Throughout history, racial hatred has been perpetuated by humans in any number of forms and to variant extents.  In nations like Nigeria, where homogeneity of skin color is considered a cultural ‘blessing’, racial hatred takes a different, more subversive the form: from mild to (often) extreme ethnocentrism.

Nigeria has 36 states that make up six geo-political zones and over 370 ethnic groups.  Evidence indicates that the largest ethnic groups are Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo.

The three ways to become a Nigerian citizen, according to Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), are by birth, registration or naturalization. Despite the three possibilities existing for people to attain citizenship of Nigeria, the average Nigerians holds great pride in ethnicity and blood as they view as ties to the land.  This means that in this perspective, you are Nigerian by blood, or you are not at all.  Many Nigerian people tend to hold little regard for citizens by registration or naturalization, which is most evident in light of the difficult – almost impossible – process of becoming a traditional ruler, politician, or to hold any affluent public office if one is not ethnically Nigerian.

It has been 58 years since Nigeria gained her independence, and the country has had to share power between the three largest ethnic groups, which hail from across the strong dividing lines of the country.  Modern Nigeria lives under a democratic government that sometimes fail to live up to the ideals of democracy due to prevailing tribal and ethnic separations.

Politics in Nigeria is inextricably tied to ethnicity, to the point that at the local and state government levels, a politician cannot represent an area of the country to which he does not ethnically belong to or genetically originate from.

Some ethnic groups are prohibited from inter-marrying with other groups due to cultural, historic, or spiritual reasons.  The need to preserve the culture and heritage of an ethnic group can lead to parents preferring – and sometimes orchestrating – the marriage of their children to someone of the same tribe, rather than bringing a foreigner from another ethic group or country into the family.

Conversely, it is not uncommon to see foreigners receiving preferential treatment over locals by virtue of their colour, whether at gatherings or even in terms of employment.  It is common of the Nigerian mentality to believe that a foreigner knows better than a Nigerian in the same field, sometimes irrespective of qualification.  The colour caste is enforced and supported by some Nigerians who believe whites are the ‘top dog’, whilst people who are near-white, Asian or have some other lighter-skinned non-Caucasian complexion are considered next on the color caste spectrum.

To combat racial casting that doesn’t favour Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari signed Executive Order 5 on Monday, February 5, 2018, in Abuja, the country’s capital.  Executive Order 5 prohibits the granting of visas to foreigners who are competing with locals for jobs and is aimed at improving local content in public procurement within science, engineering, and technology.  This is intended to curb the proclivity of the many foreign companies based in Nigeria – especially those of Asian origin – from the usually employment practice of their own nationals as expatriates for positions that can be filled by Nigerians.

The country’s entertainment industry has sought to address key societal issues regarding ethnic hatred or bias between the North and the East, East and West, West and North etc., as the case may be.  With Nigerian artists like Olamide, Phyno, and Kheengz, amongst others, singing in the country’s indigenous languages of Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa respectively, the beloved musicians have greatly inspired ethnic tolerance through their work.

As Nigerians continue to develop an improved sense of reverence for life in general - and particularly human life – we are on the way to developing a sense of reverence for racial and ethnic diversity.  As we have learned to regard that which promotes life as good, and that which destroys life as evil; so we will learn to regard that which promotes unity in diversity as good and that which threatens, hinders, or destroys said unity as evil.  A change in thinking and consciousness, reassessment of values, and positive distortion of racial and ethnic perception is thus needed to create true appreciation and passion for racial diversity.  Through this, we can find the motivation to act in the interests of unity despite our differences.


About the Author.