Cultural Distinction: It’s Influence on Nigerian Politics

Cultural Distinction: It’s Influence on Nigerian Politics

Photo credit: United Nations

Author: Mercy Adeleke |

According to the World population review, Nigeria’s population stands at 226million with UN’s estimation at over 229 million by July 2024. Also, Nigeria has over 400 ethnic groups with many more to be discovered. The echoes of Nigeria’s amalgamation by the colonial masters have been resounding in the Nigerian cultural heritage. Felix (2022) also asserts that “The British colonial administration in Nigeria, interrupted the country’s cultural evolution through premature amalgamation.”

However, the unique demographic composition has continued to create problems of cohabiting as in a romantic relationship amongst the ethnic groups. This cohabiting has caused a cultural strife over the years but it can be channeled rightly. The cultural distinction has its positive and negative influence on the Nigeria politics. One of the positive effects is the informal agreement among the 3 major ethnic groups (Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo) to undergo a rotational presidency, where the presidential office will be occupied within specified periods and terms.

As mentioned earlier and reiterated by Erhun(2015) that: “Nigeria is an example of a Nation born out of a cultural womb foreign to it.” She continues that “an understanding of the cultural aspect of a society is crucial to adapting development approaches to local context and ensuring outcomes.” The richness in the cultural pluralism ought to promote the principle of constitutional democracy to corroborate what Abraham Lincoln said: “Democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Over the years since the commencement of the democratic system, each ethnic group has had its share of the power struggle. 

Although, the cultural diversity has led to competition for resources and power between groups which in turn leads to conflict among those groups, it has also brought about the sense of nationhood, providing a framework for nation building, which is necessary for political stability in the nation.

However, another of the negative effects of the cultural distinction in Nigerian politics is evident in the country’s divisive politics. For instance, let’s travel back in time during the 1967-1970 civil war. Those years were filled with struggle between the northern Nigerians which consisted mainly of Hausa-Fulani versus the southern Nigerians which consists mainly of the Igbo people. This struggle was very tragic in that it led to hundreds of thousands of deaths before it was later resolved by establishing a federal system that finally recognised all three major ethnic groups as equals in the Nigerian society. 

Undoubtedly, it shows in the kind of political parties that are being established in Nigeria. Most of the political parties that exist are based on each person’s cultural ideology, so therefore “the rich tapestry of its cultural varieties hasn’t been harnessed” (Felix 2022). After the 2019 general elections, INEC(Independent National Electoral Commission) deregistered 78 political parties for failing to meet the satisfied requirements, which connotes that if they had met the requirements, then we would be having almost a hundred(100) political parties, which is up to 25% of the ethnic groups, campaigning for a seat at the helm of affairs. Another example is the 2023 elections which showed a sharp division between the major political parties and other parties which has led to polarization in the Nigerian politics. Even though the cultural distinction has had its foot print on the Nigeria politics over the years even till this day, its impact has been transient whether positively or negatively.

In conclusion, the effects of the cultural distinction on the Nigeria politics needs to be addressed by first having an intercultural dialogue. This can be accomplished through activities or events like cultural festivals, public lectures and so on. With this, others can learn about and appreciate other cultures. The cultural distinction in Nigeria is both a challenge and also an opportunity for the nation as it can promote a sense of belonging, citizenship as well as nationhood. 

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