Nigeria, the giant of Africa is the most populous black nation in the world. Over 180 million people live in Nigeria. The population of the country is heterogeneous with a mixture of over 250 ethnic groups. This multi-ethnic nature of Nigeria comes with a lot of positives as well as negatives.

Naturally, Nigerians are quite sensitive when it comes to issues concerning ethnicity, with tempers often rising and sometimes escalating to violence. Some of these issues affecting ethnicity in Nigeria as well as possible solutions are addressed below.


  • Amalgamation

The geographical location known as Nigeria was created by the British colonial masters for ease of administration. The predominantly Muslim North and the predominantly Christian south though neighbors were never together until 1914.

This forced union is responsible for some of the tensions being witnessed in the country today. Even though it been over 100 years since the merger, the country is yet to fully integrate. The northerners continue to treat their southern brothers with suspicion and vice-versa. You constantly hear talks of northern agenda and southern agenda with not much being said about the “Nigerian agenda”.

  • Tribalism

This is one of the major ills plaguing the country. A key cause of ethnic problem in Nigeria, tribalism has to do with the belief that one tribe is superior to others. This has created a sort of distrust amongst Nigerians. The sense of attachment to tribes over national and collective advancement is disheartening.

This has caused conflicts and rifts between units of citizens of the same country who ought to be working together. These tensions often lead to loss of lives and properties of people from targeted tribes. A very good case is the issue of ethnic cleansing that one of the major tribes is currently being accused of perpetrating against neighboring smaller tribes.

  • Inequality

This arises due to perceived favoritism of persons or regions belongings to one tribe over others by the government and its agencies.

There is an unwritten concept of ethnic majorities controlling the affairs of the country and this makes the minorities feel as if they are second-class citizens in their own country not for any fault of theirs other than the fact that and they are not many. This often creates a sense of perceived injustice against these minorities by the government and its agencies.

  • Internal Land Disputes

Dispute on land ownership has often created tensions between citizens of Nigeria. The resolution of borders within the country is still an ongoing issue.

Many lives have been lost to fights arising from land ownership and many more are likely to still be lost if these issues are not sorted out once and for all.

  • Historical Issues

Many of the tribes have had clashes that predate all of us. Descents many generations down the lone still feel they bear the responsibility of avenging their kinsmen who were killed by members of rival tribes many years ago. Hence, they often seek avenues to create tensions to enable them to carry out their sinister acts.

  • Corruption And Inept Leadership

Another key problem of ethnicity in Nigeria is Corruption, an endemic disease that has eaten deep into the very foundations of Nigeria. It has continued to quietly destroy the country from within. It has been aided by bad leadership which often has been forced on the citizens.

Leaders often times intentionally create artificial barriers along tribal and religious lines to advance their own political interest. That way they ensure the voices of the citizens are not in cohesion to challenge their bad leadership.

  • Resource Control

Issues bordering on control of resources found in the country often create tensions. Groups have been formed all over the country to challenge for control of resources found in their territory. A very notable example is the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND).This group has taken up the government over the control of revenue generated from the sale of crude oil gotten from their region.

They claim their region despite being the chicken laying the golden egg is grossly underdeveloped. Members of this group known as  Niger-Delta militant have restored to the use of arms in making their feelings known. They have destroyed oil pipelines, kidnapped oil workers in their quest. Their activities in the significantly decimated crude oil production in the country even though they have ceased to operate for now.

  • Religious Intolerance

Religion is another driving factor in this country. The largely Muslim north has often been accused of Intolerance people practicing other religions. This has led to the killing of many who are non-Muslims and of southern extraction.

The south too cannot be totally exonerated but religious Intolerance issues are milder down south. Although significant progress has been made in this regard, the issue of religious intolerance still exists in our nation and must not be treated with kid gloves.

  • Language Barrier

The issue of language which is a means of communication is another spanner in the wheels of the progress of Nigeria. Due to the abundance of tribes, different languages are spoken all over the country.

The official language which is English is fluently spoken by only a small percentage of the population as the majority of Nigerians are not educated.


  1. Nigerians should learn to accept the fact that even though the country is a creation of the British, we are one people.
  2. Those advocating the superiority of one tribe over others should be cautioned and possibly sanctioned. This will help foster the unity of the country and create mural trust between all tribes.
  3. The government should ensure all tribes and regions are treated equally. The constitution has tried to address this issue by including the Principle of Federal Character which stipulates that all states are represented in the federal government.
  4. Resource control should be well addressed so that groups such as MEND will cease to exist in our country.
  5. Land dispute issues many of which have dragged for years should be promptly dealt with and put to bed so as to prevent further loss of lives and properties.
  6. Our religious leaders should be charged with the responsibility of preaching peace and religious leaders to their followers. Any religious leader who is caught making statements capable of inciting violence should be punished.
  7. Inter-marriage should be encouraged between citizens from different tribal groups. This will further help strengthen ties and form lasting bonds between tribes.
  8. The country should look at developing a language that unites our people. The English language has failed in that regard. A watered-down form of English language known as Pidgin/broken is more widely used in the country. The government should look at the possibility of adopting this language as a national language.



Nigeria is a blessed country and our diversity should be our strength and not our undoing. We are making progress towards becoming a better nation of a united people and surely, the future is bright.

Tag: Problems Of Ethnicity In Nigeria, Causes Of Ethnic Conflicts