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The Culture of Nigeria

Hopefor Nigeria October 3, 2016 Featured Post 1 Comment on The Culture of Nigeria
Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba

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The Culture of Nigeria – The name Nigeria was proposed by British journalist Flora Shaw in the 1890s. She referred to the area as Nigeria, after the Niger River, which rules much of the country’s landscape. The word nigeris Latin for black.

Culture of nigeria

More than 250 ethnic tribes call present-day Nigeria home. The three major and most dominant ethnic groups are the Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo (pronounced ee-bo). Other minor groups include the Fulani, Ijaw, Kanuri, Ibibio, Tiv, and Edo. Prior to their downfall by Europeans, these ethnic groups had separate and independent histories. Their grouping together into a single object known as Nigeria was a construct of their British colonizers. These various ethnic groups never considered themselves part of the similar culture. This general lack of Nigerian nationalism coupled with an ever-changing and often ethnically unfair national leadership, have led to severe internal ethnic conflicts and a civil war. Today bloody confrontations between or amongst members of different ethnic groups continue.



The culture of Nigeria is formed by Nigeria’s multiple ethnic groups. The country has over 521 languages and over 1150 ethnic groups and dialects. The four major ethnic groups are the Hausa and Fulani who are predominant in the north, the Igbo who are largest in the southeast, and the Yoruba who are predominant in the southwest.

The Edo people are leading in the region between Yorubaland and Igboland. Much of the Edo tend to be Christian. This group is followed by the Annang /Ibibio/Efik people of the coastal south southern Nigeria and the Ijaw of the Niger Delta.The rest of Nigeria’s ethnic groups that sometimes called ‘minorities’ are found all over the country but especially in the middle belt and north. The Fulani, who are by tradition nomadic, are spread all over West and Central Africa and are predominantly Muslim. The Hausa are also mainly Muslim while the Igbo are predominantly Christian. The Efik, Ibibio, Annang people are mainly Christian. The Yoruba have a equal of members that are adherent to both Islam and Christianity. Indigenous religious practices linger important in all of Nigeria’s ethnic groups, these beliefs are often blended with Christian beliefs.

Location and Geography

Nigeria is located in West Africa, across the eastern region of the Gulf of Guinea, and the northern part of the equator. It is outlined on the west by Benin, on the northern part by Niger and Chad, and also Cameroon on the east. Nigeria encompasses an area of 356,669 square miles (923,768 square kilometers), or around two times the over all size of California.

Nigeria has 3 main environmental regions which include:

1. Savanna

Savanna Region

The savanna’s dry, open grasslands help make cereal farming as well as herding a means of living for the Hausa and the Fulani.

2. Tropical forests


Tropical forests

The wet tropical forests towards the south are ideal for farming fruits and vegetables which is the main income producers for the Yoruba, Igbo, and other people in this region.

3. Coastal wetlands

Coastal wetlands

Dwelling among creeks, lagoons, and also salt wetlands creates fishing and also the salt trade portion of everyday routine in the region.

All these environmental regions significantly impact the cultures of people who reside there. The small ethnic groups residing along the coast, like the Ijaw and the Kalabari, are required to maintain their villages small because of insufficient dry land.


Ethnics Groups of Nigeria

  1. Hausa – Fulani

Culture of Nigeria

The Hausas are  Sahelian people mainly located in northern Nigeria, southeastern Niger, Cameroon, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire Ghana, and Chad and many Fulani in these regions do not distinguish themselves from the Hausa.




The Hausa is a Muslim since the 14th century and has converted many other Nigerian tribes to the Muslim faith by contact, trade. The architecture of the Hausa is perhaps one of the least known but most beautiful of the medieval age.

Many of their early on mosques and palaces are bright and colourful and often include intricate engraving or elaborate symbols planned into the facade.

Music and art play important role in everyday life of this group of people. From a young age, Hausa children contribute in dances, which are held in meeting places such as the market.

Work songs often go with activities in the rural areas and in the markets. Story-telling, local dramas, and musical performances are also a common variety of traditional entertainment.


