Consequences of Ethnicity in Nigeria

Nigeria is by far the most populated of Africa’s countries, with more than one-seventh of the continent’s people. The people belong to many different ethnic groups. These groups give the country a rich culture, but they also pose major challenges to nation building. Ethnic strife has plagued Nigeria since it gained independence in 1960. Officially known as the ‘Federal Republic of Nigeria’, she has a federal form of government and is divided into 36 states and a federal capital territory.
Lagos, (formerly the capital of Nigeria) is the economic and cultural center located along the coast, and inhabited majorly by the Yoruba-speaking tribe. It is also the country’s largest city (in terms of population). The government moved from Lagos to Abuja in 1991 in the hope of creating a national capital where none of the country’s ethnic groups would be dominant. The land size area of Nigeria is approximately 923,768 sq km (356,669 sq mi).
It was home to ethnically based kingdoms and tribal communities before it became a European colony. In spite of European contact that began in the 16th century, these kingdoms and communities maintained their autonomy until the 19th century. The colonial era began in earnest in the late 19th century, when Britain consolidated its rule over Nigeria. In 1914 the British merged their northern and southern protectorates into a single state called the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. Nigeria became independent of British rule in 1960.

After independence Nigeria experienced frequent coups and long periods of autocratic military rule between 1966 and 1999, when a democratic civilian government was established Nigeria is very rich in raw materials like crude oil, tin, iron etc but is almost solely dependent on crude oil which is a major source of income for the country. While oil wealth has financed major investments in the country’s infrastructure, Nigeria remains among the world’s poorest countries in terms of per capita income. Oil revenues led the government to ignore agriculture, resulting in dependence on food importation.
 The people of Nigeria Nigeria’s diversity, both in “tongue” and “tribe” makes it a very difficult region to subject to precise classification. This has led to the tendency among many scholars to focus on the three major ethnic or geographic zones in the country viz the Hausa-Fulani (Northern Nigeria), the Yoruba (Western Nigeria) and the Igbo (Eastern Nigeria). These geographic zones are not in any way solely occupied by the three ethnic groups. A plethora of smaller socio-ethnic groups may be located in these zones.
The highest population densities are in the Igbo heartland in south-eastern Nigeria, despite poor soils and heavy emigration. The intensively farmed zones around and including several major cities of the Hausa ethnic group especially Kano, Sokoto, and Zaria in the north are also densely populated. Other areas of high density include Yorubaland in the southwest, the central Jos Plateau, and the Tiv homeland in Benue State in the south central region. Densities are relatively low in the dry northeast and in most parts of the middle belt.
Ecological factors, including the prevalence of diseases such as sleeping sickness, carried by the tsetse fly, and historical factors, especially the legacy of pre-colonial slave raiding, help explain these low densities (Encarta, 2009).
Table 1. 1: Statistics of Nigeria Population| 138,283,240 (2008 estimate)| Population density| 152 persons per sq km 393 persons per sq mi (2008 estimate)| Urban population distribution| 48 percent (2005 estimate)| Rural population distribution| 52 percent (2005 estimate)| Largest cities, with population| Lagos, 11,100,000 (2005 estimate) Ibadan, 3,570,000 (2007 estimate)
Ogbomosho, 861,300 (2007 estimate)| Official language| English| Chief religious affiliations| Muslim, 50 percent Christian, 40 percent Indigenous beliefs, 10 percent| Life expectancy| 47. 8 years (2008 estimate)| Infant mortality rate| 94 deaths per 1,000 live births (2008 estimate)| Literacy rate| 70. 7 percent (2005 estimate)| Source: Encarta Encyclopaedia (2009) 1. 2 Social issues Wealth and power are distributed very unevenly in Nigerian society. This is due to several factors including corruption, political instability, and unemployment, amid others.
The great majority of Nigerians, preoccupied with daily struggles to earn a living, have few material possessions and little chance of improving their lot. Meanwhile, chiefs, rich merchants, politicians, and high-ranking civil servants often accumulate and flaunt massive wealth, which to a degree is expected and accepted in the Nigerian society. Most of these elite maintain power through networks of patronage: They secure and distribute labour and receive political support in return.
