International Law and the Changing Phases of Nationalism – An Overview of the Concept of Self-Determination




Nnabue U.S.F Ph.D., Professor of Law, Faculty of law, Imo State University, Owerri

Alisigwe H.C Ph.D., Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Imo State University, Owerri, Nigeria and Visiting Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of The Gambia, Republic of The Gambia. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



The supervening functions of law in the affairs of mankind cannot be overemphasised. Especially is this so when it is realised that it is the glue that holds society together and, in the process, harmonising the disparate tendencies existing in a particular society as well as charting the path for the future, hence the depiction of law as a tool for social engineering. Nowhere is this tempering function of law more needful than in the international scene where different sovereignties are in perpetual struggle to garner enough of the earth’s resources for the benefits of her citizenry. This nationalistic fervour is underscored and entrenched in the concept of nationalism which over the years has been a veritable vehicle to drive a peoples’ quest for a fair share of resources as well as extract loyalty from the people towards a common purpose beneficial to all within the enclosed group. However, the extent the law can be used in aid of this nationalistic fervour remains moot when the issues border on self-determination. Does nationalism admit of self-determination especially within the post-colonial context? Answers to this formed the fulcrum of this paper.

Keywords: International Law, Phases, Nationalism, Concept, Self- Determination.



International Law in contemporary times has been developing in many directions as the challenges and complexities of interstate relations entail. Given the fact that law reflects the conditions and cultural traditions of the society within which it operates, these conditions and cultural traditions whose values span social, economic and political spheres invariably stamps their mark on the legal framework which orders life in the society. In the same manner, International Law is a product of its environment and thus must develop in accordance with the prevailing notions of international relations. Thus, to survive, it must be in harmony with the realities of the age.[1] Today’s International Law deeply differs from what it had been until recently. In the words of Pellet, this difference is rather paradoxical in the sense that the need for law has never been as intense as it is in the contemporary international society whilst on the other hand, confidence in International Law which had developed after World War 1 has faded in favour of a much more practical or utilitarian approach.[2]

The dynamism of International Law as a lever of interstate control is felt more when its forays in interstate relations are appraised. Thus, it has shaped and is still shaping usages of concepts in international relations and in the process removing and encrusting new and paradigm shifts in conceptualisation of terms. A veritable shift in this paradigm shift in conceptualisation is the place of the individual qua person, and in his position as a member of an identifiable group. Thus, its descent into the affairs of the state towards her citizens will also entail setting the rules for citizens’ participation in statecraft whether as a person or a group of persons. It is against the above backdrop that we shall be examining the concepts of nationalism and its mutation into the concepts of self-determination which keeps recurring at every epoch in interstate relations. Is nationalistic fervour of a person or group in a state for enhanced living condition coterminous with the right for self-determination? What indeed is the actual content and extent of the right?



Within the realms of interstate relations, nationalism is part of the triumvirate of concepts that help explain the divisions that characterise traditional global politics.[3]The others are nation and nation-state. Given the spur both play in engendering the spirit of nationalism, it is useful to discuss albeit cursorily the concepts of nation and nation-state.

 A nation is a people who mutually identify culturally and politically to such a degree that they want to be separate and to control themselves politically.[4] Its characteristics include demographic and cultural similarities such as language, race, religion and a common culture or historical experiences. Another characteristic is the feeling of community. Thus, there must be a feeling of being bound together by the similarities. The third element is the desire to be politically separate. This is what distinguishes a nation from an ethnic group. Thus, a nation unlike an ethnic group always nurses the desire to be self-governing or at least autonomous.[5] For example, in the United States, there are many groups such as the Italian Americans who share a common culture and have a sense of identification. They are however not regarded as nations because they nurse no separatist ambition. This may be contradistinguished by nationally divided states (like Cyprus with its majority Greek and minority-Turkish communities) where the minority nationalities refuse to concede the legitimacy of their being governed by the majority nationality.[6]

However, the line between the ethnic groups and nations are sometimes blurred. In some countries, there are so called ethno-national groups that either tether on the edge of having true nationalist (separatist) sentiment or that have some members who are nationalist and others who are not. A veritable example is Nigeria where there is ongoing dissatisfaction among many Igbos in the South-East about their status in the Nigerian State.[7] Some Igbos favour separation others do not.

