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This paper examines the issue of ethnic conflicts and their implications for democracy in Nigeria. Ethnic conflict and distrust is identified as the bane of former democratic experiments in Nigeria. Moreover, since the late 1980s, ethnicity in Nigeria has assumed disturbing new dimensions. The most crucial of these are the issues of marginalization and agitations by ethnic minorities. Marginalization breeds suspicion, distrust, heightens ethnic tensions and may eventually lead to conflict over the sharing and allocation of power and national resources. Democratic tradition, which is imperative for development, cannot blossom in the context of ethnic conflict. Thus, marginalization, whether apparent or real, has the potential for disrupting the drive towards democracy. With cries for marginalization so rife among ethnic groups, a need arises to address the issue squarely. This is particularly important given that Nigeria is presently engaged in another attempt at democracy. Ethnic conflicts in whatever form need to be resolved in order to allow for democracy to thrive. This paper examines ways in which ethnic problems in Nigeria may be resolved through the creation of a realistic and workable federalism modelled largely on the American model.
Journal of Social Development in Africa Vol 15 No 1 2000, pp. 61-78