Trends of Migrant Political Organization in Nigeria

Trends of Migrant Political Organization in Nigeria

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English

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After a long period of neglect and apparent abandonment by many scholars, the study of ethnicity in Nigeria and other parts of Africa has been revived, and with as much vigor as that which attended its ascendancy in African studies in the 1960s. The reasons for the reawakening are not surprising: economic depression and consequent migration have forced people back to interest-begotten weapons like ethnicity, in the desperate struggle to survive; democratic processes have resurrected old unsettled issues of nationhood, power sharing and resource allocation, much of which was swept under the carpet by authoritarian regimes, or simply wished away. Civil wars and violent conflicts have heightened ethnic tension and conflicts in several states; and, of course, there is an increasing recourse to the ethnic weapon by major competitors for state power, some of whom openly condemned ethnicity in the past. All these have rekindled the fire of ethnicity, finally blowing off the safety-valve in countries like Côte d’Ivoire and the Benin Republic which were previously considered safe from ethnic poison!


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Trends of Migrant Political Organization in Nigeria

The Igbo in Kano

Eghosa E. Osaghae
  • Publisher : Institut français de recherche en Afrique
  • Year of publication : 1994
  • Published on OpenEdition Books : 4 April 2013
  • Serie : Dynamiques africaines
  • Electronic ISBN : 9791092312164

OpenEdition Books

http://books.openedition.org

Electronic reference:

OSAGHAE, Eghosa E. Trends of Migrant Political Organization in Nigeria: The Igbo in Kano. New edition [online]. Ibadan: Institut français de recherche en Afrique, 1994 (generated 17 December 2013). Available on the Internet: <http://books.openedition.org/ifra/887>. ISBN: 9791092312164.

Printed version:
  • ISBN : 9789782015273
  • Number of pages : ix-90

© Institut français de recherche en Afrique, 1994

Terms of use:
http://www.openedition.org/6540

Table of contents
  1. Acknowledgement

  2. Introduction

  3. I. Urban Migrants and Associational Ethnicity: Conceptual and theoretical perspectives

    1. ETHNICITY AND ASSOCIATIONAL ETHNICITY
    2. THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ASSOCIATIONAL ETHNICITY
    3. PUTTING MIGRANT ETHNIC EMPIRES IN PERSPECTIVE
  4. II. Historical and Sociological Background of Migrant Ethnicity in Kano

    1. SABON GARI
    2. MIGRANT ASSOCIATIONAL ETHNICITY IN KANO: Some Historical Insights
  5. III. Development and patterns of IGBO associational ethnicity in Kano

    1. IGBO MIGRANTS IN KANO
    2. ASSOCIATIONAL ETHNICITY
    3. THE POST-WAR IGBO COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
  6. IV. IGBO Migrant Ethnic Empire: The Eze IGBO

    1. THE CHANGING CHARACTER OF IGBO SETTLERS IN KANO
    2. THE EVOLUTION OF THE IGBO MIGRANT EMPIRE
    3. THE STRUCTURE AND FUNCTIONS OF THE MIGRANT EMPIRE
    4. THE CABINET (NDI ICHIE EZE)
  7. V. Conclusion

  1. Appendices

  2. References

Acknowledgement

1I acknowledge, with deep gratitude, the support of the following for the initiation, execution and completion of this project: The Institut Français de Recherche en Afrique (IFRA), Ibadan and its two successive directors with whom I have had the pleasure to work — Professors Bernard Caron and Georges Hérault, as well as its library and secretarial staff for facilitating the execution of the project. IFRA funded the research and deserves to be recognized for the contribution it is making to the growth of a new generation of social science research in Nigeria. I also wish to thank His Highness, Igwe Ogbonna Tennyson Nnadi, Eze Igbo III of Kano State, the members of his cabinet and the Igbo Community Association’s executive; in particular, Chief Larry Nweke, Chief Enendu and Chief Dan Ijezie. I am also grateful to the Oba Yoruba and the executive members of the Yoruba Community, Kano State, especially the principal secretary, who agreed to have an interview with me at very short notice. I also wish to acknowledge Ade Isumonah who read through the manuscripts. Finally, I thank my wife, Amen and our kids -Osahon and Noyosayi who bore the inconvenience of my absence during my research.