A nation-state (usually called a state or country) is a tangible entity. It comprises of a territory, people, organisation and other reasonably objective characteristics. Thus, it is the ideal joining of a nation and state, the notion of a unified people in a unified country. it comes into existence when a nation that wishes to govern itself independently succeeds in their quests. A second scenario is when once diverse people within a state learn to identify with one another and with the country they find themselves in. The state is the object of patriotic loyalty[8] and most people view it as the highest form of political authority. It is represented by many symbols such as flags, national anthems and may be comprised of many nations. In some instance, a nation may straddle one or more international borders.


The Concept of Nationalism

Nationalism as a concept has no satisfactory single definition. This may be due to its very comprehensive and multidimensional nature. However, for expediency purposes, it can be defined as a force born of the fact that a people are bound together by a common stock of thoughts and feelings acquired and transmitted during a common history and a common set of loyalties.[9] It is the belief that a particular group of people is a natural community which should live under a single political system. It is often linked to a struggle for independence and political self-determination.[10]

Snyder views it as a condition of mind, feeling or sentiment of a group of people living in a well-defined geographical area, speaking a common language, possessing a literature in which the aspirations of the nation have been expressed, attached to common traditions and common customs venerating its own heroes and in some cases having a common religion.[11] It is difficult to overstate the importance of nationalism to the structure and conduct of state affairs in particular and world politics in general. This is more so when it is realised that nationalism grows from the sense of community and transits into a principle of political loyalty and social identity.[12] This it does by merging the three concepts of state, nation and nation-state in a way that it is personally related to citizens.[13] This transformation in the words of Druckman occurs when the individual

1. Becomes sentimentally attached to the homeland

2. Gain a sense of identity and self-esteem through national identification and

3. Are motivated to help their country.

Coleman defines nationalism as a consciousness of belonging to a nation(existent or in the realm of aspiration) or a nationality and a desire as manifest in sentiment and activity, to secure or maintain its welfare, prosperity and integrity and to maximize its political autonomy.[14] The reference group for nationalism can be a de facto nation or nationality or a territorially defined group in which certain members believe and advocate that it ought or is destined to become a nation[15]. Elucidating further, Coleman asserts:

If the reference group is an existent nation (as in much of Europe) nationalism is directed towards the attainment, maintenance or restoration of its political independence as a nation-state in the international states system. If the reference group is an existent nationality, nationalism refers to sentiment and activity directed towards maximising its political autonomy either as a separate state or as constituent members of a multinational state in the international states system. If the reference is a territorially defined group, which is neither a nation nor a nationality, nationalism refers to a sentiment and activity directed toward the creation of a nation and the attainment of independent statehood[16]

Thus, the major point worth noting is that desire or sentiment outweighs other variables in the ingredients of nationalism and must necessarily anchor on a rich common heritage of the people claiming nation-hood. Two things make up national sentiment( each lying in the past and the present respectively)- one is the possession in common of a rich heritage memories; the other is actual agreement and desire to live together and the will to continue to make the most of the joint share the glories of a past and a common will in the present , to have done great deeds together and the desire to do more.[17] Common heritage comprises of language, common culture, common religion and common historical experience.


The Evolution of Nationalism

The evolution of nationalism and the development of the state-centric international system are entwined.[18] Neither states nor nationalism nor the state-centric system have always existed. It has been contended by some scholars that nationalism is a relatively modern phenomenon as what hitherto existed had been distinctive cultures and societies wherein the upper class have had some sense of shared ethnic solidarity.[19] Thus, “the nationalist idea” that people who shares a culture should “be ruled only by someone co-cultural with themselves is of modern origin.

