The study examines ethnic nationalism in Nigeria and socio-economic development in Nigeria, using Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari Administration. Thestudyprovidesmore insight into the concept of ethnicity, nationalism, factors leading to ethnic nationalism in modern Nigeria, how ethnic nationalism has affected the socio-economic development in Nigeria, and how to curb or reduce the negative effect of ethnic nationalism on the socio-economic development in Nigeria. The studyuseprimordialist and socio-biological theory, and instrumentalist theory in addressing the topic.

Primary and Secondary data were both obtained as regard the study. The primary data was gathered using interview on the basis of the research hypothesis, in which the respondents will provide answers to. Secondary data on the other hand refers to already published information. The secondary data used to conduct this study were sourced from textbooks, journals, articles, earlier publications, encyclopedia, and dictionaries.

The in-depth analysis of the interview findings revealedfactors that accounted for the re-emergence and predominance of ethnic nationalism in Nigeria; the issue of legacy of colonialism which was adopted by our indigenous leaders. majority of Nigerians are not patriotic and loyal enough, and one will hardly find loyalty to a cause, a symbiotic construct of patriotism, in an average Nigerian.nationalism is politicized ethnicity and manifests whenever a group of people feels particularly targeted for ill-treatment or oppression especially in a diverse political system;. Secondly, findings on the impact of ethnic nationalism in the modern Nigeria socioeconomic development revealed that, the issue of ethnic nationalism has led to continual threat to the peace, political stability and socioeconomic development in Nigeria as a whole;. Thirdly, the impact of ethnic nationalism gave rise to the materialization of ethnic militias across the country, such as the Odua People’s Congress (OPC) for the Yoruba nationality, Arewa People’s Congress (APC) for the Hausa/Fulani nationality, Bakassi Boys and Biafra for the Igbo nationality. the impact of ethnic nationalism in Nigeria has led to the division and fragmentation of the Nigerian civil society;. And lastly, findings on what can be done to minimize the negative concomitants of ethnic nationalism showed that, there should be a platform/forum (national conference) for which all the various ethnic nationalities in Nigeria can unite to address the national question.the issue of power rotation or sharing must be institutionalized and well-established in the constitution of the federal republic of the country.a ‘Two Party system’ is the best alternative for a country like Nigeria where people influence our diversity to cause problem.

The study concluded that, nationalism is politicized ethnicity and manifests whenever a group of people feels particularly targeted for ill-treatment or oppression especially in a diverse political system. Unity in diversity must be encouraged and promoted, and proper education (orientation) must be the order of the day and the pursuit of the government.

The study further recommends that:Our leaders should formulate policies and strategies will enhance and promote diverse ethnic integration into politics and scrap the inherited colonial structure in place.To build a virile nation the ruling elites should encourage and promote national discussion. Government should promote a balanced structure across all states in the federation. The issue of generally acceptable revenue should be based on each state population and not on land mass. There should be removal of column showing ethnic backgrounds or state of origin in forms like bank account opening or loans forms, scholarship forms, employment forms, job application forms, school admission forms etc in a bid to unify us as Nigerians without the use of ethnic background as criteria for qualification. Policymakers should formulate policies unifying national goals which will hence, put ethnic sentiments as second place in terms of priority.



1.0. Introduction

Nigeria as a nation is at the moment in a deep infectious and outrageous crisis that needs prompt attention, (Duruji, 2012). Like a disease whose malignant path has been clinically cut apart, political observers have found Nigeria’s budding democracy in a deep sea overwhelmed by stormy weather, (Aluko, 2014). Therefore, a lot of nautical perils massing as one are a night-mare even for a helmsman of undoubted genius: from the war cry of resource control sweeping the southern states, to the tiptoeing islamization of the northern states; from ethnic armed forces with a nationalist agenda; to sharia enforcers angling for religious self-determination in a secular state; from insecurity occasioned by the state’s loss of the monopoly of the instruments of violence, to the insubordinate restiveness of a military faction unhappy with its loss of despotic fiat, (Adesina, & Ada, 2013). All the contradictions contained or buried under dictatorship have erupted with dawn of democratic governance.

There is every chance that as usual Nigeria will fumble and wobble through the ship of democracy and will ride the storm and return safely to harbour, there is an even greater chance that the ship of democracy may capsize, (Olasebikan, 2015). The primary source of the crisis has to do with either failure to appreciate and so come to grips with the truth that the consolidation of democracy is the essential key to sustainable socio-political and economic development, (Joseph, 2011). However, it is crucial to reiterate the fact that in international circles and in the comity of nations, a nation where democracy has been consolidated is given and accorded much respect.

1.1. Background to the Study

Ethnic nationalism is a complex social phenomenon. It can also be defined as a set of beliefs concerning the superiority and differences of one’s ethnic group and a defense of its interest above all others, (Adams, 2013). It as well means a person’s identification with an ethnic group, its culture, interest and goals. It is ethnocentrism that cuts across all other loyalties to stress loyalty to a particular ethnic group, (Alulo, 2010). This is so simply because to Hofstede (2012), there is always a strong tendency for ethnic or linguistic groups to fight for identification of their own group, if not for national independence. This tendency has persistently been on the rise rather than declining in the final part of the 20th century. After the assertion of Hofstede (2012), the Nigerian experience with pronounced ethnic nationalism is not particularly a strange phenomenon.

