|About | Contact | Mongabay on Facebook | Mongabay on Twitter | Subscribe|
Nigeria - SOCIETY
NIGERIA, THE MOST POPULOUS country in Africa and the tenth largest country by population in the world, is located at the eastern terminus of the bulge of West Africa. As with many of the other nations of Africa, Nigeria's national boundaries result from its colonial history and cut across a number of cultural and physical boundaries. Nigeria has a total area of 923,768 square kilometers, about 60 percent the size of the state of Alaska, and the greatest area of the nations along the coast of West Africa (although in Africa as a whole, it is only the fourteenth largest country by area). The maximum north-south distance within the country is about 1,040 kilometers, while the maximum east-west distance is about 1,120 kilometers. Although it represents only about 3 percent of the surface area of Africa, Nigeria contains about 20 percent of total African population. In this and other respects, it is arguably the single most important country on the continent.
The size of its population is one of Nigeria's most significant and distinctive features. With probably more than 100 million people in 1990--the precise figure is uncertain because there has been no accepted census since 1963, although a census was scheduled for the fall of 1991--Nigeria's population is about twice the size of that of the next largest country in Africa, Egypt, which had an estimated mid-1989 population of 52 million. Nigeria represents about 20 percent of the total population of sub-Saharan Africa. The population is unevenly distributed, however; a large percentage of the total number live within several hundred kilometers of the coast but population is also dense along the northern river basin areas such as Kano and Sokoto. Population densities, especially in the southwest near Lagos and the rich agricultural regions around Enugu and Owerri, exceed 400 inhabitants per kilometer. None of the neighboring states of West or Central Africa approaches the total level of Nigerian population or the densities found in the areas of greatest concentration in Nigeria. Several of Nigeria's twenty-one states have more people than a number of other countries in West Africa, and some of the Igbo areas of the southeast have the highest rural densities in sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast, other areas of Nigeria are sparsely populated and have apparently remained so for a considerable time. This pattern of population distribution has major implications for the country's development and has had great impact on the nation's postindependence history.
Migration from rural to urban areas has accelerated in recent decades. Estimates of urban dwellers reveal this shift--in 1952, 11 percent of the total population was classified as urban; in 1985, 28 percent. One-sixth of the urban population, or approximately 6 million people, lived in Lagos, and in 1985 eight other cities had populations of more than 500,000.
<>Population Growth Rate
Although numerous estimates of the Nigerian population were made during the colonial period, the first attempt at a nationwide census was during 1952-53. This attempt yielded a total population figure of 31.6 million within the current boundaries of the country. This census has usually been considered an undercount for a number of reasons: apprehension that the census was related to tax collection; political tension at the time in eastern Nigeria; logistical difficulties in reaching many remote areas; and inadequate training of enumerators in some areas. The extent of undercounting has been estimated at 10 percent or less, although accuracy probably varied among the regions. Despite its difficulties, the 1952-53 census has generally been seen as less problematic than any of its successors.
Subsequent attempts to conduct a reliable postindependence census have been mired in controversy, and only one was officially accepted. The first attempt, in mid-1962, was canceled after much controversy and allegations of overcounting in many areas. A second attempt in 1963, which was officially accepted, also was encumbered with charges of inaccuracy and manipulation for regional and local political purposes. Indeed, the official 1963 figure of 55.6 million as total national population is inconsistent with the census of a decade earlier because it implies a virtually impossible annual growth rate of 5.8 percent. In addition to likely inflation of the aggregate figure, significant intraregional anomalies emerge from a close comparison of the 1953 and 1963 figures. In portions of the southeast, for example, the two sets of data imply that some nonurban local government areas (LGAs) had increased at a rate of almost 13 percent per year, while other neighboring areas experienced a minute growth rate of 0.5 percent per year. Despite the controversy, the results of the 1963 census were eventually accepted.
After the civil war of 1967-70, an attempt was made to hold a census in 1973, but the results were canceled in the face of repeated controversy. No subsequent nationwide census had been held as of 1990, although there have been various attempts to derive population estimates at a state or local level. Most official national population estimates are based on projections from the 1963 census.
The great improvements in transport and accessibility of most areas, in technological capability, and in the level of education throughout the country, as well as the generalized acceptance of national coherence and legitimacy, favored the success of the fall 1991 census. It was to be conducted in about 250,000 enumeration areas by the National Population Commission, with offices in each of the country's LGAs. To reduce possible controversy, religious and ethnic identification would be excluded from the census forms, and verification of state results would be handled by supervisors from outside the state. Some analysts believe that the effort to carry out a reliable census with perceived legitimacy might become an unexpectedly positive exercise, reinforcing a sense of shared nationhood and providing a model for the attempt to overcome regional and ethnic differences.
The absence of virtually any reliable current demographic data has not prevented national and international bodies from generating estimates and projections of population and population growth in Nigeria. The World Bank estimate of Nigeria's 1990 population was 119 million, with an estimated annual growth rate of 3.3 percent. Although other sources differed on the exact figure, virtually all sources agreed that the annual rate of population growth in the country had increased from the 1950s through most of the 1980s. The government estimated a 2 percent rate of population growth for most of the country between 1953 and 1962. For the period between 1965 and 1973, the World Bank estimated Nigeria's growth rate at 2.5 percent, increasing to 2.7 percent between 1973 and 1983. Projections about the population growth rate were uncertain, however, in view of questions concerning the accuracy of Nigerian census statistics.
This increase was typical of most of sub-Saharan Africa, where growth rates increased steadily throughout the post-World War II period. The key to decelerating the rate of population growth would be a sharp decline in the fertility rate, which is defined as the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime. Considered the second stage of the demographic transition process, it was well under way in 1990 in most other developing regions of the world, except for the Islamic nations of the Middle East. Few African countries, however, had experienced any substantial fertility decline, and the overall fertility rate for sub-Saharan Africa was estimated as 6.5 in 1983.
Any decline in the population growth rate in Nigeria or the rest of sub-Saharan Africa was expected to depend on the balance between the demand for smaller families and the supply of birth control technology. Urbanization (especially when full households, rather than just males, are involved) was likely to be the most powerful factor leading to a decline in fertility, because it induced the most radical shifts in the relative costs and benefits of having large numbers of children. Other important factors were likely to include the availability of health care and of birth control information and equipment in both rural and urban areas, the rate of expansion of education, and the general pace of economic development. If the pattern of change in Africa were to follow that in other parts of the world, urbanization, economic development, education, improved health care, increased availability of birth control, and declining infant mortality would eventually lead to a marked decline in fertility rates.
Between 1970 and 1987, life expectancy in Nigeria was estimated to have increased from forty to fifty-one years. Much of this rise resulted from a sharp decline in mortality among infants younger than one year and children ages one to four. Infant mortality was estimated to have declined 25 percent from 152 per 1,000 live births in 1965 to 113 in 1983, while child mortality declined almost 50 percent from 33 to 17 per 1,000 in the same period. These levels were likely to continue to fall, thereby exerting continuing upward pressure on the population growth rate. As of 1990, maternity deaths exceeded 75,000 per year, excluding deaths resulting from illegal abortions, and both were estimated to have risen during the 1980s.
Despite the probable decline in fertility in the 1990s, given the country's age structure, Nigeria's 1990 population was expected at least to double before the middle of the next century. Somewhat less than half of Nigeria's 1990 population was younger than fifteen. As a result, even if population growth were to drop immediately to a replacement rate and remain there, the 1990 population would double before stabilizing. Nigeria, thus, could expect to deal with a population of more than 200 million probably within the next twenty-five years.
These projections suggested that population growth would be an issue of central concern for Nigeria for some time to come. Merely to remain at current per capita levels, agricultural production, industrial and other economic output, and provision of health and other social services would all need to double within twenty-five years. This situation was a challenge of historic proportions for Nigeria, one faced by many other nations of Africa.
Ethnicity is one of the keys to understanding Nigeria's pluralistic society. It distinguishes groupings of peoples who for historical reasons have come to be seen as distinctive--by themselves and others--on the basis of locational origins and a series of other cultural markers. Experience in the postindependence period fostered a widespread belief that modern ethnicity affects members' life chances. In Nigerian colloquial usage, these collectivities were commonly called "tribes." In the emergent Nigerian national culture, this topic was discussed widely as "tribalism," a morally reprehensible term whose connotations were similar to American terms, such as "discrimination," "racism," or "prejudice." Nigerian national policies have usually fostered tolerance and appreciation for cultural differences, while trying at the same time to suppress unfair treatment based on ethnic prejudice. This long-term campaign involved widespread support in educated circles to replace the term "tribe" or "tribal" with the more universally applicable concept of ethnicity. Nevertheless, older beliefs died slowly, and ethnic identities were still a vital part of national life in 1990.
The ethnic variety was dazzling and confusing. Estimates of the number of distinct ethnic groupings varied from 250 to as many as 400. The most widely used marker was that of language. In most cases, people who spoke a distinct language having a separate term for the language and/or its speakers saw themselves, or were viewed by others, as ethnically different. Language groupings were numbered in the 1970s at nearly 400, depending upon disagreements over whether or not closely related languages were mutually intelligible. Language groupings sometimes shifted their distinctiveness rather than displaying clear boundaries. Manga and Kanuri speakers in northeastern Nigeria spoke easily to one another. But in the major Kanuri city of Maiduguri, 160 kilometers south of Manga-speaking areas, Manga was considered a separate language. Kanuri and Manga who lived near each other saw themselves as members of the same ethnic group; others farther away did not.
Markers other than language were also used to define ethnicity. Speakers of Bura (a Chadic language closely related to Marghi) saw themselves traditionally as two ethnic groups, Bura and Pabir, a view not necessarily shared by others. Bura mostly adhered to Christianity or to a local indigenous religion, and a few were Muslims. They lived originally in small, autonomous villages of 100 to 500 persons that and expanded split as the population grew. The Pabir had the same local economy as the Bura, but they were Muslim, they lived in larger (originally walled) villages of 400 to 3,000 with more northerly architectural styles, they resisted splitting up into subgroups, and they recognized a central ruler (emir) in a capital town (Biu). There was a strong movement in the 1980s among many Bura speakers to unite the two groups based on their common language, location, and interests in the wider society. Given long-standing conflicts that separated them as late as 1990, however, their common ethnicity was open to question.
The official language of the country is English, which is taught in primary schools and used for instruction in secondary schools and universities. All officials with education to secondary school level or beyond spoke English and used it across language barriers formed by Nigeria's ethnic diversity. Many in the university-trained elite used English as one of the languages in their homes and/or sent their children to preschools that provided a head start in English-language instruction. In addition to English, pidgin has been used as a lingua franca in the south (and in adjoining Cameroon) for more than a century among the nonschool population. In 1990 it was used in popular songs, radio and television dramas, novels, and even newspaper cartoons. In the north, southerners spoke pidgin to one another, but Hausa was the lingua franca of the region and was spreading rapidly as communications and travel provided a need for increased intelligibility. Counting English, the use of which was expanding as rapidly as Hausa, many Nigerians were at least trilingual. This language facility usually included a local vernacular, a wider African lingua franca, and English. Given the long history of trade and markets that stimulated contacts across local ethnic units, multilingualism was a very old and established adaptation. Such multilingualism enabled communication among different ethnic groups in the century.
The broadest groupings of linked ethnic units are regional. Britain ruled most of the area of present-day Nigeria as two protectorates from 1900 to 1914, the southern and northern protectorates each having separate regional administrations. These portions were joined finally under a single Nigerian colonial government in 1914. But they retained their regionally based authorities, divided after 1914 into three regional units. The announcement of their imminent demise by the first postcoup military government in 1966 helped to set off violent reactions in the north against southerners who had settled in their midst, contributing to the outbreak of civil war.
Within each of the major northern and southern regions, there were significant subregions that combined ethnicity, geography, and history. What is generally referred to historically as the south included a western Yoruba-speaking area, an eastern Igbo area (the "g" is softly pronounced), a midsection of related but different groups, and a set of Niger Delta peoples on the eastern and central coastal areas. The north was widely associated with the Hausa-speaking groups that occupied most of the region, but the Kanuri predominated in the northeast, with a belt of peoples between the two; there were also important pastoral nomadic groups (mostly Fulani) that lived throughout the same region. In the middle belt were congeries of peoples in an area running east-west in the hills, along the southern rim of the north, dividing it from the larger region of Nigeria's south. On its northern side, the middle belt shaded culturally into the Muslim north. In contrast, on the southern side, its peoples were more similar to those of the south.
