Nigeria As A Nation Cultural Studies Essay

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Nigeria as a nation is a combination of diverse nationalities. In actual fact, it is a multi-faceted and pluralistic society. According to Gaye (1999) the integration problem in Nigeria is probably one of the most complicated in the world.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country with over 250 ethnic groups on a land area of 923,768 sq km (2008 mongobay world statistics) with over 140 billion population, none of the three main ethnic groups which are the Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo constitutes a majority of the population (Gaye 1999). With over 520 languages spoken (ethnologue 2009) it is of no doubt that Nigeria is truly a multi-ethnic Nation.

Nigeria was brought into being under the British colonial rule. It was incorporated in 1914 when Fredrick lugard (first governor general) amalgamated the two British protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria and the crown colony of Lagos as a single entity in other to foster unity and development.

Nigeria gained independence in October 1960 and had since experience much of military intervention in its political affairs. Since the current return to civil rule in May 1999, there had been well over 150 inter- ethnic conflicts resulting in tremendous lost lives and properties (Eliagwu 2004).

It is particularly worthy of note that the number of such clashes in the past 5years is clearly much higher than those that had occurred in the previous history of the country (Oke Ogunde, 2002).

According to Nwaobi Godwin (2009) this disunity has distorted, complicated and to a large extent stultified every developmental effort undertaken by government. This was what prompt Martin Ike (2009) to posit that Nigeria effort at achieving national integration have remain largely unrealized.


Ever since Nigeria attained independence from the British colony in 1960, The Nation has since been battling with integration as a result of inter-ethnic conflicts. Will it then be right to posit that the colonial existence of Britain in Nigeria and the force associated with colonialism united the entity called Nigeria before independence? It is worthy of note that the Biafra crises which is one of the famous and deadly crises in Nigeria that almost divided the nation started in 1967 which is a few years after independence, The crises lasted for almost 3years as a result of an attempted succession from Nigeria by the eastern states.

To be factual, many of the ethnic crises which rage Nigeria today had their roots traced to the events which took place while Nigeria was under the colonial rule of Britain. However, Nigeria still ignorantly continued to tread that path till this present day.

It is important to note that the entity called Nigeria does not exist before colonialism, what existed was a wide diverse scattering of communities and tribes in which some of their territories even over-lapsed the geographical territory of the present day Nigeria. The different ethnic groups which had diverse beliefs, cultures, religious practices and language where all brought together by Britain to form a nation without seriously considering the characteristics of these groups and how they could peacefully co-exist. These ethnic nationalities on the other hand do not legitimately see themselves as a citizen of one united Nigeria but as that of whichever ethnic groups they originate. So from inception the patriotic spirit needed to drive the nation forward was lost because the ethnic groups never agreed and were not willing to co-exist. So ever since after independence in 1960, Nigeria had been battling to cope with different inter-ethnic crises arising as a result of trying to forcefully co-exist together as one indivisible entity as it was established in 1914 before independence. These seems unrealizable, due to the faulty foundation on which Nigeria was established as some ethnic groups still desire to break away from the present entity called Nigeria.

The economic system of Nigeria is another contributing factor to frequent inter-ethnic crises. The economic system introduced to Nigeria from inception was not in-line with the political system of a country with such historical developments as Nigeria. The capitalist economic system that was introduced creates high level of competition and strives for economic relevance among the amalgamated regions. Every individual since then and till present day, strive for the development of its own affiliated region not the development of a united Nigeria, therefore division became further drawn along the lines of ethnicity.

Worst still, the ever un-sincere and bias constant intervention of the western world, due to their own selfish driven interest, in the political-economic affairs of Nigeria had continually led to nothing but chaos among the Nigerian ethnic groups. Nigeria as a sovereign Nation needs no external interference, and should be independent to run its affairs in the ways and manners it deems fit. Nigeria is a nation with many mineral resources like crude oil, which is needed by developed nations to survive. The favoritism and preferential treatment in terms of loans, aids and grants to one region because of what they stand to gain from such regions had continually set Nigeria ethnic groups against one another. A good point of reference is the constant and undying interest of the western powers in the oil rich south-south Niger-delta region of Nigeria due to its richness in crude-oil and the outright neglect of Northern Nigeria which does not possess such vital mineral resources they need. Invariably whenever there are crises in these regions, the western powers takes sides and this tends to guarantee the re-occurrence and elongation of such crisis.

