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State, Civil Society and Political Change: The Dialectics of Democratisation in Nigeria

This thesis is a dialectical analysis of democratisation in Nigeria focusing especially on the dynamics of social forces operating within the terrains of state and civil society. It revisits the structural link between state and civil society and explores the processes of interaction in these sites between agents contesting the project of democratisation. The study critiques the dominant liberal democracy epistemology and proceeds on the assumption that democracy is a continuing project whose development depends on the outcome of struggles between contesting social forces in the political field. Grounding the mutual penetration between state and civil society in a dialectical perspective, the study links the interactions of political agents with the divergent norms and practices which they struggle to embed in society. More concretely, the work empirically explores the trajectories of struggles to achieve conditions of democratic citizenship in Nigeria and the setbacks to these efforts. In particular, examination of this struggle focuses on political engagements in the contexts of the press, organised labour struggles and organised engagements by political activist groups that pursue dichotomous aims around democratisation. The work tries to find out how these dialectical struggles generate progresses and reverses to democracy in Nigeria’s colonial and post-colonial history. Using qualitative analysis the thesis proceeds from a theoretical plane and pulls together some theories of dialectical relations to construct a neo-Gramscian conceptual tool, which is applied to study Nigeria as a concrete historical instance. Applying the analytical concept of ‘relations of forces’ as a specific use of the dialectical approach, the work explores authoritarian domination in the Nigerian state as a function of the alliance of dominant forces in the integral state (government and civil society) and the relations of these dominant forces with contending social forces within the same terrains. It investigates the strategy of the ruling forces towards the political, civil and social rights that define democratic citizenship and how counterforces engage the state in various contexts for the emergence of a fully democratised civil society. The study also examines the challenges of democratisation connected with its confinement to the attainment of the minimalists’ empirical referents of democracy. Falling back on historical materials, the study focuses on the struggles for democracy in Nigeria’s colonial and post-colonial epochs in relation to the experiences of journalistic actors, organised labour and other organised activists in the political field vis a vis the alliance of forces that controls the Nigerian state. The analysis draws materials mostly from both primary documents and secondary interpretive ones to illustrate the dialectics of democratic struggles in Nigeria. The study reveals that the continuing suspension of democracy in Nigeria draws from the tendency of the ruling forces to subdue democratic forces with coercion. Also, forces controlling the state penetrate the space of civil society with the use of sponsored agents to undermine genuine democratic movements. In addition, in the mediation of crises, the state apparatuses are sometimes applied in a partisan manner to create repressive institutions that undermine democratic progress. In that connection, the encounter of political forces in the executive state and civil society has yet to result in a net movement towards democratisation. Thus democratic forces located in state and civil society are not able to embed and extend democratic institutions, norms and outcomes because the coalition of the ruling forces in Nigeria undermine these outcomes and continues to maintain a superior margin of power over the democratic forces.
Type of thesis
Nwosu, B. U. (2013). State, Civil Society and Political Change: The Dialectics of Democratisation in Nigeria (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8636
University of Waikato
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