As noted earlier, the growth of nationalism is entwined with the development of states, but its earliest evidence occurred in England at the time of King Henry VIII (1491-1547) whose break with the centralising authority of the Roman Catholic Church and his establishment of a national Anglican Church headed by the King were pivotal events.[20] The conversion of English commoners to Anglicanism helped spread nationalism to the masses as did the nationalist sentiments in popular literature.[21]

In its modern form, the evolution of nationalism took an important turn in 1700 based on the close association of the people and the state.[22]Popular sovereignty which is based on democracy and liberty was given impetus by the American and French revolutions. Ineluctably, the right to national self-determination began to spread around the world, countries became formed when a nation coalesce into a national state.

However, the romanticism associated with nationalism as engendering democracy and liberty were soon eroded by the events leading to World War II. A virulent and aggressive brand of nationalism spewed out autocracy and totalitarianism which tended to restrict the areas of human freedom[23].

In contemporary times, the resurgence of nationalism has taken the hue of self-determination. Thus between 1940 – 2002, the number of states increased 272 percent[24]. The primary force behind the surge of nationalistic self-determination was the anti-imperialistic independence movements in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. Chikwendu posits that imperialism conjures nationalism[25]. A’priori, imperialism begets nationalism. This view stems from the fact that most times nationalism is a riposte to the onslaught of imperialism which despite its seeming benign face deprives a people of their freedom.It was also this resurgence that led to the unification of Germany, the dissolution of USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia into fifteen, five and two countries respectively. There are also ongoing nationalist stirrings cum demands among the Scots, Irish and Welsh in Great Britain, the Basques and Catalans in Spain and among other ethno-national groups in Africa[26]


The Role of Nationalism in Statehood

As an elixir for statehood, scholars are in agreement as to its beneficent impacts. Among these are

(1) Nationalism promotes democracy: The idea that the state is the property of its citizens is a key element of nationalism[27]. This idea was furthered by the American and French revolutions. It follows from the thesis that if the state is the agent of the people, then, it is the preserve of the people to decide what policies the state should pursue. This is the hallmark of democracy.  O’Leary captures it appropriately when he opines thus “Nationalism is the major form in which democratic consciousness expresses itself in the modern world”[28].

(2) Nationalism encourages self-determination: Most nationalistic struggles have always been fought within the legal framework of the right to self-determination. Thus, in contemporary times the notion that nationalities ought to be able to preserve their cultures and govern themselves according to their own customs is no longer the source of great hubris.

(3) Nationalism discourages imperialism: the antithesis of nationalism is imperialism. Nationalism strengthens resistance to outside occupation.

(4) Nationalism allows for economic development: many scholars see nationalism as both a facilitator, a product of modernisation. It is argued that nationalism created larger political units in which commerce could expand.[29]

(5) Nationalism allows diversity and experimentation: The thesis here is that regional or world political organization might lead to an amalgamation of cultures or worse, the suppression of the cultural uniqueness of the weak by the strong.[30]It is anchored on the belief that diversity of culture and government promotes experimentation. It is further argued that Democracy was an experiment in America – 1776 that might not have occurred in a one-world system dominated by Monarchs[31]. Diversity allows varying cultures to maintain their unique values.


Demerits of Nationalism

The trumpeted beneficence of nationalism that dominated the earlier part of this century may be waning due to certain negative realities. Thus, while president Woodrow Wilson may have promoted national self-determination as a basic principle, recent American presidents have warned of the ills of unrestrained nationalism. In the words of Clinton,

militant nationalism is on the rise, transforming the healthy pride of nations, tribes, religions and ethnic groups into cancerous prejudice eating away at states and leaving their people addicted to the political pain killers of violence and demagoguery.[32]

This can be buttressed by the ethno-national conflicts over self-determination that has ravaged most parts of the world.

