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National Integration in Nigeria

Chapter Three
Rina Okonkwo
Godfrey Okoye University, Ugwuomu Nike, Enugu State
From the colonial period to the present, Nigeria has evolved as a nation. The issue of national unity has
plagued Nigeria from its inception. Today, Nigeria has surmounted some of the challenges of diversity
and its many cultural groups. It has achieved greater national unity over the almost fifty years of
existence. The twenty- first century has posed new threats to national integration with the militancy of
the unemployed. The new tensions in the country come from the rise of militant groups in the Niger
Delta. The wave of kidnappings and destruction of oil pipelines by unemployed youths forecasts a period
of instability and danger to national integration. The unemployed in all parts of the country are
increasingly violent in Jos, Lagos, and other cities. The recent crisis in Jos saw a thousand unemployed
gathering at the borders to enter the mayhem. To overcome the latest threat to national unity, we need
a return to our cultural values. With the de-emphasis on ethnic groups, we may have lost sight -of the
positive contribution cultural groups can make to educating young people in the right values. The
traditions of African ethnic groups must be inculcated in our youth to guide them in the right direction.
Ethnic groups are communal or cultural groups based on common ethnicity, language, customs, and/or
territory. The concept of ethnic group is different from tribe. Tribe is gradually passing from usage. Tribe
is defined as a group bound together from the beginning of time with common ancestor, line of descent,
kinship, territory, and language. The word tribe is no long acceptable because it does not accurately
describe the history of cultural groups as they emerged in the colonial period and saw full development
in the First Republic (1960-65). In my chapter, "A Re-Examination of the History of Ethnic Groups in
Nigeria,’’ I demonstrated that ethnic groups did not exist in the pre-colonial period. In the early days,
there was no unity among members of ethnic groups. Members did not identify themselves as belonging
to ethnic groups. Rather, they saw themselves as from small villages. These small village groups were
not under a central government. There was often distrust or suspicion of strangers from other towns.
The colonial government helped to develop ethnic groups through their uniting of villages into regions.
With the creation of three major regions, the North, the West, and the East, in 1939, the people were
brought together for the first time. Next, cultural and political entrepreneurs set out to forge unity
among the groups. In the 1940s, cultural associations such as the Ibibio Union, the Igbo State Union, and
Egbe Omo Oduduwa, emphasized common culture and history of its group. The next step in the
cementing of ethnic groups was the Macpherson Constitution of 1951. The regions were given greater
power through division of the civil service by regions. The federal civil service, previously a great source
of national integration, was now divided into three. As there was a shortage of qualified Northerners to
fill positions in the civil service, the Northern region put southerners on contract.
The formation of political parties also followed regions. The Northern People's Congress (NPC) was a
"closed" party, restricted to the North. There were no branches of the party outside the North.
Southerners in the North could not join the party. Southerners resident in the North were barred from
contesting for election in the North.
Extreme regionalism was the main characteristic of the First Republic. The slogan was "East for the
Easterners, West for the Westerners, and North for the Northerners. Nigeria for nobody.’’
Regions were more powerful than the federal government. The North, with the greatest population,
controlled the country. There was strong discontent in the South. The two coups of January and
July, 1966, brought change. Major General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi declared the regions abolished and
decreed one civil service for the country. This action angered the North who opposed opening the
civil service in the North to southerners. They feared Southern domination. The pogroms against Igbos
in the North were an expression of anger in the North against the attempt to end Northern control.
When the next Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, took power in the coup of July 1966, Northerners
attacked southerners, and southerners fled the North. Gowon succeeded in dismantling the regional
structure of the country. On May 27, 1967, Gowon announced the creation of twelve states. Six states
were formed from the North, three states from the East, and two in the West and one in the Mid West.
The creation of states diluted the power of the three regions. The federal government increased its
power as the bloc voting by regions was ended.
Along with the division of the regions, there was increased power for the government and dilution of
the power of the emirs. The reduction of the power of the emirs was essential in developing
loyalties to the nation instead of the 7region. The federal government also increased its power over
revenue allocation. In the First Republic, the regions controlled more revenue than the federal
government. The federal government gradually took over the major share of revue and decreased the
allocations to the states. The federal government control of revenue consolidated the power of the
central government over the states.
The Civil War may have furthered the national integration of Nigeria with the victory of the federal
government, there was an end to the idea of secession. The failure of Biafra closed the chapter of the
First Republic and began a new era of national integration. In 1976, nineteen states were created. The
West was split into Ondo, Ogun, and Oyo, and Kwara. The East Central State was divided into Anambra
and Imo. In the North, new states included Kaduna, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Bauchi, Benue, Gongola, and
Borno. Again in 1991, the East was split up even further to add Enugu State and Abia State. Cross River
State was divided to make Akwa Thorn State. Bendel state was split into Delta State and Edo State. New
states in the North included Katsina Adamawa Taraba Jigawa, Nassarawa, and Kogi. New states in the
West included Osun. In 1996, Kebbi, Yobe, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Bayelsa, and Gombe Were added to make
thirty-six states. The creation of states was a move towards national unity as ethnic unity was diluted.
