Racism – (Ethnic & Tribal Clashes)

Nigeria – the most populated African nation is a complex country with over 300 ethnic groups and about 120 different languages spoken throughout the country. Nigeria gained her independence from the British in the year 1960, and since the day of her independence has regularly experienced ethnic / tribal conflicts for control, recognition and superiority. This eventually culminated in a civil war which took place between 1967 and 1970. Most people living in Nigeria today did not experience this civil war because they were not born at the time; however, their parents [especially of those tribes/ethnic groups on the receiving end] tell them the stories of their suffering at the hand of the stronger tribe and this has resulted in creating a desire for revenge, a deep-seated hatred, and also a spirit of rivalry in the minds of most of the people – as memories or stories of human suffering create strong connections between members of the same ethnic group. Of course, ever since the civil war ended in 1970, there have been numerous clashes and bloodletting between different tribes / ethnic groups in the country.


Major Causes 

Some of the major causes of these tribal clashes are (i) colonization, (ii) the struggle for political position and power, (iii) social class status, (iv) control of national resources, (v) uneven distribution of opportunities and (vi) land / border disputes. The six geo-political zones of Nigeria, namely; North-West, North-East, North-Central, South-West, South-South and South-East zones have all witnessed all kinds of ethnic conflicts which usually happen as a result of one or more of the causes listed above.

For instance, the South West recently experienced a tribal clash between the Hausa tribe and the Yoruba tribe – in which many buildings were burnt down, vehicles were destroyed and [sadly] many lives were lost. The cause of this clash – which took place in Shasha market, Ibadan, in the early weeks of February, 2021 – was simply as a result of ethnic rivalry and control over the leadership and fee-collections of the market which had been a perennial problem in the market. It eventually ended up in violent killings when a certain man was said to have hit another man with a charmed magical ring on his finger – leading to his death and then reprisal attacks from the two tribes.

Everyone claims to be right – even when they are wrong

This scenario is way too common in Nigeria; where people are just ready to defend fellow members of their tribe and even kill because of them – not giving room for law enforcement agents to do their work, and not caring who was wrong or right. As a matter of fact, a lot of Nigerian people are radical, partial and self-centered when it comes to ethnicity; this makes it easy for them to get easily annoyed when dealing with another tribe especially in matters of money or political power/position – especially those who are not well-educated or well-informed. This is a problem which has always held back the progress of Nigeria and hindered productivity, sustainable peace and prosperity for all.

Ethnic clashes in Nigeria are often followed by environmental problems arising from the burning of buildings and vehicles, violation of human rights and human suffering, destabilization of communities and the imposition of curfews to calm heightened tensions. It destroys the socio-economic and political growth of the nation and disrupts major sectors such as the economy and even the family unit. It fosters such evils as genocide and even mass rape of innocent women; it also leaves behind a lot of widows and children to fend for themselves and fight for survival as most people actively involved in tribal / ethnic clashes are the men who take up arms to kill their fellow men and also die in the process.

Advocates of Peace

Of course not all ethnic groups engage in ethnic conflict; especially those who are smaller in size and have less political influence. More often than not, it is the largest ethnic groups or those with some political influence who engage in ethnic clashes such as the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo and some other Niger-Delta and Middle-Belt ethnic groups. However, my observation is that there are also well-educated, well-informed and well-meaning people of Nigeria who prefer to settle ethnic differences by dialogue and not by violence and bloodshed. These well-meaning people are increasing in their numbers and this gives great assurance that in a few years to come, there will be less ethnic clashes and more peace and stability in Nigeria.