Given the fact that nationalism is essentially a feeling of kinship with the other “like” people that makes up the nation, which difference in itself is not intrinsically bad but is only a small step from the salutary effects of positively valuing our “we group” to the negative effects of devaluing the “they group”. These negative effects find expression in four aspect namely: (a) xenophobia (b) internal oppression, (c) external aggression and (d) lack of concern for others.[33]

(a) Xenophobia: This entails the suspicion, dislike or fear of other nationalities. Negative nationalism often spews feelings of superiority and super patriotism and these dovetails into internal oppression and external aggression.[34] Thus in this context, being a good patriot or nationalist means being the enemy of the rest of mankind.

Feelings of hatred between groups becomes intense if there is a history of conflict or oppression. Previous injuries inflicted in the past by one ethnic group are remembered mythically as though the past were the present.[35]

(b) Internal Oppression: Nationalism can frequently lead to internal oppression. Especially is this so in a multi ethnic country. it is rare to find a country made up of various ethnic nationalities in which the dominant ethno-national group does not have political, economic and social advantages over another group or groups[36]. This most times is the root cause of restiveness in such countries. Thus, when there is a policy that spews out persistent social and economic inequality against a minority group or another major group which is often evidenced in unequal access to political power, the gate becomes open for open rebellion and ethno national warfare to erupt.[37]

(c) External Aggression: Fervent nationalism which breeds a sense of superiority and devaluing of other people can become a veritable excuse for conquistadorial expeditions and eventual conquest of neighbours. A veritable example was the defunct Soviet Union which despite the veneer of its underneath ideological trapping was a classic multi-ethnic empire built on territories seized by centuries of Czarist Russian expansion and furthered by soviet arms.[38]

(d) Lack of Concern for Others: This arguably is the mildest albeit still troubling trait of negative nationalism. Because we identify ourselves as the “we-group”, we tend to consider the “they-group” as aliens[39]. Consequently, our common sense of humanity and responsibility to people outside our group become limited.


Nationalism as Self-Determination

A persistent face of nationalism through various epochs is the desire of most groups to be sovereign.[40] Thus, there is always that nationalistic urge of a people to govern itself in its own nation-state. The urge to break away from current political arrangements and to form into sovereign entities has always been the hallmark of strong nationalist movements. Many of these are presaged by bloody campaigns of separation, rebellion and communal conflicts. This nationalistic urge to be self-governing defines the concept of self-determination. Its raison de tre is the belief that it would end many of the abuses arising from ethnic oppression. The thesis is that if all ethnic groups were allowed to peacefully find their own sovereign units or join those of their ethnic brethren, then the tragedies that defined the crisis in Bosnia, Chechnya, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda, Nigeria etc would not have occurred. However, this thesis must be viewed against the backdrop of its anti-thesis which highlights some of the problems associated with the unrestrained application of the concept of self-determination, to wit: the untangling of groups, the dissolution of existing states and the incidence of micro-states.



The Concept of Self-Determination

International law cum relations keeps evolving to accommodate the various aspirations and developmental issues affecting mankind. Apriori, its ability to respond to the various challenges of mankind has assured for it a continuing relevancy and vibrancy in interstate intercourse. Nowhere is this challenge more poignant than in the concept of self-determination as a human right[41]. The right to self-determination is the right conferred on groups or people[42] to participate in the democratic process of governance and to influence their future politically, socially and culturally[43]. Given the fact that through it, regard to the freely expressed will of the people is assured, it thus is the end product of nationalism. Modern international legal instrument has always recognized this principle and/or right[44].

Consequently, the concept of self-determination both as a principle and right is firmly entrenched in contemporary international law.


Historical Evolution

The word “self-determination” is derived from the German word sibstbestimmungsrecht and was the toast of radical German scholars[45]. It was a reaction against the exploitative socio-economic formation. The thesis is that in a mixed or heterogeneous society, all groups must be put on an equitable footing irrespective of the differences existing in the political arrangement. In Europe, the concept is closely related to the notion of nation states. Thus, the assertion of the right of national self-determination was originally linked to the emergence of the nation states[46]. This has always been the colouration of the concept in its external manifestation which equates with the rights of nations to sovereign independence.

