Mohammed Isah Shehu, Muhammad Fuad Bin Othman, Nazariah Binti Osman


One of the major characters of the Nigeria is the prominence of ethnicity, regionalism and religion in her formation from 1914, and the succeeding trends, particularly in her public affairs. These (ethnicity, regionalism and religion) have therefore, greatly been influencing her unity, cohesion, development and sustainability. Not only have these manifested and determined Nigerian state make up, structure and affairs, but also resulted in conflicts, threats to national cohesion, controversies, and unhealthy rivalry among the heterogeneous ethno-religious and regional groups in the country. This article explores ethno-religious and regional rivalry among Nigeria’s prominent religions, major, small and minority ethnic groups. It also examined the factors responsible for, the effects of rivalry on Nigerian state and the policy measures put in place by various regimes to contain the rivalry. It is very clear from the study that the basic reasons for the rivalry are economic, political, power and fear of domination and supremacy by the others. The article also argues that although ethno-religious, regional rivalry has been a potent threat to Nigeria’s unity and social bond, accommodation, stability and prosperity, it is also positively awakening individuals, religions, groups and regions to civic duties and political participation, stand for their rights, responsibilities, etc. The nature and extent to which the rivalry is pursued (either positive or negative) determines the consciousness and stimulation of drives by the groups to rise up to impending socio-economic and political development, which in turn speeds up the progress and development of the state, or further threaten national unity, social bond, and stability of Nigeria.


Ethnicity, Federalism, Nigeria, Regions, Religion, Rivalry,

Full Text:



Abbink, J. (2011). Ethnic-based federalism and ethnicity in Ethiopia: reassessing the experiment after 20 years. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 5 (4), 596-618.

Achebe, C. (2012). There was a country: a personal history of Biafra. London: Penguin Press.

Ademoyega, A. (1981). Why we struck: The story of the first Nigerian coup. Ibadan: Evans Brothers Publishers Ltd.

Adetiba, T. C., & Rahim, A. (2012). Between ethnicity, nationality and development in Nigeria. International Journal of Development and Sustainability, 1 (3), 656-674.

Alimba, N. C. (2014). Probing the dynamic of communal conflict in Northern Nigeria. African Research Review, 8 (1), 177-204.

Al Quntar, S. (2017). Repatriation and the Legacy of Colonialism in the Middle East. Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology & Heritage Studies, 5 (1), 19-26.

Alubo, O. (2006). Ethnic conflicts and citizenship crises in the central region. Ibadan: Programme on Ethnic and Federal Studies (PEFS).

Attah, N. E. (2013). Contesting exclusion in a multi-ethnic state: Rethinking ethnic nationalism in Nigeria. Social Identities, 19 (5), 607-620.

Berghahn, V. (2017). German colonialism and imperialism from Bismarck to Hitler. German Studies Review, 40 (1), 147-162.

Birnir, J. K., Wilkenfeld, J., Fearon, J. D., Laitin, D. D., Gurr, T. R., Brancati, D., Pate, A., Saideman, S. M. & Hultquist, A. S. (2015). Socially relevant ethnic groups, ethnic structure, and AMAR. Journal of Peace Research, 52 (1), 110-115.

Bogaards, M., Basedau, M., & Hartmann, C. (2010). Ethnic party bans in Africa: an introduction. Democratization, 17 (4), 599 - 617.

Brown, G. K., & Langer, A. (2010). Conceptualizing and measuring ethnicity. Oxford Development Studies, 38 (4), 411-436.

Chandra, K., & Wilkinson, S. (2008). Measuring the effect of “ethnicity”. Comparative Political Studies, 41 (4-5), 515-563.

Chinazor Lady-Franca, O. (2016). Induction strategy of Igbo entrepreneurs and micro-business success: A study of household equipment line, main market Onitsha, Nigeria. Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, Economics and Business, 4 (1), 43-65.

Clark, T. (1991). A right honourable gentleman – The life and times of Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Zaria: Huda-Huda Publishing Company.

Cline, L. E. (2011). ‘Today we shall drink blood’: Internal unrest in Nigeria. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 22 (02), 273-289.

de Montclos, M. A. P. (2014). The politics and crisis of the Petroleum Industry Bill in Nigeria. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 52 (03), 403-424.

Eifert, B., Miguel, E., & Posner, D. N. (2010). Political competition and ethnic identification in Africa. American Journal of Political Science, 54 (2), 494-510.

Elaigwu, J. I. & Garba, A. A. Green Federalism - The Nigerian experience. In Chakrabarti PGD and Srivastava N (2015). Green federalism: Experiences and practices (pp 81-100). (Eds). New-Delhi: The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) Press.

Gaiya, M. B. Towards a civil religion in Nigeria. In Adogame, A., Chitando, E. & Bateye, B. (eds.). (2016). African Traditions in the Study of Religion, Diaspora and Gendered Societies, (pp 47-60). New York: Routledge Francis & Taylor Group.

Gorenburg, D. P. (2003). Minority ethnic mobilisation in the Russian federation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Haynes, J. (2007). Religion, ethnicity and civil war in Africa: The cases of Uganda and Sudan. The Round Table, 96 (390), 305-317.

Horowitz, D. L. (2014). Ethnic power sharing: Three big problems. Journal of Democracy, 25 (2), 5-20.

