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One important area in conflict studies which has not been given adequate attention in the literature is intra or sub-ethnic conflict. Inadequate research in this area is further exacerbated by the paucity of literature on the relationship between politics and conflict especially at intra-ethnic level. The study prompted by these gaps, therefore, interrogated the impact of politics on clan identity and conflicts; examined the relationship between intra and inter-party clashes and communal unrest; and analyzed the relationship between economic and socio-cultural variables and conflicts in Ebiraland. The study adopted qualitative and quantitative techniques to capture the nature of conflicts in the area. The research method encapsulated the use of survey which involved questionnaire administration, and complemented with interview and focus group discussion. The study came up with the following findings among others: while colonialism laid the foundation of communal conflicts in Ebiraland, political competition and other economic and socio-cultural factors especially from 1979 intensified the conflicts. The Study also found that, an average Ebira is pugilistic and tends to display aggressive tendency at minor provocation. It further identified a relationship between the unequal and lopsided political structure of Kogi State and violence in Ebiraland. The politicization of the existing cultural homogeneity by some political elements using as canon fodders the large number of unemployed youths was also discovered as a major trigger of conflict. Accordingly, the study recommended the need for youth mass employment; government regulatory measure on cultural activities; rotation of key political offices and justiciable distribution of resources and amenities among the ethnic groups in Kogi State. The study concluded that adherence to the proffered suggestions would mitigate the occurrence of conflict in Ebiraland.
1.1 Background to the Study
Politics is concerned with how policies and laws are formulated, executed and implemented. This view is shared by Duverger (1972 cited in Ajayi and Ogoma, 2012) as the author equates the study of politics to the study of state and exercise of power in governmental institutions. In addition, central to political activities is the allocation of values. Which is why Easton, (1965) contends that politics is basically concerned with the allocation of values. Resources are distributed to members of a society through politics.
It is important to note that conflict is an element of politics. This is because competition for political power among individuals and groups aimed at controlling and distributing scarce resources, most often, is violent-ridden (Easton 1965; Ball 1977; Harris 1979). The interplay of politics and conflict in Nigeria is worrisome. Little wonder that Obasanjo (2002:50-51) asserts that “we fight and sometimes shed blood to achieve and retain political power because for us in Nigeria, the political kingdom has for too long been the gateway to the economic kingdom”. In the same vein, Omoweh (2012) opines that politics in Nigeria is still zero-sum and brutish. This is because political leadership resorts to violence at all levels of political competition in order to remain in power. Political elites fight fiercely to penetrate the state, access its political power and retain it at all cost once it is captured because politics is a lucrative business and a dominant means of accumulation of wealth. Furthermore, Omoweh and Okanya (2005:303) note that “political competition for the control of the state and its political power is now a bloody warfare as the state holds the key to wealth. This explains why those who are in control of the state‟s political power hold on to it by all means and at all cost. Herein lies the root causes of communal restiveness”.
The above lends credence to the assertion by Aristotle that “man is by nature a political animal” (cited in Rodee et al, 1983:2). The import of this is that the essence of social existence is politics and that two or more men interacting together are invariably involved in political relationship. To Aristotle, man can only find
fulfilment, access available resources, influence others to accept their views through political interaction with others in an institutionalized setting (the state). Hence, it can be argued that the path to state power that serves as a veritable platform for self-expression and fulufilment is often ridden with violence because of the nature of competition for political power.
It is important to note that Nigeria is not the only country suffused with conflict; in fact, conflict has been humanity‟s unending affliction, and this calls for great concern. Rupia (1991 cited inWorkshop on Disarmament, 1999) puts it more bluntly that as long as people and nations pursue different and conflicting interests, there will always be disagreements, disputes and conflict. This is also political because politics denotes competition for political authority and the control of scarce resources which necessarily generates tension between interests. Hence, conflict may express itself violently when a political system(s) fails to manage conflicting interests (Easton 1965, Ball 1977, Harris, 1979).
Shaw and Wong (1989) (cited in Hund, 2001) estimate that peace comprised only eight percent of the entire recorded history of mankind. Over the last 5600 years, there have been 14500 wars. Only ten of one hundred and eighty-five generations have known uninterrupted peace. Mankind has managed to achieve only two hundred and sixty eight years without war in the past thirty four centuries (Hund, 2001). But these authors failed to explain how they came up with these figures.
