politicisation. This argument is buttressed from the standpoint of Nasarawa and Plateau cases.
KeywordsCommunal conflicts Identity politics Ethnicity and religion
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