The style of governance imposed on Nigeria was totally unfit for a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria. According to Katy, (2008) Britain imposed on Nigeria a west-minister style of government, which was totally different from the ways the diverse ethnic groups previously governed themselves. This included the introduction of political parties; it is notable that the various parties, under the British rule were usually primarily made up of members of specific tribes and this concept exist till date in Nigeria in which political parties are formed on the basis of ethnicity and not national interest. Nigeria currently has over 60 different political parties. However, during colonialism political parties and groups despite their different aims and objectives, for once shared a common goal: which is to get autonomy from Britain. This became their sole national interest and for a while tribes were united under a common aim. Once independence was gained, however, it became evidently clear that Nigeria was not a natural nation; no wonder Nigeria had to battle with civil war from 1967-1970.

The system in place was not equipped to deal with such an amount of diverse ethnic groups. Politics till date in Nigeria, is based on ethnicity as there are over 60 political parties in Nigeria, instead of the parties coming together to share common aim, they all tread the path of regionalism. The natural order of regions, division along tribal lines with each ethnic groups striving for political-economic relevance and superiority had continually result to constant crises.

In recent years, since the return to democratic rule in May 1999, inter-ethnic crises in Nigeria had become a more constant phenomenon and have since become inevitable due to the lucrativeness attached to politics and democracy in Nigeria. To be factual Nigerian political system and political offices are too lucrative for any ethnic group not to strive for power dominance and recognition.

Nigeria practices federalism in written but not in its true context, the Federal Government oversees the entire resources and regulates the economic affairs of the Nation while resources are been distributed to the states and local councils on a monthly basis. The political elites of each ethnic group had since view control of the central as an automatic way to selfishly enriched themselves and maybe, also beta the living standards of their ethnic groups. Each ethnic group passionately strive hard to be in the realm of power, to be able to regulate national affairs at the center and are not willing to settle for anything less thereby making politics a "do or die" affair.

To the extent that each region in Nigeria now have their own dreaded groups: the odua people's congress (o.p.c) fight for the interest of the west, Militants and so called "freedom fighters" in the east and south-south and the most dreaded one recently tagged a terrorist group by the united states, which is also currently threatening the unity and peaceful co-existence of the Nation is the "Boko-haram sects" in the North. This sect is responsible for the recent bombing of the United-Nations house in Nigeria as well as other recent insurgents in the country. The sects had since constantly and are not ready to give up in terrorizing the unity of Nigeria until the south-south region currently in hold of the federal power releases it to them, so also are other regions clamoring for this same power.

The challenges of Nigeria regarding integration are that Nigerians no longer view Nigeria as their own entity. The sense of patriotism needed to unite and fast track developments in the country had been long lost. According to Katy, (2008) a Nation cannot be created by simply drawing of lines on a map, it must be to some extent a natural product of the unity of its population.


To this extent it becomes imperative to inquire into the basis of ethnic crisis and how true nation-hood can be attained in Nigeria via the following research questions:

Why has inter-ethnic crises affected the integration of Nigeria as a Nation?

How is mechanism's been put in place to tackle the fall-outs of ethnic crisis in Nigeria?

How has the government made efforts to re-integrate Nigeria?


This research intends to proffer solution to the problems confronting Nigeria integration. This study therefore essentially seeks to examine how inter-ethnic crisis has led to the disintegration of Nigeria.

This work seeks to analyze and evaluate ethnic crisis in Nigeria like the Biafra civil war of 1967 in eastern Nigeria, the Niger-delta crisis of the 90's, the recent dreaded Boko-haram insurgent in Northern Nigeria, to mention but a few, in other to determine the extent of their relevance and irrelevance to the problem of Nigerian integration. However emphasis will also be placed on finding out the attitude of government towards eradicating ethnocentrism ,preventing constant ethnic clashes as well as the strategy government adopts in tackling the remote causes of the various ethnic identity motivated crisis in the country in other to checkmate if not eradicate future occurrences.

More so, this study will examine the efforts of government in re-integrating Nigeria.

The significance of this study cannot be under-estimated in that attempt shall be made to bring out recommendations to the Nigerian government, which if adopted may establish a better peaceful co-existence among the diverse ethnic groups and re-awaken the consciousness of national unity.

On a final note this research seeks to contribute to the academic world as the problems hindering integration in countries with high level of multi-ethnicity like Nigeria will be analyzed.


The nature of this research will be qualitative, in other to reasonably accomplish the task set out in this study. Qualitative research is based on gathering deep understanding and knowledge about human behaviors, the foundational reasons behind such behaviors and decision making. Qualitative research is necessary in this study because it will investigate "why and how" the crisis happen, not just where, what and when.