  1. Igbo


Igbo people are industrious, friendly and educated people and they played an important role in Nigerian political development.

Igbo people has an energetic and fascinating cultural heritage that says lots about them, and most of the Igbo people are Christians. Their cultures are more divided into many groups, due to dialects and boundaries among the eastern states in scrupulous and a good sample of this is their traditional way of welcoming visitors, which is usually present kola to guests, even before they made their mission known.

The Igbo people have a melodic music style into which they incorporate a variety of percussion instruments; the Udu, which is essentially designed from a clay jug; an Ekwe, which is shaped from a hollowed log; and the Ogene, a hand bell designed from forged iron.

Other instruments include Opi – a wind instrument related to the flute; Igba, and Ichaka. They also have a style of music called Ikorodo, which engage a vocal performance accompanied by several musical instruments.

  1. Yoruba



Yoruba people are a large ethno-linguistic group or ethnic nation in Africa, and the majority of them speak the Yoruba language. The Yoruba represent approximately 35 percent of Nigeria’s total population, and around 40 million individuals all the way through the region of West Africa.

While the majority of the Yoruba live in western Nigeria, there are also important indigenous Yoruba communities in Benin, Ghana, Togo and the Caribbean.


Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba


A significant percentage of Africans imprisoned during the TransAtlantic Slave Trade in the Americas managed to maintain the Yoruba spiritual religion known as Aborisha.

Indeed, the initiation and exercise of Aborisha spiritual religion offers a route to all people of African descent, who be victims of a slave trade in the Americas or the Caribbean, to make claims to Yoruba heritage.

The Yorubas are the major ethnic group in the states of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo, which are subdivisions of Nigeria; they also represent a sizable proportion of Kwara and Kogi States as well as Edo State.

     4. Ijaw

Ijaw People


The Ijaw reside in the Niger River Delta portion of Nigeria and represent around 10% of the country’s population. The Ijaw have typically had strains with the rest of the Nigerian population. The areas in which they inhabit are incredibly oil-rich. This is bittersweet for the Ijaw individuals, as oil exploration has exposed their land to environmental vulnerability. Mismanagement of these oil earnings has retained a considerable amount of the wealth from going back to the Ijaw community. Goodluck Jonathan, the Prime Minister of Nigeria from 2010 to 2015 recognizes as an Ijaw, and his election being a president in Nigeria was a full of pride moment for Ijaw people.

    5. Kanuri



The Kanuri individuals are present in northeastern Nigeria. Their population is thought to be around 4% of Nigeria (roughly 4,000,000). The regions where Kanuri reside are mainly impractical for strangers to reach. Kanuri individuals are mostly Sunni Muslims. Boko Haram, an Islamist insurgent group in the North of Nigeria, are generally of Kanuri ancestry. This group wants to convey lots of the Kanuri issues towards the Nigerian administration. Even though the Kanuri culture is abundant with tradition, Boko Haram are utilizing their lands being a platform for operations, and also innocent Kanuri individuals have been exposed to violence as well as Sharia law.

    5. Ibibio


Ibibio tribe


The Ibibio, mostly seen in southeastern Nigeria, possess a rich oral history handed down through generations. These individuals were living in this part of Nigeria for many years. This ethnic group figures roughly 4.5 million which is equivalent to 3.5% of the Nigerian population. Ibibio individuals in the region also expected (with the British Crown) to get their own sovereign nation within Nigeria (pre-independence). Right now, Ibibio mainly distinguish themselves as Christian. Ibibio possesses an amazing artistic culture, most famous for creating intricate wooden masks and also carvings.


   5. Tiv


Tiv People


The ethnic group called Tiv are famous for their agricultural product and the trading. This is among the sources of income for them. The Tiv people most trace their origins back to an early individual also known as Tiv, who had 2 sons. Several Tiv people distinguish as Christians, even less as Muslim. The religion of Tiv, based on manipulations of forces by human beings who were entrusted by God, stays strong within the Tiv population. Tiv only constitute 3.5% of the Nigerian population, which makes them among the smaller ethnic groups in the country.

