If there is anything that makes Nigeria known to the outside world, it is the issue of violence. Nigeria is synonymous with deep divisions which cause major political issues to be vigorously and violently contested along the lines of intricate ethnic, religious and regional divisions. Because of a complicated network of politically salient identities, coupled with a history of protracted and seemingly stubborn wars and instability, Nigeria is high on the list as one of the most unstable states in Africa.
Nigeria is a federation comprising 36 States and 774 local government areas, with a population of approximately 168 million inhabitants belonging to over 250 ethnic groups. The three largest groups are: the Hausa-Fulani Muslims living predominantly in the north; the Yoruba, followers of both Christian and Islamic faiths, residing mainly in the south-west; and the Igbo, most of whom are Christians, who are found primarily in the south-east, ihrc.org reported.
Ethnicity is seen as the most basic and politically salient identity of Nigerians, accord.org told. Although the general presumption is that ethnic identity is a more prominent and stable source of identity in Nigeria, some researchers have demonstrated that religion was more significant than ethnicity as a source of identity and conflict in Nigeria. What is even more interesting is the fact that religious and ethnic identities are more salient than class identities. However, this is not at all that surprising, especially if one considers that ethno-religious formations are the most persistent behavioural units in Nigeria.
Thousands of Nigerians have been left dead, wounded and homeless over the years due to constant religious strife pitting people of different religions against each other. Inter-ethnic and religious conflicts in Nigeria are brought about by a number of factors: One of these causes is the clashing interests of those in authority. Political elites in Nigeria have always sought to reap advantages from the multidimensional identities, more so during electioneering periods, and this has resulted in conflicts and instability. Moreover, the emergence of the military in the Nigerian politics paved the way for more conflicts rather than solving problems.
Another point to be considered is that, most of these ethnic and religious conflicts were caused by foreign actors, which compounded inter-ethnically religious conflict by capitalising on the isolation of ethnic and religious groups, Beyondintractability mentionedOne approach believes poverty and injustice caused by corruption weaken any sense of mutual tolerance, social solidarity or coexistence, while reawakening social hatred, radicalism and violence. For this reason, corruption is seen as one of the most important issues that has to be resolved in order to cope with ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria.