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Dumuje, Gromyko Benedict (2023) Fragmented Memory in an invented land: The Absence of History In the Abacha Military Dictatorship of Nigeria. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis aims to advance within the Cultural History paradigm, the notion that military governance in Nigeria – with a focal study on the Abacha regime (1993-1998) – operated and thrived within contrived anti-historical spaces. Abacha’s regime, the final military government in Nigeria as well as being an overt composite of prior regimes, affords this thesis a comprehensive barometer to determine the breadth of governmental anti-historical intent. Studies of Nigerian military governance neglect to address the issue of suppressed national histories as a distinct state-sanctioned policy. These studies fail to label, and superficially view antihistorical gestures as mere adjuncts to dictatorial ambition and power. Existing research overlooks the relationship between a negation of historical discourse and perpetuation of non-democratic powers rooted in artificiality. This thesis addresses that shortcoming: asking to what extent the perceived historical negation as a government tool was in effect between 1993-1998. We ask to understand, in the context of a postcolonial multi-tribal nation, how state actors may subvert history through strategic annulment and proscription. Using history scholarship data from educational institutions amongst other markers, we show how government influenced and implemented anti-historical policy. To note: ‘anti-historical’ positions also comprise advancing certain interpretations of history reflecting governments’ political objectives, as opposed to wholesale suppression of historical memory. Equally, whilst anti-historical spaces are explored through a military-leadership milieu, this thesis recognizes multi-causal reasons for anti-historical tendencies, such as: under-resourcing of Nigerian universities, archives and research centers particularly in the 1980s -1990s. Historian Michael Stanford posited historiographical pursuit involved not just unearthing new historical facts but attaining ‘fresh historical insights’ that ‘alter existing histories.’1 Stanford concludes: ‘That is why history is rewritten every generation.’2 This study deepens understanding of Nigeria’s postcolonial condition by highlighting how military disruptors post-independence, themselves upended nationhood by disrupting the notions and discipline of history.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Tania Tribe
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 18 Oct 2023 13:08

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