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The Nigerian state came about as a result of the creation of the geo-political entity called Nigerian by the British who the country. Before the advent of the British colonial rule, the country now called Nigeria was scattered geographically and political entities that existed as empires, kingdoms and communal societies.

In the North East, there was the Kanem Borno empire stretching from North-East to Bauchi in North Central, in the Middle Belt region was the minority kingdoms of the Tivs, Idomas, Jukuns, Biroms, Igala, Okuns and many others. In the West and Mid West we had the Oyo Empire which spread from the south region into the Dahomey (now Benin Republic). The ancient Benin Kingdom at one time had jurisdiction up to Onitsha.

The Eastern region was made up of independent political entities (comprising of Igbo, Ibibio, Annang, Ijaw, etc), with Republic type of political institutions. Before 1900, Nigeria was ruled by the Royal Niger Company (RNC) and the British colonial Office. The RNC controlled greater part of Southern Nigeria while the Colonial Office controlled the Colony of Lagos and the protectorate of Northern Nigeria.

After the military defeat of caliphate in 1880,the British began the process of formal colonization of the entire area called Nigeria. By January 1, 1914, Lord Fredrick D. Lugard, a military officer, deplored from India, proclaimed the Amalgamation of the British protected areas of the Northern and Southern Nigeria, which it integrated with the colony of Lagos, to become its overall territory of direct and indirect jurisdiction.

From the above account, it is clear that the Nigeria nation is a conglomeration of people of diverse social, cultural, political and linguistic history that were brought together under one  political unit to form a country. From then on, the political history of Nigeria has been how to manage the people and the resources of the country as well as find a balance to the frequent tensions, mistrust and bickering that are endemic to the daily life of the people.

Kuper and Smith (1971) have shown in a clear manner that varieties of pluralism-racial, religious, ethnic, language, cultural, and institutional, do feature in most, if not, all societies. It may however be generally accepted, despite the problems the pose. The basic determinant of the structure of plural societies is culture (Kuper 1971), within language as a key element.

An ethically plural society such as Nigeria is, therefore, a sociological aggregate consisting of distinct culture-groups and institutions which interact within and make claims on the resources of the wider encapsulating society. Smith (1965) argued that “the monopoly of power by one cultural section is the essential precondition for the maintenance of the total (pural) society in its current form”.

Adewale, Ademoyega (1981) opined that Nigeria’s political problems sprang from the care free manner in which the British took over, administered, and abandoned the government and people of Nigeria. British administrators did not make an effort to weld the country together and unite the heterogeneous groups of people. This does not imply that the British administrators did nothing good in Nigeria.

Far from it! Many things stand to their credit, and it is clear that present-day Nigeria owes certain achievements to the spade work of British administrators. Nevertheless, there was one evil that outlived British administration, namely political non-advancement.

When the British came, they forcibly rubber-stamped the political state of the ethnic groups of Nigeria, and maintained that status quo until they left. Upon their departure, nearly a hundred years later, the people resumed fighting for their ethnic political rights.

Similarly, according to Esu [2001]-cited in Duruet. Al., (1977) “Nigeria appears to be a hunted house divided against itself, by the incubus of ethnic mistrust and tribal loyalties, which have remained stronger than national loyalty. Perhaps, this is our cross, or rather an obvious albatross that must be overcome to ensure progress and virile development. All the tribes complain of one form [sic] of domination (or to use the favourite buzzword, marginalization) or the other.’’

He added that:

Specifically, the minority ethnic groups in the oil producing areas complain of economic sabotage by the major ethnic groups who take the lion share of the nation’s oil wealth which they [minorities] suffer poverty, neglect and environmental degradation arising from decades of oil exploration.

He went further to say that ‘’tribal sentiments permeate national life in Nigeria. Virtually, everything in Nigeria has its own tribal tag. Allegations of ethnic discrimination or marginalization in appointments, jobs,  admission into schools, business transactions and the sharing of amenities cut across, and can be heard in every state of the federation’’.

Nevertheless, several attempts have been made including dialogues and series of constitutional arrangements aimed at bringing about unity in the country, but they prove abortive because of ethnicity. Failure to reach logical arrangements had earlier culminated in the Nigeria Civil War(1967-1970).

Therefore ethnicity has gone a long way to destroy the social, economic and political foundation of the country. The issue of marginalization of ethnic minorities by ethnic majorities in the country has led to the formations of some social movements by the minority groups to protect their rights. Some of these movements in include the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni people (MOSOP), Ijaw Ethnic Minority Rights Protection Organization (IEMRPO), South South Movement, the Arewa and the Afenefere, etc.

Besides, ethnic politics has become intensified to such an extent that even among the majority ethnic groups, there has developed a sort of mutual suspicion and acrimony. This, in turn, calls for solution to bring an end to ethnic problem in Nigeria.

It should be noted that ethnicity had no real meaning in pre-colonial Nigeria. The relationship which existed that time was communal. There was common understanding among the three groups on economic, religious and political issues.

It is worthy to mention that during the colonial period the struggle for political power was centred on the eradication of colonialism. It was after the political independence that struggle for national identity gave way for ethnic nationalism among the major ethnic groups in their struggle for power.

Consequently, ethnicity began to fan in a consciously continuous socialization process to such an extent that it became a decisive factor for development strategies and appointment to certain positions in the federal and regional establishments. Similarly, the formation of various cultural associations and political parties in the colonial and post-colonial Nigeria was influenced by ethnic nationalism. Coleman (1964) confirmed this as he quoted from the Daily Services of 1944,thus:

We (Yorubas) anticipated an era of wholesome rivalry among the principal tribes of Nigeria, while they must guard against chauvinism and rapid tribalism, the great Yoruba people must strive to preserve their identity. Even after many years of political enlightenment on the sadist effects of ethnicity, the phenomenon is still with us. The TELL Magazine of April 26, 1999 reported:

There is an unwritten rule that certain positions in Federal establishments, including the Federal Character Commission, are reserved for Northerners only.

Based on such extreme pursuit of ethnicity in Nigeria, ethnicity is now a yardstick for allocation of scarce resources, appointment to Federal and States establishments and institutions, etc. The consequences of power struggle among the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria manifested in series of ethnic conflicts and religious uprising.

The late Prime Minister of Nigeria, Alhaji Abubakar T. Belewahad  recognized this problem when he said:

Since the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Nigeria in 1914,the country has existed as one only on paper. It is far from being united and it is being inhabited by people of different ethnic groups who speak different languages, who have different religious, different customs and traditions and entirely different historical backgrounds in their ways of life and who have attained different stages of development (Nnoli,1979).

Consequently, ethnicity began to fan in a consciously continuous socialization process to such an extent that it became a decisive factor for development strategies and appointment to certain positions in the Federal and Regional establishments.

Nwabueze (1973) observed:

The policy of the North for Northerners meant that measures had to be initiated to neutralize the Southerners resident in the North. The first step was the Northernization policy. The second was the imposition of restriction on the acquisition and tenure of land by non-natives of Northern Nigeria.

Accordingly, all these have seriously affected the administrative system in the quest for National Development in Nigeria. Based on the above background, this research therefore seeks to examine:

The extent to which ethnicity has eaten deep into the administrative system of Nigeria ;

How ethnicity has affected the national development of Nigeria ;

Suggest recommendations which may be consisted necessary to curb this problem.



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