Conflict, CULTURE, and poverty in Nigeria: A Theoretical Discussion and Empirical Analysis



Onyia, Chukwuma Godwin

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This study examines the determinants of chronic poverty which is at the root of conflict in Nigeria. Violent conflict, most of which emanates from the northern region, is a defining feature of Nigeria dating back to its independence in 1960. Scholars have attributed this phenomenon to endemic, chronic poverty in the area. The situation has attracted scholars who seek to account for the continued economic backwardness amongst the northerners and to proffer pro-poor strategies as part of the peacebuilding components in Nigeria. We conducted our study into the causes of sustained economic backwardness from the perspectives of Oscar Lewis’ culture of poverty theory and tackled the problem through the citizens' viewpoint. We found that two significant, surviving mechanisms of the Sokoto Caliphate shape the attitudes of the mass commoners of Hausa-Fulani of northern Nigeria. We established that these produce seven distinctive traits that are inimical to economic prosperity, such as “beggarliness,” “limited parenting,” “women seclusion” “limited priority to education,” “lack of need-for-achievement motivation.” We report that above findings support the “culture of poverty” thesis that the poor create, sustain, and generationally transmit unique values that apparently render them economically inviable within the modern society. This report shows that culture of the northerners ought to be considered seriously, especially in designing and implementing pro-poor policies geared towards stemming youth buy-in into radical extremism and recurrent conflict in that region. Such policies should include in their design, measures to engender an attitudinal change of both practices and viewpoints among the poor northerners towards prosperity-inducing behaviors.



Conflict, Poverty, Nigeria, Culture of poverty, Radical extremism