There is now a return to pre-colonial pattern of many groups within each larger group. The division into
more states has increased local loyalties and prevented the potential for unity among the larger ethnic
groups. There is a return to the colonial principle of divide and rule. None of the regions speaks with one
Positive measures should now be taken to build national loyalty. To inspire patriotism in the country, the
schools should emphasize symbols of the nation such as the national anthem and the pledge. Nigerian
history should be taught and there should be special emphasis on the heroes of the nation. The history
of the movement for freedom from colonial rule can be a stirring call for youths to replicate the courage
of our past leaders. The schools are nurseries for training future citizens. The key lesson
local culture. The norms and values of each cultural group can be the basis for building national loyalties.
We should start from the cultural groups to build strong character and morals among the young people.
We cannot move towards a strong, ethical nation without imbuing strong understanding of basic rules
for behavior. University education must imbue youths with values. The Humanities course in the
General Studies programme seeks to teach students about their cultures and also to emphasize the
factors for national unity. The education can reach out to rural areas with cinema and theatre groups to
teach the lessons of cultural identity and also national integration.
Culture is defined as "cultivating or developing the mind, faculties, manners, improvement or
refinement by education and training." TS Eliot, the great English poet, noted that the culture
of the individual depends on the culture of the group." We must teach our youths about their cultures.
Culture is central to each individual. "Every action is made possible and constrained by culture." It is
necessary to know one's culture before building a bridge to others. Ethnic groups give youths a proper
base and identity. The individual has the security and confidence to move out into the society and work
for the good of the whole. Instead of fostering separation and exclusivity, ethnic groups uphold
standards and join with others to improve the values of the society." There is agreement on the
principle of national transcendence over local groups. There is a general belief in tolerance for other
groups. No race possesses the monopoly of beauty, of intelligence, of force, and there is a place for all
at the rendezvous of victory.
The achievement of national integration depends upon a just government for all citizens. There must be
"equilibrium between a powerful and prosperous modem state and concern for the liberty of
multifarious cultural elements. Developing national consciousness is a conscious decision. It requires
deliberate policy and efforts. "The nation is not a given. It can only arise as the result of conscious effort,
an existential choice which enables man to escape form 'natural determinants. "
Nigeria has made great strides towards national integration. Unlike the regional parties of the First
Republic, there are now national parties contesting elections. People's Democratic Party (PDP) is a
national party. The Action Congress (AC) is also national. The National Youth Service Corps, despite its
shortcomings, exposes youths to other parts of Nigeria. Federal Government Colleges, dubbed unity
schools, might be revived to work as another source of improving understanding among different
groups. National universities and improved communication and transportation throughout the country
foster national identity. National associations such as trade unions hold annual conferences to bring
about cooperation and common purpose among its members.
Although we cannot say that destructive ethnic rivalries and distrust have been abolished, we can say
that there is gradual progress towards improved understanding in the country. At present, ethnic groups
are no longer the greatest threat to national integration in Nigeria. The breakdown of the rule of law in
the Niger Delta and other parts of Nigeria is caused by "the lost generation of youths."?" Angry, hungry,
and restless youths are not speaking for ethnic groups, so much as the army of the unemployed. The
youth are taking the revenge of the poor, of the people least able to bring up children in a modem
To meet this new challenge to national stability, there must be efforts to bring employment to
.Nigerians. BBC announced that 90% of people in the Niger Delta are unemployed. We do not have
the statistics for other parts of Nigeria. When the newly elected US President campaigned, he said the
solution to the economic crisis was "JOBS." The problem in many countries all over the world is
the plight of the unemployed. Until people are financially independent, they lack dignity and security.
The unemployed are a source for social and political unrest in the world. In his study of the unemployed
in Kenya, Emmit B. Evans, Jr. noted that three preconditions must exist before unemployment leads to
rebellion. Firstly, the frustrations from-unemployment must 'be widespread and intense. Secondly,
there must be a consciousness or awareness of the links between government policy and the economic
conditions for the unemployed. Thirdly, organizations must exist to channel political discontent." These
three preconditions have been met in the Niger Delta. There are other organizations of unemployed
throughout Nigeria. The pressing need today is a more equitable society with opportunity for all in the
country. The problem today is not division by ethnic groups, but division by class, the rich and the poor,
the employed and the unemployed.
