The Meaning Of Ethno- Religious Conflict

Project and Seminar Material for History

The Meaning Of Ethno- Religious Conflict

Chapter One


Ethno-religious conflicts refer to conflicts involving groups that have religion as an integral part of social and cultural life and where conflicting groups define themselves along ethno-religious lines. Religious Identity can create sharp distinction between parties and increase group mobilization. Other distinguishing factors include the high incidence of civilian causalities, suicide bombing, ethnic cleaning and action “legitimized” by religious language in forms of texts and Images. Such conflicts are often intra-state and particularly in communities with long histories of tension and suffering from post-colonial deprivation as well as political and economic instability. Religious leaders often seize the opportunity of instability and mobilized on religious ground to attack incumbent governments.

The colonial period in Nigeria recorded a lot of drastic changes, which were introduced not for the growth and development of the country but for British administrative convenience and exploitation. The colonial masters were strictly concerned with matters that encouraged their exploitation agenda that was why they did not resolve proper the problem of ethnicity or tribalism in socio-political and economic scenario in Nigeria noting the method employed by the European colonial masters on their colonies, Rodney Walter asserts that Because of ethnic and religious royalties which go under the name of tribalism could not be effectively resolved by the colonial state, they tend to foster the unhealthy forms, indeed their colonial powers sometimes saw the value of stimulating the internal tribal jealousies as to keeping the colonized from dealing with the principal contradiction that is classic technique of divide and rule.1

While writing on ethnic minority violence in Tafawa Balewa, Dauda also added that, the integration of different groups through colonialism into advanced capitalist economy brought new and competitive notions of development, heightened existing conflict and produced different groups such as those competing for public job, admission unto schools particularly higher institutions and distribution of state resources of all which are scare and therefore constitute the reason for competition, the unevenness resource endowment and modernizing influences especially in education and elite development heightened competition and conflict.

In recent time, the problem of ethnic and religious nationalism in Nigeria arises often from two areas the middle belt zone and the south-south zone where there is such a contradiction of many diverse national groups that are not easily classified. The fatal crisis that have broken out in Kaduna, Jos and also among the Urohobo, Itsekiri, Tiv, Jukun, Kuteb all within these zones attest to the sensitive matter involved all the ethnic nationalist want to exercise authority and power over issues of local interest which although local but very vital, such as education, environment, agriculture, fisheries, religion etc. Though Ekwekwe’s affirmation is acceptable to a great extent, it should be noted that ethnic and religious affiliation cut across boundaries hence the governing and the governed can be mutually ethnocentric and “religious”.3 In the same vein, Ujo observes that at the centre of the issue of ethnicity is the issue of resource allocation or the division of national cake. Whenever one group feels threatened or cheated ethnic or religious is usually exploited by the group in ensuring inter-communal struggle.4

Significantly, the issue of revenue allocation cannot be over looked, the formula revenue allocation in Nigeria can be said to be unstable, hence, it fluctuates from year to year, the event of 1970’s and 1980’s are relevant to this point, not perhaps the most dramatic change, may be traced back to 1969 and 1980’s are relevant to this point, not perhaps the most dramatic change, may be traced back to 1969. Before this date, the major criterion in allocation revenue to the state was “Derivation”. This principles for example, coupled with the then marketing system of Nigeria’s primary produce, allowed the old western religion to earn the bulk of its revenue from cocoa the eastern region from palm produce and the northern region from cotton and ground nuts but by late I960 derivation had progressively lost its importance in revenue allocation. Even then, it had become an important point of contention between the oil producing states and the central government.

Young men and women who have grown under an atmosphere of state sponsored violence necessarily operate under a logic which sees power and violence as answer to all problems, there is the decline in the quality, effectiveness and impact of the Nigeria politics. Culture and profession no doubt include the space for the use of violence to thrive in our society. A report by Ocheche affirms that the militaristic society of Nigeria influenced certain types of behaviours which have influenced the political community, corruption was prevalent, the economy was highly dependent on oil production the media was kept uninformed, and concerns from the privates sector were ignored. Some multinationals contributed to escalating conflicts in the country with their involvement in the importation arms and ammunition particularly in the Niger Delta, shell, confronted with the evidence of gun running, said that it only imported 107 hand guns – not too long ago in the Ilaje community of Ondo-State, the America oil giant chevron procured and flew in armed soldiers who came down heavily on defenseless peaceful demonstrators who occupied their parable oil facility two youths were shot dead and several others were injured in that operation that was supervised by chevron.

