We need to consolidate tribes for progress

Nigeria has 371 different tribes so we’re told, the list is impressive. This is not peculiar to Nigeria, many nations of the world are in a similar situation. Nigeria is categorised into three major groups for economic and ease of governance purposes, amongst many reasons.

Nigerians are passionate, often times I enjoy the comments more than the essay itself. I really do not understand what this list of 371 tribes was meant to achieve but one can tell easily that tribal ‘love’ (well, let’s put it that way) is one of the very few things that get Nigerians talking.

Over 600 comments on a list of tribes? Nigeria politicians love fruitless argument like this, they knew it will never lead anyone anywhere but they delight on future of the nation to remain confused.

I decided to look at the list of tribes, partly to see where I am being thrown. I already know I am Yoruba, but Nigeria is a funny country, how? A middle-aged guy only a few days ago tried to convince me that I and my neighbour speak two different languages, I actually thought he was joking but he was dead serious. To him different dialects is seen as different languages which in turn create another division of different tribes. I can’t argue with such mindset so I walked.

Back to the list of tribes. I am not terribly surprised that Nigeria has 371 different tribes, I thought number is higher.

I know we are not meant to look at data closely, that would mean we are doubting or being troublesome. However, I know there is always a pattern that tells bigger story.

Plateau state with estimated population of 3.2M has the highest number of tribes in Nigeria with 68 different tribes, followed by Bauchi with 63 tribes between 4.7M people. This is the story with most of our northern states.

Six southwest states including Kwara has 1o tribes, interestingly Kwara state alone has 5.

To make sense of this list Adamawa, a northeastern state has 58 different tribes while Osun state in the southwest with similar population has 1.

How can a nation progress when the highlight of our conversations is on our differences?

Southeast/southwest have similar low tribal divisions as southwest with Cross River at 26 tribes and Rivers at 11 tribes.

Diversity can be beautiful. Everyone should be allowed to identify with any group of their choice. However, tribal divisions in Nigeria unfortunately only perpetuates hatred which in turn means regression all round.

Within southwest, most of us speak Yoruba with different dialects and therefore happily identify as Yoruba. I am sure if we wanted, we could have broken the region down into tribal bits to match with the northern states but that would not have benefitted anyone. We could have easily say Akoko, Ilaje, Ijesha, Ijebu or even Ife are different tribes but what this would do is to stall development and foster public distrust of one another.

So looking at Bauchi state with 63 tribes – does that mean these are all distinctively separate tribes or they are more like what we have in the SW but we have for a long time happily agreed to be under one umbrella of Yoruba?

I found Bauchi to be quite interesting because even within a local government of a few thousand people, folks still find reasons to divide themselves further. Example of this is the case of Tarawa Balewa LGthe end result of it was endless clash between people.

A region is better off when deserved attention is paid to what we all share in common which we all know are far more than the other way around. I am sure many of these tribes speak very similar language, so why not consolidate for progress?

In SW for example we have a fair share of violence, many embarrassing ones too. However, looking through this list makes me realise the massive work that our past leaders had done, carving an identity that most people are comfortable to relate with.

This post is not about picking on any particular region, it is just an observation in relation to the reality on ground.

We could spend as much money as we like on rehabilitation on parts of the country, it would still not bring permanent change if we continue to ignore fundamental flaw that is hindrance to collective progress.

As a society highlighting what we have in common can only be a good thing for everyone. We have seen enough of what the other side is like.

Categories: Nigeria, Politics

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12 replies

  1. Very interesting topic, but the whole point of the violence in Central Nigeria is that the ‘minority peoples’ are trying to protect their interests. A Tarok man can’t go to Kano and settle there and claim the same rights and receive them as a local (he can try – but will ultimately fail or even be killed). So when back on his own turf he will insist he gets first preference on any material benefits going. The press have taken this on board with the whole ‘indigene versus settler’ debate. Also it is recognised that the Hausa Fulani want to swallow up the Middle Belt and have them as second class citizens whilst expanding their sphere of influence over them (due to colonialisation), this is naturally resisted by those non-Muslim peoples of Central Nigeria – hence the violence.
    For smaller ethnic groups wanting to protect what is theirs and to prevent them being merged into some larger ethnic group it makes sense for them to insist on their identities. I can see the sense in the 6 geopolitical zones. That way their identities and rights are maintained but they can co-operate more with other people in the same zone to protect their interests. Rather than have 371 people all fighting against one another.
    I can’t see an Efik man wanting to lay down his identity and become merged with an Igbo man for the sake of development; or a Tiv to want to become Hausa, they will rightly insist that identity and development are not exclusive. That being the case we must all put our ‘heads together’ to come up with a workable solution.
    Lagos is an exception, whereby the Yorubas tolerate the presence of non-Yorubas, but when push comes to shove Lagos is Yorubaland and they get priority – which is understandable (after all this is not a perfect world).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jco.

      The issue of indigene vs settlers is a big problem that collectively we have ignored to address.The truth is that labelling has only benefitted the same elite group.

      Totally, I think people should be able to maintain their identity but I get the sense that normal everyday people are more than happy to be under the umbrella of Hausa/Fulani if all infrastructure and social amenities are dispensed without any bias.

      The point you made about Hausa/Fulani wanting to treat middle belt as second class is a major problem. In a normal world, what should have happened is for others to work together to fight the big elephant but instead, they divide themselves further where leaders of each group ended up doing the same thing they don’t like Hausa/Fulani doing to their people. Endless drama.