Rina Okonkwo, "A Re-Examination of the History of Ethnic Groups in Nigeria," African Humanities
(Humanities and Development) ed. by S.C. Chuta (Onitsha: Cape Publishers, 2000) pp. 159-166.
Rina Okonkwo, "A Re-Examination of the History of Ethnic Groups in Nigeria," African Humanities
(Humanities and Development) ed. by S.C. Chuta (Onitsha: Cape Publishers, 2000) pp. 159-166.
BJ Dudley, Parties and Politics in Northern Nigeria (London: Frank
Cass, 1968) p. 263.
Ibid. p. 297.
W. SchWarz, Nigeria (New York: Praeger, 1968) p. 159.
Edward Hulmes, Education and Cultural Diversity (London: Longman, 1989) p. 16. Ibid. pp. 16-17.
Peter Figueroa, Education and the Social Construction
'Race (London: Routledge, 1991) p. 28.
Ibid. p. 84.
Edward Said, "The Politics of Knowledge" Race Identity and Representative in
Education, ed. by
Cameron Mc thy and Warren Crichlow (London: Routledge, 1993) p. 312.
Aime Cesaire, Cahier d'un Retour, quoted by Edward Said Ibid. p.310.
Ralph Uwechue, Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War Facing the Future (Paris: Jeune Afrique, 1971)
Leopold Sedar Senghor, Nation and Vote Africaine du Socialisme (Paris: Presence Africane, 1961) p. 25
quoted in Joseph W. Elder, National Loyalties in a Newly Independent Nation," in Ideology and
Discontent, ed. by David E. Apter (Chicago: Free Press, 1964) pp. 78-9
Robert D. Kaplan, 'The Coming Anarchy," Atlantic Monthly (February, 1994) p. 54.
Karl Maier, This House Has Fallen, Nigeria in Crisis (London Penguin, 2000). p. xxvii.
Bilikisu Yusfu, quoted in Karl Maier, Ibid. p. 302.
Robert D. Kaplan, The Coming of Anarchy, Ibid. p.44
Emmit B. Evans, Jr. Sources of Socio-Political Instability in an African State: The Case of Kenyas
Unemployed, The African Studies Review XX, 1 p.45.
... Building upon this idea, Akwaraet al., (2013) viewed national integration as a sense of togetherness and unity towards one's own country, irrespective of cultural and religious differences. They emphasized the significance of national integration in facilitating the promotion and upliftment of all races, sexes, and religions within a state (Okonkwo, 2009). The existing joking relationships among various ethnic nationalities in Nigeria have played a very important role in cementing harmonious relationships among Nigerians. ...
Joking relationships meaning; Wasan Barkwanci or Taubasantaka in the Hausa language is a Hausa term referring to different forms of joking relationships, a cultural phenomenon that is played both among the Hausa people and to some extent, their neighbors. Joking relationships in their simple form exist between people who share kinship relationships. Prior to the British conquest of Hausa states and the subsequent imposition of colonial rule in the early part of the 19th century, notable Hausa states waged interstate wars of conquest for territorial expansion and gaining access and control of trading routes, to further enhance their revenue drive and economic viability. The British however halted these wars as a result of which peace prevailed and this brought about stability among the states. During peacetime, a joking relationship sprung up between the people of the warring states. Culturally, practitioners of similar but different occupations do engage in jokes between themselves, each claiming superiority, prestige, and worthiness of their trade over another. Culture being a dynamic phenomenon, joking relations as it relates to trade groups, were shifted to incorporate people who undertake the practice of new occupations that were introduced as a result of the contact between the British overloads and their Hausa subjects. Hence, joking relationships exist between masons and carpenters, between drivers and People who transport goods using camel. The main feature of these joking relationships is that the persons who engage in it are automatically related to one another such that one is entitled to say and do things to another without offence, which ordinarily when said or done to a different person will generate quarrels and misunderstandings. This paper is an attempt to examine this cultural phenomenon and its efficacy in bringing about harmonious relationships and social integration of Hausa people and their neighbors, which if properly harnessed will bring about national integration.
... According to Okonkwo (2009), ethnic groups as well as the attendant problems of ethnicity in Nigeria is a creation of the colonial masters. In her words, the colonial government helped to develop ethnic groups through their uniting of villages into regions, hence the slogan at this first republic, was "East for the Easterners, West for the Westerners, North for the Northerners, Nigeria for nobody". ...
This paper examined the role of ethnicity, religious pluralism and the attendant rivalry, corruption and violent conflicts in Nigeria. It noted that since the arbitrary amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates by Lord Fredrick Lugard in 1914, the country has been battling agents of disunity. In order to address the challenges to unity, successive governments in Nigeria (Civilian or Military) have put in place pro-unity measures such as national policy on education, National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, ethnic balancing in the country's public service, to mention a few. This paper suggested the way forward that would ensure social integration, which is crucial for peace, unity and the development of people and societies in Nigeria, such as poverty alleviation. It concluded that, to promote national integration, peace and social justice in the country, it would require imbibing common yielding values.
