ethnic conflict and national stability in nigeria

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For the country Nigeria, the years 1999-2003 was years of great suffering caused by ethic crises. In the Northern part of the country, the ethnic conflict between the Muslims and Christians was climaxed with the introduction of shaira law in some Northern States.  At the Southern part of Nigeria also a lot of ethic crisis has been witnesses among the various ethic conflict that blew across Nigeria between 1999 – 2003, which has left in its trail unprecedented human, economic, social and ecological disasters. Exacerbating this is the public perception that the government has been insensitive and slow in addressing fundamental issues affecting Nigeria, such as poverty alleviation, resource distribution, infrastructural development and security.

An air of anxiety and uncertainty continues to pervade the Nigeria society despite the democratic administration that is in place. In view of these, this work was carried out to look at those factors that have been responsible for the various ethic upheavals that have plagued the country since the new democratic era. It is believed that these factors which ranges from class struggles, economic inequality and the incompatibility in political and economic allocations have intensified the occurrence of ethic conflict in the country, thereby hampering the national cohesion and stability in the country.  Thus, the resultant effect is the level of underdeveloped and insecurity that is prevalent in Nigeria.

This work was solely undertaken to rescue Nigeria from the strange hold of ethnic conflict.

It is our conviction that we can diffuse ethnic tensions by educating the ruling class and the masses alike on the need to place humanity and nationality above ethnicity and to resist the urge to mobilize ethic sentiments for destructive ends.

For it is only when the country is stable that it will attract investors, since nobody or cooperation will like to invest in a trouble nation.




1.0    Introduction

1.1    Background of the Study

1.2    Statement of the Problem

1.3    Objectives of the Study

1.4    Scope and Limitation of the study

1.5    Significance of the study

1.6    Theoretical Framework

1.7    Hypothesis

1.8    Definition of Terms

1.9    Highlights of Olusegun Obasanjor’


2.0    Review of related literature

2.1    Introduction

2.2    Theoretical Framework


3.0    Research Methodology

3.1 Research Design

3.2 Method of data collection

3.3 Sampling Techniques

3.4    Data Analysis Technique


Data Presentation and Analysis

4.1 Data Presentation


5.0    Summary, conclusion and recommendation

5.1 Summary

5.2 Conclusion

5.3    Recommendation






Our country Nigeria was created by the British colonialist who performed the task of bringing the various ethnic nationalities together in 1914 to form a single nation state, right from creation Nigeria has been a plural society made up of three major groups of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, while the minority groups include, Efik, Igala, Tiv, Jukun, Urhobo, Ijaw, Ibibio etc, infact, recent studies puts the figure at about 374 ethic groups (Otite, 1990:26).

Thus, consequent upon the cultural heterogeneity of Nigeria, there has aroused though times of different kinds of ethnic conflict.  This conflict had at times, pitched the Hausa’ against the Igbo’s in a very violent conformation.  The introduction of Sharia legal system in the North them cause serious conflict in some state in the North equally in the southern part of the country, the Yoruba and the Hausa have also confronted each violently.

There are also evidence of the various intra-ethnic conflicts witnessed among the minority groups, like the lfe-modake, TIV, Jukun, and the constant clashes that has become a daily occurrence in the Niger Delta regions of the country.  The various conflicts that have taken place shows  that the unity of the country is at stake.

On May 29, 1999, Olusegun Obasajo was sworn in as Nigerian democratically elected President since 1983 four years into the democratic experiment, Nigeria continues to face economic, political and social uncertainties. Flash points of ethnics communal religions and resources conflict persist the economic environment is unstable.  The Niger Delta crisis has get to be resolute, and environmental degradation in oil producing regions remains a problems. Exacerbating this is the public perception that the government has been insensitive and slow in addressing fundamental issues affecting Nigerians such as poverty alleviation resource distribution, infrastructural development and security.  An air of uncertainty continues to pervade the Nigeria society, thereby negating the maximum utilization of both the abundant human and material resources in the country for the total development of socio-political and economic sectors of the nation.  As Rot child (1969:54) said “ethnic conflicts has a clear chance of following the part to a serious imbalance or disjunction between order and development at any level of the social structures.