In its internal manifestation (i.e. that states should be governed based on popular consent), the American Declaration of Independence of June 7, 1776 and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789 were the source as well as being veritable boosts to those clamouring for government based on popular consent. The main thrust of the two countries declarations was the recognition of the will of the people as being supreme.

The uniqueness of the American Declaration lies is the fact that for the first time, fundamental human rights which includes the right to self-determination was enshrined into a written constitution to be had by any modern state.

The Declarations however have been impugned as not being of universal application but only transatlantic as the doctrine of self-determination propounded therein is mainly Eurocentric[47]. Consequently, it was further asserted that the haze surrounding the concept in contemporary international law arose because some portions of the globe were declared terra nullius and therefore susceptible to occupation by European states[48]. Moreover, international law applied only to those who were Christians and recognized the basic principles of European cultures; and since Africans naturally were neither Christians nor did they understood the basic tenets of European culture, how much more granting it recognition; international law of western Europe denied their rights to independent existence. A fortiori, the sovereignty of the colonies practically evaporated under the colonial expedition of the western powers[49].

It needs stating that whilst the provisions of the UN charter on the rights of nations to self-determination is the legal foundation of all further developments aimed at resolving all issues relating to the right of people to self-determination, there is no one international convention dedicated exclusively to the right of self-determination. However other materials dealing with self-determination in the United Nations evidences the importance of the concept. Prominent in this regard is the General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) of December 14 1960[50]. Article 2 thereof states that: “All people have the right to self-determination, by virtue of that right, they freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”. This Declaration was like a sword in the hands of the early African nationalists in the fight against colonialism and provided a veritable bulwark against any dalliance in the granting of independence to the colonized people[51]. However, article 6 puts a bar to the scope of the exercise of the right to self-determination. It makes any attempt at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of a country incompatible with the purposes and principles of the charter of the UN.


Self-Determination, Nationalism and Post Colonialism

Whilst the 1960 colonial declaration and other supplementing international instruments concerning the right to self-determination erases all doubts even among ultra conservative quarters that the principle of self-determination inures for the benefit of colonial people and thus enable them to achieve independence from colonial rule, there remains a continuous haze and nagging doubts as to the extent and scope of the principle. Thus, the question posed are:

(a) Is it restricted to colonial people or does it extend to people in the metropolitan territories?

(b) Is it restricted to the achievement of independence or has its other manifestations?[52]

These questions become germane when it is realised that the erstwhile colonial territories (especially in Africa) were a conglomeration of various heterogeneous national and sometimes racial groups with their attendant natural resources. These new nation states are now faced with the nationalistic desire of these component units for some autonomy or more participatory rights vis-à-vis the way they are ruled and the utilization of resources within their domain[53]. While it remains unarguable that the right of self-determination is not restricted to colonial people and also extends beyond the achievement of political independence, the controversial point has been its extent within an independent state. Especially is this so given the burgeoning efforts and dynamism in entrenching human rights norms. For example, in a heterogeneous society where human rights remains the guarantee for the protection of the minorities. The imbalance in resource allocation and the struggle for political power have contributed in raising a new set of nationalists seeking to better the lots of their people within the system.

In a post-colonial Africa, this renascent nationalism received a boost vide the African Charter on Human and peoples’ Rights which in article 20 made provisions for the exercise of the right of self-determination. Given the Nigeria context, to what extent is this right cognisable among the various heterogeneous groups in the country?

This is against the backdrop that the character of the Nigerian state is vague. Its power structure, parochial behaviour of the hegemonic ruling class, especially the politics of exclusion being played along the lines of ethnicity, the total indifference of the state to citizens welfare and the present market norms that nourishes rather than reduce or eliminate poverty account largely for groups disaffection[54] hence the current separatist agitations anchored on the exercise of the right to self-determination. The dilemma of this inward quest for self-determination is that it often leads to redrawing of the territorial map should a group succeeds in exercising the right. This is against the backdrop that international law seeks to protect the territorial integrity of states. This is encapsulated in the doctrine of utipossidetis juris.[55]The doctrine seeks to protect the territorial framework of independent states and forms part of the overall concept of the sovereignty of states.

