Oil and nationalism in Nigeria, 1970-1980

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Genova, Ann

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In July 1979, Nigeria's federal military government declared a 100% takeover of select operations belonging to the London-based oil company, British Petroleum (BP). The takeover of BP marked the takeover of Nigeria's most lucrative industry that had been controlled by foreign investors. Within the secondary literature a more elaborate version of this event is offered by scholars, declaring it nationalization with little agreement over why this "Giant of West Africa" nationalization BP. Some mention South Africa, others Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe); some mention oil, while others solely discuss UK diplomacy. Why the discrepancy over the reason for nationalization? This project sets out to explain not only why Nigeria nationalized BP in 1979, but also how the nationalization fits into the broad theoretical discussions on nationalism, economic policy, foreign relations, and nationalization. It challenges the popular narrative of why Nigeria nationalized BP and substantially revises it. The argument is put forward that the nationalization of BP hinged almost entirely on the notion of economic nationalism and that the nationalization fit into an established trend of takeovers aimed at foreign companies. The federal military government simply used southern Africa --discussed as the sole reason for nationalization within the secondary Literature-- as a way to bolster international support. This project also project uses the nationalization as a looking-glass into Nigeria and its oil industry during the 1970s. Also, this project addresses the impact the nationalization had on Nigerian society. With regard to nationalism, Nigeria represents an excellent case for understanding the existence and application of economic nationalism, which functions not only as a subject of study much like ethnic nationalism or civic nationalism, but also as a new perspective on the relationship between the various expressions of nationalism and economic policy.