Although, various policies has been made to address the problems posed by ethnic conflicts to the country, both by the colonists and the indigenous post colonial leaders. It seems that their main objectives have been to contain and not to eliminate ethnic conflicts.  This is for the mere fact that the Nigerian state has regularly been part and parcel of ethnic crisis, as a result of its ethnically, discriminatory policies and more specifically because of the ethnic coloration of those who controls or dominate it.  Nigeria is at cross read, ethnic crisis has been a great hindrance to our national stability the consequence of breaking the country are hard to imaging likewise the prospect another civil war which is more dreadful sand (1994:10) asserted that ;the greatest problem of Nigeria nationhood is ethnic consciousness.  This study was undertaken against the background of the renewed ethic groups.  Even in the current democratic government where all is expected to contribute to the overall development of the nation.

In this study, we will try to examine the history and the causes of ethnic conflict in the country, as well as highlighting the positive aspect of ethnic variety identity social cohesion and stability.  We will also look at how to harness the difference and similarities among the various ethnic groups in the development of the nation thereby building Nigeria nation state, where no man shall be oppressed or discriminates on the account of which ethnic groups the come from a nation Nigeria.

In chapter one, we shall state the statement of the problem of this study, as well as the objective, significance, the scope of the various literature by scholars in the study of ethnicity and its conflict outcomes.  Chapter three we shall focus on the research  method in used in the process of data collection in chapter four, we will analyze the data collected and testing it against the hypothesis of this study.  And findings as well as marking recommendations on how best to manage or tackled ethic conflict. In the country for a stable nation, that will encourage the development of the socio-cultural, political and economic structures of our country Nigeria.


Both colonial powers and the ruling class that has succeeded then have used ethnicity for their own ends.  In combination with poverty and shortage of results, ethnic sectarianism has left a trail of destructive violence and even threatened the territorial integrity of Nigeria there is also the problem of leadership lack of appropriate value system and unstable policy all these have been operating a contesting and development.  The manipulation of ethnicity by the Nigeria ruling class has its root in the used ethnic and regional sectionalism to curb pen Nigeria nationalism and to maintain administration emphasized difference among Nigeria rather then similarities.  The official British policy in the North separated the Northern ethnic groups from the Southern counterpart through the hand and native rights ordnance of 1910.  The ordnance discouraged free immigration of Sourtherners to the North.

The Nigeria ruling class who inherited power at independence in 1960, continued this manipulation of ethnic difference for their own selfish interests in the process they succeeded in creating false impression that various politicians of the ethnic groups for which they spoke, and that the struggles of these parties for political dominance represented the struggle of their various ethnic groups for ascendance in society.  The covertly and even openly aided motive ethic symbols and played on negative feeling arising from alleged mass support for their own personal interests.  Under these circumstance the urban-based ethnicity of the past has been reinforced by ethnic communities against one another in an attempt to claim entitlement on an ethnic basis.  This Hausa katat, Jukum – Tiv Kutch, Jukun, and Ogoni –Andoni blood letting are concrete examples, the civil war of 1967-1970.  the dictorships general Sani Abacha and Ibrahim Babangida, the President ethnic mild fires in the Niger Delta and various other part of the country, and present shill cries of marginalization by virtually all ethnic groups in the federation have also contributed for politicizing ethnic decisions

As the most populous black nation in the world, Nigeria is look upon for leadership roles in Africa.  Unfortunately, the various ethnic crisis, that has characterized her history since independence in 1960 till now have once mutal distrust among the ruling class that succeeded the colonialist are the main cause of ethnic crisis in Nigeria between 1999-2003 alone claimed several thousand of lives and properties owned by the citizens has been wantonly destroyed.  The frequency and the violent nature of these conflicts have caused Nigeria residing outside their ethnic enclave to live in fear of the uncertainty about.        The economic havoc, the social disruptions and political instability brought about all these conflicts, undermining the foundation of the cooperative existence of all the

ethnic groups to enhance national development.  It is unfortunate that in this era of globalization, many Nigerians are still openly discussing with impurity the possibility of dismemberment of the nation through succession.  The recen demand by the people of the Niger Delta, and the South  East for a country of their own goes a long way to show that the entity called Nigeria is in big danger of disintegration.  The relative effect of these entire crisis is the level of underdevelopment that is prevalent in the country despite her 51 years of independence.

The issues of ethnic conflict have elicited much response from some scholars as regards to why the various ethnic groups in the country are inconstant conflict.  It is in response to it this study was undertaken.  We are going to focus on these factors that have been posing a threat to our national stability.  A critical analysis of these factors that the persistent and pervasive poverty of the Nigeria people have impact in ethnic conflicts.  Ringing, poverty creates alienation and socio economic insecurity, which impels people to seek solace in primary group.