<>The Northern Area
<>The Southern Area
The best known of the northern peoples, often spoken of as coterminous with the north, are the Hausa. The term refers also to a language spoken indigenously by savanna peoples spread across the far north from Nigeria's western boundary eastward to Borno State and into much of the territory of southern Niger. The core area lies in the region in the north and northwest where about 30 percent of all Hausa could be found. It also includes a common set of cultural practices and, with some notable exceptions, Islamic emirates that originally comprised a series of centralized governments and their surrounding subject towns and villages.
These precolonial emirates were still major features of local government in 1990. Each had a central citadel town that housed its ruling group of nobles and royalty served as the administrative, judicial, and military organization of these states. Traditionally, the major towns were also trading centers; some such as Kano, Zaria, or Katsina were urban conglomerations with populations of 25,000 to 100,000 in the nineteenth century. They had central markets, special wards for foreign traders, complex organizations of craft specialists, and religious leaders and organizations. They administered a hinterland of subject settlements through a hierarchy of officials, and they interacted with other states and ethnic groups in the region by links of warfare, raiding, trade, tribute, and alliances.
The rural areas remained in 1990 fundamentally small to medium-sized settlements of farmers ranging from 2,000 to 12,000 persons. Both within and spread outward from the settlements, one-third to one-half the population lived in hamlet-sized farm settlements of patrilocal extended families, or gandu, an economic kin-based unit under the authority and direction of the household head. Farm production was used for both cash and subsistence, and as many as two-thirds of the adults also engaged in off-farm occupations.
Throughout the north, but especially in the Hausa areas, over the past several centuries Fulani cattle-raising nomads have migrated westward, sometimes settling into semisedentary villages. Their relations with local agriculturalists generally involved the symbiotic trading of cattle for agricultural products and access to pasturage. Conflicts arose, however, especially in times of drought or when population built up and interethnic relations created pressures on resources. These pressures peaked at the beginning of the nineteenth century and were contributing factors in a Fulani-led intra-Muslim holy war and the founding of the Sokoto Caliphate. Fulani leaders took power over the Hausa states, intermarried with the ruling families and settled into the ruling households of Hausaland and many adjacent societies. By the twentieth century, the ruling elements of Hausaland were often referred to as Hausa-Fulani. Thoroughly assimilated into urban Hausa culture and language but intensely proud of their Fulani heritage, many of the leading "Hausa" families in 1990 claimed such mixed origins. In terms of local traditions, this inheritance was expressed as a link to the conquering founders of Sokoto and a zealous commitment to Islamic law and custom.
Centralized government in the urban citadels along the southern rim of the desert has encouraged long-distance trade over the centuries, both across the Sahara and into coastal West Africa after colonial rule moved forcefully to cut the trans-Saharan trade, forcing the north to use Nigerian ports. Ultimately, this action resulted in enclaves of Hausa traders in all major cities of West Africa, linked socially and economically to their home areas.
In summary, Hausa become primarily a language, linked culturally to Islam, a background of centralized emirate governments, Fulani rulers since the early nineteenth century, extended households and agricultural villages, trade and markets, and strong assimilative capacities so that Hausa cultural borders were constantly expanding. Given modern communications, transportation, and the accelerating need for a lingua franca, Hausa was rapidly becoming either the first or second language of the entire northern area of the country.
The other major ethnic grouping of the north is that of the Kanuri of Borno. They entered Nigeria from the central Sahara as Muslim conquerors in the fifteenth century, set up a capital, and subdued and assimilated the local Chadic speakers. By the sixteenth century, they had developed a great empire that at times included many of the Hausa states and large areas of the central Sahara. Attacked in the nineteenth century by the Fulani, they resisted successfully, although the conflict resulted in a new capital closer to Lake Chad, a new ruling dynasty, and a balance of power between the Hausa-Fulani of the more westerly areas and the Kanuri speakers of the central sub-Saharan rim.
Even though Kanuri language, culture, and history are distinctive, other elements are similar to the Hausa. They include the general ecology of the area, Islamic law and politics, the extended households, and rural-urban distinctions. There was, however, a distinctive Kanuri tradition of a U-shaped town plan open to the west, housing the political leader or founder at the head of the plaza formed by the arms of the U. The people remained intensely proud of their ancient traditions of Islamic statehood. Among many ancient traits were included their long chronicles of kings, wars, and hegemony in the region, and their specific Kanuri cultural identity seen in the hairstyles of the women, the complex cuisine, and the identification with ruling dynasties whose names and exploits were still fresh.
Things have been changing, however. Maiduguri, the central city of Kanuri influence in the twentieth century, was chosen as the capital of an enlarged Northeast State during the civil war. Because this state encompassed large sections of Hausa-Fulani areas, many of these ethnic groups came to the capital. This sudden incorporation, together with mass communications, interstate commerce, and intensification of travel and regional contacts brought increased contacts with Hausa culture. By the 1970s, and increasingly during the 1980s and into the 1990s, Kanuri speakers found it best to get along in Hausa, certainly outside their home region and even inside Borno State. By 1990 women were adopting Hausa dress and hairstyles, and all schoolchildren learned to speak Hausa. Almost all Bornoans in the larger towns could speak Hausa, and many Hausa administrators and businesspeople were settling in Borno. Just as Hausa had incorporated its Fulani conquerors 175 years earlier, in 1990 it was spreading into Borno, assimilating as it went. Its probable eventual triumph as the universal northern language was reinforced by its utility, although the ethnically proud Kanuri would retain much of their language and culture for many years.
Along the border, dividing northern from southern Nigeria lies an east-west belt of peoples and languages, generally known as the middle belt. The area runs from the Cameroon Highlands on the east to the Niger River valley on the west and contains 50 to 100 separate language and ethnic groups. These groups varied from the Nupe and Tiv, comprising more than half a million each, to a few hundred speakers of a distinct language in small highland valleys in the Jos Plateau. On the east, languages were of the Chadic group, out of which Hausa differentiated, and the Niger-Congo family, indicating links to eastern and central African languages. In the west, the language groupings indicated historical relations to Mende-speaking peoples farther west. Cultural and historical evidence supports the conclusion that these western groups were marginal remnants of an earlier substratum of cultures that occupied the entire north before the emergence of large centralized Islamic emirates.
In time three distinct kinds of organized groups emerged. The largest and most centralized groups, such as the Nupe, under colonial administration became smaller versions of the emirates. A few of these peoples, such as the Tiv, were of the classic "segmentary" variety, in which strongly organized patrilineages link large portions of the ethnic group into named nonlocal segments based on real and putative concepts of descent. Local organization, land tenure, inheritance, religious beliefs, law, and allegiances are all related to this sense of segmentary lineage relationship. During the 1960s, some Tiv segments allied with the southern political parties, and others linked with the northern parties. Like the larger groups, they demanded, and by 1960 had been granted, a central "chief" and local administration of their own.
The most common groupings in the middle belt were small localized villages and their outlying hamlets and households; they were autonomous in precolonial times but were absorbed into wider administrative units under British rule. Most often they were patrilineal, with in-marrying wives, sons, unmarried daughters, and possibly parents or parents' siblings living together. Crops separated this residence grouping from similar ones spread out over a small area. They cultivated local fields and prayed to local spirits and the ghosts of departed lineage elders. Descendants of founders were often village heads or priests of the village shrine, whereas leading members of the other lineages formed an eldership that governed the place and a few outlying areas, consisting of those who were moving toward open lands as the population increased.
The missionaries and party politics influenced, but did not obliterate, these older units. Missionaries arrived in the 1910s and 1920s and were allowed into non-Muslim areas. They set up schools using United States or British staff to teach English and helped to create a sense of separateness and educational disparity between the Christianized groups and Muslim ones. From the 1920s to current times both religions competed for adherents. Political parties representing both southern and the northern interests have always found supporters in this border area, making its participation in national life more unpredictable. Attempts in the 1960s and 1970s to create a separate region, or develop a political party representing middle belt peoples, were quickly cauterized by northern Muslim-based political parties whose dominance at the national level could have been weakened by losing administrative control over the middle belt.
At the same time, possibly the greatest influence on the area was that of Hausaization. The emergent dominance of the Hausa language, dress patterns, residential arrangements, and other cultural features was clear as one traveled from the far north into the middle belt area. Local councils that only a few years previously dressed differently and spoke in local vernaculars looked and acted as if they were parts of more northerly areas in 1990. Although this diffusion was weaker in the more remote areas and in Jos, the largest middle belt city, it was progressing rapidly everywhere else, constituting a unifying factor throughout the region.
In general, the southern groups of peoples have a fragmented quality. In 1990 the two most important groupings were the Igbo and the Yoruba--both linguistic communities rather than single ethnic units. History, language, and membership in the modern nation-state, however, had led to their identity as ethnic groups. In addition, although not as clearly differentiated, two subunits had strong traditions of ethnic separateness. These were the peoples of the Niger River delta area and those on the border between the Igbo and Yoruba.
Yorubaland takes in most of southwestern Nigeria and the peoples directly west of the Nigerian border in the independent country of Benin. In Nigeria alone, Yorubaland included 20 million to 30 million people in 1990 (i.e., about double the 1963 census figures). Each of its subunits was originally a small to medium-sized state whose major town provided the name of the subgrouping. Over time seven subareas--Oyo, Kabba, Ekiti, Egba, Ife, Ondo, and Ijebu--became separate hegemonies that differentiated culturally and competed for dominance in Yorubaland. Early nineteenth-century travelers noted that northern Oyo people had difficulty understanding the southern Ijebu, and these dialect differences remained in 1990. The language is that of the Kwa group of the Niger-Congo family, related to the Idoma and Igala of the southern grouping of middle belt chieftaincies south of the Benue River. The population has expanded in a generally westerly and southwesterly direction over the past several centuries. In the twentieth century, this migration brought Yoruba into countries to the west and northwest as far as northern Ghana.
The Yoruba kingdoms were essentially unstable, even when defended by Portuguese guns and later by cavalry (in Ilorin and Kabba), because the central government had insufficient power constitutionally or militarily to stabilize the subordinate chiefs in the outlying centers. This fissiparous tendency has governed Yoruba contemporary history and has weakened traditional rulers and strengthened the hands of local chiefs and elected councils. Ilorin, like Nupe to the north, was an exception, an extension of Fulani imperial expansion; in 1990 it was ethnically Yoruba, yet more closely allied through its traditional rulers to the Islamic societies to the north. It thus formed a bridge between north and south.
The region has had the longest and most penetrating contacts with the outside world. Returned Yoruba slaves, the early nineteenth-century establishment of the Anglican Church, and Yoruba churchmen, such as Bishop Samuel Adjai Crowther (in the 1820s), made its religious life, its formal education, and its elites among the most Westernized in the country. The first university, founded in 1948, was at Ibadan in the heart of Yorubaland, as were the first elite secondary schools; the first research institutes for agriculture, economics, African studies, and foreign affairs; the first publishing houses; and the first radio and television stations. Wole Soyinka, Africa's first Nobel prizewinner in literature, claims Yoruba ethnicity. The entry port of Lagos, predominantly Yoruba, is the largest and economically dominant city in the country (and its first capital).
In relation to others, the Yoruba had a strong sense of ethnic identity and of region, history, and leadership among Nigeria's peoples. In relation to each other, the seven subgroups used inherited prejudices of character and behavior that could exacerbate animosities, should other factors such as access to education or prominent positions create conflict among the subdivisions. At the same time, the Yorubas' longer contact with Westernizing influences had created some dedicated nationalists who saw their Yoruba identity as a contributing factor in their loyalty to the wider concept of a Nigerian nation-state.
The other major group of the south was the Igbo. They were found primarily in the southeast and spoke a Kwa language of the Niger-Congo family. This language tied them, historically, to regions east and south of their contemporary locations. In 1990 it was hard to find any major town in Nigeria without an Igbo minority, often in an ethnic enclave. As communities they had traditionally been segmented into more than 200 named groupings, each originally a locally autonomous polity. These groupings varied from a single village to as many as two or three dozen nucleated settlements that over time expanded outward from an original core town. Most of these central villages ranged from 1,000 to 3,000 persons in the nineteenth century. In 1990 they were as much as five to ten times larger, making severe land shortages and overused farmland a widespread problem. Precolonial trade up the Niger River from the coast stimulated the early development of a few larger towns, such as Onitsha, that in 1990 contained a population of several hundred thousand. Igbo culture, however, unlike the emirates and the Yoruba city-states, did not count urban living among the traditional ways of life.
For the Igbo as an ethnic group, personal advancement and participation in local affairs were matters of individual initiative and skill. Villages were run by a council of the most respected elders of the locality. Colonial administration created local headmen, or "warrant chiefs," who were never fully accepted and were finally replaced by locally elected councils.
This development does not mean that Igbo culture is exclusively dedicated to egalitarianism. Rank and wealth differences have been part of the society from early times and were highly prized. Success, eldership, wealth, a good modern education political power, and influence were all recognized as ways by which people, especially adult males, could distinguish themselves. As with all Nigerian societies, Igbo life was complex, and the organization of local and regional society was stratified into more and less affluent and successful groups, families, individuals, and even neighborhoods. Graduates of secondary schools formed "old boy associations," some of which had as members wealthy men linked to one another as local boosters and mutual supporters. Comparatively speaking, Igbo were most unlike other Nigerians in their strong positive evaluation of open competition for success. Children were encouraged to succeed; if they did so skillfully, rewards of high status awaited them. It was no accident that the first American-style land-grant university, linked for guidance during its founding to Michigan State University, was at Nsukka in Igboland, whereas the first universities in Yorubaland and in the north looked to Britain and its elitist traditions of higher education for their models of university life.
Psychological tests of "achievement motivation" that measure American-style individual competitiveness against standards of excellence given to comparable Nigerian groups resulted in Igbo people placing highest, followed by Yoruba, and then Hausa. This stress on individual achievement made Igbo people seem "pushy" to fellow Nigerians, whose own ethnic traditions fostered individual contributions to collective achievements within close-knit kin and patron-client groups that were more hierarchically arranged. In these latter groups, achievements were obtained through loyalty, disciplined membership in a large organization, and social skills that employed such memberships for personal advancement.
The impressive openness of Igbo culture is what first strikes the outsider, but closer inspection produces several caveats. Besides differences of wealth and rank achieved in one's lifetime or inherited, there was a much older tendency for people who traced their descent from the original settler-founders of a village to have higher status as "owners of the land." Generally, they provided the men who acted as priests of the local shrines, and often they provided more local leaders than descendants of later arrivals. At the other end of the scale were known descendants of people, especially women, who were originally slaves. They were akin to Indian "untouchables," low in status and avoided as marriage partners.
As with all Nigerian ethnic groups, there were internal divisions. Generally, these had to do with town area of origin. More northerly areas had a feeling of separateness, as did larger towns along the Niger River. Beyond Igboland, people from the region were treated as a single unit, lived in separate enclaves and even faced restrictions against ownership of local property in some northern towns. Once they suffered and fought together in the civil war of Biafran secession in the 1960s, these people developed a much stronger sense of Igbo identity that has since been expressed politically. Nevertheless, localized distinctions remained and in 1990 were significant internally.
The peoples of the Atlantic Coast and the Niger River delta are linguistically and culturally related to the Igbo. But the ecological demands of coastal life, and the separate history of contact with coastal trade and its effects produced ethnic differences that were strong enough to have made these people resist the Biafra secession movement when it was promulgated by Igbo leadership. Ijaw, Ibibio, Anang, and Efik lived partly from agriculture and partly from fishing and shrimping in the coastal waters. Religion, social organization, village life, local leadership, and gender relations were deeply affected by this ecology-based differentiation. Although there was a natural and historical pull of migration to Lagos, especially by young Ijaw men who went to the city to find work and send home remittances, the area boasted its own coastal town of Port Harcourt in Efik country that was, in a sense, the headquarters of this subgrouping.
To a lesser extent, the peoples of the western bank of the Niger River--and the western delta--especially the Bini speakers and Urhobo--were culturally close to those around them but had a sufficient sense of linguistic and historical separateness to see themselves as unique. These differences were partly buttressed by the past glory of the kingdom of Benin, of which a much diminished remnant survived in 1990, and had been used to provide the south first with an extra region, then with extra states when the regional level of government was abandoned in 1967.
Relations between ethnic groups remained a major problem for such a large and pluralistic society in 1990. In precolonial times, interethnic relations were often mistrustful, or discriminatory, and sometimes violent. At the same time, there were relationships, such as trade, that required peaceful communications. The most widespread communication was in the north between pastoral and agricultural peoples who traded cattle for farm products, and pasturage rights for manuring. Farmers might also buy a few cattle and have them cared for by pastoralists. Emirate rulers who normally raided and pillaged among non-Muslim village groups often established peaceful "trust" relations with residents of one or two villages; those residents then acted as hosts and guides for the raiders, in exchange for immunity for themselves. More subtle and peaceful exchanges involved smaller ethnic groups in the middle belt, each of which specialized in one or more commodities. In towns and along trade routes, occupations such as smithing, producing cotton, selling cattle, weaving, house building, and beer making were often confined to, or correlated with, ethnically defined units. Thus, ecological and economic specializations promoted peaceful interethnic relations. Conversely, promulgating conflict, mistrust, and stereotypes in ethnic relations were droughts; competition for control over trade routes or allies; resistance to, or the creation and maintenance of, exploitative relations; and other factors.
The civil war taught Nigerians that ethnic conflicts were among the most destructive forces in the life of the nation. By 1990 ethnic conflict was suppressed and carefully controlled so that any outbreak or seriously publicized discrimination on ethnic grounds was considered a matter of national security. In the few outbreaks that occurred since the war, the federal government acted swiftly to gain control and stop the conflict. Nevertheless, the way in which ethnic relations might threaten the security of individuals and groups was among the most serious issues in national life, especially for the millions of Nigerians who had to live and work in interethnic contexts.
Even in the more cosmopolitan cities, more than 90 percent of marriages were within rather than between ethnic units, or at least within identical regions and language groups. Marriages between subgroups of Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, or Kanuri occurred without stigma and had done so for many decades. But in the south, Yoruba-Igbo unions were uncommon, and north-south marriages were even rarer, especially between Hausa-Fulani or Kanuri and any person from southern Nigeria. Northern Muslim intermarriage was not uncommon, nor was intermarriage among peoples of the middle belt. But unions between middle belters and Muslims from emirates farther north remained rare. Migrants who could not find a spouse from their own ethnic group within the local enclave obtained a mate from the home community. Social pressure for ethnic endogamy was intense and persisted even among elites in business, universities, the military, religion, and politics. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, however, it appeared that marriages within the Christian and Muslim communities were increasingly transethnic.
The conjunction of location, language, religion, and common and differentiating customs created a strong sense of shared fate among coethnics and formed a constant basis for organizing ethnically related groupings into political constituencies. Thus, when political parties emerged, they represented the northern Muslim peoples, the Yoruba, and the Igbo; middle belters and others in between were courted from several directions. Given the shortage of government jobs and the expanding numbers of qualified applicants coming out of the education system, ethnic rivalry for government posts exacerbated ethnic competition. It was also a driving force in the establishment of more states, with more state capitals and more locally controlled jobs. Such jobs were likely to be less competitive ethnically because the boundaries of local governments tended to correlate with ethnic units. Under such conditions, would-be leaders stimulated the fears of their ethnic constituents. Ethnic organizations and university students wrote letters to newspapers pressuring for greater representation, more development resources, and separate states or districts for their particular group. Countering this practice, after the civil war the new constitution of 1979 provided that no political party could be legalized unless it obtained support in all parts of the country. This attempt to crosscut ethnicity with rules of political party competition has gone far toward alleviating the problem.
People first looked for relatives when migrating into one of the country's many large cities, as an increasing number of Nigerians were doing. If they found none, they looked for coethnics from their own rural area who shared a network of friends, neighbors, and relations. They spoke the same language, went to the same church or mosque and helped one another to find a job and housing and to join ethnic associations. In the textile mills of Kaduna in the north, studies of "class formation" among workers indicated that ethnic groupings were far stronger and used more frequently by workers than were trade unions, unless working conditions became extremely bad. It was only then that union membership, interaction, strength, and unity rose. Otherwise, ethnicity was the primary dimension for worker relations and mutual aid. Studies elsewhere in the country produced similar results. The trade union movement in Nigeria was well established and strong, especially at times of severe economic downturn, such as the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the structural adjustment program (SAP) severely decreased real wages. Rivalry within unions, however, and worker associations for mutual aid, as well as normal social life at work and afterward, were strongly influenced by formal and informal ethnic affiliations.
Ethnic stereotypes remained strong. Each of the main groups had disparaging stories and sayings about the others that were discussed openly when a foreigner was alone with members of a single ethnic group. Such prejudices died slowly, especially when ethnic groups lived in enclaves, knew little of each other's customs, and often attended different schools. It was official policy, however, to protect the rights of minorities, and in several instances the will to do so was ably demonstrated. Thus, Igbo property abandoned in the north at the time of the civil war was maintained by local governments and later returned. Although there were problems, this property restitution, the attempt to ensure that Igbo were accepted at all major universities, and the placement of Igbo in civil service posts helped create a sense of nationhood and trust in the rule of law and in the good intentions of the federal government.
Nigerian history has provided an extraordinary set of pressures and events as a context for modern nation building. Under such circumstances--the imposition of colonial rule, independence, interethnic and interregional competition or even violence, military coups, a civil war, an oil boom that had government and individuals spending recklessly and often with corrupt intentions, droughts, and a debt crisis that led to a drastic recession and lowered standards of living--people tended to cleave to what they knew. That is to say, they adhered to regional loyalties, ethnicity, kin, and to patron-client relations that protected them in an unstable and insecure environment. Meanwhile, other factors and processes stimulated by education, jobs, politics, and urban and industrial development created crosscutting ties that linked people in new, more broadly national ways.
By 1990 both sets of distinctions operated at once and gave no sign of weakening. For example, from time to time labor unions were able to call widespread, even general, strikes. At other times, unorganized workers or farmers rioted over long-held or sudden grievances. Nevertheless, attempts to create national movements or political parties out of such momentary flare-ups failed. Instead, once the outburst was over, older linkages reasserted themselves. In effect, the structure of society in 1990 was the result of these two processes--historical, locational, and ethnic on the one hand and socioeconomic on the other. In Nigeria the latter contact referred primarily to occupation, rural-urban residence, and formal education. Together these factors accounted for similarities and differences that were common across ethnic and regional groupings.
About 70 percent of all Nigerians were still living in farming villages in 1990, although the rural dwellers formed a shrinking proportion of the later force. It was among these people that ways of life remained deeply consistent with the past. People lived in small, modest households whose members farmed, sold some cash crops, and performed various kinds of nonfarm work for cash income. With the steady decline of export crop prices since the 1960s and the price rise in locally grown foods after the early 1970s, farmers shifted from export crops to local foods for their own subsistence and for sale to city consumers through middlemen. Most farmers used traditional hand tools in smallholdings outside the rural village. Houses in 1990 might have tin roofs instead of grass, and the village water supply might be a standpipe, or a hand pump. New practices included the widespread acceptance of fertilizers; a few new crops, especially corn; the use of rented tractors; the increased dependence on paid labor; and the development of larger commercial farms. Absentee city-based farmers also had started to buy up agricultural land.
Paved roads, better marketing procedures, and increased extension services in 1990 were producing a change in the rural areas that was missing during the first decades of independence. Surveys indicated that improved transportation (paved or dirt roads and cheap, private minibus services) was felt to be the most important change, bringing almost all rural areas into touch with nearby cities and larger market towns. Still, for most of the 70 to 80 percent of the people who remained involved in agriculture, life was hard, and income levels averaged among the lowest in the country.
Western-style education was a necessary, albeit not always sufficient, means to gain better income and rank. Under colonial rule, literacy and educational qualifications were required for access to more powerful, better paying jobs. Education in 1990 was one of the most widely accepted criteria for job recruitment. Older education systems, especially in the Islamic north, had always produced clerics and judges, and some training for the populace. Long years of Quranic learning continued to give high status in religious occupations; this remained the case in religious work, but to qualify for secular jobs in the upper salary scale required at least secondary and, increasingly, postsecondary schooling. Most rural families tried to get at least one child through six years of elementary school and into secondary school, if possible. In the cities, if a family had any stable income, all of the children attended school, tried for secondary level and even went on to university or other postsecondary education if the youngsters could successfully compete for places. For the wealthy, there were private preschools in all major cities that provided a head start in academic work, and private boarding schools that generally followed the British model.
By the 1980s, the education system was turning out an increasing surplus of graduates. Dozens of university graduates lined up for a single opening, and many more for less specialized positions. Under such conditions, nepotism, ethnic favoritism, and bribery flourished in employment decisions.
Education requirements for work were known and widely discussed. Job descriptions for government posts, commercial companies, and even factory work required set levels of schooling for applicants. Large factories and international corporations had training programs for future managers. In the 1980s, however, the vast majority of workers still learned their skills from the family or on the job. Outside the home, systems of apprenticeship produced cheap labor for the teacher and gave the trainee skills, along with a potential future network of customers or employers. Thus, truck drivers took on trainees, who worked as apprentice-assistants and general laborers for several years before they took a license test and hired out as drivers themselves. During that time, they learned about roads, maps, truck parks, markets, and vehicle servicing; they became acquainted with customers and vehicle owners, who in turn learned about their trustworthiness and efficiency.
In contemporary Nigeria as elsewhere, occupation differentiated people, incomes, and life-styles. In rural areas, smallholder farmers were the rule, but farmers often had a nonfarm occupation to produce income during the nongrowing season. The size of the farm was a function of family size, farming skills, inherited wealth, and nonfarm income to provide money for laborers. Some nonfarm work, such as trade, was prestigious; some, such as butchering, was less so. The most prestigious work in rural areas was that of public administration, either as local traditional headmen and chiefs or as rural representatives of government departments--such as teachers, district officers, veterinarians, extension workers, public works foremen, postal officials, and the like. Such offices required formal educational qualifications. The offices offered steady salaries; the possibility of government housing, or housing and vehicle allowances. Unlike farming, such work also meant protection against the vagaries of climate and economic conditions. This situation lasted well into the late 1980s until inflation, recession, and government cutbacks destroyed these advantages.
In 1990 a growing number of medium-sized towns (with more than 10,000 people) were spreading out across the country. They contained branch banks; branches of larger urban-based trading companies; smaller stores; and trade, building, and transport enterprises whose owner-managers formed a rural middle class of semiurbanized households. Often such individuals owned and operated nearby commercial farms as part of their diversified business interests. Their incomes were higher than those of usual farm families; their education level was quite low, ranging up to completion of primary school; and they were often active as local political party representatives with links to more important men and organizations in nearby cities.
In a number of special situations, government had invested in a rural area, creating peri-urban conditions surrounding a large town. Government involvement might result in a state university or a large irrigation project, for example, or on a smaller scale, where a secondary school had been sited with appropriate housing, electrification, and transportation links to a nearby urban center. In some instances, such as the Tiga Dam in Kano State or the massive irrigation project on Lake Chad, entire communities had sprung up to provide housing for the technical staff; new schools and markets also were built to meet the increased consumer needs of the farmers whose incomes rose as the project went into production.
Because of high inflation and sluggish salary increases throughout the 1980s and into 1990, rural officials were obliged to moonlight, usually by farming, to maintain real wage levels. Extension workers had been observed spending their days in a nearby city on a second job and carrying out visits to farmers in the evenings and on weekends. The wives of officials set up poultry sheds behind their houses and raised chickens and eggs for local and nearby city markets. By contrast, traditional chiefs, who had less formal education and often received much lower salaries than government representatives, were able to sell services, especially access to land purchases; to adjudicate disputes; and to keep a small portion of taxes. This shadowy income allowed them to maintain or even increase consumption levels more easily and set the pattern for the sale of public services that was quickly picked up by other officials living in rural areas. In the late 1980s, these well-established "corrupt" practices were viewed widely as essential for rural officials because real incomes had fallen so drastically.
In the cities, occupations were highly differentiated. Unskilled traditional work was more common in the northern cities but not yet extinct in southern areas. Such workers included water carriers, servants, women and young girls selling cooked foods on the streets, and hawkers of all kinds linked to patrons who supplied them and took part of the proceeds. The move to cities involved vast numbers of unemployed, who sought any type of work. In the modern sector, the unskilled were taken on by manufacturing plants, wholesale or retail establishments, hotels, and government departments. Such people lived in crowded rented rooms, often several families in a room with a curtain down the middle. They cooked in a common courtyard and used a latrine that might serve a number of families; the compound might or might not have a source of water. They barely managed even when their wives and children also sought work daily.
Lower-level skilled workers in the traditional sector were employed in house building, and a variety of crafts from pottery to iron and brass smithing, leather work, tanning, and butchery. They generally had better incomes, lived in several rooms or even a small house or compound, practiced their craft in the household itself, and sent children to school. Their counterparts in the modern sector were clerks, store attendants, mechanics, carpenters, and factory workers who had some schooling and had managed to get into the lower levels of the wage system. The two groups often lived in the same neighborhoods, although the education of those in the modern sector set them somewhat apart. Their incomes, however, provided them with similar amenities: a standpipe for household water; electricity; a latrine or even a flush toilet; a bicycle or motor scooter, or a motorcycle for the slightly better off; a radio; and, for a few, a small black and white television set, and a bank account. Such households often had an extra kin member or two from the country who had come to seek their fortunes.
The middle-level income groups in traditional jobs consisted of higher-level skilled workers and entrepreneurs. They included dye pit owners with a small work force, middlemen who with financing from larger traders bought food and export crops in rural areas for sale and storage in the cities, and wholesalers and retailers of traditional goods and services, as well as transporters of such items as kola nuts, craft goods, specialty crops, and cattle for sale in southern markets. This group was larger in the north than the south because of the larger traditional economic sector in the region. Modern-sector skilled jobs ranged from machine operators and skilled craftsmen to accountants; teachers; lower-level managers of service stations; small to medium-sized storekeepers, who owned or rented and operated a canteen; owners of a truck or two, or of a small minibus used as transport for people and goods; and the middle ranks of the vast public services that, until the shrinkage of the 1980s, made up more than half of the salaried jobs in Nigeria.
This group lived in small to medium-sized houses with Western-style furniture, a refrigerator, and electronic receivers; the better-off had color television sets. Housing was sometimes owned by the worker but more often rented. Younger members had motorcycles; more mature ones, cars; and entrepreneurs, a pickup truck. Modern-sector middle-level people generally had some secondary education, which allowed them to spend time filling out applications and to dream of someday attending a university or other postsecondary institution to qualify for higher paid jobs.
At the middle-income level, a number of factors began to separate traditional and modern households. Traditional work did not demand literacy in English, but most jobs at the modern middle level did. The amount of Western-style education and acculturation to more international tastes affected the life- styles of modern-sector workers, although ethnicity, kin, and possible patrons in the more traditional sector meant that connections were not severed. At the same time, both groups had connections upward and downward in both the city and rural areas. For members of the traditional middle group, this meant the possibility of someday becoming wealthier and diversifying their economic activities; for members of the modern group, it most often meant more education, better jobs, and, ideally, entry into the elite level of society in either the public or the private sector. By the late 1980s, a number of middle-income workers and small businessmen in both north and south were putting greater effort into farming in natal or nearby villages, as food prices escalated in the cities and as government policies favored the private acquisition of land and provided farm credits to would-be commercial farmers.
Above the middle rank were the elites. Traditional chiefs in the south had been losing power to business and government leaders for decades. In 1990 they still received respect and officiated at ceremonial occasions, but unless they had taken positions in business or government, their status declined. This situation was less true in the north, where emirs and other titled officials continued to have considerable power and authority. Even there, however, the modern sector produced city and township governments that were eroding the power of local officials. State governments were becoming more important as centralized federal functions carried out by parastatals were being sold off to the private business sector during the 1980s. In the rural areas of the north, however, traditional district and village chiefs remained influential. In the modern sector, public service jobs and incoming top management in corporations required university degrees. Wealthy business leaders might lack formal education, although more and more business leaders, especially in the south, were university graduates. Entry-level salaries for elite jobs were fifteen to twenty times those of the bottom salary scale (compared with two to three times in more developed economies). Added to the basic salary was hidden income in the form of car loans and allowances, often with housing subsidized to such an extent that only 7 percent of salary was charged for rents, and maintenance was free. Housing for holders of elite jobs was generally of the standard of the middle class in a developed country, ranging up to huge mansions in exclusive housing estates for the very rich.
In the late 1980s, inflation and wage controls had drastically eroded the incomes of the salaried elites and, in most cases, they had to moonlight in the private sector through farming, trade, consultancy, or business. It was not unusual to find a professor's campus garage used as a warehouse for his trucks and the equipment in his construction business, and behind the house pens, where his wife conducted a poultry business. Others sought to emigrate, especially highly skilled people, such as doctors, lawyers, and professors, who realized they could do much better abroad. The sudden decline in the income of the elites resulted from Nigeria's belt-tightening policies. Business people, especially those in trade, were less affected by inflation, but the recessionary effects of the SAP had cut into their incomes as well, by lowering demand or by controlling imports and exports more tightly. By the late 1980s, however, many of the elite and even the middle classes were being obliged to adjust to a lower standard of living.
As with other aspects of society, women's roles were primarily governed by regional and ethnic differences. In the north, Islamic practices were still common. This process meant, generally, less formal education; early teenage marriages, especially in rural areas; and confinement to the household, which was often polygynous, except for visits to kin, ceremonies, and the workplace, if employment were available and permitted by a girl's family or husband. For the most part, Hausa women did not work in the fields, whereas Kanuri women did; both helped with harvesting and were responsible for all household food processing. Urban women sold cooked foods, usually by sending young girls out onto the streets or operating small stands. Research indicated that this practice was one of the main reasons city women gave for opposing schooling for their daughters. Even in elite houses with educated wives, women's presence at social gatherings was either nonexistent or very restricted. In the modern sector, a few women were appearing at all levels in offices, banks, social services, nursing, radio, television, and the professions (teaching, engineering, environmental design, law, pharmacy, medicine, and even agriculture and veterinary medicine). This trend resulted from women's secondary schools, teachers' colleges, and in the 1980s women holding approximately one-fifth of university places--double the proportion of the 1970s. Research in the 1980s indicated that, for the Muslim north, education beyond primary school was restricted to the daughters of the business and professional elites, and in almost all cases, courses and professions were chosen by the family, not the woman themselves.
In the south, women traditionally had economically important positions in interregional trade and the markets, worked on farms as major labor sources, and had influential positions in traditional systems of local organization. The south, like the north, however, had been polygynous; in 1990 it still was for many households, including those professing Christianity. Women in the south, especially among the Yoruba peoples, had received Western-style education since the nineteenth century, so they occupied positions in the professions and to some extent in politics. In addition, women headed households, something not seriously considered in Nigeria's development plans. Such households were more numerous in the south, but they were on the rise everywhere.
Generally, Nigerian development planning referred to "adult males," "households," or "families". Women were included in such units but not as a separate category. Up until the 1980s, the term "farmer" was assumed to be exclusively male, even though in some areas of the south women did most of the farm work. In Nigerian terms, a woman was almost always defined as someone's daughter, wife, mother, or widow. Single women were suspect, although they constituted a large category, especially in the cities, because of the high divorce rate. Traditionally, and to some extent this remained true in popular culture, single adult women were seen as available sexual partners should they try for some independence and as easy victims for economic exploitation. In Kaduna State, for example, investigations into illegal land expropriations noted that women's farms were confiscated almost unthinkingly by local chiefs wishing to sell to urban-based speculators and would-be commercial farmers.
A national feminist movement was inaugurated in 1982, and a national conference held at Ahmadu Bello University. The papers presented there indicated a growing awareness by Nigeria's university-educated women that the place of women in society required a concerted effort and a place on the national agenda; the public perception, however, remained far behind. For example, a feminist meeting in Ibadan came out against polygyny and then was soundly criticized by market women, who said they supported the practice because it allowed them to pursue their trading activities and have the household looked after at the same time. Research in the north, however, indicated that many women opposed the practice, and tried to keep bearing children to stave off a second wife's entry into the household. Although women's status would undoubtedly rise, for the foreseeable future Nigerian women lacked the opportunities of men.
