Political instability and discontinuity in Nigeria: The pre-colonial past and public goods provision under colonial and post-colonial political orders.

Kostadis Jason Papaioannou, Angus Edwin Dalrymple-Smith


This article explores the relative importance of pre-colonial institutional capacity and the effects of periods of peace and stability on long-term development outcomes in Nigeria. We use data on education, health, and public works at a provincial level from a variety of colonial and Nigerian state sources to apply a decade-by-decade analysis of public goods provision in Nigeria from 1900 to 2010. Using a newly constructed measure of pre-colonial institutional capacity our results suggest that colonial-era investments were influenced by pre-colonial conditions and that the pax colonia allowed for a strong path dependency until the second world war. Contrary to other studies, which find evidence of pre-colonial centralization affecting current outcomes. In particular, we find that the post-1945 era saw a break in the pattern developed earlier in the century. Rising regionalism from the 1950s led to violent conflict and military dictatorship and caused decades of unstable and unpredictable patterns of investment which ended only with the reestablishment of democracy in the 1990s. Therefore, a key explanatory variable to understanding patterns of public goods provision seems to be the level of political stability which the Nigerian state experienced at different points during the 20th century. [JEL codes: N00, O1, H4]


Nigeria; institutions; pre-colonial centralization; public goods

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15355/epsj.10.1.40


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