Nigeria, South Africa and Namibia, all divided societies, have affirmative action programmes aimed at bridging the profound inequalities between different segments of their population. Many others African countries have milder versions, such as parliamentary quotas for women. This study examines the necessity for affirmative action and the effectiveness of the Federal Character Commission (FCC), set up in Nigeria to oversee the process. It examines the historical connections between ethnic inequalities, governance and conflict in Nigeria and the various efforts at reforming the entrenched ethnic imbalances in the Nigerian public sector. It advances both philosophical and instrumentalist arguments in defence of affirmative action and, against this background, examines the effectiveness of the Commission. A core argument is that the Commission should be evaluated on both its intended and unintended effects on Nigerian public life. If this wider standard is used, then the Commission has contributed positively to the management of ethnic inequalities in the Nigerian public sector. Some of the challenges facing the Commission are also highlighted.
CRISE Working Paper 43, 26 pp.