Jacob, R. I. (2012). A historical survey of ethnic conflict in Nigeria. Asian Social Science, 8 (4), 13-29.

Jafari, A., Dedeoğlu, A. Ö., Regany, F., Üstündağli, E., & Batat, W. (2015). Rethinking religion in the context of ethnicity and well-being. Marketing Theory, 15 (2), 287-295.

Kendhammer, B. (2014). Citizenship, federalism and powersharing: Nigeria's federal character and the challenges of institutional design. Ethnopolitics, 13 (4), 396-417.

Kitause, R. H., & Achunike, H. C. (2013). Religion in Nigeria from 1900-2013. Religion, 3 (18), 45-57.

Kernell, S., Jacobson, G. C. & Kousser, T. (2012). The logic of American politics (5th Edition). Washington DC. CQ Press.

Kurfi, A. (2004). My life and times (an Autobiography). Ibadan: Spectrum Books Limited.

Langer, A. (2010). The situational importance of ethnicity and religion in Ghana. Ethnopolitics, 9 (1), 9-29.

Meagher, K. (2009). Trading on faith: religious movements and informal economic governance in Nigeria. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 47 (03), 397-423.

Mustapha, A. R. (2016). Exploiting Religion for Wealth Generation in Yorubaland of Nigeria: The how and why. World Journal of Social Science, 3 (1), 33.

Mustapha, A. R. (2009). Institutionalising ethnic representation: How effective is affirmative action in Nigeria? Journal of International Development, 21 (4), 561-576.

Nolte, I., Jones, R., Taiyari, K., & Occhiali, G. (2016). Research note: Exploring survey data for historical and anthropological research: Muslim–Christian relations in south-west Nigeria. African Affairs, 115 (460), 541-561.

Nwozor, A. (2014). Power rotation, ethnic politics and the challenges of democratization in contemporary Nigeria. African Monographs, 35 (1), 1-18.

Ojie, A. E., & Ewhrudjakpor, C. (2009). Ethnic diversity and public policies in Nigeria. Anthropologist, 11 (1), 7-14.

Ojo, E. O. (2016). The Awolowo-Akintola leadership tussle: A reinterpretation. Journal of Arts and Humanities, 5 (1), 76.

Ojukwu, C., & Oluwole, O. E. (2016). June 12 saga and the re-visitation of Igbo-Yoruba Cold War in Nigeria. Ubuntu: Journal of Conflict Transformation, 5 (2), 11-26.

Omaka, A. O. (2017). Historicizing ethnic minorities’ Movements and State Creation in Nigeria, 1946–1967. In Minority Rights and the National Question in Nigeria (pp. 41-59). Springer International Publishing.

Onuoha, J. & Nwanegbo, C.J. (2007). (Edits). Theory and practice of intergovernmental Relations in Nigeria. Enugu-Nigeria: Quintagon Publishers.

Osaghae, E. E. (2005). State, constitutionalism, and the management of ethnicity in Africa. African and Asian Studies, 4 (1-2), 83-105.

Osaghae, E. E., & Suberu, R. T. (2005). A history of identities, violence and stability in Nigeria. Oxford: Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity, University of Oxford.

Osaghae, E. E. Federal Society and federal character: The politics of plural accommodation in Nigeria since independence. In U. Eleazu (Ed.) (1988), Nigeria: The first 25 years (pp 26-29). Lagos: Infodata Ltd. & Heinemann Educational Books.

Paden, J. N. (1986). Values and leadership in Nigeria: Ahmadu Bello Sardauna of Sokoto. Zaria: Huda-Huda Publishing Press.

Richard, J. (1986). Democracy and prebendal politics in Nigeria: The rise and fall of the second republic. Ibadan: Spectrum Books Ltd.

Shagari, S. (2001). Shehu Shagari: Beckoned to serve, an autobiography. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books.

Suberu, R. (2010). The Nigerian federal system: performance, problems and prospects. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 28 (4), 459-477.

The Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria. (1999). Lagos: Government Printer.

Tillin, L. (2007). United in diversity? Asymmetry in Indian federalism. Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 37 (1), 45-67.

Tugbiyele, T. A. O. (2005). FRA Williams qs, SAN: The legend icon. Lagos: T. A. O. Tugbiyele & Co.

Turaki, Y. (1993). The British colonial legacy in northern Nigeria: A social ethical analysis of the colonial and post colonial society and politics in Nigeria. Jos: Quarness Publishers.

Ugoh, S. C., & Ukpere, W. I. (2012). Policy of the federal character principle and conflict management in Nigerian federalism. African Journal of Business Management, 6 (23), 6771-6780.

Ukah, A. (2016). Building God's City: the political economy of prayer camps in Nigeria. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 40 (3), 524-540.

Ukiwo, U. (2005). The study of ethnicity in Nigeria. Oxford Development Studies, 33 (1), 7-23.

Ukiwo, U. (2007). Education, horizontal inequalities and ethnic relations in Nigeria. International Journal of Educational Development, 27 (3), 266-281.

Yahaya, A. (2016). Colonialism in the stateless societies of Africa: A historical overview of administrative policies and enduring consequences in southern Zaria districts, Nigeria. African Social Science Review, 8 (1), 50-70.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.