6 Causes of Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria and Possible Solutions


ethnic conflict in Nigeria

Have you ever been denied of something you merit because of your ethnic group or tribe? I have been in that situation before. If you have not experienced that before, you will not know the significance of ethnic conflict in Nigeria.

Read more: Nigeria Current Affairs

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I If you are to ask me, virtually everyone has been deprived of something all in the name of ethnic conflict either directly or indirectly.

Read more: Nigeria Current Affairs

Nigeria being the largest country in Africa has a lot of equations to balance in order to develop. Development is a thing of agreement as it a reward of peace and unity.

In this post, I would be giving a proper introduction to ethnic conflict in Nigeria, causes and possible solutions.

Yes, possible solutions. Why I said possible solutions is the reality differs from theoretical reasoning. The perceived solution might work and not work.

An ethnic conflict is a conflict between two or more contending ethnic groups. While the source of the conflict may be political, social, economic or religions, the individuals in conflict must expressly fight for their ethnic group position within society (Wikipedia, 2018)

Ethnic conflict has inflicted pain and suffering on many people than you can imagine. Ethnic conflict in Nigeria is in two forms which are:
- Cold - Warm
Cold Ethnic Conflict

You might be probably wondering what I meant by cold ethnic conflict? Yes, I know I owe you an explanation.

Cold ethnic conflict consists of exchange of cold words or cold behaviour among different ethnic groups and goes down to an indirect conflict which is only shown through reactions and dealing between ethnic groups. One of which is the indigeneship preferential treatment in the North and West.

The Warm ethnic conflict is a term used to explain the ethnic conflict daily declared like that of the herdsmen killing, Biafra and many more.


Cold and Warm is a term I coined in order to classify the firms in which ethnic conflict occur in Nigeria.

An article written by Ena Dion on reliefweb.int stated that Nigeria’s worst violence is not Boko Haram but the calm battle between herders and farmers. If you can recall I made mention of this while talking of cold ethnic conflict.

Mr. Allen Onyema founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN) said Ethnicity is the bane of development in Nigeria and charged Nigerians to drop ethnic sentiments and commit themselves to a united and peaceful nation.

To get to duty, in this post I would be discussing the major causes of ethnic conflict in Nigeria.

Stay Tuned.


• Religious Differences

• Tribalism

• Inequality

• Ignorance

• Corruption

• Greediness and Autonomy

The First on my List is :


Religious differences have defeated the main banner of peace and unity.
A religion as defined by Oxford Dictionary is the belief in the existence of a god or gods, anad he activities that are connected with the worship of them. 

There are different religions in Nigeria as a result of the large number of ethnic group.

And the three major types of religion are Christianity, Islamic religion and Traditional religion.
In each religion, a set of psychology is programmed into their worshippers which make them feel they are right.

Muslims belief their religion is the only religion so also other religions do the same. This type of religion differences develops conflict among the three religions.

You have seen a fire burning , when the flammable materials are placed close to the burning fire, the fire expands and that explains the reason why a single car burning and set houses and other cars on fire.

Now let’s look deep at the major belief planted in the minds of people.
People have the belief that their religion is the best.
I probably must have mentioned that.

Let’s take this illustration

If a year old kid is put in a community of mad people (totally mad), and raised there for the first 20 years of his life. What do you think will be his reaction when he comes to stay among normal people (mentally normal)?
There is no way I can hear from you about the question except through the comment box.

But believe me, that child will all those normal people MAD. Why? Because he has a very different psychology of how to eat, how to drink, how to talk and how to live.

Same thing applies here, we all are raised from different homes and taught different things about life which makes me different from YOU.
Let’s move to the second point.


While planning to write on tribalism, I got lost because I find it difficult to put the significance of tribalism in ethnic conflict in just few sentences. Bear with me; I will do my best to write in few sentences the effect of tribalism in Nigeria. 

Tribalism is a discrimination that occur among different tribes. 

The three major ethnic groups in Nigeria (Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa) have grown an internal strife based on their belief. Each tribe beliefs that they are better than the rest and should be identified and respected anywhere they find themselves.

This kind of belief is the major cause of terrorism as terrorists are from the same tribe and fighting for what they belief as a just cause. The hausas belief they are the owner of Nigeria and rulers should always come from them.

Tribalism is also linked to other causes of ethnic conflict.

A Tribalist:

Discriminate people from other tribes.
He speaks good of his tribe but ill of other tribes.

He is unnecessarily stereotypical of other tribes
Politicians and leaders use this weakness to win election and divide their country through tribalism.

Employment into government positions are mostly for tribal reasons and not on merit.
A critical observation of our leaders in the federal level is an example as it is crystal clear that majority of the leaders are from the Northern part of Nigeria. 

This is adding fuel to the burning fire of ethnicity. Campaigns are based on tribalism; a leader gives his tribesmen a reason to put him in position.

Tribalism also infected the Nigeria Educational System. You will find more northerners in the University of Ilorin and find more Lagosians in Lagos State University (LASU). Every organisation and institute is making it more difficult by separating Nigerians through tribalism.