Several religions coexisted in Nigeria, helping to accentuate regional and ethnic distinctions. All religions represented in Nigeria were practiced in every major city in 1990. But Islam dominated in the north, Protestantism and local syncretic Christianity were most in evidence in Yoruba areas, and Catholicism predominated in the Igbo and closely related areas. The 1963 census indicated that 47 percent of Nigerians were Muslim, 35 percent Christian, and 18 percent members of local indigenous congregations. If accurate, this indicated a sharp increase in the number of Christians (up 13 percent); a slight decline among those professing indigenous beliefs, compared with 20 percent in 1953; and only a modest (4 percent) rise of Muslims. This surge was partly a result of the recognized value of education provided by the missions, especially in the previously non-Christian middle belt. It also resulted from 1963 census irregularities that artificially increased the proportion of southern Christians to northern Muslims. Since then two more forces have been operating. There has been the growth of the Aladura Church, an Africanized Christian sect that was especially strong in the Yoruba areas, and of evangelical churches in general, spilling over into adjacent and southern areas of the middle belt. At the same time, Islam was spreading southward into the northern reaches of the middle belt, especially among the upwardly mobile, who saw it as a necessary attribute for full acceptance in northern business and political circles. In general, however, the country should be seen as having a predominantly Muslim north and a non-Muslim, primarily Christian south, with each as a minority faith in the other's region; the middle belt was more heterogeneous.
Alongside most Nigerian religious adherence were systems of belief with ancient roots in the area. These beliefs combined family ghosts with relations to the primordial spirits of a particular site. In effect the rights of a group defined by common genealogical descent were linked to a particular place and the settlements within it. The primary function of such beliefs was to provide supernatural sanctions and legitimacy to the relationship between, and the regulations governing, claims on resources, especially agricultural land and house sites. Access rights to resources, political offices, economic activities, or social relations were defined and legitimized by these same religious beliefs.
The theology expressing and protecting these relationships centered, first, on the souls of the recently dead, ghosts who continued their interest in the living as they had when they were alive. That is to say, authoritative elders demanded conformity to rules governing access to, and inheritance of, rights to resources. Indigenous theology also comprised all of the duties of the living to one another and to their customs, including their obligations to the dead ancestors whose spirits demanded adherence to the moral rules governing all human actions. The second pantheon were the supernatural residents of the land. These spirits of place (trees, rock outcroppings, a river, snakes, or other animals and objects) were discovered and placated by the original founders, who had migrated to the new site from a previous one. Spirits of the land might vary with each place or be so closely identified with a group's welfare that they were carried to a new place as part of the continuity of a group to its former home. In the new place, these spiritual migrants joined the local spirit population. Such deities developed from an original covenant created by the founders of a settlement between themselves and the local spirits. This covenant legitimized their arrival. In return for regular rites and prayers to these spirits, the founders could claim perpetual access to local resources. In doing so, they became the lineage in charge of the hereditary local priesthood and village headship and were recognized as "owners of the place" by later human arrivals. Both sets of spirits, those of family and those of place, demanded loyalty to communal virtues and to the authority of the elders in defending ancient beliefs and practices.
In addition to ensuring access to, and the continual fertility of, both land and people, the spiritual entities protected their adherents from misfortune, adjudicated disputes through trials by ordeal or through messages divined by special seers, and punished personal or communal immorality through personal and group failures, sickness, drought, fires, and other catastrophes. Special practitioners were in control of supernatural forces to heal illnesses, counter malevolent intentions by others and/or the ghostly entities, and diagnose witchcraft--the effects of malefactors whose personal spirits might cause harm, sometimes without the actual knowledge of the evildoer. Protection against misfortune was strengthened by charms, amulets, and medicinal products sold by the practitioners. In everyday life, misfortune, sickness, political rivalries, inheritance disputes, and even marital choices or the clearing of a new field could be incorporated and explained within this religious framework. Given these beliefs, causal relations were stipulated and explained through the actions of supernatural entities, whose relations to the living involved interventions that enforced morality and traditional values.
As with many peoples around the world, especially in Africa, the adult men were organized into secret societies that imitated the activity of the spirits in maintaining the moral order. In the 1980s in Igboland and in similar societies in neighboring areas, social control and conformity to moral order was still enforced by secret societies. In the 1970s, this pattern was observed spreading into small, originally autonomous communities of the southern middle belt at the northern rim of Igboland. Generally, adult men received some training and were then initiated into membership. In 1990 memberships were more selective, and in some places such organizations had died out. Specifically, these societies enforced community morality through rituals and masked dances. During these performances, secret society members imitated the spirits. They preached and expressed displeasure with and gave warnings about individual and communal morality, attributing accusations and threats to spirits of place and family who were displeased with their human charges.
Sorcery and even witchcraft beliefs persisted and were discussed as forms of medicine, or as coming from "bad people" whose spirits or souls were diagnosed as the cause of misfortune. There also were special ways in which the outcomes of stressful future activity, long trips, lingering illnesses, family and other problems could be examined. Soothsayers provided both therapy and divinatory foreknowledge in stressful situations.
In the city-states of Yorubaland and its neighbors, a more complex religion evolved that expressed the subjugation of village life within larger polities. These city-states produced a theology that linked local beliefs to a central citadel government and its sovereignty over a hinterland of villages through the monarch. The king (oba) and his ancestors were responsible for the welfare of the entire state, in return for confirmation of the legitimacy of the oba's rule over his subjects. In Oyo, for example, there were a number of national cults, each with its own priests who performed rituals under the authority of the king (alafin) in the public interest. Shango, god of thunder, symbolized the power of the king and of central government; Ogboni represented the fertility of the land and the monarch's role in ensuring the well-being of the kingdom.
In 1990 these indigenous beliefs were more or less openly practiced and adhered to among many Christians and Muslims in various parts of the country. Thus, in a number of the northern Muslim emirates, the emir led prayers for the welfare of the state at the graves of royal ancestors. In many Muslim and Christian households and villages, a number of the older religious practices and beliefs also survived. On the other hand, research indicated that many, especially younger people, believed the older traditions to be apostasy so that it was common, particularly in rural areas, to see mixtures of local beliefs with either Christianity or Islam. And in some instances, although the overall trend was away from indigenous religions and toward monotheism, older people suffered such mental and physical anguish over denouncing inherited beliefs that they abandoned the newer one.
Islam is a traditional religion in West Africa. It came to northern Nigeria as early as the eleventh century and was well established in the state capitals of the region by the sixteenth century, spreading into the countryside and toward the middle belt uplands. There, Islam's advance was stopped by the resistance of local peoples to incorporation into the emirate states. The Fulani-led jihad in the nineteenth century pushed Islam into Nupe and across the Niger River into northern Yoruba- speaking areas. The colonial conquest established a rule that active Christian proselytizing could not occur in the northern Muslim region, although in 1990 the two religions continued to compete for converts in the middle belt, where ethnic groups and even families had adherents of each persuasion.
The origins of Islam date to Muhammad (the Prophet), a prosperous merchant of the town of Mecca in Arabia. He began in A.D. 610 to preach the first of a series of revelations granted him by God (Allah) through the agency of the archangel Gabriel. The divine messages, received during solitary visits into the desert, continued during the remainder of his life.
Muhammad denounced the polytheistic paganism of his fellow Meccans; his vigorous and continuing censure ultimately earned him their bitter enmity. In 622 he and a group of followers accepted an invitation to settle in Yathrib, which became known as Medina (the city) through its association with him. The hijra, (known in the West as the hegira), or journey to Medina, marked the beginning of the Islamic calendar in the year 622. In Medina Muhammad continued his preaching, ultimately defeated his detractors in battle, and had consolidated the temporal as well as spiritual leadership of most Arabs before his death in 632.
After Muhammad's death, his followers compiled his words that were regarded as coming directly from God in a document known as the Quran, the holy scripture of Islam. Other sayings and teachings of the Prophet, as well as the precedents of his personal behavior as recalled by those who had known him, became the hadith ("sayings"). From these sources, the faithful have constructed the Prophet's customary practice, or sunna, which they endeavor to emulate. Together, these documents form a comprehensive guide to the spiritual, ethical, and social life of the faithful in most Muslim countries.
The shahada (profession of faith, or testimony) states succinctly the central belief, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet." The faithful repeat this simple profession on ritual occasions, and its recital designates the speaker as a Muslim. The term Islam means submission to God, and the one who submits is a Muslim.
The God preached by Muhammad was previously known to his countrymen, for Allah is the general Arabic term for the supreme being rather than the name of a particular deity. Rather than introducing a new deity, Muhammad denied the existence of the pantheon of gods and spirits worshipped before his prophethood and declared the omnipotence of God, the unique creator. Muhammad is the "Seal of the Prophets," the last of the prophetic line. His revelations are said to complete for all time the series of revelations that had been given earlier to Jews and Christians. God is believed to have remained one and the same throughout time, but humans are seen as having misunderstood or strayed from God's true teachings until set aright by Muhammad. Prophets and sages of the biblical tradition, such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, are recognized as inspired vehicles of God's will. Islam, however, reveres as sacred only the message. It accepts the concepts of guardian angels, the Day of Judgment, resurrection, and the eternal life of the soul.
The duties of the Muslim form the "five pillars" of the faith. These are shahada, salat (daily prayer), zakat (almsgiving), sawm (fasting), and hajj (pilgrimage). The believer prays facing Mecca at five specified times during the day. Whenever possible, men observe their prayers in congregation at a mosque under direction of an imam, or prayer leader, and on Fridays are obliged to do so. Women are permitted to attend public worship at the mosque, where they are segregated from men, but their attendance tends to be discouraged, and more frequently they pray in the seclusion of their homes.
In the early days of Islam, a tax for charitable purposes was imposed on personal property in proportion to the owner's wealth. The collection of this tax and its distribution to the needy were originally functions of the state. But with the breakdown of Muslim religiopolitical authority, alms became an individual responsibility.
The ninth month of the Muslim calendar is Ramadan, a period of obligatory fasting in commemoration of Muhammad's receipt of God's revelation. Throughout the month, all but the sick and the weak, pregnant or lactating women, soldiers on duty, travelers on necessary journeys, and young children are enjoined from eating, drinking, smoking, or sexual intercourse during daylight hours. Those adults excused are obliged to endure an equivalent fast at their earliest opportunity. A festive meal breaks the daily fast and inaugurates a night of feasting and celebration. Well-to-do believers usually do little or no work during this period, and some businesses close for all or part of the day. Because the months of the lunar year revolve through the solar year, Ramadan falls at various seasons in different years. A considerable test of discipline at any time of the year, a fast that falls in summertime imposes severe hardship on those who must do physical work.
Finally, at least once during their lifetime all Muslims should make the hajj, or pilgrimage, to the holy city of Mecca to participate in the special rites that occur during the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. For most well-to-do Nigerian traders and business people, the trip was so common that the honorific "hajji" (fem., hajjia), signifying a pilgrim, was routinely used to refer to successful traders.
Two features of Islam are essential to understanding its place in Nigerian society. They are the degree to which Islam permeates other institutions in the society, and its contribution to Nigerian pluralism. As an institution in emirate society, Islam includes daily and annual ritual obligations; the pilgrimage to Mecca; sharia, or religious law; and an establishment view of politics, family life, communal order, and appropriate modes of personal conduct in most situations. Thus, even in 1990, Islam pervaded daily life. Public meetings began and ended with Muslim prayer, and everyone knew at least the minimum Arabic prayers and the five pillars of the religion required for full participation. Public adjudication (by local leaders with the help of religious experts, or Alkali courts) provided widespread knowledge of the basic tenets of sharia law-- the Sunni school of law according to Malik ibn Anas, the jurist from Medina, was that primarily followed. Sunni (from sunna), or orthodox Islam, is the dominant sect in Nigeria and most of the Muslim world. The other sect is Shia Islam, which holds that the caliphs or successors to the Prophet should have been his relatives rather than elected individuals.
Every settlement had at least one place set aside for communal prayers. In the larger settlements, mosques were well attended, especially on Fridays when the local administrative and chiefly elites led the way, and the populace prayed with its leaders in a demonstration of communal and religious solidarity. Gaining increased knowledge of the religion, one or more pilgrimages to Mecca for oneself or one's wife, and a reputation as a devout and honorable Muslim all provided prestige. Those able to suffuse their everyday lives with the beliefs and practices of Islam were deeply respected.
