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 The virus of ethnicity has been one of the most definitive causes of social crisis, injustice,  nequality and religio-political instability in Nigeria. Ethnicity has been perceived in general as a major obstacle to the overall politico–economic development of the country. Nigeria is marked by underlying ethnic cleavages and inter-ethnic fears and tensions, hence a bellicose nation. These are revealed from time to time by conflicting lobbies at the moments of competition for shares of the national cake and political appointments to high offices, resource control, head of political parties and ministerial positions. Losers in competitions for high national offices often attribute their failures to ethnicity or ethnic marginalization, while winners hardly ever explained their success in terms of the influence of ethnicity, and are therefore not gallant losers or magnanimous in victory. The Nation’s incessant appeals to ethnicity have obviously showcased the evils inherent in the politicization of ethnicity. Consequently, the ensuing complications of ethnicity have grossly impinged on the development of the country in all ramifications. The paper, a historio-political venture, argues that the path was colonially charted though; the Nigerian political elite have in complicity exacerbated ethnicity in the country. As Nigeria warms to its centennial amalgamation birthday, the Nigerian political history is summable as a squandered century of nationhood, a nation-building in close call, extremely in dire need of operational reappraisals.

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1       Background of the study

It is a commonplace fact that Nigeria is a multi-ethnic

nation state with socio-cultural differences between its

component ethnic groups all of which have resulted into

cultural dissimilarity. This cultural dissimilarity has been

manifested by, for instance, the differences in language,

diet, dress and types of social system. Shrewd observers

have noticed that the recent event such as globalisation

have not significantly diminished these differences. This

static situation has been due to a number of reasons: (1)

The indigenous languages, which help to identify the

various ethnic groups, are still spoken by almost the

entire population of Nigeria. (2) The style of life has not,

for the majority people, changed to such a degree as to

produce appreciably greater uniformity. Against this

diverse background, many ethnic problems abound in

Nigeria, which arise principally from the hostility that

derives from competition between ethnically different

peoples for wealth and power.

About five decades after Nigeria gained independence,

the Nigerian diverse social structure in terms of her

heterogeneity has not changed significantly. The diversity

nature of the society has made identification with the

‘nation’ a difficult task. Today, identification is easier at

both family and ethnic levels. A consequence of this is

that many of the citizens may never develop a proper

concept of nation. This kind of ethnic group relations

signifies a negative dimension and which may mean

much for the Nigerian political system. Therefore, a

discussion of the effects of ethnic politics on the survival

of democracy is or seems to be highly desirable. It even

becomes necessary given the cry of political

marginalisation coming from various ethnic groups in the

new democracy. In all political activities in Nigeria, the

factor of ethnicity is reflected. It is particularly obvious in

areas like voting, distribution of political offices,

employment and government general patronage of the

citizens. It is against this background that this paper

discusses the effect of ethnic politics on democratic governance in Nigeria. Ethnicity is another related word, which needs to

be conceptualised in this paper. By definition it means the

interactions among members of many diverse groups

(Nnoli, 1978). On the other hand, the term ethnicism

denotes ethnic loyalty. This is a feeling of attachment to

one’s ethnic group (Pepple, 1985). The concept of loyalty

in the above definition carries with it the willingness to

support and act on behalf of the ethnic group. Thus,

ethnic loyalty or ethnicism usually involves a degree of

obligation and is often accompanied by a rejective

attitude towards those regarded as outsiders (that is,

members of other ethnic group).

From the conceptualisation of these two related

concepts, it can be seen that ethnicity is a phenomenon,

which involves interaction among various ethnic groups

and which by itself does not pose any serious threat to

either development or democracy. On the contrary, it is

the phenomenon of negative ethnicism (a hangover of

ethnicity), which is the rejective attitude towards those

regarded as outsiders that threatens development

process. It is important to note that it was the

phenomenon of ethnicity that was found among Nigerians

before the coming of the Europeans, while the second

phenomenon (ethnicism) is a product of competition for

both economic and political resources.

The problematic nature of ethnicism as conceptualised

above can be explained in the context of some theoretical

positions. In the first instance, one can examine the

negative aspect of ethnicism by linking it to the theoretical

framework of Talcott Parsons’ pattern variables. To

understand this, it is important to make reference to

(1960), who argued that while developed countries are

characterised by the pattern variables of universalism,

achievement orientation and functional specificity, the

under-developed ones are characterized by the

opposites, namely particularism, ascription and functional

diffuseness. For the under-developed countries to

develop, they must adopt the pattern variables that are

characteristic of the developed societies.


            The effect of ethnicity on the Nigeria’s politics is a serious problem militating against the stability of Nigeria’s federalism.  Hence, the statement of the problem is the issue of ethnicity: the effect on Nigeria’s federalism. Many ethnic problems abound in

Nigeria, which arise principally from the hostility that

derives from competition between ethnically different

peoples for wealth and power. 

1.3       research questions

What are the causes of ethnic rivalry in Nigeria?

            What are the effect of ethnicity on political system?

            What are the visible differences between ethnic groups? The study is on the effect of ethnicity on Nigeria politics. The questions to be answered by this research work include the following:

What steps should be taken by government to remedy the problem of ethnicity in Nigeria?

In what way can these steps manifest?

   1.4    Objectives of the Study

The objective, which this research work seeks to achieve includes:

To identify the causes of conflict in Nigeria

To know when the problem of ethnicity gain access into Nigerian politics

To also know those factors that necessitated ethnicity in Nigeria.

 1.5      significance of the study

The significance of the study are as follows:

To provide remedy to the existing problem of ethnicity in Nigeria through its findings and recommendations.

Contribute to the bulk of knowledge in the existing literature. Nevertheless, the project will also serve as a guide to future researchers who intend to investigate in this provide ways that will help to stop marginalization and prejudices from other ethnic groups.

  1.6         Research Hypothesis

H1:          the largest ethnic groups controls the political and economic power of a state therefore creating the problem of ethnicity.  

Ho:     the largest ethnic groups controls the political and economic power of a state therefore not the cause of ethnicity.   

1.7       scope of the study

The study is aim at discussing the effect of ethnicity on Nigeria politics and revealing the politics behind ethnic clashes, tribal wars, ethnic rivalry, etc. in the other word, the study is limited to 

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