The ethnicity of Nigeria is so varied that there is no universal definition of a Nigerian beyond that of someone who lives within the borders of the country, Nigeria. It is no gain saying that the boundary of this former English colony was drawn to serve commercial interests, largely without regard for the territorial claims of the indigenous people. As a result, about three hundred ethnic groups comprise the population of Nigeria, and the country’s unity has been consistently under siege: eight attempts at secession threatened national unity between 1914 and 1977. The epic ‘Biafra war’ was the last of the secessionist movements within this period.

  The concept of ethnicity can be viewed as “a group of people having a common language and cultural values”. These common factors are emphasized by frequent interaction between the people in the group. In Nigeria, the ethnic groups are occasionally fusions created by intermarriage, intermingling and/or assimilation. In such fusions, the groups of which they are composed maintain a limited individual identity. The groups are thus composed of smaller groups, but there is as much difference between even the small groups.


 Although the ethnic groups in Nigeria, number in hundreds, it must be understood, though, that there exists three major ethnic groups, these include the Hausas, the Ibos and the Yoruba. A question remains unanswered, as to whether ‘the ethnic diversity in Nigeria could ever be a force for positivity in the country’. These three groups comprise only fifty-seven percent of the population of Nigeria. The remainder of the people are members of the ethnic minority groups, which include such peoples as the Kanuri, the Nupe, and the Tiv in the north, the Efik/Ibibio, the Ijaw, and the Ekoi in the east, and the Edo and Urhobo/Isoko to the west, along with hundreds of other groups that differ widely in language, culture and even physique. As the population of Nigeria has doubled to over seventy-eight million people in 1982 from approximately thirty-one million in 1953, it is safe to assume that these groups are now much larger.

 Well, in times past the country has suffered a heavy and long halt, preventing her from making giant strides as a rich black nation ought to, a big thank you to the anchor called ethnicity. Every ethnic group wants to be recognized, as such, the scramble for power has plunged the country in to coups, civil wars and more recently,  could be argued to have contributed to the event of insurgency. Nigeria party politics has been polluted by ethnic chauvinism. This problem is one of the major qualms confronting the progress of liberal democracy in Nigeria since 1960, to the extent that ethnic sentiment has gradually crept in, to find a place in every façade of Nigerian political activity. Ethnic sentiment has been one of the factors responsible for most of the inefficiencies and low productivity in Nigeria.


However, it must be established that Nigeria has been envied for its culture richness, its variety in cuisine and dish, her people’s colorful apparel alongside their tasty traditions, dance, primitive societal structure, religion, just to mention a micro few. The potentiality in the diversity of a nation has been expressed successfully by many foreign states for example; the United States has always been an immigrant culture. Aside from Native Americans, the entire population has immigrant origins. The traditional view toward immigrants was that they would wish to assimilate to the dominant Anglo-Saxon population of the nation’s earliest colonial settlers. The assimilation process, according to the traditional view, however, was never expected to be total. Each group would add a distinguishing contribution to the overall national culture so that in time the myriad immigrant groups would alter the cultural norms of the rest of the nation in subtle ways. This philosophy was called the “American melting pot”.  In truth the beauty of ethnicity when managed properly is a glorious wonder as it only enhances richness and color of a modern state, unfortunately it could beckon on the essence of ARES (so to speak), affirmatively, it is a fact that civil wars causing myriads of deaths are printer effects of ethnic diversity amongst other things. Yet, we all agree that variety is the spice of life.

    At this junction, what’s your take on the phenomena of ethnic diversity? In your country, Is it a blessing, is it curse or is it both?



  1. We can go on and on about the dashing cultural diversity and the inherent ache and destabilisation. Like you rightly wrote, even the major ethnic groups have numerous subgroups. And in a country where religious views are taken to the head, it becomes most difficult. On the bright side though, the country is still so comparatively young. At 54, so many things can still go right.

    Nice piece, intellectual and engaging.


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