While the proponents are on terra firma to argue that most new states are made up of heterogeneous societies cum ethnic groups for which they are trying to build nations out of; the welfare of a people should not be sacrificed on the altars of territorial sacrosanctity. It is a known fact that most of the colonial boundaries that eventually became international frontiers were mere administrative contraption for the administrative convenience of the colonialists. Most civil wars have their roots in the lumping together of disparate ethnic groups without any deliberate thought out policy on their ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic cohesion[56]. Added to these is the deliberate emasculation of a people through deliberate government policy[57]. Even the legal instruments cited in support of territorial sacrosanctity seem to anticipate some exceptions. For instance, para 7 of the General Assembly Declarations on Friendly Relations and Co-operation among states buttresses this. It provided as follows:

Nothing in the foregoing paragraph shall be construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which will dismember or impair totally or in part the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereignty and independent states conducting themselves in compliance with equal rights and self-determination as described above and thus possessed of a government representing the whole people without distinction as to race, creed or colour.[58]

It seems from the above that the sanctity of territorial boundaries and the denial of the right of secession inures only as long as all the component parts within a state are treated equally and their fundamental rights guaranteed.

Thus, there is a right to rebel with its attendant consequences should the government of a state become unrepresentative, racial, ethnic etc or when there is unremitting persecution and the lack of any reasonable prospect for peaceful change.



Globally, the surge of nationalism as evidenced by a tide of nationalist movements is a re-awakening of self-identity by ethnic groups. The ambiguities of International Law towards the rights of ethnic groups and minorities to claim and subsequently establish independence is thawing in the face of some pronouncements of the ICJ on the veneration of the right of self-determination[59] even though political and legal theorists continue viewing the repository of these rights with ambiguity.[60] Nationalism which is a ferment to the quest of self-determination is often characterised as an independent often divisive force, offering fragmented responses and expressing alternate solutions within the traditional society.[61] Nationalist sentiments seek to establish a sort of familial bond between the citizen and the state or the group seeking the exercise of the right of self-determination.[62]

While the western idea of nationalism aims to set up a uni-nation, uni-culture dictum, nationalism operates on a different principle in a multinational pluralist context among third world countries, more so since the last century. It has played a dual role. At a macro level, nationalism was viewed as being anti-colonial, with aims of liberating the country from oppressive rule and establishing a sovereign state; while at  a more  local level, nationalism was perceived to be a form of cultural consciousness that aimed to protect different cultural communities within their homeland.[63] From class perspective, nationalism is a bourgeois ideology which developed with the emergence of nations and the rise and development of capitalism. Nationalism serves the bourgeoisie in the sense that they are seeking market for their goods and their national market is always primary as capitalism develops. Thus, nationalism helps the bourgeoisie secure its national market.[64]

Critics of the concept of self-determination argue that it gives certain groups the right to become nations and establish national states which fosters nationalism. Accordingly, they hold the view that nationalism is anti-progressive, aggressive, oppressive and war-prone and that it should be wholly suppressed for the progress of civilisation.[65] However this can be contrasted with the fact that the ideal of nation-hood and the claim to national identity are spreading all over the world. A nation is a social community larger than the earlier more primitive communities; its aim is political in that it aspires to well-defined territory, organised so that national consciousness is shared by most if not all of the community.

Against the backdrop of the above summations, it remains unarguable that the liberation of the third world in the political sphere can only be realized through the creation of national states. Holistic development and growth can only be had if the right to self-determination is assured. The antagonists of the right to self-determination need not be unduly apprehensive as the concept is not necessarily a sword for the dismemberment of states. Rather it could mean a sesame for some form of autonomy or self-government within a state and pro tanto become a bulwark against the dismemberment of states. A fortiori, modern nationalism is a potent sentiment. Its beneficent usage is a function of how it is deployed towards the welfare of the people.