Air transport had made the hajj more widely available, and the red cap wound with a white cloth, signifying its wearer's pilgrimage, was much more common in 1990 than twenty years previously. Upper-income groups went several times and sent or took their wives as well. The ancient custom of spending years walking across Africa to reach Mecca was still practiced, however, and groups of such pilgrims could be seen receiving charity at Friday prayers outside major mosques in the north.
Nigerian Islam was not highly organized. Reflecting the aristocratic nature of the traditional ruling groups, there were families of clerics whose male heirs trained locally and abroad in theology and jurisprudence and filled major positions in the mosques and the judiciary. These ulama, or learned scholars, had for centuries been the religious and legal advisers of emirs, the titled nobility, and the wealthy trading families in the major cities. Ordinary people could consult the myriads of would-be and practicing clerics in various stages of training, who studied with local experts, functioned at rites of passage, or simply used their religious education to gain increased "blessedness" for their efforts. Sufi brotherhoods, (from suf, or wool; the wearing of a woolen robe indicated devotion to a mystic life), a form of religious order based on more personal or mystical relations to the supernatural, were widespread, especially in the major cities. There the two predominant ones, Qadiriyah and Tijaniyah, had separate mosques and, in a number of instances, a parochial school system receiving grants from the state. The brotherhoods played a major role in the spread of Islam in the northern area and the middle belt.
Islam both united and divided. It provided a rallying force in the north and into the middle belt, where it was spreading. The wide scope of Islamic beliefs and practices created a leveling force that caused Muslims in the north to feel that they were part of a common set of cultural traditions affecting family life, dress, food, manners, and personal qualities linking them to one another and a wider Islamic world. At the constitutional conference of 1978, Muslim delegates walked out as a unit over the issue of a separate Islamic supreme court, a demand they lost but which in 1990 remained a Muslim goal. To adapt fully to northern life, non-Muslims had to remain in an enclave, living quasi-segregated lives in their churches, their social clubs, and even their work. In contrast, becoming a convert to Islam was the doorway to full participation in the society. Middle belt people, especially those with ambitions in politics and business, generally adopted Islam. The main exception to this rule was Plateau State, where the capital, Jos, was as much a Christian as a Muslim community, and a greater accommodation between the two sets of beliefs and their adherents had occurred.
Divisions within the Muslim community existed, however. The nineteenth-century jihad that founded the Sokoto Caliphate was a regenerative and proselytizing movement within the community of the faithful. In major centers in 1990, the Sufi brotherhoods supported their own candidates for both religious and traditional emirate offices. These differences were generally not disruptive. Islamic activist preachers and student leaders who spread ideas about a return to extreme orthodoxy also existed. In addition, a fringe Islamic cult, known as the Maitatsine, started in the late 1970s and operated throughout the 1980s, springing up in Kano around a mystical leader (since deceased) from Cameroon who claimed to have had divine revelations superseding those of the Prophet. The cult had its own mosques and preached a doctrine antagonistic to established Islamic and societal leadership. Its main appeal was to marginal and poverty-stricken urban in-migrants, whose rejection by the more established urban groups fostered this religious opposition. These disaffected adherents ultimately lashed out at the more traditional mosques and congregations, resulting in violent outbreaks in several cities of the north.
The majority of Christians were found in the south. A few isolated mission stations and mission bookstores, along with churches serving southern enclaves in the northern cities and larger towns, dotted the Muslim north. The Yoruba area traditionally has been Protestant and Anglican, whereas Igboland has always been the area of greatest activity by the Roman Catholic Church. Other denominations abounded as well. Presbyterians arrived in the early twentieth century in the Ibibio Niger Delta area and had missions in the middle belt as well. This latter area was an open one. Small missionary movements were allowed to start up, generally in the 1920s, after the middle belt was considered pacified. Each denomination set up rural networks by providing schooling and health facilities. Most such facilities remained in 1990, although in many cases schools had been taken over by the local state government in order to standardize curricula and indigenize the teaching staff. Pentecostals arrived mostly as indigenous workers in the postindependence period and in 1990 Perte costalism was spreading rapidly throughout the middle belt, having some success in Roman Catholic and Protestant towns of the south as well. There were also breakaway, or Africanized churches that blended traditional Christian symbols with indigenous symbols. Among these was the Aladura movement that was spreading rapidly throughout Yorubaland and into the non-Muslim middle belt areas.
Apart from Benin and Warri, which had come in contact with Christianity through the Portuguese as early as the fifteenth century, most missionaries arrived by sea in the nineteenth century. As with other areas in Africa, Roman Catholics and Anglicans each tended to establish areas of hegemony in southern Nigeria. After World War I, smaller sects such as the Brethren, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others worked in interstitial areas, trying not to compete. Although less well-known, African-American churches entered the missionary field in the nineteenth century and created contacts with Nigeria that lasted well into the colonial period.
African churches were founded by small groups breaking off from the European denominations, especially in Yorubaland, where such independence movements started as early as the late nineteenth century. They were for the most part ritually and doctrinally identical to the pavent church, although more African music, and later dance, entered and mixed with the imported church services. A number also used biblical references to support polygyny. With political independence came African priests in both Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations, although ritual and forms of worship were strictly those of the home country of the original missionaries. By the 1980s, however, African music and even dancing were being introduced quietly into church services, albeit altered to fit into rituals of European origin. Southern Christians living in the north, especially in larger cities, had congregations and churches founded as early as the 1920s. Even medium-sized towns (20,000 persons or more) with an established southern enclave had local churches, especially in the middle belt, where both major religions had a strong foothold. The exodus of Igbo from the north in the late 1960s left Roman Catholic churches poorly attended, but by the 1980s adherents were back in even greater numbers, and a number of new churches had been built.
The Aladura, like several other breakaway churches, stress healing and fulfillment of life goals for oneself and one's family. African beliefs that sorcery and witchcraft are malevolent forces against which protection is required are accepted; rituals are warm and emotional, stressing personal involvement and acceptance of spirit possession. Theology is biblical, but some sects add costumed processions and some accept polygyny.
Major congregations of the larger Anglican and Roman Catholic missions represented elite families of their respective areas, although each of these churches had members from all levels and many quite humble church buildings. Nevertheless, a wedding in the Anglican cathedral in Lagos was usually a gathering of the elite of the entire country, and of Lagos and Yorubaland in particular. Such families had connections to their churches going back to the nineteenth century and were generally not attracted to the breakaway churches. All major urban centers, all universities, and the new capital of Abuja had areas set aside for the major religions to build mosques and churches and for burial grounds.
Interethnic conflict generally has had a religious element. Riots against Igbo in 1953 and in the 1960s in the north were said to be fired by religious conflict. The riots against Igbo in the north in 1966 were said to have been inspired by radio reports of mistreatment of Muslims in the south. In the 1980s, serious outbreaks between Christians and Muslims occurred in Kafanchan in southern Kaduna State in a border area between the two religions.
Throughout Africa societies that had been predominantly rural for most of their history were experiencing a rapid and profound reorientation of their social and economic lives toward cities and urbanism. As ever greater numbers of people moved to a small number of rapidly expanding cities (or, as was often the case, a single main city), the fabric of life in both urban and rural areas changed in massive, often unforeseen ways. With the largest and one of the most rapidly growing cities in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria has experienced the phenomenon of urbanization as thoroughly as any African nation, but its experience has also been unique--in scale, in pervasiveness, and in historical antecedents.
Modern urbanization in most African countries has been dominated by the growth of a single primate city, the political and commercial center of the nation; its emergence was, more often than not, linked to the shaping of the country during the colonial era. In countries with a coastline, this was often a coastal port, and in Nigeria, Lagos fitted well into this pattern. Unlike most other nations, however, Nigeria had not just one or two but several other cities of major size and importance, a number of which were larger than most other national capitals in Africa. In two areas, the Yoruba region in the southwest and the Hausa-Fulani and Kanuri areas of the north, there were numbers of cities with historical roots stretching back considerably before the advent of British colonizers, giving them distinctive physical and cultural identities. Moreover, in areas such as the Igbo region in the southeast, which had few urban centers before the colonial period and was not highly urbanized even at independence, there has been a massive growth of newer cities since the 1970s, so that these areas in 1990 were also highly urban.
Cities are not only independent centers of concentrated human population and activity; they also exert a potent influence on the rural landscape. What is distinctive about the growth of cities in Nigeria is the length of its historical extension and the geographic pervasiveness of its coverage.
Nigerian urbanism, as in other parts of the world, is a function primarily of trade and politics. In the north, the great urban centers of Kano, Katsina, Zaria, Sokoto, the early Borno capitals (Gazargamo and Kuka), and other cities served as entrepôts to the Saharan and trans-Saharan trade, and as central citadels and political capitals for the expanding states of the northern savanna. They attracted large numbers of traders and migrants from their own hinterlands and generally also included "stranger quarters" for migrants of other regions and nations. In the south, the rise of the Yoruba expansionist city-states and of Benin and others was stimulated by trade to the coast, and by competition among these growing urban centers for the control of their hinterlands and of the trade from the interior to the Atlantic (including the slave trade). The activities of European traders also attracted people to such coastal cities as Lagos, Badagri, Brass, and Bonny, and later Calabar and Port Harcourt. Overlying the original features of the earlier cities were those generated by colonial and postcolonial rule, which created new urban centers while also drastically altering the older ones. All these cities and peri-urban areas generally tended to have high population densities.
The northern savanna cities grew within city walls, at the center of which were the main market, government buildings, and the central mosque. Around them clustered the houses of the rich and powerful. Smaller markets and denser housing were found away from this core, along with little markets at the gates and some cleared land within the gates that was needed especially for siege agriculture. Groups of specialized craft manufacturers (cloth dyers, weavers, potters, and the like) were organized into special quarters, the enterprises often being family-based and inherited. Roads from the gates ran into the central market and the administrative headquarters. Cemeteries were outside the city gates.
The concentration of wealth, prestige, political power, and religious learning in the cities attracted large numbers of migrants, both from the neighboring countryside and from distant regions. This influx occasioned the building of additional sections of the city to accommodate these strangers. In many of the northern cities, these areas were separated between sections for the distant, often non-Muslim migrants not subject to the religious and other prohibitions of the emir, and for those who came from the local region and were subjects of the emir. The former area was designated the "Sabon Gari," or new town (which in southern cities, such as Ibadan, has often been shortened to "Sabo"), while the latter was often known as the "Tudun Wada," an area often quite wealthy and elaborately laid out. To the precolonial sections of the town was often added a government area for expatriate administrators. The result was that many of the northern cities have grown from a single centralized core to being polynucleated cities, with areas whose distinctive character reflected their origins, and the roles and position of their inhabitants.
Surrounding many of the large, older northern cities, including Kano, Sokoto, and Katsina, there developed regions of relatively dense rural settlement where increasingly intensive agriculture was practiced to supply food and other products to the urban population. These areas have come to be known as close settled zones, and they were of major importance to the agricultural economies of the north. By 1990 the inner close settled zone around Kano, and the largest of its kind, extended to a radius of about thirty kilometers, essentially the limit of a day trip to the city on foot or by donkey. Within this inner zone, there has long been a tradition of intensive interaction between the rural and urban populations, involving not just food but also wood for fuel, manure, and a range of trade goods. There has also been much land investment and speculation in this zone. The full range of Kano's outer close settled zone in 1990 was considered to extend sixty-five to ninety-five kilometers from the city, and the rural-urban interactions had extended in distance and increased in intensity because of the great improvements in roads and in the availability of motorized transport. Within this zone, the great majority of usable land was under annual rainy season or continuous irrigated cultivation, making it one of the most intensively cultivated regions in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the south, there were some similarities of origin and design in the forest and southern savanna cities of Yorubaland, but culture, landscape, and history generated a very different character for most of these cities. As in the north, the earlier Yoruba towns often centered around the palace of a ruler, or afin, which was surrounded by a large open space and a market. This arrangement was still evident in older cities such as Ife. However, many of the most important contemporary Yoruba cities, including the largest, Ibadan, were founded during the period of the Yoruba wars in the first half of the nineteenth century. Reflecting their origins as war camps, they usually contained multiple centers of power without a single central palace. Instead, the main market often assumed the central position in the original town, and there were several separate areas of important compounds established by the major original factions. Abeokuta, for example, had three main chiefly families from the Egba clan who had broken away from and become important rivals of Ibadan. Besides these divisions were the separate areas built for stranger migrants, such as Sabo in Ibadan, where many of the Hausa migrants resided; the sections added during the colonial era, often as government reserve areas (GRAs); and the numerous areas of postcolonial expansion, generally having little or no planning.
