Ethical Implications of Identity Politics for Good Governance in 21st Century Nigeria

Ethical Implications of Identity Politics for Good Governance in 21st Century Nigeria

Essien D. Essien (University of Uyo, Nigeria)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3677-3.ch006
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Contemporary empirical studies on identity question and political identity reveal that numerous political challenges revolve around the questions of identity. Identity thesis engenders a landscape of tremendous diversity and variation, which poses political problems when there is too much or too little of it. It manifests itself when there is a shift towards cultural diversity, largely due to upswing in migration and globalization. Given the multi-ethnic configuration of Nigeria characterized by heightened identity politics, a scenario of acute crisis of identity is inexorable. This study, therefore, examines why societies are today increasingly characterized by ethnic, racial, and religious diversity, which creates room for various forms of identity. Drawing upon extensive contemporary research and literature on diversity and identity politics, the study adopts qualitative descriptive methodology with content analysis curvature. Findings reveal that Nigerian political behavior, socio-economic relationship, and governance are driven by identity politics and ethnic solidarity.
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Despite the extremely wide disparities in values existing between different parts of the world today, there has been a growing global sensitivity and concern with regards to the resurgence of identity politics, especially the negative forms of identity politics which can result in violent conflict and killings, struggle for recognition, as well as problem of discrimination. The achievements and advancement made so far in the area of science and technology, globalization as well as improvement in the economic and social sphere seem endangered by the anxiety about the rising tide of negative forms of identity politics such as ethnic, religious, communal, and resources conflicts and their potentially explosive consequences (Ambe-Uva, 2010). It is evident from the scholarly attention given to address this subject matter that there is a strong suspicion between today’s identity politics and political irresponsibility. This is apparent in the particularistic and exclusionary form of identity politics that has intensified in recent years within and among nations. This is known to be responsible for some of the most egregious violations of human rights as well as international humanitarian law and, in several instances, of elementary standards of human dignity resulting in conflicts.

Realistically, there is a growing prominence in public discourse regarding the question of identity and identity politics in contemporary public debate. This however involves the issue of major transformations that has occurred in the way we live, work and migrate to settle in other places and/or do business. Scholars in political science, sociology and social anthropology, especially those of the modern theoretical orientation, have undertaken extensive studies on the role of identity in politics, as well as the task of ethnicity and communalism in the politics of the so called emergent nation-states (Ari, 2010), but their focus had not been on the subject of identity and identity politics as such. Similarly, studies on identity politics have long largely been ignored by ethicist, as well as the radical and neo-Marxist scholars and researchers of Africa and the African political economy. Thus, as Calhoun has aptly noted in general terms, for quite some time “we had managed to maintain for the most part theories that obscured the importance of identity politics rumour analyses…” (1994:4). This was partly because of the irrational fear factor among a certain category of scholars about undertaking any intellectual work perceived as capable of “undermining the process of nation-state formation”, and the post-colonial state’s national integration project (Mustapha, 1992:1), and also partly because of a pre-occupation with what can be termed as excessive “class-determinism” in most of the radical scholarship’s which attempt to explain the dynamics of African politics and development. However, this situation is now changing as attested to by the increasing attention which is being paid to the identity issue. As Bangura has noted, “the subject of identity has gained prominence in recent years as dominant theoretical frameworks prove inadequate in explaining the crisis of development and the complexities of present day conflicts of identity politics”(1994:1).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Nationality: Nationality refers to the status of belonging to a particular nation, whether by birth or naturalization. It constitutes a legal relationship between an individual person and a state. Nationality affords the state jurisdiction over the person and affords the person the protection of the state. A person's nationality is where they are a legal citizen, usually in the country where they were born. What these rights and duties are varies from state to state.

Political culture: Political culture is the set of attitudes, beliefs, and sentiments which give order and meaning to a political process and which provide the underlying assumptions and rules that govern behavior in the political system. It encompasses both the political ideals and the operating norms of a polity.

Civic Identity: Civic identity involves the formation and negotiation of personal and group identities as they relate to presence, role, and participation in public life. Civic identity is particularly important and a factor in civic engagement and participation in democratic deliberation. It includes experiences, beliefs, and emotions concerning membership, rights, and participation in self-governing activities.

Citizenship: Citizenship means membership in a political community. As membership, citizenship confers the status of equality among all citizens with respect to the rights and duties that the status implies. Citizenship also signifies a form of active behavior towards the community, which constitutes the good and responsible citizen. The concept of citizenship indicates the status of a person recognized under the custom or law as being a legal member of a sovereign state or belonging to a nation. The idea of citizenship has been defined as the capacity of individuals to defend their rights in front of the governmental authority. A citizen is a participatory member of a political community. Citizenship is gained by meeting the legal requirements of a national, state, or local government. A nation grants certain rights and privileges to its citizens. In return, citizens are expected to obey their country's laws and defend it against its enemies. In contemporary time, a person may have multiple citizenships.

National Identity: National identity is a person's identity or a person’s sense of belonging to one state or to one nation. It is the sense of a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, and language.

Political Community: The term political community refers to a public-legal community different in kind from nonpolitical communities and associations such as families, churches, businesses, and many kinds of voluntary organizations. The constitution of a political community must ensure that all citizens can participate freely in the political process through effective democratic representation. All citizens should also enjoy equal treatment in the rights, privileges, and benefits of the republic’s commonwealth, for the sake of the common good.

Democratic Values: Democratic values refer to those values that reflect a society’s democratic way of life. It includes values like respect, equality, fairness, and freedom, etc.

Identity Politics: Identity politics is a political approach and analysis based on people prioritizing the concerns most relevant to their particular racial, religious, ethnic, sexual, social, cultural or other identity, and forming exclusive political alliances with others while moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.

Civil Rights: Civil rights are an expansive and significant set of rights that are designed to protect individuals from unfair treatment; they are the rights of individuals to receive equal treatment and to be free from unfair treatment or discrimination in a number of settings such as education, employment, housing, political affiliation, privacy, religion, physical and mental integrity, life, and safety; protection from discrimination on grounds such as race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, color, age, ethnicity, and disability.

Political Conflict: Political conflict indicates a scenario where behavior of an actor(s) manifests itself in a confrontational way to promote their interests and try to stop other actors from obtaining their objectives.

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