ORIGIN OF ETHNICITY IN NIGERIA

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background to the Study

The point need to be made that many of what we call ethnic groups in Nigeria today are in fact nationalities, some of which boast of higher populations than a number of modern nation-states in Africa and elsewhere; that the nationalities with which we have to deal in the Nigeria of today did not exist in their present size or form till the colonial period of our history.1

However, multinational in this context simply means multiple nations i.e an historically constituted stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, ethnicity or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.2 Therefore, for the purpose of this research multi-nationality will be used interchangeably with multi-ethnicity.

The issue of ethnicity in the Nigeria nation has become a recurrent decimal. This is unsurprisingly so because Nigeria is a classic case of plural society. For instance, it has been estimated that Nigeria has well over 250 ethnic groups based on lingual classification.3 Even the latest survey indicates there are about 410 ethnic groups in Nigeria. This instance clearly depicts Nigeria as a multi-lingual and multi-ethnic nation. The diverse nature of Nigeria therefore lays the foundation for the exploitation of what goes on in the country.

Furthermore; what is done in Nigeria often has an ethnic undertone, be it politics, employment and provision of social amenities. Ethnic affiliation is always strong and visible. Over the years, there have been case of ethnic violence resulting from loyalty to one’s ethnic group and this has not worked well for the development of the country. This is further precipitated on the fact that these 250 ethnic group i.e. Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo, Ijo, Idoma, tiv, Jukun, Urhobo e.t.c. (most acceptance estimate) though lumped in one country; they do not have the same needs, objectives and aspirations. Based on these ethnical steepness, it seems cumbersome as it were to treat the Nigeria case without considering the ethnic formation of the country.

Ethnicity according to Azeez can be seen as “a sense of people-hood that has its foundation in the combination remembrance of past experience and common aspiration. It is therefore evident that ethnicity is a derivative of ethnic group, which forms the basic of it’s articulation and activation. That is, it is the empirical reality of the group that makes ethnicity possible”.4

Thus, ethnicity does not exist outside the unit or group that embodies it. Ethnicity is looked upon as unreal, inartificial basis of identification and collective organization, conducted up by outsiders looking for an efficient tool of political and economic control. It is therefore considered a strategic weapon chosen by a downsided group as a new mode of seeking political redress, or by a privileged group in order to secure its advantages.

It seems ethnicity was a colonial heritage bequeathed to Nigeria at independence by the colonial masters. In effect, whatever damage ethnicity has done in the process of governing Nigeria, it could be traced to colonial arrangement.

However, Nigeria is also a country that has creatively if not successful sought to grapple with its heritage of ethnic diversity ranging from power sharing to state promotion of inter-ethnic marriages have been reflected at various times. That Nigeria remains a single country today is attributed to this commitment to nation building. However, a paradox of modern Nigeria politics is the resilience of tripolar ethnic mobilization in the face of repeated efforts at political engineering and nation-building.5

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Of all the issues associated with underdeveloped in Nigeria as a nation, is that of ethnicity that have sought to undermine all developmental strategy launched at increasing national productivity. Nigerian is a mish mash of more than 250 ethnic groups, each of which is struggling for recognition and relevance in the political arena, each has terrible angst of being dominated by others, each crying of political marginalization. The hue and cry appear to be getting louder as the years roll and even seems to threaten the corporate existence of the nation. This situation should not be dismissed as huffing and puffing. Unless aggressive effort are made, the prediction of CIA that Nigeria would disintegrate may become a reality.6

Therefore the research questions arising from this discuss are;

  1. How did ethnicity come about, was it a colonial heritage?
  2. How did ethnicity manifest itself in the post-independent period?
  3. What are the impacts of ethnicity in Nigeria?

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

In the light of the problem facing the Nigeria state which bothers on chauvinism, this project essay will study the beginnings/origins of ethnicity in Nigeria, side by side with British policies that led to hardening of ethnic ties and its effects on the post independent Nigeria state. Also impacts of ethnicity on the nation, and how to reduce it to the barest minimum in order for Nigeria to achieve their dream of an industrialized nation by 2020, so as to enable an industrialized Nigeria state by reducing the ethnic element to the lowest possible range.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The rational behind any research work lies on the need it serves. To that effect, this essay would help in guiding future researchers and give them a foundation on how to begin further researches. It would also serve as a reference material for future academic purposes.

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Updated: 18th January 2018 — 7:11 pm

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