The high population densities typically found in Yoruba cities--and even in rural villages in Yorubaland--were among the striking features of the region. This culturally based pattern was probably reinforced during the period of intense intercity warfare, but it persisted in most areas through the colonial and independence periods. The distinctive Yoruba pattern of densification involved filling in compounds with additional rooms, then adding a second, third, or sometimes even a fourth story. Eventually, hundreds of people might live in a space that had been occupied by only one extended family two or three generations earlier. Fueling this process of densification were the close connections between rural and urban dwellers, and the tendency for any Yoruba who could afford it to maintain both urban and rural residences.
The colonial government, in addition to adding sections to existing cities, also created important new urban centers in areas where there previously had been none. Among the most important were Kaduna, the colonial capital of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, and Jos in the central highlands, which was the center of the tin mining industry on the plateau and a recreational town for expatriates and the Nigerian elite. These new cities lacked walls but had centrally located administrative buildings and major road and rail transport routes, along which the main markets developed. These routes became one of the main forces for the cities' growth. The result was usually a basically linear city, rather than the circular pattern largely based on defensive needs, which characterized the earlier indigenous urban centers.
The other ubiquitous colonial addition was the segregated GRA, consisting of European-style housing, a hospital or nursing station, and educational, recreational, and religious facilities for the British colonials and the more prominent European trading community. The whole formed an expatriate enclave, which was deliberately separated from the indigenous Nigerian areas, ostensibly to control sanitation and limit the spread of diseases such as malaria. After independence, these areas generally became upper income suburbs, which sometimes spread outward into surrounding farmlands as well as inward to fill in the space that formerly separated the GRA from the rest of the city. New institutions, such as university campuses, government office complexes, hospitals, and hotels, were often located outside or on the fringes of the city in the 1980s. The space that originally separated them from the denser areas was then filled in as further growth occurred.
Spurred by the oil boom prosperity of the 1970s and the massive improvements in roads and the availability of vehicles, Nigeria since independence has become an increasingly urbanized and urban-oriented society. During the 1970s Nigeria had possibly the fastest urbanization growth rate in the world. Because of the great influx of people into urban areas, the growth rate of urban population in Nigeria in 1986 was estimated to be close to 6 percent per year, more than twice that of the rural population. Between 1970 and 1980, the proportion of Nigerians living in urban areas was estimated to have grown from 16 to more than 20 percent, and by 2010, urban population was expected to be more than 40 percent of the nation's total. Although Nigeria did not have the highest proportion of urban population in sub-Saharan Africa (in several of the countries of francophone Central Africa, for example, close to 50 percent of the population was in the major city or cities), it had more large cities and the highest total urban population of any sub-Saharan African country.
In 1990 there were twenty-one state capitals in Nigeria, each estimated to have more than 100,000 inhabitants; fifteen of these, plus a number of other cities, probably had populations exceeding 200,000. Virtually all of these were growing at a rate that doubled their size every fifteen years. These statistics did not include the new national capital, Abuja, which was planned to have more than 1 million inhabitants by early in the twenty-first century, although that milestone might be delayed as construction there stretched out. In 1990 the government was still in the process of moving from Lagos, the historical capital, to Abuja in the middle belt, and most sections of the government were still operating from Lagos. Since 1976 there had been dual capitals in both Lagos and Abuja. If one added the hundreds of smaller towns with more than 20,000 inhabitants, which resembled the larger centers more than the many smaller villages throughout the country, the extent of Nigerian urbanization was probably more widespread than anywhere else in sub-Saharan Africa.
Many of the major cities had growing manufacturing sectors, including, for example, textile mills, steel plants, car assembly plants, large construction companies, trading corporations, and financial institutions. They also included government-service centers, large office and apartment complexes, along with a great variety of small business enterprises, many in the "informal sector," and vast slum areas. All postsecondary education installations were in urban centers, and the vast majority of salaried jobs remained urban rather than rural.
Although cities varied, there was a typical Third World urban approach that distinguished life in the city from that in the countryside. It emerged from the density and variety of housing--enormous poverty and overcrowding for most, and exorbitantly wealthy suburbs and guarded enclaves for the upper classes. It also emerged from the rhythm of life set by masses of people going to work each day; the teeming central market areas; the large trading and department stores; the traffic, especially at rush hours; the filth that resulted from inadequate housing and public services; the destitution indicated by myriads of beggars and unemployed; the fear of rising crime; and the excitement of night life that was nonexistent in most rural areas. All these factors, plus the increased opportunity to connect with the rich and powerful through chains of patron-client relations, made the city attractive, lively, and dangerous. Urban people might farm, indeed many were trying to do so as food prices soared in the 1980s, but urban life differed vastly from the slow and seasonally defined rhythm of life in rural areas. Generally, even with all its drawbacks, it was seen as more desirable, especially by young people with more than a primary education.
The most notorious example of urban growth in Nigeria has undoubtedly been Lagos, its most important commercial center. The city has shot up in size since the 1960s; its annual growth rate was estimated at almost 14 percent during the 1970s, when the massive extent of new construction was exceeded only by the influx of migrants attracted by the booming prosperity. Acknowledged to be the largest city in sub-Saharan Africa (although an accurate count of its population must await census results), Lagos has become legendary for its congestion and other urban problems. Essentially built on poorly drained marshlands, the city commonly had flooding during the rainy season, and there was frequent sewage backup, especially in the poorer lowland sections. As in other Nigerian cities, there was a constant problem of garbage and waste disposal. Housing construction had boomed but rarely seemed to keep pace with demand. The city's main fame, however, came from the scale of its traffic jams. Spanning several islands as well as a large and expanding mainland area, the city never seemed to have enough bridges or arteries. The profusion of vehicles that came with the prosperity of the 1970s seemed often to be arranged in a massive standstill, which became the site for urban peddling of an amazing variety of goods, as well as for entertainment, exasperation, innovation, and occasionally crime. By 1990 Lagos had made some progress in managing its traffic problems both through road and bridge construction and traffic control regulations. This progress was aided by the economic downturn of the late 1980s, which slowed urban migration and even led some to people return to rural areas.
Aside from Lagos, the most rapid recent rates of urbanization in the 1980s were around Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta region, which was at the heart of the oil boom, and generally throughout the Igbo and other areas of the southeast. These regions historically had few urban centers, but numerous large cities, including Onitsha, Owerri, Enugu, Aba, and Calabar, grew very rapidly as commercial and administrative centers. The Yoruba southwest was by 1990 still the most highly urbanized part of the country, while the middle belt was the least urbanized. The problems of Lagos, as well as the desire for a more centrally located capital that would be more of a force for national unity, led to the designation in 1976 of a site for a new national capital at Abuja.
Cities in Nigeria, as elsewhere, have historically exerted potent influences on the countryside. The northern city-states played a major role in the distribution of human population and economic activity throughout the savanna region. As citadels and centers of power and conquest, they caused depopulation in some regions, notably those subject to conquest and raiding, and population concentration in other areas. The low populations of the middle belt savanna probably resulted from the raiding and the conquests of the Hausa and Fulani city-states. The subsequent regrowth of bush land is thought to have led to a resurgence of tsetse flies and other disease vectors, which inhibited attempts to repopulate the region. The complementary effect was to increase population in zones of relative security, either areas under the protection of the dominant political states or areas of refuge, such as hill masses, which were difficult for armed horsemen to conquer.
The areas under the control or influence of major city-states would have been economically oriented toward those centers, both through the coercive exaction of taxes or tribute and through the production of food and manufactured products for the court and urban population. Many of these economic factors were replicated in the modern experience of urbanization, although one major change, dating from the imposition of British colonialism in the north, was the removal of the insecurity caused by warring polities.
Although there are similarities to this northern savanna pattern in the historical impact of Yoruba urbanization, the very different nature of the Yoruba cities led to a distinctive pattern of rural interaction. Yoruba cities traditionally had attached to them satellite villages or hamlets, the inhabitants of which considered themselves as belonging to that city, although most of their lives were spent outside the cities and their livelihoods derived from farming or other rural activities. The resulting close connection between urban dwellers and the surrounding farmers, indeed the fact that they were often identical in that urban dwellers also had farms in which they lived for much of the year, was noted by early European travelers to Yorubaland. Even in 1990, many Yoruba urban dwellers owned farms within a reasonable distance from the city and worked them regularly. Moreover, many villagers owned houses, rooms, or partly completed structures in nearby towns or cities and divided their time, investments, and activities between urban and rural settings. Thus, the traditional pattern of urban-rural interconnections continued to be a deeply rooted facet of Yoruba culture.
Among the most important interactions between rural and urban areas through the 1980s in Nigeria and most other parts of Africa were the demographic impacts of urban migration on rural areas. Because the great majority of migrants were men of working age, the rural areas from which they came were left with a demographically unbalanced population of women, younger children, and older people. This phenomenon was not new to Nigeria and had been evident in parts of the country since long before independence. The 1953 census showed that the crowded rural regions of Igboland, among other areas, had already experienced a substantial migration of men, leaving a large preponderance of women in the prime working ages. In what is today Imo State, for example, the sex ratio (i.e., the ratio of men to women, multiplied by 100) for the zero to fourteen age-group in 1953 was 100.2, but for ages fifteen to forty-nine, it fell to 79.1, indicating a large surplus of females. Many of the male Igbo migrants left to work in the cities of the north and southwest. Although the civil war subsequently caused many Igbos to return to the southeast, the overall scale and geographic extent of rural-urban migration in the country had increased steadily after the war. Migration was strongly stimulated by the oil boom of the 1970s, with all of the opportunities that era brought for making one's fortune in cities such as Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Warri, as well as others that were indirectly affected by the oil economy. Since then, migration has waxed and waned with the state of the economy. In the late 1980s, many young people were compelled by the sharp downturn of the economy and the shortage of urban employment to return to their home villages. As a longer-term phenomenon, however, migration from the rural areas, especially by young men, was expected to be an accelerating and largely irreversible social process.
This process affected the rural economy in the areas of migration by creating marked changes in the gender division of labor. In most of Africa, agricultural labor was traditionally specified by gender: men had certain tasks and women had others, although the specific divisions varied by culture and ethnic group. As working-age men left the rural areas, the resulting labor gap was met by others, usually wives or children, or by hired labor--or the tasks were modified or not performed. The departure of men helped to generate a lively market for rural wage labor. In many areas in 1990, male and female laborers were commonly hired to perform agricultural tasks such as land preparation, weeding, and harvesting, which in the past were done either by household labor or traditional work parties. In turn, the growth in demand for hired labor fostered an increase of seasonal and longer term intrarural migration. The improvement of roads was also extremely important in stimulating the scale of seasonal labor migration. It became feasible, for example, for Hausa and other northern workers to come south to work as hired laborers in the cocoa belt and elsewhere at the onset of the rains and later return to their home villages in time to plant their own crops.
In more remote areas, however, finding hired workers was often difficult. The absence of men led to neglect of such tasks as land clearing and heavy soil conservation work, which they generally performed. Thus, in forest areas from which there was much male migration, thickly overgrown land that had been left fallow for extended periods would not be cleared for cultivation; instead, the same parcels were used repeatedly, leading to rapid declines in soil fertility and yields. As a result, land degradation also occurred in these low density areas.
Some of the most profound impacts of urban areas on the rural economy derived from the vast increase in food demand generated by the growth of cities. Both the amounts and types of foods consumed by urban populations helped to transform agricultural systems and practices. Cassava, corn, and fresh vegetable production especially benefited from the expansion of urban demand. Cassava tubers can be processed by fermenting, grating, and drying to produce a powdered product known as gari, which can be stored and is very suitable for cooking in urban settings. Especially throughout the southern parts of the country, gari demand grew rapidly with the expansion of urban populations, causing a large increase in cassava planting and processing, largely done by women as a cottage industry. Demand for and production of corn also increased significantly. In the early portion of the harvest season, fresh corn sold as roadside "fast food" became a highly profitable endeavor, especially in cities. Throughout the northern areas of the country, corn production for dried grain--most of which was grown for sale to urban areas--also expanded rapidly through the 1980s, supplementing or replacing some of the traditional sorghum and millet production. The expansion of commercial chicken and egg production, also largely for the urban market, further raised demand for corn as feed.