This study will involve historical and content analysis, in other to discover facts and gain further insights since the study seeks to enhance the understanding of how ethnic crises disintegrates Nigeria and also aims to recommend possible solutions aim at solving the integration problem in Nigeria.

Method of data collection

This study would make use of secondary data collection. The research will be base on review from several works. Sources of data will include:

Official documents: Like communiqués, correspondences, government policies and international agendas.

Newspaper and media: The reports, speeches, figures, internet and papers delivered by stake-holders will be used, but the internet will be discreetly used to avoid biasment as events will be checked from different sources in other to validate its authenticity.

Publications: In form of books, thesis and article in journals.

All the information gathered will be analyze in a systematic way hence it deals with complex social issues. According to Marshall and Rossman (1989) Historical analysis will be useful in obtaining background and knowledge of unexamined areas of the research work.

This type of research does not carry out its interpretation in numbers instead it is carried out through visual data presentation in the form of maps, photographs and diagrams indicating how ideas are conveyed and relate all the works within the framework of the subject matter.

Method of data analysis:

Analysis of data would be interpreted through historical and content analysis. This will help in been able to discuss the roots and basis of ethnic crises in Nigeria, how such crisis had threatened the integration of Nigeria, determine the level of unity in Nigeria and efforts of government in re-integrating Nigeria will all be analyzed.


The theories of ethnic crises is the focus of this theoretical framework, the theories that will be discussed apply directly to the crises situation in Nigeria and other developing countries with diverse ethnic groups like Nigeria. The theories bring to our knowledge how ethnic crises emerge and the circumstances behind such emergence especially in a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria.

These theories include the primordialism theory, instrumentalism theory and social constructivism theory.

A synopsis explanation of these theories is of utmost importance to enhance knowledge of this theories and how it applies to Nigerian situation.

The theory of primordialism can be traced to the philosophical ideas of German Romanism particularly in the works of Johan Gottlied Fichte,(1792) and Johan Gottfried Herder, (1792) it was popularly propounded by Donald Horowitz.(1996) Primordialism in relation to ethnicity as posited by Fichte and Herder (1792) is that ethnic groups and nationalities exist because there are traditions of beliefs and action towards primordial objects such as biological factors and especially territorial locations. Primordialism is of the view that ethnic identity is fixed once it is constructed; this concept established that difference in customs form the basis for national disunity in most multi-ethnic Nations. Despite much academic criticisms on primordialism after the Second World War and the development of other ethnic theories, it still remains influential in identifying the strength of ethnic ties and peoples commitment to the ethnic alliances of their own immediate ethnic groups. Primordial's believes that irreconcilable differences due to diverse cultural backgrounds cause the fear that beget crisis. To the primordial, the crises experienced during the Nigerian civil war in 1967 and other inter-ethnic crises was arguably due to un-unified norms and rivalries between ethnic groups.

The theory of instrumentalism became prominent in the 1960s and 70s in the works of Anthony Smith. It is mainly on ethnic persistence as an effective melting point to ethnic issues. This theory focus on the actions of community and regional leaders who used their ethnic groups as site of mass mobilization in competing for dominance, power and resources, as it has always occurred among ethnic groups in Nigeria. It states the actions of leaders who hide under the shadow of ethnicity to brain-wash and set there subordinates against other ethnic race in other to realize there individual goals.

Instrumentalist believes that if ethnicity and racism are not viewed as instrumental identities which are means to a particular end there will be no crisis, they're of the position that there is more to ethnic crises other than relevance. A good illustration is the leaders of the Niger-delta region in Nigeria who sponsored militancy groups to terrorize other ethnic groups and the country at large while there major aim is to gain control of crude-oil in the area.

The theory of social constructivism was formalized by Jean Piaget through the accommodation and assimilation principles. According to Jean(1975) when individuals assimilate, they incorporate new experiences into an already existing framework without changing that framework, when individual experiences contradict there internal representations they may change their perceptions of the experiences to fit internal representations.

Accommodation is the process of reframing one's mental representation to the external world to fit new experiences, Jean Piaget (1975) posits that when we act on the expectation that the world operates in one way, but events, happenings and circumstances violates our expectations, we often fail. But by accommodating this new experiences and reframing our model of the way the world works we learn from the experience of failure or others failure.

Social constructivism view ethnic crises base on the unwillingness of ethnic groups to accommodate and assimilate each other's principles. Ethnic groups cannot integrate until they are genuinely ready to shift grounds for one another by willing to accommodate the good and ugly of each other, and are as well ready to assimilate each other's principles, beliefs and way of life.

If the components of this theory could be applied by ethnic groups in multi ethnic nations then ethnic crises might no longer be prevalent.