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De/Centralization in Nigeria, 1954–2020


Year published: 2022
Categories: Journal Article

Author / Authors:

  • Rotimi Suberu


Regional & Federal Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13597566.2022.2134350


Prevailing analyses highlight Nigeria’s transformation by ‘soldiers and oil’ from a decentralized to a hyper-centralized federation. Nuancing rather than repudiating such analyses, this systematic measurement of de/centralization in Nigeria over the 1954–2020 period demonstrates that centralization was partly rooted in the federation’s unitary colonial foundations and, thus, predated the advent of military autocracy. Furthermore, the country’s underlying cultural diversity and civilian political institutions exerted complex effects on intergovernmental dynamics, producing shifts in policies and institutional spheres as well as key moments that defied the federation’s increased centralization over time. Overall, the Nigerian federation’s devolutionary origins, civil/military cycles, economic vulnerabilities, and multi-ethnicity influenced its experiences with dynamic de/centralization.


  • Journal Article