The constituency often conterminous with the ethnic homeland candidates wins elections not so much for the issue they stand for but because they are “sons or daughters of the soil.”  Consequently they use ethnic appeal to solicit for votes, they tend to end thus reflect of their respective ethnic groups and promise to end thus reflect. This typically illustrated what happened in 2003 General Election when the Yorubas decided to pitch their tent with Obasanjor not because he is the best, but because he is a son of the soil.  Equally work in mentioning if the factors of anti-class policies of successive government in the country which ensure the dominance of the ethic consciousness which leaves non-class faces such as the ethnicity to dominate the political space.

However, what appears to be an ethnic conflict in Nigeria is an actual fact of a struggle between the ruling class for the nations wealth.  This point was amply demonstrated by Osaghea (1994:12) in the following statement, in relations to Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, when it come to picking a candidate for presidential election in Nigeria the Yoruba’s may present a United front, but when it come to creating more state or appropriation of government favours, conflict moves to intra-group level of Ekiti, Ejesha Egba, and so on.  The above statement by Osaghea, shows that ethnicity is being used by the ruling class in their bid to capture political and economic power.

This work is simply an X-ray of how the class struggle in Nigeria is reflected as ethnic conflict.  Effort will be made in this work to established the fact that although there is an inter-ethnic conflict each time in the history of Nigeria, these crisis do not constitute as much danger to the unity of the country as the class struggle that keeps them at lane.  The ruling class still uses in the same logic and appeal of ethnic sentiment while in the real sense, they are mainly and concerned with their own interest, to the detriment of a stable and developed Nigeria that can take its place in the committee of developed nations in the world.


This study was solely undertaken so that:

  1. Aims atreorienting and swearing a sense of awareness among Nigerians as to the  causes of class struggle among the ruling class that breeds ethnic conflicts and disunity.
  2. Also, that ethnicity is  simply a smoke screen  employed by ruling class to cover the insidious operation of the classes over the nation political and economic resources.
  3. To also educate Nigerians on the need to see national integrity above ethnic sentiment. That the cultural heterogeneity of our country is properly harnessed it will up lift the nation to a status of a developed nation in Africa and the world in general.


The issue of ethnic conflict has been a major obstacle to the eradicative of a stable Nigeria where all the citizens are allowed to pursue the legitimate business in any part of  the country.  As our problem of statement has emphasized there is urgently of the need to address the issue of ethnicity to avert further disaster.

The relevance of this work is that it unveils the implication of class struggle in fermentation ethnic conflict should start seeing themselves as one indivisible nation that should be fighting for development of the ruling class in fighting for development of the ruling class in causing confusion in the nation.  This work will also contributes to the various writings e,g journals and textbooks that have been highlighting on the dangers of ethnic crisis and how to handle it finally, it will help policy makers in the country and the world over to know the root cause of ethnic conflict, so as to explore strategies by which the negative effects of ethnicity could be mitigated in the future. Thus making lasting policies that will obliterate ethnic chauvinism and its consequent effect on national stability and development.


Non Maxist theory have often discredited its theory as a heuristic tool of analysis of third world societies, which it is believed that class analysis is not appropriate for two main reasons.  One is that developments have not yet produced as social class as exist under advanced capitalist societies, and therefore, ethnic cannot be a class based conflicts.  The often argument is that even if economic progress had in the process produce social classes, the social structure of the African societies would initiate class conflict in such as way it will not be of consequence for any analysis.  The position as will be suggested later, is heavily flawed by the historical experiences of the incorporation into the capitalist system and subsequently of colonial dominated.  On the other hand, matters are not helped by the excessive reductionism of some Maxist Scholars whom Nnoli (1998:41) labeled as “ultra left.  This scholars sees economic consideration and class interest s constituting the only desideration of political and social actions.

The consequences are that neglect of ethic and religious factors that are non-economic factors.  This neglect arising out of obsession with economic accounted for lack of any serious reflection among the post lening Maxist on issues such a ethnicity.  Debory (1997:30) concluded rather hopelessly that ‘Maxism has no concept of nature as it has only concepts of what we do not determine that is not of what we produce, but what which produces us the conventional wisdom and ideology as epiphenomenon to economic relations which constitute the base or the infrastructure.  It is in this sense that maxism achieved what Ake (1999:38) refers to as the deconstruction of ethnicity; thus as Nnoli (1978) warns us, it is necessary to overcome the one sidedness inherent in both the liberal and the ultra-left Maxist positions. For Maxims history movement interpreted largely in term of economic and not only one.