The armed conflict report disclosed that at least 23,000 Fulani herders have fled Nigeria’s eastern Taraba state to Cameroon to escape clashes which broke out in the Mabila Plateau with farming communities at the beginning of the year. Attacks on Fulani pastoralists who produced 75 percent of the protein needs the country are becoming incessant particularly in states like Plateau state, Nasarawa, Bauchi, Taraba and Benue states. Between 1st and 7th January more than 96 herdsmen and 53,791 cattle were lost.6 Okafor posits ethnic and religious riot in Nigeria between 1980 and 1995 alone have been so destructive that one would wonder why this would not breed distrust among the various groups and undermine the patriotic tendencies of utility in the country. To a large extent, the economic havoc, the social disruption, and political instability brought about these crises that are undermining the foundation of corporate existence of Nigeria.

Okafor also affirmed that inter-ethnic relationship among the different tribes and tongues in Nigeria is not that of brotherhood as urged by the national anthem but that characterized by mutual suspicion and distrust. According to political Bureau report 1987, the two organised religions in Nigeria hate the tendency to delay national integration in Nigeria because of their negative tendency to create competing social orders and to define the most basic community thereby challenging the national community of Nigeria. On the whole, the fear of domination whether real or imaginary backed by bitter experiences in the past tend to fuel rancour and disharmony among diverse interest groups. In the same vein Nnoli asserted that in the struggle to protect life and property ethnic and religious lines are sharply demarcated the individuals identity and exclusiveness are vividly circumscribed as each act of such violence more than any other factor leaves behind the longest bitter memories of inter-ethno religious.

This is essentially so because it touches on those aspects, or means existences that are dearest to him.9 He concludes that inherent in violence are escalating conflict and tension, since violence leave behind a lingering taste of bitterness, it is very difficult for tension to return to its original level at the end of violent activities, instead equilibrium is achieved at a different but higher level of hostility between the preparations and the victims such upward shifts accounts for the control increase in communal violence, in such cases, growth intension becomes greater than otherwise.

Ethnic and religious violence does not only portray the country as unstable but also hinders meaningful investment and development, the chairman man time workers union of Nigeria, Joseph Akpiri disclosed to the vanguard that the crisis in the oil rich city Warri is having adverse effects on port operations, Comrade Akpiri also noted that the fighting in Warri has affected foreign vessels from calling at the port. He observed that such ships were normally intercepted mid sea and huge sums of money were extorted from the crew. With the crisis however work has been grounded at the port and his members and their families where finding it difficult to sustain themselves.10

In the light of these serious negative-consequences there is need for proper management and ethnic and religious conflict in Nigeria, which create or sense of insecurity to the state, apart from posing serious danger to the nation’s stability it encourages immoral sentiments and cleavages. If the truth must be told, very few Nigerians can be described as successfully detribalized considering the fact that politicians both civil and military have consistency used tribal and religious sentiments to their advantage, it would be in comprehensible to talk of a totally detribalized Nigeria.11

The state of insecurity makes it easier for people to give solidarity to their ethnic group as this seems to be the only way for them to have their own share of the national cake, this state of insecurity is not only expressed in this present generation, but in the generation to come, if left unattended, to these crisis could rapidly erode people’s confidence in the nation and share the foundation of democratic institution in the country, the lingering crises are associated with loss of lives and properties, displacement of people and traumatic experiment as the poor and idle youths are prone to be used as they want, for an opportunity to took and steal what they cannot legally have. Furthermore, the violent crises experienced in recent times, such as the Tiv-Jukun crisis, Ife and Moda-Keke, the Jos crises and many others are seen by most people as reflection of pet up anger occasioned by certain neglects and injustice suffered by various ethnic groups concerned both in the past and present.12 Conclusively, ethno-religious crises, threatens the survival and development of the country however, the findings have all proved how Jos crises has affected the lives of those living in Jos and also affect Nigerian economy and development as a whole.

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