Introduction

1After a long period of neglect and apparent abandonment by many scholars, the study of ethnicity in Nigeria and other parts of Africa has been revived, and with as much vigor as that which attended its ascendancy in African studies in the 1960s. The reasons for the reawakening are not surprising: economic depression and consequent migration have forced people back to interest-begotten weapons like ethnicity, in the desperate struggle to survive; democratic processes have resurrected old unsettled issues of nationhood, power sharing and resource allocation, much of which was swept under the carpet by authoritarian regimes, or simply wished away. Civil wars and violent conflicts have heightened ethnic tension and conflicts in several states; and, of course, there is an increasing recourse to the ethnic weapon by major competitors for state power, some of whom openly condemned ethnicity in the past. All these have rekindled the fire of ethnicity, finally blowing off the safety-valve in countries like Côte d’Ivoire and the Benin Republic which were previously considered safe from ethnic poison!

2Researchers have responded well to the new situation, as even those scholars who were for a long time ideologioally opposed to ethnicity as a powerful explanatory variable, have become latter-day converts, and some have acknowledged their previous errors of judgement. As is to be expected, the return of ethnicity, as it were, has brought with it new challenges to the academic study of the subject. Two of such challenges are immediately relevant to the present research. First, the abandonment of the ethnic perspective also meant the abandonment of empirical research on the subject since the few scholars who remained in the field were preoccupied with responding to dismissals of the ethnic perspective at the level of theory (Osaghae, 1990). The result is that the data-base of ethnicity has become seriously dated, most of the empirical studies having been carried out in the 1950s and 1960s. The first challenge, therefore, is to update empirical knowledge of the subject. Following from this, the second challenge is to re-examine conventional wisdom in the light of recent situations. Societies have undergone phenomenal social, economic, and political transformations since the 1960s. In Nigeria, certainly the events and effects of the civil war, structural changes in the federation, deepening crises of political transition, as well as policies of economic and political liberalization, have brought about changes in the terrain of ethnicity. Can conventional wisdom still suffice?

3The subject of this research is well-suited to respond to challenges like these in interesting and dramatic ways. On 1 June, 1993, Barrister O.T. Nnadi emerged as the third Eze Igbo (Serikin Igbo) in Kano State, the first and second Eze Igbo having been installed in 1986 and 1989 respectively. This interesting development is, however, neither unique, nor of recent origin. In virtually all state capitals in the North, there is an Eze Igbo, though they are all simply emulating the Kano example. Even more interesting is the fact that this phenomenon is not restricted to the Igbo. The Yoruba also have an Oba (Seriki Yarubawa) in Kano, the first of whom was crowned and turbanned by the Emir of Kano in December, 1974. Today, virtually all local government capitals in Kano and Jigawa States have a Yoruba Oba, and it would seem that, because the Yoruba case predates that of the Igbo, the latter was influenced by it.

4This growing phenomenon, which is likely to spread to other migrant groups in the country in future, is what I call migrant ethnic empire building. Although the emergent empires exist side by side with conventional ethnic unions, and actually evolved from them, they cannot be accounted for and analyzed adequately within extant theories of associational ethnicity among strangers in urban areas. For one thing, these theories assume impermanenence in the domicility of migrants to the city and, for another, they assume that most associational activities are geared towards developing the ethnic homeland, to which migrants to the city remain attached and ultimately return (cf. Barnes, 1975; Southall, 1988; Trager, 1988; Little, 1969; Guglar and Flanagan, 1978). The emergence of migrant ethnic empires suggests otherwise: that many migrants are no longer bound by temporary domicility, but rather seek to create ethnic homelands away from home. The philosophy and functionality of associational ethnicity along these lines require new frameworks for analysis. Moreover, situated within the context of increasingly entrenched discrimination against non-indigenes in Nigeria, the significance of ethnic empire building for theories of national integration and the inherent suggestion of new forms of positive ethnicity can be better appreciated.

5The study which closely corresponds to our present inquiry is Abner Cohen’s Custom and Politics in Urban Africa: A study of Hausa migrants in Yoruba towns (1969). Indeed, Hausa migrant associations in these towns are examples of early forms of migrant ethnic empire building in Nigeria, something which Cohen ascribes to the tradition of political (feudal) and religious organization among the Hausa. This same tradition into which the Igbo, Yoruba and other groups have been enculturated into in many northern cities, provides one of the remote influences that encouraged the recourse to traditional organization. Cohen analyses the Hausa situation in Yoruba towns in terms of retribalization which he defines as

... a process by which a group from one ethnic category, whose members are involved in a struggle for power and privilege with the members of a group from another ethnic category, within the framework of a formal political system, manipulate some customs, values, myths, symbols, and ceremonials from their cultural tradition in order to articulate an informal political organization which is used as a weapon in that struggle (1969:2).