Other Ethnic Groups

The rest of the ethnic groups in Nigeria constitute 12% of the Nigerian populace. These groups include:

1. Ebira,
2. Edo,
3. Gwari,
4. Jukun, and
5. Igala

The heart of Nigeria is famous for its diversity, with lots of these remaining groups residing in the country. Although Nigeria is abundant with her diverse ethnicity, several groups mentioned above live segregated from other people. Most ethnic groups have formed illegal vigilante or militia groups, guarding their interests from other groups in the country.

Music of Nigeria


The music of Nigeria consists of many kinds of Folk and popular music, some of which are known worldwide. Styles of folk music are related to the huge number of ethnic groups in the country, each with their own techniques, instruments, and songs. Little is recognized about the country’s music history prior to European contact; although bronze carvings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries had been created depicting musicians and their instruments.


Nigerian Musicians


The largest ethnic groups are the Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa. Traditional music from Nigeria and throughout Africa is almost always functional; in other words, it is performed to have a ritual such as a wedding or funeral and not to achieve artistic goals. Although some Nigerians, particularly children and the elderly, play instruments for their own amusement, solo performance is otherwise rare. Music is closely simultaneous to agriculture, and there are restrictions on, for example, which instruments can be played during different parts of the growing season.

Traditional Music

Nigeria is a various cosmopolitan nation with over 250 ethnic groups with largely distinct languages which influence individual musical styles.  Music was engaged in Traditional societies for communal celebrations/social events, religious/ritual purposes and entertainment/ leisure.  The various forms of traditional music served as the popular music of early times.


Traditional Music - Ghana


The common instrumental voice engaged by all ethnic groups was and is the leather-skinned traditional drum. In Western Nigeria, there is the Bata, the ‘Gangan’ (talking drum),  the massive Gbedu and Sakara drums.  In Northern Nigeria, the Tambari (kettle drum), the Kalangu (talking drum) and others. In Eastern Nigeria, the mighty Ikoro drum, the medium-sized Igba drum and the empty clay bass pot (‘Udu’).  Many of these named drums were eponymous with the styles of music and dance they symbolize, e.g Kalangu music, Ikoro music and dance, the Bata dance and the Igba dance. Melodic instruments were employed together with rhythmic instruments such as Ogene or Agogo (gongs), Ekpili or Shekere (shakers), Oja (traditional flute) , the Ubo (Thumb Piano)and the elephant tusk trumpet, Kuntigi (traditional guitar), Goje (traditional harp) and trumpet (Kakaaki).




Foods In Nigeria


Nigeria has such a different kind of people and cultures that it is difficult to pick one national dish. Each area has its own regional desired that depends on customs, tradition, and religion. The different foods available also depend on the season: the “hungry season” is earlier than the rains arrive in March, and the “season of surplus” follows the harvest in October and November.


Jollof rice

Jollof rice


However, Fruits are enjoyed year-round. A large part of Nigeria lies in the tropics, where many fruits are existing. Some of the popular fruits are oranges, melons, grapefruits, limes, mangoes, bananas, and pineapples.





Northern region People (mostly Muslim, whose beliefs prohibit eating pork) have diets based on sorghum (a type of grain), beans and brown rice. The Hausa people of this region also like to eat meat in the form of suya or tsere (kebabs, which are chunks of roasted, skewered meat). Muslims love to drink tea, making coffeehouses popular places to socialize.





Eastern Nigerian People, mostly Igbo/Ibo, eat gari (cassava powder) dumplings, pumpkins, and yams. Yams are typically eaten in place of potatoes and are an important part of the Nigerian diet. However, African yams are unlike than Western yams. They are pale, barely sweet, and are not commonly found in United States supermarkets.

Traditional Nigerian Clothing

Nigeria has numerous tribes and ethnic groups, many of which wear their own style of garb. In many areas of the country, especially the south, men and women like better to wear western attire. Traditional attire is worn on a daily basis in many areas of Nigeria. In other region traditional attire is worn only for special occasions like festivals or weddings. The three top ethnic groups in Nigeria are the Hausa-Fulani (the largest ethnic group), Yoruba, and Igbo.

