Nationalism And Self-Determination: A New Twist In Separatist Agitations – AFK Adasu

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    Nationalism And Self-Determination: A New Twist In Separatist Agitations By Afk Adasu

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    The principle of self-determination poses several questions one of which rests on whether or not there can ever be an end to claims to new territories. In this domain the writer takes a closer look at the theory of nationalism vis a vis self – determination with a view to analyzing the two subjects in relation to claims to territories by individuals or groups of individuals in the exercise of their right to self-determnation.

    It is not clear whether the concept of nationalism is in direct opposite to self – determination. Nationalism as a concept is extremely complex. It is an ideological movement aimed at attaining and maintaining the identity, unity and autonomy through social cohesion. Nationalism encompasses actions that the members of a nation take in seeking to sustain their political sovereignty.

    It also relates to the attitude that the members of a nation have when they care about their identity as members of that nation. Nationality thus raises questions about the concept of a nation or national identity. Nations and national identity may be defined in terms of common origin, ethnicity or cultural ties.

    Nationalism typically features the supremacy of the nation’s claims over other claims to individual allegiance and full sovereignty as the persistent aim of its political program. Territorial sovereignty has traditionally been seen as a defining element of state power and essential for nationhood. Nationalism concerns the mapping between the ethno-cultural domain and that of a political organization. Sophisticated pro – nationalists tend to stress cultural membership only. Classical nationalism is not only concerned with the creation of a state but also with its maintenance. Nationalism is sometimes used to promote claims for the expansion of a state. Expansion is often justified by appeal to the unfinished business of bringing liberally all members of the nation under one state and sometimes by territorial and resource interests. Nationalism therefore can be equated with patriotism.

    The writer therefore is of the view that nationalism may offer checks and balances over the threat posed by the principle of self-determination.

    In view of the continuing confusion surrounding the right to self-determination, especially the use of violence due to geopolitical force, there is the need for restraint in this field. It would appear that the drive for self-determination, which has acted as the principal inspiration for many modern day nationalists, challenges the legitimacy of the state by placing in question its claim to represent the popular will of the people.

    To sum it all, self-determination refers to the right of a particular group of people to freely determine and control their economic, political or socio-cultural destinies. Nationalism on the other hand refers to the projection of identity and unity through social cohesion and autonomy.

    The two concepts when closely examined appear to be extremely complex. The writer therefore opines that nationalism is the nucleus of self-determination. That explains why states which hitherto were separated owing to political expedience at that time are seeking to be unified. The experiences of the Russian Federation and the unification by the Eastern and Western Germany points to this assumption.

    Some academic commentators have argued that the Nigerian civil war which the Federal troops fought to maintain the unity of Nigeria belongs to this domain.The fight against Boko Haram insurgents which challenges the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria clearly fits into this reasoning.

    The quest for the creation of entities may be regulated to reduce tensions caused by the exercise of the right to self-determination.It is the humble opinion of the writer that nationalism will continue to act as a barrier to secessionist seeking entities therefore putting a check on the exercise of the right to self-determination.

    AFK ADASU Ph.D (Law) BL. is a senior military officer in the Nigerian army currently seconded to the UN peace keeping force in Sudan

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