This article re-examines the British colonial policy of indirect rule in Nigeria. Moving away from extant scholarly attention on this colonial policy that focuses on governance through local or native authorities, we focus rather on British colonial rule through imperial companies. We argue that the British colonist did not conceive of or organize “Nigeria” as a “nation”, rather it was administered as a business enterprise in which the Crown depended on companies to “govern” its Nigerian colonies. Accordingly, the idea of the nation as a business enterprise defined its subjects and resources in ways that produced problematic notions of nationhood imagined in corporate terms. The net effect of this dimension of indirect rule through imperial companies is that “Nigeria” has remained imagined and governed not as a nation-state but as a corporation. We suggest that the challenges of postcolonial nationhood in Nigeria derive impetus largely from this conception and management of colonial Nigeria as a corporation. Our aim is to conceptualize the colonial corporatization of Nigeria, and describe the ensuing patterns of violent relations in its postcolony.

Author Bio(s)

Benjamin Maiangwa is a PhD candidate in Peace and Conflict Studies at the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice, St Paul’s College, University of Manitoba. He researches on African politics, ethnic conflict, and emancipatory peacebuilding.

Muhammad Dan Suleiman is a PhD candidate in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Western Australia. His research centres on decolonial thinking, African politics, and the constructions of and responses to terrorism and insecurity in West Africa.

Chigbo Arthur Anyaduba is completing a PhD in English at the University of Manitoba. He is researching fictional representations of the genocides of the Igbo in Nigeria and the Tutsi in Rwanda.


British Colonialism, Nigeria; Indirect Rule; Corporations; Postcolonial violence; Nationhood

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