Traditional Nigerian Clothing – Igbo

Centuries ago the only explanation for the Igbo wore clothing was for modesty, clothing was not used for style or to display status. Over time, their clothing evolved. Today most of the people, especially in urban areas, wear western styled clothing. However in rural areas they frequently still wear traditional clothing. The traditional clothing for women are wrap, some of which are intended for day to day activities and others for formal occasions. The formal wraps are made of more expensive fabric which is often imported. Men usually wear cotton wrappers, shirts, and sandals for day to day wear. Formal wear for men consists of wraps made from better material than that used for day to day wear.


Traditional Nigerian Clothing – Yoruba

The Yoruba people of Nigeria are famous for their exquisite clothing. Clothing serves as an indicator of status and wealth. For occasions such as weddings and funerals, they wore especially beautiful garb.


Nigerian Clothing - Yoruba


Examples of Yoruba clothing

  • Gele – A traditional Nigerian clothing which women wrap around their heads. There are many variations of how they wrap it.
  • Agbada – For proper events Nigerian men often wear a robe called an agbada over their clothes.
  • Buba – It is a loose fitting blouse with long sleeves and a neckline that is either V-shaped or round. It usually falls a slight below a women’s waist. Also, Men can wear a buba.
  • Iro – Iros are long wrap-around skirts. The rectangular skirt is worn by covering it around the waist and tucking it in at the end.
  • Sokotos – Sokotos are trousers that are loose-fitting with a drawstring that makes to hold them up.

Traditional Nigerian Clothing – Hausa-Fulani

Hausa-Fulani men dress in a wide sleeved robe called a babban riga which is a floor-length robe with very long sleeves which should have to be folded up to expose the hands. It is the equivalent of the Yoruba’s Agbada. Even though the babban riga is considered a Muslim garment approximately all Nigerian men wear one for formal occasions. Hausa men also wear a traditional headpiece, a round cap named a fula. Hausa women wear colorful wrappers (abaya) with matching blouses.



Social conventions

Shaking hands with everyone is traditional on meeting and departing. In Yorubaland, it is a sign of respect for women to curtsey when introduced and to enquire after relations, even if this is the first meeting. Unless the visitor knows someone well, it is strange to be invited to a Nigerian’s home. Most entertaining, particularly in Lagos, takes place in restaurants or clubs. A small gift of appreciation is always welcome and business souvenirs bearing the logo of the company are also acceptable. Casual wear is suitable and a lightweight suit and tie are only necessary for businesspeople on formal meetings; on generally, other occasions men will not need to wear a jacket, although a tie might be expected.

Women should dress moderately, and respect local customs regarding dress, particularly in the Muslim north. It is not recommended for women to wear trousers. There are over 250 tribes in Nigeria, the principal groups being the Hausa in the north, the Ibo (or Igbo) in the southeast and the Yoruba in the southwest. The larger of the minor groups are the Fulani, Idoma, Igbirra, Igala, Kanuri, Tiv and Nupe in the north; the Efik, Ekoi, Ibibio and Ijaw in the east; and the Edo, Ijaw ,Itsekiri and Urhobo in the west. A result of this ethnic variety is the diversity of art, dance forms, music, language,  customs, and crafts. Nigerians have a very strong sense of ethnic allegiance.


Age is seriously respected in Nigeria. In an area where the average life expectancy is not very high, those who live their senior years are seen as having earned special rights of respect and admiration. This is true of both men and women.

Socially, greetings are of the greatest importance. A handshake and a long list of well wishes for a counterpart’s family and good health are usual when meeting someone. This is often true even if you have seen that person a short time earlier. Whether you are visiting a friend or talking to a bank teller, it is considered rude not to engage in a proper greeting ahead of getting down to business.

Shaking hands, eating, or passing things with the left hand are unacceptable. The left hand is retained for personal toiletries and is considered dirty.




8. Countries and their Cultures – Culture of Nigeria

9. PBS NewsHour – Ethnicity in Nigeria

10. Worldatlas – Largest ethnic Groups in Nigeria

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