The United Nations, in revealing the importance of self-determination characterises such a right as a fundamental human right consistent with the charter.[66] Thus all people have the right to freely determine their political, economic and social development.[67]Consequently the protection of the international right of self-determination has become one of the founding hallmarks of the United Nations.[68]









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Gabriel I.I. and Nwoke F. C.,‘Critical Evaluation of the Rights to Self-Determination in International Law’ (1996) 11 (1)JPPL, 53

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Kateb G., ‘Is Patriotism a Mistake?’ (2000) 67 Social Research, 901

Nanda V., et. al, ‘Self-determination. The case of Palestine’, (1998)AM. Soc. Int’l Law Proc.





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[1] MN Shaw International law (6thEdition, Cambridge University press,Cambridge, 2008) 43.

[2]A Pellet ‘Legalisation and Law-making’ in J Crawford and S Nouwen (ed) Select Proceedings of the European Society of International Law (Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2012) 81.

[3] JT Rourke and MA Boyer, International Politics on the world stage 5th ed. (Boston: McGrawHill, 2003) 85;see also PN Chikwendu, Imperialism and Nationalism (Academic Book Publishing Company,2004) 47




[7] This is exemplified by the agitations of the Indigenous People of Biafra and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra in juxtaposition to the seeming aloofness of the Ibo political elites.

[8]  Or national fervour.

[9] AK Chaturvedi, Dictionary of Political Science (Academic Publishers, New Delhi, 2006) 204.


[11] LL Snyder, The meaning of Nationalism (Rutgers University Press, New Jersey, 1954) 196.

[12] E Gelluer, ‘Introduction’ in P Sukumar (ed) Notions of nationalism (Central European University Press, Budapest, 1995) 2.

[13] JT Rourke and MA Boyer (n 3 above) 88.

[14]JS Coleman, Nigeria: Background to Nationalism (Broburg and Wistrom,1986)425

[15] PN Chikwendu (n.3 above) 48

[16] JS Coleman (n.14 above)

[17]PN Chikwendu (n.3 above)49.

[18]Ibid, 89.

[19] J Hall, ‘Nationalism, classified and explained’ in P. Sukumar,(ed) Notions of nationalism (Central European University Press, Budapest, 1995) 10.

[20] JT Rourke and MA Boyer  Loc. Cit.

[21] The works of William Shakespeare were pivotal in this regard. In fact, one scholar derisively                                     described his plays as “Propagandist Plays about English History”. See E Hobsbanon,Nations and Nationalism since 1870: Programme, myths, reality (Cambridge UniversityPress, Cambridge, 1990) 75.

[22] JT Rourke and MA Boyer (n 3 above).

[23] It was this form of nationalism that occupied the attention of Pope John Paul II in his address to               the UN General Assembly in 1995 wherein he spoke of the difference between an unhealthy               form of nationalism that teaches contempt for other nations or cultures and …. Proper love for               one’s country. see further   11/eu/speeches/1995/october/documents. See also R Mckim and J McMahan, The Morality of Nationalism (Oxford University Press, Oxford,1997) p

[24] ND Palmer & HC Perkins, International Relations (AITBS Publishers, New Delhi, 2010) 21.

[25]PN Chikwendu, Imperialism and Nationalism (Enugu: Academic publishing Company 2004)p.47

[26] For example, the agitation of the group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Nigeria

[27] JT Rourke and MA Boyer, (note 3) 91.


[29]BO Leary, ‘On the Nature of Nationalism: An Appraisal of Ernest Gelluer’s Writings on Nationalism’ British Journal of Political Science 27 (1997) 191.   

[30] JT Rourke and MA Boyer, op. cit., 92. This arguably is the classical view, especially is this so when viewed against the backdrop of globalization with regards to rules on trade regulation.

[31] JT Rourke and MA Boyer, (note 3) 93.

[32] Ibid.   

[33]New York Times, June 8, 1994, A16.

[34] JT Rourke and MA Boyer, (n 3 above).     

[35] G Kateb, “Is Patriotism a Mistake?” (2000) 67 Social Research, 901.

