Theory and practice of civil society in Nigeria
What does the idea of civil society suggest in Nigeria? What does actually existing civil society look like. How do the notion(s) and reality of civil society in Nigeria relate to postulations in both global and indigenous literatures. These are the three critical problems that this thesis investigates. While the global literature variously denies, misunderstands, and ultimately misrepresents the reality of civil society in Nigeria, the Nigerian literature tends to perpetuate the same misrepresentation by uncritically apotheosising it. This study corrects the misapprehension in the two categories of analysis by attempting to show civil society in Nigeria in all its conceptual and actual complexity. In the process, significant insights into the nature of civil society, the state, and the market in Nigeria are generated. At the core of the thesis are two in-depth case studies which seek to exemplify the moral and thematic ambivalence of the idea of civil society in Nigeria. While one case study, an analysis of citizens' mass boycott of mobile phone services, shows up the 'civil' dimension of civil society, the other, an investigation of the protest spawned by the Miss World 2002 beauty pageant, exposes its 'uncivil' aspect. Drawing on these scenarios, the thesis rejects the existing hegemonic location of civil society in the associative spectrum and instead canvasses an understanding which integrates ordinary citizens into the heart of civil society discourse. The thesis also examines the implications of this definitional shift for predominant understandings of the idea of civil society, most especially its relationship with coercion/violence. While suggesting that coercion might be an inevitable property of actually existing civil society everywhere, it problematises notions of 'civility' and 'incivility' and appropriates the latter as a necessary logic of ordinary citizens' action.