Placing Conflict : Religion and politics in Kaduna State, Nigeria

Abstract: Decentralisation and federalism are often said to mitigate conflict by better meeting the preferences of a heterogeneous population and demands for limited autonomy. But it is argued in this thesis that this perspective does not sufficiently address the ways in which conflict-ridden relations entangle processes across different scales ‒ local, regional as well as national. The aim of this thesis is to explain how it is that while decentralisation may contribute to national stability, it may simultaneously generate local conflict. This problem is analysed through a conflict in Kaduna State in north-central Nigeria where there have been outbreaks of violence between Hausa-Fulani Muslims and Christians of different ethnicities since the 1980s. Christian ethnic groups claim to be excluded from state benefits, while Muslim groups claim that Christians have undue influence over the state bureaucracy. The conflict feeds off ethnic and religious mobilisation. Expanded local political space further fuelled the conflict following the decentralisation that came with the shift from military to civilian rule in 1999. Decentralisation in Nigeria implies that the authorities should be associated with the majority ethnicity or religion in a specific territory. A localisation of politics accordingly raises the stakes in identity-based conflicts, especially as control of local institutions is necessary for inclusion in wider political processes. In Kaduna, this has led to demands for separating the state on a religious and ethnic basis. Actors make use of “scalar politics” to conform to or challenge boundaries set by the state. Social relations are associated with different boundaries.  Accordingly, decentralisation triggers conflicts on an identity basis, involving contestation over the hierarchy of scales. While national struggles between ethnic and religious groups may be subdued, conflicts play out locally as decentralisation in Nigeria makes religion and ethnicity a powerful tool for political mobilisation.