      Not perfect world indeed, and I bet most people are happy to live with the imperfections.

      Well, on Lagos. Isn’t that the way it should be? I believe everyone living in a given land contributes to the wealth of that place and their opinions should equally count, thinking otherwise is asking for wahala.


      • Lagos is indeed the model, but it is very much an exception maybe that is part of the reason for it continuing to grow and thrive. I think the culture of the Yoruba has something to do with it, they are progressive and allow others to live as long as local customs are respected.

        The Hausa like sectioning people off (Sabon Gari) – which on the surface seems harmless – but come political tensions it is easy for them to target the areas where outsiders live and ultimately intimidate or kill them.

        Port Harcourt has/had a law forbidding Igbos to own land so this in turn has created separation.

        You are quite right about the way the ‘minorities’ treat others in their midst, which is as bad as the larger groups.

        The question is ‘how do we then protect minority rights, yet allow everyone fair and equal access to any amenities and are treated fairly under the law?’ It is not impossible, but it will take some effort to draw up a solution.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Really? How can we insist on being one country when it is acceptable that someone could not own a land solely because they are Igbo? Whao, that is insane.

          Imagine if a hausa/Fulani or any tribe from Nigeria was denied a purchase of property in the UK just because of their tribe? That would make a huge wave!

          Thank you, I take Yoruba being progressive as a complement 🙂 That is actually quite true seeing how many inter tribe fights have been settled.

          I agree it will take some time, but we sure need to face some reality check. Emir of Kano is rumbling the bush now, better that way.


        • jco, we were just talking about minority leaders with ‘house nigger’ attitude and here is just one example unfolding.

          In the last few weeks, hundreds of people have died due to meningitis in Zamfara state. They are mostly Hausas. The governor said it was due to sin of fornication. That attracted lots of backlashes but the man can’t be bothered.

          A few days ago, there was a news that Paris Club fund given to states to help with funding project has been diverted to various private accounts. Just now reading that this same guy who properly get into governorship position riding on tribal divides is using the $3M hotel project in Lagos!


          Can you believe that? He didn’t even build it in his state to give people job, he so much wanted to be in Lagos to join the ‘club’ and I bet after gov, he is heading to the senate.


          • Reality is Nigerians in the UK and America enjoy more civil rights, than many Nigerians in their ‘own country’. Yet Nigerians are only happy to play the racism card abroad when it suits them, make me wonder …

            I heard about the meningitis outbreak in Zamfara and the governor’s comments through Adeola on YouTube. I’m in two minds on this
            1) The people of Zamfara have a history of electing bad governors, before Mr Yari, we had Yerima who introduced Sharia into Nigeria unconstitutionally, so they are getting what they ask for…
            2) On the other hand it is not good to punish the innocent along with the guilty… Will they ever learn to elect decent leaders?

            I was surprised that governors are still messing up with funds, withdrawing money from the returned funds. No one questions, scrutinizes or follows up to see are the funds being put to good use, after all we’ve read about tightening of procedures. It seems like one big joke.
            The money drawn by Mr Yari was for his own personal use – I’m sure he regards himself as a good God fearing Muslim, yet this is how he behaves. I have said it all Nigerians play at being pious, when our actions are contrary to what we say (that is a generalisation).
            One can’t blame him for building a hotel in Lagos, who wants to visit Zamfara? No but seriously, how governors access funds should be reviewed and tightened further, a lot of effort went into retrieving those funds and it shouldn’t just be squandered away. At least he kept the money in the country rather than investing in Dubai or the UK – I guess you could view that as a positive.
            This Saraki fellow is not content with having a showroom of luxury vehicles, he is still dipping his hand to take more money. Do we have laws in Nigeria? Have Yari and Saraki been impeached?
            Prof Utomi, said that senatorial posts should be part-time, so that the senators can make a meaningful contribution whilst working and be more in touch with their constituents, and it would save a bundle of money. I think that is a good idea, people in the top posts are too wasteful of scarce resources.

            The Emir of Kano says many things, but even in Lagos, Hausa and Fulani settle in certain districts that are made up predominantly of Arewa people, they may say it is cultural as they like to pray together etc. That is like the Asians in northern England, who stay together in one part of town ie they don’t integrate and don’t want to either.
            In the case of Nigeria which is becoming increasingly crowded, people will have learn to live alongside one another.


            • Ha, “At least he kept the money in the country rather than investing in Dubai or the UK – I guess you could view that as a positive.” – We can’t give Zamfara gov. that. The only reason they put the money in Nigeria now is because UK for example is on to them. Kemi Adeosun recently said UK promised to release Nigerian property owners’ names to help with corruption cleansing. These are people who are not permanent residents in the UK, they just have to defend how they got the fund, w’ll wait for plenty of dramas.

              That is true, up till today we have not successfully prosecute anyone even when raw cash is flying about… annoying really.


  2. Fola I agree that we should focus on what unites us as a nation but are Nigerians ready? This list of tribes now, if you wait a bit and dig deeper you may soon find out that it is about how to take a bug share of allocation of resources. How honest are our leaders? I am not even sure there is an answer to that. Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks ‘Bisi. I don’t think Nigeria will ever be ready but Nigerians, the educated ones who have seen the patterns can work together.

      Spot on on the allocation greed, that is infact the whole reason, this much is clear to the few who benefit from it, the hope is that the dying/impoverished ones wake up to resist being used.


  3. This is so interesting Fola. So there will be a slight difference in dialect of the language, but what about other customs and food?

    Liked by 2 people

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