In actual life, an ethnic nationalist identifies himself or herself first as a member of a particular ethnic nationality before identifying himself or herself with a nation. Therefore, this help to explain the emergence and proliferation of ethnic associations and armed forces like Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Odua People’s Congress’ (OPC), Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Arewa People’s Congress (APC), OhanezeNdigbo, Egbesu Boys, Bakassi Boys, Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Movement for the survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), South-south Peoples Conference, Union of Niger Delta (UND) among others, (Badmus, 2010). 

Nationalism is as controversial as its etymological and historical roots: nationalism is a theory, an ideology, a movement, a consciousness and a creed; however it is as well a disease, an expression of mania. Its’ meaning in every of these categories isn’t less diverse nor is the categories explicitly defined, (Adams, 2013). Nationalism is the sense of political togetherness that makes individuals feel patriotic as regard a country, connected to a ‘we-group’, and separate from ‘they-group’. As an ideology, nationalism claims that the nation should be the primary political identity of people, (Odimegwu, 2011).

Additionally, nationalist ideology sustains that the paramount political loyalty of people should be patriotically extended to the nation-state, the political drive of the nation’s independence, (Eteete, 2013). Most individuals have more than a political drive of the nation’s independence, some have more than a political identity, and nationalism almost always is their main political orientation. For instance, President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “I am an American, a Texan, and a Democrat, in that order.” Similar to Johnson, many of us emotionally rank our identities; while a number of us put our country first, some identify themselves first on a religious basis and so on. So, you probably identify yourself first and foremost politically as a citizen of the United States or some other country. You might even be willing to fight and die for your country, (Eeete, 2013).

According to Aluko (2014) and Ake (2000) the problem of ethnic nationalism in Nigeria came with the dawn of colonialism. This occurred when different, autonomous, diverse and sub-national groups were combined as one to form a nation. Again, the colonialists created structural imbalances within the nation in terms of socio-economic projects, social development and establishment of administrative centres. This imbalance deepened the antipathies between the different ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. (Nnoli 2000; &Aluko, 2014). Political actors have overplayed events that have followed since the first republic up till now significantly. These political actors tend to give emphasis to our diversity and those things that divide us rather than emphasizing things that will unite us.

Stevenhagen (2004) argued that ethnic nationalism is general in all plural societies and came up with two schools of thoughts on the meaning and nature of ethnic nationalism. These two schools of thought are; the primordialists and instrumentalists. Primordialists is classified as those who hold that, members of the same ethnic group have a common primordial bond that determines their personal identity and turns the group into a natural community of a type that is older than the modern nation or modern class systems. On the other hand, instrumentalists,are those who see ethnic identity as a means for individuals, most particularly leaders, to pursue their own personal goal and purpose like mobilizing and manipulating groups for political ends. However, it is poignant to see that the Nigerian political sector is dominated largely before individuals who belong to both schools of thought; most particularly the primordial group, (ibid).

Therefore, based on the above, it is on this background that, this study will examine ethnic nationalism and the socioeconomic development in Nigeria.

1.2. Statement of the problem

Nigeria is a multi-ethnic country with differences in socio-cultural among its component ethnic groups all of which have led into cultural dissimilarities. These cultural differences have been manifested by, the differences in culture which consist of language, diet, dress and type of social system, (Ochonma, 2011). The ethnic virus has been one of the most essential causes of social crisis and political instability which has affected the socio-economic development in Nigeria; and ethnic nationalism has been seen generally as a major obstacle to the overall politico-economic development of the country, (Otite, 2014).

Unarguably, Nigeria is a country blessed with huge human and material resources, although ironically, the same country has become the fortress of inequitable state policies, injustice, blatant corruption, social decay, poverty-ridden, and many more, where ethnic nationalism has pervaded every facet of the Nigerian life, and more fundamentally determines who gets what, when, and how, (Lassswell, 2013). Ethnic nationalism has been seen to be the cause of the 1967-1970 Civil War in Nigeria, elections which have been rigged and those which have failed can be blamed on ethnicity, the manipulation of census figures can only be understood from the ethnic dimension. 

Based on the above, this study will look into the following problems;

i. the factors that accounted for the reemergence and predominance of ethnic nationalism;

ii. what is the impact of ethnic nationalism in the modern Nigeria socioeconomic development?

iii. what are the effects of ethnic politics in Nigeria’s political development?

iv. why has ethnic nationalism persisted in Nigerian politics? 

v. what can be done to minimize the negative concomitants of ethnic nationalism

1.3. Research Objectives

The main aim of this study is an attempt to assess ethnic nationalism in Nigeria and socio-economic development in Nigeria, using Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari Administration. The specific objectives will be to;

i. examine the effect of ethnic nationalism on the socioeconomic development of Nigeria

ii. determine the factors the accounted for the reemergence of ethnic nationalism in Nigeria

iii. find out what ways an d strategies to reduce the negative effects of ethnic nationalism in Nigeria.