[36] This was primarily the case with the war in Kosovo. See also the views of E Hammel,NewYork Times, August 2, 1994, 95.

[37] JT Rourke and MA Boyer, (n 3 above) 95.



[40] On the scope and meaning of human rights, see HC Alisigwe and CK Okolie, ‘Right to Self Determination and Territorial Integrity’(2013) 6CJLJ,245; MOU Gasiokwu, Human Rights: History, Ideology and Law (Fab AniehLtd, Jos, 2001)1; EAUdu , Human Rights in Africa (Mbeyi and Associates Ltd, Lagos, 2011) 6.

[41]For further elucidation on the meaning of people and the rights appurtenant thereto, see J Rehman, International Human Rights Law, (2nd Edition, Pearson Education Ltd, London, 2010) 327 and 472.

[42] Y Dankofa, ‘The Right to Self-Determination as a Basis for Group Nationalism: An Examination of the Ethnicity Question in Nigeria’ (2010)Human Rights Review, 90.

[43] Under the regime established by the League Covenant, it was a mere principle of International        Law but under the UN Charter, it became a right. See Article 55 of the UN Charter.

[44] Y Dankofa, (n 36 above) 93. Traces of it also existed during the time of the Greek City States.

[45] It was officially incorporated in a resolution of the London International Socialists Congress in 1896 which declared that it upholds the full rights of the self-determination of all nations. See further ME Nkwocha, ‘Self-Determination and National Sovereignty: The Contest of Supremacy in International Law’ in UU Chukwumaeze,,Social Justice and Development (Imo State University Press, Owerri, 2013) 1.

[46] II Gabriel and FC Nwoke ‘Critical Evaluation of the Rights to Self-Determination in International Law’ (1996) 11 JPPL, 53.


[48] The flakes, notwithstanding, the birth of the USA is emblematic of the ideal that people can even come together and declare themselves a nation and as well go on to create a government to rule that nation.

[49] Otherwise known as the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

[50] For instance, Article 3 made a reliance on inadequacy of political, economic, social or   educational preparedness inexcusable as a reason for delaying independence.

[51] Another veritable instrument in this regard is the 1970 UN Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the Resolution .2625 of 1970

[52] See also U.O. Umozurike, Introduction to International Law. (Spectrum Books Ltd,Ibadan,1993).54

[53]HCAlisigwe and CK Okolie, (n 34 above) 252.

[54]Y Dankofa, (n 36 above).

[55]HC Alisigwe and CK Okolie, (n 34 above).

[56] This accounted for the internecine civil wars witnessed in Rwanda, Somalia and Sudan. It was also responsible

 for the agitators of some ethnic rights movement like IPOB, INC, OPC, etc in Nigeria.

[57] This seem to be the battle cry of the resource control agitation in the Niger Delta and IPOB agitatorsin


[58]See n.30 above

[59] See East  Timor(Portugal V Australia) 1995,Pp.90,102; See  also the ICJ advisory opinions in  the Construction of a Wall case ,ICJ Reports 2004,Pp.136,171-172; and in the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by  the Republic of Kosovo, ICJ Reports,2010, Pp.403,436,

[60] This is borne out of the fact that the term “peoples” are used in the definition of these rights. See alsoV Nanda, et, al., ‘self-determination. The case of Palestine’,(1988) AM. Soc. Int’l Law Proc. 334.

[61]ET Cannel, “Nationalism,Self-determination and Nationalist Movements: Exploring the Palestinian and Quebec Drives for Independence”. Available at        Accessed on 30/9/2017.


[63]A Athreya, ‘Cultural Nationalism in India”. Available at Accessed on 30/9/2017.

[64]A Baraka, “Nationalism, Self-determination and Socialist Revolution”. Available at          Accessed 30/9/2017.

[65]IBibo “The Principle of Self-determination as A Spur to Nationalism”.HungarianReview,Vol.viii,No.5.Available at                 determination”. Accessed on 30/9/2017.

[66]See Resolution 2625 (Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation) of 1970.


[68]See article 1 paragraph 2 of the UN Charter.