How Population Diversity Has Impacted Nigeria

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  • 0:00 One Nigeria, Many Nations
  • 0:31 Population Facts
  • 1:19 Ethnic and Language…
  • 2:49 Religious Differences
  • 3:39 Manifestation of Divides
  • 4:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Few countries have the linguistic and ethnic diversity of Nigeria. Throw in the fact that the country has significant oil reserves and differences of religion, and there is a real set of problems for any government.

One Nigeria, Many Nations

By far the most populous country in Africa with more than 177 million citizens as of 2014, Nigeria is in many ways a case study of the problems that continue to face many African states after independence from colonial powers in the 1960s and 1970s. Assembled of many ethnic groups with a number of languages and religions present, the inevitable frictions from such a grouping have led to corruption and violence between different groups.

Population Facts

Nigeria has a population of 177 million people, over half of whom live in cities. That means that Nigeria has a little more than one half of the population of the United States. Additionally, Nigeria is growing at a rate of 2.8% a year, as of 2014, meaning almost five million new Nigerians are born every year. However, the total land area is much smaller. Imagine squeezing everyone who lives in New York, California, Texas, Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania into a land area about the size of Texas and Oklahoma combined. That said, most everyone in those six states speaks the same languages and shares a very similar collective history as Americans. The situation in Nigeria couldn't be more different.

Ethnic and Language Differences

Imagine the mess that would result if, in our new country of Texas and Oklahoma, each of those six states spoke a different language and had a different culture. Further, imagine if California and New York had long-standing differences that had resulted in open conflict. That is the case that exists in Nigeria. Here, four major ethnic groups, and hundreds of smaller ones, interact in a variety of ways. To the north of the country, the Hausa and Fulani groups dominate. Between these two groups, Hausa is most common language. These two have had a long and storied past, alternating control over each other in the past. To the south, the Yoruba are most numerous in the Southwest, whereas the Igbo are most numerous in the Southeast. Each of these Southern groups has its own distinct language, Yoruba and Igbo, respectively. These are the four largest ethnic groups, but there are numerous smaller groups, such as the Ijaw, Kanuri and Tiv.

As a result, most communication between groups in Nigeria takes place in English. Since people tend to learn English in schools, this only means that the educated are able to interact across cultural boundaries. Imagine having an argument with your neighbors over a fallen tree on your yard without speaking the same language, and you get a rough idea as to how difficult the situation is in Nigeria.

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