1.4. Research Questions

In order to achieve the purpose of this research study, the study will attempt to provide answers to the following research questions in order to arrive at a logical conclusion.

i. What is the effect of ethnic nationalism on the socioeconomic development of Nigeria?

ii. What are the factors that facilitated the reemergence of ethnic nationalism in Nigeria?

iii. What are the strategies that can be used to reduce the negative effects of ethnic nationalism in Nigeria?

1.5. Significance of the Study

This study will be of significance in the following ways, it will enhance the knowledge of government stakeholders and the general public on ethnic nationalism, and the factors leading to it and how it has affected the socioeconomic development in Nigeria. This study will as well be of importance in sensitizing the public on the factors contributing to ethnic nationalism, and ways by which government can develop strategies to minimize its negative effects on the lives of citizens and the development of the country in general. 

1.6. Scope of the Study

This study will cover the ethnic nationalism and socioeconomic development in Nigeria, under the administration of Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari. The study focuses on the ethnic nationalism simply because of its diverse ways in affecting the socioeconomic development of the country.However solutions, resolutions and recommendations will be made on a progressive basis (that is futuristic basis). 

1.7. Structure of the Study

This study will be divided into five chapters.

Chapter one, which is the introduction will include the problem statement where the problems of the study that prompted the researcher will be stated. Objectives intended to be achieved in carrying out this research work will also be listed here; the research questions and hypotheses will as well be specified in the chapter. Answers to these questions will be provided at the end of the research work. Other sections of the chapter will include; scope of the study, significance of the study, organization of the study, and definition of terms.

Chapter two, which is the literature review, examines the existing literatures on traditional political system and democracy development in Nigeria. The chapter will include conceptualization, definitions, theories and empirical review.

Chapter three, this section includes; the introduction, research design, population of study, method of data collection, validity and reliability, sample and sampling techniques, and method of data analysis.

Chapter four is the presentation of data analysis. It includes the presentation of data, analysis and testing the hypothesis.

Chapter five, which is the summary, conclusion and recommendation. This will be the final chapter and will summarize the findings of the research, drawn conclusions from these findings and proffer recommendations.

1.8. Definition of terms

Ethnicity: is the cultural characteristic that connects a particular group of people to each other. On the other hand, ethnicity is the process of politicizing ethnic identity

Ethnic Nationalism: is a set of beliefs about the superiority and differences of one’s ethnic group and a defense of its interest above all others

Nationalism: is the sense of political togetherness that makes people feel patriotic about a country, connected to a ‘we-group’, and distinct from ‘they-group’.

Socioeconomic: is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes.

Development: is the process by which people become better off. It can also be defined as the process of improving the quality of all human lives.


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Adesina, S., & Ada, O. (2013).Democratization in Africa.Nigerian Perspectives Volume Two. Abuja: Centre for Democratic Studies. 

Ake, C. (2011). The Feasibility of Democracy in Africa.Codesria Dakar, Senegal (2011)

Aluko M.A.O. (2014). The Ethnic Problem in Africa. Paper presented at the 8th Conference of Pan African Anthropological Association held in Cotonou, Benin Republic

Badmus, I. A. (2010).Ethnic militia Movement and the Crises of political Order in Post- Military Nigeria.Journal of Social Science Vol.13 No.3

Duruji, M.M. (2012). Democracy and the Challenge of Ethno-nationalism in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic: Interrogating Institutional Mechanics. Journal of Peace Conflict Development (15):1-2

Eteete, A. M. (2013). Ethnic Nationalism, Statism, Citizenship and the Right to Non-Discrimination Under the Nigerian Constitution. Department of International Law and Diplomacy, Babcock University,Ilishan-Remo

Joseph, R. (2011). Democracy and Prebendal Politics in Nigeria: The Rise and Fall of the Second Republic. Cambridge: CUP. Lancaster C, Democracy in Africa.Foreign Policy, 85: 148 – 165.

Nnoli, O. (2000). Ethnic Politics in Nigeria. New Hawen Fourth Dimension Publishers, Nigeria (2000)

Ochonma, V. (2011).Nigeria’s struggle with Ethnic The Tide May 4

Odimegwu, I. (2011). Nigerian Nationalism and the Crisis of Patriotism: a Conceptual Dialogics in Philosophy and Africa (Ed.) IkeOdimegwu, UNESCO 2011. World Philosophy, Vol.1, 203-213. 

Olasebikan, D. (2015). Democracy in Action: The Southwest Experience Lagos, Nigeria: Wepcom Publishers

Stavenhagen, R. (2004). Ethnicity based conflicts’ paper delivered at UNRISDA – UNDP Seminar on Ethnic is no Longer Defendable in the Present Day Society.




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