Time to tackle ethnic tension in Nigeria

By Prof. Samuel Aghalino

Ethnic tension is a major challenge to Nigeria’s quest for development and societal peace.

Despite the union of 1914, the various indigenous nationalities have remained glued to their primordial cleavages.

The adverse consequences of this ancient proclivity are huge and systemic.

As unjustifiable as they are, ethnic-related hostilities, across virtually all regions, seem to define and shape the country and its future.

These tragedies, along with religious crises  have continued to rock the Nigerian boat, to the detriment of national ideals, the economy and welfare of the hapless masses.

Sadly, these fiery conflicts often escalate, during elections, hence the general fear and trepidation being witnessed, presently in society.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals(SDGS) and 169 targets of  2015 United Nations Development Agenda underscore the primacy of peace and sustainable development.

These golden ideals, collectively designed, by the nations of the world, to drive ‘action in five critical areas, include people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships’.

On the subject of peace, the leaders seek to foster peaceful and just societies, bereft of   violence and bloodshed.

The leaders committed to ensure that all factors, which give rise to violence, insecurity and injustice are addressed and sufficient efforts are directed towards resolving or preventing conflicts. Supporting post-conflict countries is also part of the deal.

Unfortunately, despite these lofty initiatives,  communities across the world, are still inundated by  incessant community eruptions.

Undoubtedly, inter and intra communal conflicts are threats to multi-ethnic societies.

Hence, Nigeria is one of the hot-spots of inter-communal conflicts in Africa, because of the religious, cultural and linguistic diversities of her peoples.

For instance the Ijaw and Itsekiri crisis, the Ife and Modakeke war as well as the Umuleri and Aguleri conflict and the Jukun/Tiv hostilities are prime examples of this barbarism.

Sadly, the nation’s theatre of inter-communal clashes has expanded to include new flashpoints and manifestations, such as the farmers-herders conflicts, as well as religious brutalities, epitomized by  Boko Haram terrorists .

Most of these violent attacks are caused by  political, ideological, cultural, religious and economic factors.

Disputes over farmland, agitation for resource control, and economic marginalization of minorities in a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria, are common triggers of such conflicts.

The battle for land and natural resources is prevalent across the country, leading to needless killing of innocent citizens and destruction of properties.

Some of the communal conflicts are also a product of historical revivalism and opening up of old wounds.

Generally armed conflicts are often accentuated by the increasing level of poverty and idleness among the youth.

Additionally,  proliferation of illicit arms, particularly from the Maghreb is also firing the embers of war in localities.

Ethnic entrepreneurs, are also to be blamed, because they often  beat the drums of war for selfish and financial reasons.

Before now, traditional rulers were instrumental in nipping in the bud emerging conflicts.

But their roles have been whittled down  by the authorities.

Certain technologies, which ordinarily, should promote development, are inadvertently, being used to stoke hatred and fan the embers of communal inferno.

The social media, particularly, Facebook and WhatsApp, have become ready vehicles for fake news and false alarms, some of which can trigger needless battles.

Communal conflicts have proven to be cyclical, due to loss, damage and  crisis of confidence. Members of  communities, whose lives and livelihoods have been torn apart by these despicable carnage, usually emerge from such conflicts, with deep  resentment and animosity against their perceived enemies.

We must accept the universal truth that no community can exist  in isolation. The principle of interdependence, when applied to inter and intra communal relations, establishes the groundwork for peaceful co-existence.

Modern conflict studies, recommend peace building skills such as arbitration, dialogue, negotiation and bargaining, mediation and compromise.However, since conflicts are usually caused by deterioration in human relations, the cultivation of soft skills, through  human personality reforms and character-building are also included.

These humane applications are virtues, encouraged by the major religion including the African traditional practice.

Tolerance is a major soft skill that engender peaceful coexistence.

Ultimately one should exercise self-control, under provocation.

A large does of patience is also very beneficial in conflict resolution.

Even when there are valid reasons for retribution, sanctions or punitive measures, restraint is most recommended as a hallmark of civilization.

This is same for love, which is the perfect bond in human relations.

As a soft skill for promoting peaceful inter-communal relations and existence, brotherly love is vital for the effective application of the golden rule of love your neighbor  as yourself.

The centrality of forgiveness to nation building and peace-building cannot be over-emphasized.

Thus, warring communities must bury their hatchets of ancestral rivalries, political divisions and ideological differences and embrace a new life of peace.

These unjustifiable wars, are too dangerous to ignore, due to their multiplier effects on society.

The impact is usually ubiquitous, costly and deadly.

Government and community leaders must enunciate more effective program-mes to tackle  communal hostilities, with the urgency it deserves, in order to foster genuine peace, prosperity and development across the country.


  • Prof Aghalino, is a lecturer at the Department of History and International Relations, in University of Ilorin. He is also a member of the Editorial Board of Trumpet Newspapers. Kindly send feedback to soaghalino@gmail.com

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