Indeed, since the United Nations (UN) was formed in 1945, more than one hundred
(100) major conflicts have occurred in the world, leaving more than twenty million (20,000,000) people dead, several millions wounded, with over seventeen million
(17,000,000) refugees and twenty million (20,000,000) displaced persons (Ghali, 1992; Nwolise, 2004).
The continent of Africa appears to be the theater of conflict of the globe, going by the frequency of violent conflict in the area. No wonder Osaghae (2005) contends that Africa has been portrayed as having the reputation as the world‟s leading theater of conflict, war, poverty, disease and instability. Consequently, it is not out of place that
scholars of ethnicity and conflict management often regard Africa as a major laboratory for experimentation and theory building. Conflict triggers are multidimensional, ranging from historical animosities traceable to land tenure system, chieftaincy issues and other cultural practices cum colonial legacies, to factors rooted in complex post-colonial realities birthing poor socio-economic conditions. Unfortunately, West Africa is among the world‟s most unstable regions. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote d‟Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, and others have been embroiled in web of conflicts in the last decade, which turned many people to refugees, rebels, and arms spill across porous borders of Africa. Nigeria, Mali and Niger also have been plagued by internal conflicts that have vitiated their capability to see to the security of their citizenry (Adekeye, 2004).
It is necessary to understand the fact that although conflict in Africa and in other places may be attributed to lots of factors which include colonial legacies, identity politics, cultural differences and resource struggle, to mention just a few. However, the fact still remains that politics is a major source of conflict. Clausewitz (1976 cited in Dunning, 2011) asserts that the only source of war is politics because war is simply a continuation of political intercourse with the addition of other means. Before there can be war it is a matter of necessity there must be conflict(s) because conflict prepares the ground for war.
Barron et al (2004) note that many developing countries are afflicted by high level of communal and inter-communal conflicts that do not take the form of civil war, but may yet be the source of significant destruction of livelihood and material property . Ikelegbe (2003) opines that Nigeria is today suffused with communal, ethnic, ethno - religious and political conflicts that often manifest in ferocious and very destructive violence. In the same vein, Imobighe (2003) avers that the frequency of inter-communal violence in Nigeria has brought it to the front burner of political discuss.
The situation has assumed a dangerous dimension since the beginning of Nigeria‟s Fourth Republic on May 29, 1999. Within the first three years of democratic rule in Nigeria, the country has witnessed not less than forty violent communal or ethnic conflicts, while some old ones had gained additional potency. These include: Zango-
Kataf in Kaduna State; Tiv-Jukun in Wukari, Taraba State; Ogoni-Adoni in Rivers State; Chamber-Ketub in Taraba State; Itshekiri-Ijaw/Urhobo in Delta State; Ife-Modakeke in Osun State; Aguleri-Umuleri in Anambra; Yoruba-Hausa community in Shagamu, Ogun State; Ijaw-Ilaje conflict in Ondo State; the intermittent clashes in Kano, Kano State; Bassa-Egbura in Nassarawa State; Eleme-Okrika in River State; Hausa Fulani-Sawaya in Bauchi State; Fulani-Irigwe and Yelwa-Shendam, both in Plateau State; and the Hausa-Yoruba clashes in Idi-Araba in Lagos State. Ethnic and inter-communal conflicts have permeated the country in such a way that there is hardly any part of the country that has not been affected (Imobighe, 2003).
The Federal Government has increased security in some of these communities, but government authorities have failed to break the cycle of killings by not prosecuting those responsible for these crimes. In all, only few cases of perpetrators have been brought to book (Human Right Watch, 2011). Over the years, various committees and commissions of inquiry have been set up by the Federal Government to examine the issues generating conflict, but their reports and occasional government white papers, have mostly been shelved.
It is pertinent to state that the so called ethnic, religious, communal, inter-communal clashes and so on most often have political colouration. This is because politicians frequently are in the habit of exploiting ethnic, religious and other social divides to canvas for support during elections or protest their defeat which may results in intra or inter group conflicts. That is why elections which are an important feature of politics are always ridden with conflicts and violence. A reflection on past elections in Nigeria brings to the fore the indisputable fact that, violence has become the political culture of Nigeria since independence (Inokoba and Maliki, 2011).
Nigeria has conducted eight general elections since independence i
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