The system allows for some redistribution of income because patrons often pay for things such as school fees and marriage costs for relatives, community development, and charity work. Economic inequality has a severe effect on health, especially for children. One-fifth of Nigerian children die before the age of five, primarily from treatable diseases such as malaria, measles, whooping cough, diarrhea, and pneumonia. Less than one-half of infants are immunized against measles, and malnutrition affects more than 40 percent of children under the age of five.
Adults are equally affected, although with less deadly consequences. Only 20 percent of rural Nigerians and 52 percent of urban Nigerians have access to safe water. One-third have no access to health care simply because they live too far from clinics or other treatment centres. Many others cannot afford the fees charged by clinics. While average incomes are higher and death rates lower in cities, urban poverty is as pervasive as rural poverty. Secure, well-paying jobs are scarce, even for those with considerable education. Food is typically expensive.
Housing, too, is costly despite its rudimentary quality, prompting the poor to build basic houses in shantytowns. Sewage disposal systems in most cities are also basic or primitive, with polluted streams, wells, roadside drains, and other bodies of water increasing the risk of infectious disease. Industry, automobiles, and the burning of fuel-wood further pollute air and water. Crime in Nigeria rose in the mid-1990s as a result of unemployment, economic decline, and social inequality, which are abetted by inefficient and corrupt police and customs forces.
More than half of all offenses are thefts, burglaries, and break-ins, although armed robberies are also prominent. Nigeria is a major conduit for drugs moving from Asia and Latin America to markets in Europe and North America. Large-scale Nigerian fraud rings have targeted business people in other parts of the world. Nigeria has been wracked by periodic violent clashes between ethnic and religious groups since the 1990s. The reasons behind these clashes have varied from local political disputes to conflicts between fundamentalist Muslims and Christians or moderate Muslims.
In many cases, local civic or religious leaders have manipulated these conflicts for political gain. 1. 3 Ethnicity: The Ethnic Composition of Nigeria Ethnicity is a term not easily defined and for proper understanding of the concept related terms requires description; an ethnic group is regarded as an informal interest group whose members are distinct from the members of other ethnic groups within the larger society because they share kinship, religious and linguistics ties (Cohen, 1974). Ethnicism is another related concept used to denote ‘ethnic loyalty’ (Pepple, 1985).
The concept of loyalty here indicates willingness to support and act on behalf of the ethnic group. Subsequently, ethnic loyalty or ethnicism usually involves a degree of obligation and is often accompanied by a rejective attitude towards those regarded as outsiders i. e. members of other ethnic group (Salawu and Hassan, 2011). Thus the term Ethnicity can be defined as the interactions among members of many diverse groups (Nnoli, 1978). It is a commonplace fact that Nigeria is a society with different ethnic groups, religions, languages, cultures and institutional arrangements.
As a heterogeneous society of several ethnic groups, Nigerians are thus characterized by groups, desires, beliefs, values, customs, fears etc. These diversities in national life manifest in several ways including; music, language, culture, dance, beliefs, religion etc. The fact that over three hundred identified language groups exist in Nigeria has created some confusion as one may equate each language group with an ethnic group (Adejuyibem 1983) and thereby arrive at over three hundred ethnic groups.
As Iwaloye and Ibeanu (1997) and Anugwom (1997) have argued, however, languages and ethnic groups do not necessarily coincide. One language may be spoken by more than one ethnic group and one ethnic group may have linguistic variations of the same root language. Moreover, while language may be one of the important factors for defining an ethnic group, some ethnic groups in Nigeria may have lost their original linguistic roots, while retaining their identity, as a result of intense interaction with larger socio-ethnic groups.
In the same vein, many ethnic groups may use the same language to case communication, as is the case of the smaller ethnic groups in the North of Nigeria, where Hausa has become more or less a lingua franca. Therefore, it has been proven that there is no direct relationship between language and ethnic group in Nigeria. Thus, the 56 ethnic groups identified by Iwaloye and Ibeanu (1997) as the existing ethnic groups in contemporary Nigeria are adopted. It is important to note that the ethnic groups in Nigeria may exceed this number by far, though these 56 groups are both visible and easily identifiable.
