Nigerian Ethnic Groups

Instructor: Holly DeLuca

Holly has taught special education students and has a master's degree in special education

While Nigeria has numerous ethnic groups, the three major tribes we will discuss today are the Hausa-Fulani, Igbo, and Yoruba. We will discuss their religious and political influences in Nigeria and traditions unique to each one.

The Country of Nigeria

Nigeria is located in Western Africa with a population of over 180 million people as of 2016. Among those people are over 250 ethnic groups and tribes, each with their own culture and traditions, including different languages. These tribes contribute to the vast cultural diversity of the country. There are three major tribes in Nigeria called the Hausa-Fulani, Igbo, and Yoruba. These tribes make up nearly 70% of the country's population.

Nigeria in dark blue on map of Africa
Nigeria

Hausa-Fulani Tribe

The Hausa-Fulani tribe is located mostly in northern Nigeria. Through marriages, religion, and adoption of the Hausa language by the Fulani, the two tribes became one. It is the largest of the ethnic groups in Nigeria, and has been the political dominator since 1960, when Nigeria asserted its independence from Britain. Islam is the major religion of the group, and this plays a major role in their influence on politics and society. The Hausa-Fulani adopted the Islamic system of law, called Sharia. This system is based on the teachings of the Koran, and includes religious and secular duties. It also provides penalties for law breaking.

Music and art are part of the Hausa-Fulani traditions. From a young age, children participate in songs and dances, which are held in local meeting places. The Hausa-Fulani people also engage in work songs in the rural and marketplace areas. They often participate in story-telling, music performances, and local dramas as a form of entertainment.

Hausa women
Hausa women

Igbo Tribe

The Igbo tribe comes from southeastern Nigeria. They are a smaller group than the Hausa-Fulani. Most Igbo people are of the Christian faith and are opponents of Sharia law. At one time, the Igbo people served in many government and military roles. They also played a large part in the independence of Nigeria from British rule. However, in 1967, the start of a 30-month war with the Nigerian government, known as the Biafran War, led to many Igbo people starving to death, and becoming less of a force in Nigerian society. Today, the Igbo people still play a role in the Nigerian oil trade, but their political influence has diminished.

Many Igbo people are subsistence farmers, with staple crops being yams, corn, pumpkins, melons, and beans. Harvest time is a time of celebration, and the Igbo people love to engage in music. They play the flute and drums, as well as other traditional instruments. One popular form of music in Igbo culture is called Highlife, which is a combination of jazz and traditional music.

Yoruba Tribe

The Yoruba tribe is found in urban areas, especially the city of Lagos, which is the second most populous city in Africa. Yoruba people have accepted both the Islam and Christian faiths, and both are practiced within the group. Like the Igbo group, the Yoruba used to play a large role in both politics and military life, but have been overshadowed by the larger Hausa-Fulani tribe in recent decades.

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