The main message in democracy is equality i.e. government of the people by the people and for the people.

But Nigeria has defeated the main cause of democracy. Nigerians engage in inequality.


What exactly is Inequality?

Inequality is defined as an unfair or not equal state. This is when a particular ethnic group is favoured compared to others.

Yes, I know we have mathematics gurus on this blog, who can explain what inequality is in mathematics.

In mathematics, whatever you do to the right hand side of an equal to sign, you must also do to the left. This same thing applies to the real world.
Deal with everyman equally irrespective of their tribe or ethnic group. Whatever is done to the Yoruba should also be done to the Hausas and Igbos.

But this is not the case; each ruler spends more on his own ethnic group or state.

Do you expect others to sit and watch? No
They would think of a way around it, and this leads to ethnic conflict.

I do not want the peace that passeth understanding, I want the understanding which bringeth peace. Helen Keller
This is what we lack “Understanding” and this leads to the next point.


Ignorance , the root and stem of all evil. Plato
There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action. Johann Wolf gang Von Goethe
Going about with false knowledge of people is invalid and kills. Ignorance kills a man. You end up criticizing people for no reasons because you are not just a carrier of false information but also a carrier of foolishness.

I do not mean hurt you.

It is foolishness, because some people never attempted to find out if its true or not.
Some old fallacy sayings about a tribe is enough to make you jump to conclusion.
Why must old fallacy that springs up from a man because of his own personal mistake and end up being the reality of everyone.

“My people perish because they lack wisdom”


Corrupt leaders create the drift among ethnic groups. This drift is done for a political cause in order to obtain political positions and disarm their opponents. This drift created leads to ethnic conflict.

As election comes closer, political instability is passed on and causes ethnic conflict.
Political positions are given by nepotism not merit. There is a clear inequality in Nigeria government.

Read also: Causes of Unemployment in Nigeria


Some ethnic groups seek autonomy not because of the good of the people but because of greediness of some corrupt leaders.

 The greed to control natural resources such as crude oil, bitumen and many other important resources make these leaders to connive for selfish interest.

I do not blame any because; they are going through a lot of plights and their sacrifice for the country should not be neglected. If I was in their shoes, I will do the same. Yes, you know what am talking about, the Biafran Movement.

I support them but believe there could still be a better way of building mutual understanding and encouraging peace and unity in the country.


Few months ago, while watching a series movie, my aunt made a statement that wasn’t funny to correct me, and I smiled. 

She then said “why do you smile a lot”, I smiled again and someone interrupted and said “Do you not know you behave like a 2 years old boy, mature man!”

I kept quiet this time and whispered to myself “Living like a 2 years old boy is better than a mature man who knows nothing than to criticize” A baby is better than a man who does not forgive easily, who keeps grudges.
That was what I said to myself

Yes, I do prefer to live as a 2 years old boy than a mature man. No man is as mature as a baby as there are many things a man will take years to learn that a baby can do without mistake!

The best psychologists in the world are babies, because they know how to make peace with everyone.
Always remember peace starts within.
“United we stand; divided we fall”
The following are the possible solutions to ethnic conflict.


If you want peace you don’t talk to your friends, you talk to your enemies- Desmond Tutu
Peaceful negotiation goes a long way in settling conflict. A diplomatic negotiation should be done between the ethnic groups involved.


Judicious use of natural resources not only enhances the longevity of natural resources but also improve the national economic purse.

Natural resources can go a long way in developing a country and can also draw in investors and create job opportunities.

These natural resources are found in different states.

These states should be given full right to the natural resources in order to aid development of the state and in order to foster unity; the state should pay some percentage to the federal government in order to help the less privileged states.

An example is Niger Delta, the home of crude oil. Federal government extract the oil and left the state in a worse condition; took away their occupation (fishing) by destroying the rivers and other water bodies through oil spillage

This is why I do not blame them for seeking autonomy

Government should give them full right to their natural resources and develop the state.


Job opportunities should be provided. If everyone is employed, crime rate, conflict will reduce and there will be unity.
Entrepreneurship should be encouraged through allocation of funds to entrepreneurs.


Each ethnic group should be treated with equality as everyone is important to the growth and development of Nigeria.
If each ethnic group is treated with equality, ethnic conflict in Nigeria will disappear.


Federalism is a system of government in which a written constitution divides power between a central government and regional or sub-divisional government.
Power sharing is the main message in Federalism.

Power should be equally shared from the federal level to the state level and to the local level.
Power sharing encourages a transparent government.

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One of the things which I respect General Yakubu Gowon is for the establishment of NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) which has helped to foster unity. But there are some challenges faced by corps which should be looked into such as the monthly salary and other things.


Conflict cannot survive without your participation – Wayne Dyer
Learn to abstain from conflict as conflict will never survive our participation. Lastly, I leave you with Ronald Reagon word:
Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means- Ronald Reagon

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