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Nigeria and the politics of African decolonization in the United Nations 1960-1994 : historical analysis and implications for Nigeria's contemporary political ambitions.

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This study is an investigation of the role of the Nigerian state in African decolonization politics in the United Nations (UN) during the period 1960 to 1994 and its implications for Nigeria’s contemporary political ambitions. Against this background, the study was carried out in both the historical and contemporary contexts in order to be able to draw the link between Nigeria’s past and present political activities. The historical contexts entailed an analysis of the issues which engendered the politicization of African decolonization in the UN such as the Cold War, the Congo crisis - which was also fuelled by the Cold War animosities; the intra-African power rivalry among member states of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa in 1960 which attracted widespread indignation across the world. The latter ensured that African problems were given special attention in the UN in 1960 and in the years which followed. Specifically, the study argues based on the preponderance of archival sources and relevant scholarly resources that the deep–rooted worldwide rivalry for world dominance which ensued between the defunct Soviet Union, the United States and allies respectively shortly after the end of World War Two ushered in a period of politicization of the African decolonization process in the UN from 1960 onwards. The study focuses on Nigeria’s role in African decolonization politics as well as its advocacy on the colonial problem within the period aforementioned. It also examines the roles played by regional groupings such as the Latin American group, the Afro-Asian groups and other member states of the UN in calling for decolonisation. The contemporary contexts on the other hand, based on empirical data, analysed the implications of Nigeria’s roles as outlined above for the country’s present ambition for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) permanent membership seat. It critiques the arguments made over the years by the Nigerian governments, diplomats and scholars with regards to Nigeria’s historical credentials which many believe should be enough to qualify the country to represent Africa on the UNSC. This study argues that Nigeria’s greatest credentials for the UNSC seat lie not in its records of service to the African cause but in the combination of that record with an appreciable domestic condition which is epitomized by good governance, protection of human rights, sound and enduring democratic institutions, dedicated political leadership, zero tolerance for corruption and functional judiciary in the current context. Nigeria’s success also depends on ensuring security on the home front, tackling mass impoverishment and working towards a robust economy. Leveraging on the realist political theory, the study demonstrably established that Nigeria’s role on issues of African decolonization was primarily and strategically driven by its self-interest which was the preconceived desire to play a dominant role in African affairs. The findings of this study show that Nigeria’s position is not guaranteed; neither are those of the other contenders such as South Africa –a country with which Nigeria is juxtaposed in this study.


Ph. D. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2014.


United Nations--Nigeria., United Nations--Africa., Decolonization--Africa., Theses--Political science.