From the above, we can assert that ethnicity though it is seen as an element of the superstructure, is capable of asserting it relative autonomy in the course of social action.  Therefore, it is in consonance with the principles of dialectics to see that superstructure as a reflection as well as independent of the base.  Given this, it is not convincing they posit that as a theoretical tradition Marxism cannot anticipated a theory of non class social phenomenon, a fact that is above out of recent Marxists concern with such question.

Recent trends suggest an increasing awareness on the part of Marxist Scholars that the ethnic phenomenon legimately deserves illeorizing (Nnoli 2978:66) Munich 1986:10, Solomon 1992:93) shows that there is evidence of a breading of conceptual storehouse of “political economy”, given the massive contribution of Marxism to the study of non class division in the society such as religion, gender and ethnic differences. However, there are two influential Maxists tradition of the question of class and ethnicity that are of direct interest to us, the “relations autonomy model emphases that rather than a reductionism analysis which reduces ethnicity to class or Vice-verse, ethnicity should be seen as occupying a relative autonomy.  On the otherhand, the autonomy models emphasizes that ethnicity serves as an ideological smokes screen always put forward to hide the structural weakness of the prevailing society which our concern here as opposed to historical ethnicism can be understood as enjoying a position of the relative autonomy, it can acquire an autonomous force with some semblance of independence in defining cause of social changes.

Having established the fact that it is the ruling class that manipulates ethnicity for their own interest it is therefore important to return to the historical materialist analysis of the Marxist theory as the starting point in the explanation of the problems of ethnic conflicts in Nigeria.  The picture that emerges at the end, is that ethnicity in all situation is often related to some wider social and economic process and can hardly exist in its pure form or in isolation.  Thus the deconstruction of economic and political power as well as the class interest that sustains these distributions.


This study is presumed on the fact that ethnic conflicts  results mainly from the malfunctioning of social exchange relation and class struggle.  Social exchange relation and class struggle, therefore this work is based on the following hypothesis.

H1:    The inability of the state, to reduce economic inequality

has encouraged ethnic conflict in Nigeria.

H2:    The inequality in economic distribution has no relation

with ethnic in conflict in Nigeria.


In other to avoid ambiguity, some words has been defined to suit their usage in the context of this study the operational concept are ethnicity, conflict and national stability.

–              Ethnicity: This refers to a social specific formation that rests upon cultural special practices and a unique set of symbols and cosmology.  A belief to common origins and broadly agreed common history provide an hierarchies, and confirms social identities of both insides and outsiders.

–              National Stability: This is defined as the common or characteristics of a whole nation in a state of being stable or peacefully united.

–              Conflict: This is an attempt to outwit or completely subdue other individuals or groups by means that may separate from informative order, industry violence.


Olusegun Obasanjo’s Administration/ Regime

President Obasanjo carried out scores of socio-economic and political polices and reforms during the two tenures he rules Nigeria (may 1999- April 2003: and May 2003 to April 2007).  He articulated undiluted economic, social and political reforms and reconstructions in virtually all sectors of the economy.  They are contained in the National Economic and Employment Strategy (NEES) document, produced by National Planning Commission Abuja (Ugwu, 2005).

Needs: Is a developed strategy to consolidate on the gains of the past and unlock Nigeria dormant potentials, and provide the base for the sustained development of the economy.

A:      Restoration of Fertilizer Subsidy:  By 1997 the Abacha’s regime deregulated fertilizer and other farm inputs, from 1996 down to 1970’s fertilizer and other essential farm inputs were highly subsidized.  When Obasanjo came on board in 1999 he restored 25% subsidy to fertilizer.  This made price of fertilizer that rose from N400.00 per bag to N2000 to come down to N1,600 per bag.

B:      Wage Review: The administration reviews the workers wages and salaries.  Hitherto workers salaries were reviewed from N2,500 to N5,500, this described as ‘living wages”

C: Monetary / Exchange Rate Policies: Monetary policy in Nigeria has been mainly shorten in perspective aid thrust, but the Central Bank of Nigeria has recently moved to a medium term framework for the conduct of monetary policy.  Despite the fact that obsanjor’s monetary policy was supposed to bring about price stability, inflation has been relatively high.

  1. Universal Basic Education (UBE)

On September 30, 1999, the President of the federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo launched the Universal Basic Education (UBE) at Sokoto State.  Basic Education encompasses primary, Junior, secondary, and Nomadic education as well as adult literacy.  Basic education contends Okeke (2001) is aimed at equipping individuals with such knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable them succeed in life.


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