... (Otite, 1990). Okonkwo (2009) has argued that ethnic groups as well as the attendant problem of ethnicity in Nigeria is a creation of the colonial masters. According to the author, "the colonial government helped to develop ethnic groups through their uniting of villages into regions" hence extreme regionalism became the major characteristic of the first republic. ...
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Religious pluralism has always posed a problem to national development in Nigeria determining the level of religious crises and violence over the years. This study evaluates the trend and its implications on national development. Although the author condemned unilateral and arbitrary amalgamation of January 1st 1914, the belief that a real dialogue can solve and repeal the mistakes of the past since all religion preaches peace. Data for the study was collected mainly through secondary sources. It adopts historical and descriptive method of analysis for optimal results. The paper recommends among others that tolerance and accepting of individual religious differences is a key to peace and harmony. Religious leaders should emphasize the integrative aspects of religion. Religious education should be made compulsory at all levels of primary and secondary schools to expose the students to the ideals of other religions. Finally, politicians should not use religion as a language of power but rather emphasize its role of achieving social needs that affect the well-being of the people.
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The study examined party politics and the challenges of national integration in Nigeria. It utilised a qualitative research technique with the aid of the interview guide. The research population comprised members of civil society organisations; academia; and political parties in Nigeria that were purposively selected. Ted R. Gurr's thesis on why men rebel served as the basis to unravel political violence and conflicts in Nigeria. The findings of the study revealed political violence and conflicts in Nigeria are the resultant effects of the non-performance of Nigerian politicians. This and among others have stymied national integration in Nigeria. The study concludes and recommended that political activities are expected to integrate diverse ideas and needs in plural states. This can be possible when political leaders see politics as a service to the electorates and a privilege to intensified national integration in any society.
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Agitations for state creation are almost as old as the Nigerian nation. The more states that are created, the more the problem they are intended to solve persists. Just as the exercises enfeeble the constituent units vis-a-vis the federal government so do they detach the units one from the other. The state creation exercises have heightened the indigene-non-indigene phenomenon (statism) which is antithetical to a sense of common nationhood. The federal character principle which is intended to moderate competitions among states over national ‘cake’ has exacerbated ethnic – rivalries and the indigene-settler syndrome in most of the states. The principle should be replicated in the states to accommodate Nigerians there rather than being discriminated against on the basis of their states of origin. What a contradiction! The thrust of this paper is to investigate how far the state creation in Nigeria has helped in knitting the citizens to achieve a common nationhood. The paper posits that state creation exercises are a bag of mixed grills: although they are supposed to ensure even development, they have remained a source of crisis, alienation and distrust in some states which defeat the national integration project.
1. Beyond Rational Choice 2. Racist Frames of Reference 3. What is Multicultural and Antiracist Education? Philosophical and Sociological Reflections 4. A Critique of the Swann Report 5. Can Teachers be taught Can attitudes be Changed? 6. Student-Teachers' Images of Black People and of Education for a Multicultural Society: A Case Study 7. Racism in School: A Case Study 8. Bias in Examinations 9. White Schools - Black Marks: Constructed Underachievement.
Education and Cultural Diversity (London: Longman, 1989) p. 16. Ibid
  • Edward Hulmes
Edward Hulmes, Education and Cultural Diversity (London: Longman, 1989) p. 16. Ibid. pp. 16-17.
National Loyalties in a Newly Independent Nation
  • Leopold Sedar
Leopold Sedar Senghor, Nation and Vote Africaine du Socialisme (Paris: Presence Africane, 1961) p. 25 quoted in Joseph W. Elder, "National Loyalties in a Newly Independent Nation," in Ideology and Discontent, ed. by David E. Apter (Chicago: Free Press, 1964) pp. 78-9
A Re-Examination of the History of Ethnic Groups in Nigeria
  • Rina Okonkwo
Rina Okonkwo, "A Re-Examination of the History of Ethnic Groups in Nigeria," African Humanities (Humanities and Development) ed. by S.C. Chuta (Onitsha: Cape Publishers, 2000) pp. 159-166.
The Politics of Knowledge Race Identity and Representative in Education
  • Edward Said
Edward Said, "The Politics of Knowledge" Race Identity and Representative in Education, ed. by Cameron Mc thy and Warren Crichlow (London: Routledge, 1993) p. 312.
This House Has Fallen
  • Karl Maier
Karl Maier, This House Has Fallen, Nigeria in Crisis (London Penguin, 2000). p. xxvii.
  • Ralph Uwechue
Ralph Uwechue, Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War Facing the Future (Paris: Jeune Afrique, 1971) p.160.