The 56 ethnic groups are presented in the table below. Table 1. 2: Ethnic group in Nigeria 1. Hausa-FuIani| 29. Buri| 2. Igbo | 30. Balta| 3. Yoruba | 31. Kanuri| 4. Edo| 32. Margi| 5. Bassawa| 33. Delta Minorities| 6. Igala| 34. Gwadara| 7. Idoma| 35. Chamba-Daka| 8. Ora| 36. Mambila| 9. Ijo| 37. Katang | 10. Isoko| 38. Berom| 11. Urhobo| 39. Kadara| 12. Itshekiri| 40. Kurama| 13. Baatonum| 41. Mada| 14. Karnbari| 42. Alago| 15. Dulawa| 43. Migili| 16. Kamaku| 44. Eggon| 17. Ebira| 45. Bokyi| 18. Nupe| 46. Ekon| 19. Gwari| 47. Agoi| 20. Tiv| 48. Efik| 21. Jukun| 49. Ibibio| 2. Chomo-karim| 50. Annang| 23. Jarwa| 51. Mumuye| 24. Angas| 52. Waja| 25. Yekhee| 53. Busa| 26. Karekare| 54. Dendi| 27. Eloyi| 55. Buduma| 28. Gade| 56. Shuwa|
Source: Iwaloye and Ibeanu (1997) Nigeria is known for its cultural diversities but while these diversities have been positively harnessed for greatness by other nations of the world the opposite is regrettably the case in Nigeria despite the efforts of heroes past in ensuring that these diversities are harnessed for development; rather they have served as the bane of social, economic and political development.
Consequently, Nigeria as a nation has been besieged by an array of social, economic and political problems; these include corruption, tribalism, lack of patriotism, political gangsterism e. t. c (Nduka, 2004 and Omo-Ojugo et al. , 2009). 1. 4 Ethnicity and Marginalisation Before the advent of colonialism, the area now referred to as Nigeria was a large landmass occupied by un-unified people of diverse ethnic groups but for administrative convenience they were fused and merged together by the olonialists.
For the duration of colonial rule, the ‘marriage’ of the diverse ethnic groups was maintained and the diversities were united without any problem. With the exit of the colonialists, things started falling apart resulting in marginalisation and ethnic conflict thus adversely effecting the development of the budding nation. Ethnic conflict has been rightly defined as one of the greatest obstacles to meaningful development in Africa.
The ethnic factor did not diminish with the advent of independence; rather, it became a yardstick for measuring contribution to the national development effort and especially for allocating and distributing power and national resources and eventually resulted in the 30- month slaughter in the Nigerian civil war (1967 to 1970) which was anchored on ethnic rivalry. The history of present day Nigeria is rife with cases of ethno-religious conflicts. Since the annulment of the 1993 elections, there have been increased demands and counter-demands for marginalisa1ion by various ethnic groups in the country.
Marginalisation stems from a people’s perception of their treatment in the allocation or distribution of power and resources. A classic example is made for the Ogoni, who despite “having provided the nation with an estimated $30,000 million in oil revenues, their people had no pipe borne water or electricity, and lacked education, health and other social facilities: it is intolerable that one of the richest areas of Nigeria should wallow in abject poverty and destitution” (Saro-Wiwa, 1992).
In this light, the Ogoni ethnic group has concrete reasons to consider itself marginalised, especially since these facilities can be found in other ethno-regional areas of Nigeria.
The general objective of the study is to

Investigate the role ethnicity plays in the socio-economic development of Nigeria.
Assess the impact of ethnicity on present day Nigeria
Examine the effect on day-to-day activities of Nigerians


 Impact of ethnicity on social and economic development in Nigeria? ii. Role of colonialism in ethnic groups formation.

The scope of the project envelops the influence of ethnicity in Nigeria’s social and economic development and its impact on present day Nigeria.
The importance of this study is made manifest in the form of understanding the role ethnic diversity plays in the development of a country, in this case Nigeria.
Ethnicity in this study is referred to as an affiliation resulting from racial or cultural ties or the interactions among members of many diverse groups
ETHNIC GROUP: For the purpose of this study, an ethnic group is regarded as an informal interest group whose members are distinct from the members of other ethnic groups within the larger society because they share kinship, religious and linguistics ties SOCIO-
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: in this project, socio economic development is defined as a comprehensive process involved in improving social and economic conditions on individual and group empowerment, community, national and regional building.

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