MIGRATION AND ETHNIC RELATIONS: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE UNITED STATES AND NIGERIAN SOCIETIES

ALFRED C EDOKOBI, Fordham University

Abstract

For hundreds of years, violence, bloodshed, and civil unrest have very much been part of the history of Nigerian society. There have been political instability and coups d'etat which finally led to the civil war of 1967-1970.^ Political instability, marked by its constant turnover of leadership, often affects economic progress to the extent that, in spite of Nigeria's wealth in forms of natural resources and manpower, a great majority of Nigerian citizens still remain in poverty and want.^ There has not been any in-depth sociological research or study of Nigerian society to establish the cause and effect of the country's social problems. Instead, some foreign, as well as native politicians, and Western journalists have seen tribalism and tribal conflict as the root cause of Nigeria's problems.^ A close examination of these problems has led to the hypothesis in this study that what has been called tribalism and tribal conflict is not so at all. Rather, the experiences of Nigeria can be better explained by theories of migration and ethnic relations as they have been developed to explain and understand the experiences of the United States.^ The United States is a multi-ethnic society which has evolved to a stage in which both older residents as well as new ethnic groups participate in the society on levels that transcend their distinct cultures. At the same time, however, they maintain their cultural identities. A state of cultural pluralism exists.^ The ferment in Nigeria is an attempt by that society to move along the path through which the United States has passed in her two hundred years of history.^ The Nigerian groups considered for study include the Hausa-Fulani, the Ibo, the Yoruba, the Efiks, and the Urhobo-Itsekiri as they interact and relate among themselves. The study finds that these groups fit the definition of ethnic groups as they exist in the United States. The assumption is that even though social classes exist in Nigeria, a Marxist theory of class conflict does not provide a suitable explanation of contemporary problems in that country.^ The study demonstrates that the people who now make up the population of Nigeria arrived there as a result of repeated and numerous migrations just as in the United States. The study also shows that the Nigerian migrants formed groups which we identify as ethnic groups in the United States; that Nigerian cities resemble those of the United States, i.e., with populations made up of people of diverse ethnic backgrounds and cultures.^ A comparative analysis of ethnic relations in Nigeria and the United States will indicate that in the intermingling of ethnic groups in both societies, the process was one of inter-ethnic adjustment and not a process of inter-tribal relations. This is indicated by colonial experiences which resulted in the evolution of national consciousness and nationhood in both societies. In the United States, three major theories of adjustment have been put forward to explain inter-ethnic relations, namely, Anglo-Saxon conformity, the melting pot, and cultural pluralism. In Nigeria, similar theories were entitled Islamization, the melting pot, and cultural pluralism. The social processes which these theories seek to explain affected inter-ethnic relations in both societies and resulted sometimes in cooperation, sometimes in conflict. Religion, economics and politics were the activities around which inter-ethnic cooperation and conflict became crystalized in both societies.^ In view of this, the conclusion was drawn that the experiences of Nigeria can best be explained, not as a process of inter-tribal conflict, but as a process of dialectical inter-ethnic relations similar to that of the United States. ^

Subject Area

Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

EDOKOBI, ALFRED C, "MIGRATION AND ETHNIC RELATIONS: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE UNITED STATES AND NIGERIAN SOCIETIES" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8111543.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8111543

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