6It is clear from this that Cohen’s conceptual framework has a much relevance for our present study, especially as his primary concern is with the political dimensions of Hausa migrant empires. Nevertheless, the circumstances of the emergence and existence of the Igbo empire in Kano differ from that of Hausa migrants in both kind and degree. Two such differences may be stated. The Kano Igbo have a diffusionist orientation towards the host community, whereas the migrant Hausa have retained a large measure of exclusivity. Secondly, Igbo empire organization presents a very complex structure which includes town unions, a central or federated umbrella union, as well as a traditional cabinet; while by contrast, the Hausa empire studied by Cohen tended to be monolithic. These differences suggest that apart from being an advance over Cohen’s study, this study promises to extend knowledge of the variety and uses of migrant ethnic empires.

7The monograph is divided into five chapters. Chapter one presents the theoretical and conceptual perspectives within which associational ethnicity is analysed. Although migration is central to most of these perspectives, the major argument in the chapter is that this is not sufficient to explain associational ethnicity in cities. Such ethnicity is best analysed as a function of the urban milieu within which people from different ethnic groups find themselves, the prevalent strategies of ethnic action and, of course, the factor of whether migrants see themselves as temporary sojourners or as permanent settlers. Chapter two traces the remote and immediate roots, changing patterns and orientation of migrant ethnicity and concludes that Kano’s long history as a commercial and Islamic centre has made it a cosmopolitan city of long standing. The chapter also examines the traditional practice of quartering strangers outside the holy city and argues that the eventual creation of sabon gari for Southern Nigerian (Christian) migrants was consistent with this pattern especially as, under colonial rule, the major battle in Kano and other emirates in the North was how to keep the emirates safe for Islam. As is very well known, it was the foisting of one national state and economy on many different polities under colonial rule that facilitated and encouraged mass migrations especially between the North and the South. Chapter three examines the development of associational ethnicity amongst the Igbo in Kano, taking the civil war as the line of demarcation between the attitude of being strangers before the war, and of claiming a right to settle in Kano after the war. It is in the context of these changing attitudes that the evolution of the migrant Igbo ethnic empire headed by the Eze Igbo is analysed in chapter four. In the concluding chapter, an attempt is made at formulating a framework for analyzing settler associational ethnicity as distinct from migrant associational ethnicity.

I. Urban Migrants and Associational Ethnicity: Conceptual and theoretical perspectives

1Associational ethnicity is one of the most studied dimensions of contemporary ethnicity in Africa. Although anthropologists and sociologists interested in how ‘traditional’ structures respond to ‘modernization’ in the process of social change which dates back to the colonial situation, have taken the lead in this area, the subject of associational ethnicity has attracted a wide variety of disciplinary interests. Political scientists, geographers, economists and social historians have studied ethnic associations which, because of their all-encompassing functions, are of interest to the various disciplines. It can, in fact, be argued that the study of associational ethnicity has progressed to a point where only a multi-disciplinary approach can be considered appropriate. The other remarkable thing about the academic study of associational ethnicity is that notwithstanding its popularity, much of it is undertaken within ‘worn-out’ theoretical frameworks which have dated empirical bases. This has limited the robustness of theories on associational ethnicity. Many scholars in the area seem to have come to a ‘nothing else’ position, and are content to engage in what I call a data-fit analysis which involves putting new wine in old bottles, as it were. What this study attempts to do is to throw new light on the subject, to generate new data and seek new categories of explanation. This chapter is devoted to straightening out matters of conceptualization, theory, and methodology.

ETHNICITY AND ASSOCIATIONAL ETHNICITY

2Ethnicity exists at the individual (micro), sub-group and group (macro) levels, and can be analysed at these different levels. However, the micro and macro levels are so recursive that analysis of one involves the other, of necessity, and vice versa. The reasons for this have to do with the fact that individual ethnicity is the ‘building block’ of sub-group and group ethnicity (and vice versa) and, also, the fact that at every level, ethnicity hinges on exclusive ethnic identity which, by definition, is a shared identity. Erikson's (1968:22) definition of identity clearly brings out this linkage: identity is ‘a process located in the core of the individual, and yet also in the core of his communal culture, a process which establishes, in fact, the identity of these two identities'. Making a similar linkage, Young (1976:20) asserts that ‘the quest for belonging and self-esteem is pursued through communal group affiliation. Fear, anxiety, and insecurity at the individual level can be reduced within the womb of the ethnic collectivity; at the same time, threats to the security of the group provide a mobilizing imperative for its members’.

3When an individual decides to employ the ethnic strategy, he invokes group identity, implying that every individual ethnic situation has the potential for becoming a sub-group or group situation. In like manner, though more obviously, group ethnicity is possible only when group differences are invoked and, because group identity is an attribute of members of the group, group ethnicity invariably involves sub-group and individual ethnicity. Sub-group and individual ethnicity involve different sub-groups and individuals supporting group action in varying degrees, with some refusing to support it. This character of group, sub-group and individual ethnicity is crucial for the analysis of associational ethnicity which, by definition, hinges on group ethnicity. The point is that, without examining the individual and sub­group dimensions of associational ethnicity, one is not likely to come to grips with how group interests are determined and sustained.

4What is ethnicity? It is a derivative of the ethnic group which may ensue when two or more ethnic group (identities) are involved in a competitive setting. As Burgess (1977:266) puts it, ‘Ethnicity is a synthetic term and cannot be understood, nor has it any meaning, apart from ethnic groups. Ethnic groups are, of course, the sine qua non of ethnicity . . .’ The definition of the ethnic group is, thus, an adjunct of the definition of ethnicity. An ethnic group may be defined as a group whose members differentiate themselves from others on the basis of certain common objective criteria like language, culture and territory, and subjective criteria like the myth of common origin or what Nagata (1976) calls the ‘charter’ myth, which provides the basis for forging a common destiny for people who can lay no claim to actual kinship. Variations exist in the characterization of ethnic groups in different parts of the world (in Africa, for example, language and territory are emphasized), but everywhere, ethnic group identities are the basis on which people differentiate themselves in the struggle for power and resources. As it were, they are the pedestal for ethnic mobilization (Adam and Giliomee, 1979).

5Ethnic groups also vary in size and heterogeneity, and these factors affect their effectiveness in the struggle with others. In terms of size, ethnic categories involving the generalization of ethnic identities to approximate large political or administrative structures like regions and exceptionally large ethnic groups, which are sometimes referred to as ‘nationalities’ to distinguish them from the smaller groups. At the other end are medium-scale and minority groups which, in relation to larger groups in the same polity tend to be disadvantaged and dominated in the struggle for resources. The size and ‘power’ of ethnic groups are, however, relative, not absolute, meaning mat a group is large or small, dominant or dominated, depending on the configuration of groups and the patterns of their relationships in a particular country. The tendency is for ethnic groups to seek large-scale organizations to make the ethnic strategy more effective. This can be done through the formation of pan-ethnic unions or organizations which bring together otherwise disparate groups but which are related by language, cultural or religious similarities, proximity, or even common problems. This tendency, which is widespread in Africa, does not detract from the fact that ethnic groups are primordial groups. Otite (1990:19) describes them as ‘natural groups with ready-made cleavages for man-made conflicts and alliances within a wider state system’.

6In terms of heterogeneity, many groups regarded as single units, especially large-scale ones like Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Akan, Ewe, Kikuyu, Shona, Ndebele and Baganda, are actually amalgams of sub­groups which are differentiated by dialect, subcultural and, in some cases, administrative divisions. This fact, which is often glossed over in analyses of inter-group relations, affects ethnic identity and mobilization in important ways. As explained by the anthropological theory of segmentary opposition, sub-group ethnicity makes ethnic conflicts and alliances fluid. Depending on the issues at stake and the level of mobilized action, the Ijebu, Ekiti, Egba, Awori, Oyo, Ijesha and other Yoruba sub-groups are interlocked in conflict though at other times they rally round a common Yoruba cause (for further elaboration of the theory of segmentary opposition, see Mercier, 1956 and Otite, 1976). Sub-group ethnicity does not, however, follow macro lines like dialect groups. At the most inclusive level, sub-group ethnicity can follow much narrower lines like ward, village, or district boundaries, as well as such ethnic categories as states, provinces or regions. In view of all this, it is always necessary to specify the level of ethnic interest one is interested in analyzing. In particular, the extent of heterogeneity of the group is an important element in analyzing ethnic organization.

7Ethnicity refers to the corpus of relationships among people from different ethnic groups who decide to base the relationships on these differences. These relationships are mostly thought of in terms of conflicts because of the more conspicuous nation- destroying capacity of and problems engendered by ethnicity, but they also involve consensus. Conflict and consensus both arise in the struggle amongst members of these groups for power and resources in the polity. There is a tendency to define ethnicity as a group phenomenon. For example, Otite (1990:60) defines it as ‘the contextual discrimination by members of one group against others ...’ This view is only partially correct because, as we saw earlier on, ethnicity exists at both the micro and macro levels, and this fact should be reflected in its definition. Accordingly, we may define ethnicity as relationships which involve the invocation of ethnic identities amongst actors (individuals or groups) struggling for power and resources in a polity. This definition not...