The expansion and improvement of the transport network in the 1970s and 1980s played a key role in tying urban markets to rural producing regions. This linkage was most critical for fresh vegetable production, which previously was very limited in geographical extent but became feasible and profitable in many areas once efficient transport connections to urban areas were established. The continued growth of urbanization and expansion of transport capacity were likely to be the major driving forces of agricultural production and modernization through the 1990s.
There were three fundamentally distinct education systems in Nigeria in 1990: the indigenous system, Quranic schools, and formal European-style education institutions. In the rural areas where the majority lived, children learned the skills of farming and other work, as well as the duties of adulthood, from participation in the community. This process was often supplemented by age-based schools in which groups of young boys were instructed in community responsibilities by mature men. Apprentice systems were widespread throughout all occupations; the trainee provided service to the teacher over a period of years and eventually struck out on his own. Truck driving, building trades, and all indigenous crafts and services from leather work to medicine were passed down in families and acquired through apprenticeship training as well. In 1990 this indigenous system included more than 50 percent of the school-age population and operated almost entirely in the private sector; there was virtually no regulation by the government unless training included the need for a license. By the 1970s, education experts were asking how the system could be integrated into the more formal schooling of the young, but the question remained unresolved by 1990.
Islamic education was part of religious duty. Children learned up to one or two chapters of the Quran by rote from a local mallam, or religious teacher, before they were five or six years old. Religious learning included the Arabic alphabet and the ability to read and copy texts in the language, along with those texts required for daily prayers. Any Islamic community provided such instruction in a mallam's house, under a tree on a thoroughfare, or in a local mosque. This primary level was the most widespread. A smaller number of those young Muslims who wished, or who came from wealthier or more educated homes, went on to examine the meanings of the Arabic texts. Later, grammar, syntax, arithmetic, algebra, logic, rhetoric, jurisprudence, and theology were added; these subjects required specialist teachers at the advanced level. After this level, students traditionally went on to one of the famous Islamic centers of learning.
For the vast majority, Muslim education was delivered informally under the tutelage of mallams or ulama, scholars who specialized in religious learning and teaching. Throughout the colonial period, a series of formal Muslim schools were set up and run on European lines. These schools were established in almost all major Nigerian cities but were notable in Kano, where Islamic brotherhoods developed an impressive number of schools. They catered to the children of the devout and the well-to-do who wished to have their children educated in the new and necessary European learning, but within a firmly religious context. Such schools were influential as a form of local private school that retained the predominance of religious values within a modernized school system. Because the government took over all private and parochial schools in the mid-1970s and only allowed such schools to exist again independently in 1990, data are lacking concerning numbers of students enrolled.
Western-style education came to Nigeria with the missionaries in the mid-nineteenth century. Although the first mission school was founded in 1843 by Methodists, it was the Anglican Church Missionary Society that pushed forward in the early 1850s to found a chain of missions and schools, followed quickly in the late 1850s by the Roman Catholics. In 1887 in what is now southern Nigeria, an education department was founded that began setting curricula requirements and administered grants to the mission societies. By 1914, when north and south were united into one colony, there were fifty-nine government and ninety-one mission primary schools in the south; all eleven secondary schools, except for King's College in Lagos, were run by the missions. The missions got a foothold in the middle belt; a mission school for the sons of chiefs was opened in Zaria in 1907 but lasted only two years. In 1909 Hans Vischer, an ex-Anglican missionary, was asked to organize the education system of the Protectorate Northern Nigeria. Schools were set up and grants given to missions in the middle belt. In 1914 there were 1,100 primary school pupils in the north, compared with 35,700 in the south; the north had no secondary schools, compared with eleven in the south. By the 1920s, the pressure for school places in the south led to increased numbers of independent schools financed by local efforts and to the sending of favorite sons overseas for more advanced training.
The education system focused strongly on examinations. In 1916 Frederick Lugard, first governor of the unified colony, set up a school inspectorate. Discipline, buildings, and adequacy of teaching staff were to be inspected, but the most points given to a school's performance went to the numbers and rankings of its examination results. This stress on examinations was still used in 1990 to judge educational results and to obtain qualifications for jobs in government and the private sector.
Progress in education was slow but steady throughout the colonial era until the end of World War II. By 1950 the country had developed a three-tiered system of primary, secondary, and higher education based on the British model of wide participation at the bottom, sorting into academic and vocational training at the secondary level, and higher education for a small elite destined for leadership. On the eve of independence in the late 1950s, Nigeria had gone through a decade of exceptional educational growth leading to a movement for universal primary education in the Western Region. In the north, primary school enrollments went from 66,000 in 1947 to 206,000 in 1957, in the west (mostly Yoruba areas) from 240,000 to 983,000 in the same period, and in the east from 320,000 to 1,209,000. Secondary level enrollments went from 10,000 for the country as a whole in 1947 to 36,000 in 1957; 90 percent of these, however, were in the south.
Given the central importance of formal education, it soon became "the largest social programme of all governments of the federation," absorbing as much as 40 percent of the budgets of some state governments. Thus, by 1984-85 more than 13 million pupils attended almost 35,000 public primary schools. At the secondary level, approximately 3.7 million students were attending 6,500 schools (these numbers probably included enrollment in private schools), and about 125,000 postsecondary level students were attending 35 colleges and universities. The pressure on the system remained intense in 1990, so much so that one education researcher predicted 800,000 higher level students by the end of the 1990s, with a correlated growth in numbers and size of all education institutions to match this estimate.
Universal primary education became official policy for the federation in the 1970s. The goal has not been reached despite pressure throughout the 1980s to do so. In percentage terms, accomplishments have been impressive. Given an approximate population of 49.3 million in 1957 with 23 percent in the primary school age-group (ages five to fourteen), the country had 21 percent of its school-age population attending in the period just prior to independence, after what was probably a tripling of the age-group in the preceding decade. By 1985 with an estimated population of 23 million between ages five and fourteen, approximately 47 percent of the age-group attended school. Although growth slowed and actually decreased in some rural areas in the late 1980s, it was projected that by the early part of the next century universal primary education would be achieved.
Secondary and postsecondary level growth was much more dramatic. The secondary level age-group (ages fifteen to twenty- four) represented approximately 16 percent of the entire population in 1985. Secondary level education was available for approximately 0.5 percent of the age-group in 1957, and for 22 percent of the age-group in 1985. In the early 1960s, there were approximately 4,000 students at six institutions (Ibadan, Ife, Lagos, Ahmadu Bello University, the University of Nigeria at Nsukka, and the Institute of Technology at Benin), rising to 19,000 by 1971 and to 30,000 by 1975. In 1990 there were thirty-five polytechnic institutes, military colleges, and state and federal universities, plus colleges of education and of agriculture; they had an estimated enrollment of 150,000 to 200,000, representing less than 1 percent of the twenty-one to twenty-nine-year-old age-group.
Such growth was impossible without incurring a host of problems, several of which were so severe as to endanger the entire system of education. As long as the country was growing apace in terms of jobs for the educated minority through investment in expanded government agencies and services and the private sector, the growing numbers of graduates could be absorbed. But the criterion of examination results as the primary sorting device for access to schools and universities led to widespread corruption and cheating among faculty and students at all levels, but especially secondary and postsecondary. Most Nigerian universities had followed the British higher education system of "final examinations" as the basis for granting degrees, but by 1990 many were shifting to the United States system of course credits. Economic hardship among teaching staffs produced increased engagement in nonacademic moonlighting activities. Added to these difficulties were such factors as the lack of books and materials, no incentive for research and writing, the use of outdated notes and materials, and the deficiency of replacement laboratory equipment. One researcher noted that in the 1980s Nigeria had the lowest number of indigenous engineers per capita of any Third World country. Unfortunately, nothing was done to rectify the situation. The teaching of English, which was the language of instruction beyond primary school, had reached such poor levels that university faculty complained they could not understand the written work of their students. By 1990 the crisis in education was such that it was predicted that by the end of the decade, there would be insufficient personnel to run essential services of the country. It was hoped that the publication of critical works and international attention to this crisis might reverse the situation before Nigeria lost an entire generation or more of its skilled labor force.
Whereas traditional medicine continued to play an important role in Nigeria in 1990, the country made great strides in the provision of modern health care to its population in the years since World War II, particularly in the period after independence. Among the most notable accomplishments were the expansion of medical education, the improvement of public health care, the control of many contagious diseases and disease vectors, and the provision of primary health care in many urban and rural areas. In the late 1980s, a large increase in vaccination against major childhood diseases and a significant expansion of primary health care became the cornerstones of the government's health policies.
Nonetheless, many problems remained in 1990. Sharp disparities persisted in the availability of medical facilities among the regions, rural and urban areas, and socioeconomic classes. The severe economic stresses of the late 1980s had serious impacts throughout the country on the availability of medical supplies, drugs, equipment, and personnel. In the rapidly growing cities, inadequate sanitation and water supply increased the threat of infectious disease, while health care facilities were generally not able to keep pace with the rate of urban population growth. There were several serious outbreaks of infectious diseases during the 1980s, including cerebrospinal meningitis and yellow fever, for which, especially in rural areas, treatment or preventive immunization was often difficult to obtain. Chronic diseases, such as malaria and guinea worm, continued to resist efforts to reduce their incidence in many areas. The presence of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in Nigeria was confirmed by 1987 and appeared to be growing.
Western medicine was not formally introduced into Nigeria until the 1860s, when the Sacred Heart Hospital was established by Roman Catholic missionaries in Abeokuta. Throughout the ensuing colonial period, the religious missions played a major role in the supply of modern health care facilities in Nigeria. The Roman Catholic missions predominanted, accounting for about 40 percent of the total number of mission-based hospital beds by 1960. By that time, mission hospitals somewhat exceeded government hospitals in number: 118 mission hospitals, compared with 101 government hospitals.
Mission-based facilities were concentrated in certain areas, depending on the religious and other activities of the missions. Roman Catholic hospitals in particular were concentrated in the southeastern and midwestern areas. By 1954 almost all the hospitals in the midwestern part of the country were operated by Roman Catholic missions. The next largest sponsors of mission hospitals were, respectively, the Sudan United Mission, which concentrated on middle belt areas, and the Sudan Interior Mission, which worked in the Islamic north. Together they operated twenty-five hospitals or other facilities in the northern half of the country. Many of the mission hospitals remained important components of the health care network in the north in 1990.
The missions also played an important role in medical training and education, providing training for nurses and paramedical personnel and sponsoring basic education as well as advanced medical training, often in Europe, for many of the first generation of Western-educated Nigerian doctors. In addition, the general education provided by the missions for many Nigerians helped to lay the groundwork for a wider distribution and acceptance of modern medical care.
The British colonial government began providing formal medical services with the construction of several clinics and hospitals in Lagos, Calabar, and other coastal trading centers in the 1870s. Unlike the missionary facilities, these were, at least initially, solely for the use of Europeans. Services were later extended to African employees of European concerns. Government hospitals and clinics expanded to other areas of the country as European activity increased there. The hospital in Jos, for example, was founded in 1912 after the initiation there of tin mining.
World War I had a strong detrimental effect on medical services in Nigeria because of the large number of medical personnel, both European and African, who were pulled out to serve in Europe. After the war, medical facilities were expanded substantially, and a number of government-sponsored schools for the training of Nigerian medical assistants were established. Nigerian physicians, even if trained in Europe, were, however, generally prohibited from practicing in government hospitals unless they were serving African patients. This practice led to protests and to frequent involvement by doctors and other medical personnel in the nationalist movements of the period.
After World War II, partly in response to nationalist agitation, the colonial government tried to extend modern health and education facilities to much of the Nigerian population. A ten-year health development plan was announced in 1946. The University of Ibadan was founded in 1948; it included the country's first full faculty of medicine and university hospital, still known as University College Hospital. A number of nursing schools were established, as were two schools of pharmacy; by 1960 there were sixty-five government nursing or midwifery training schools. The 1946 health plan established the Ministry of Health to coordinate health services throughout the country, including those provided by the government, by private companies, and by the missions. The plan also budgeted funds for hospitals and clinics, most of which were concentrated in the main cities; little funding was allocated for rural health centers. There was also a strong imbalance between the appropriation of facilities to southern areas, compared with those in the north.
By 1979 there were 562 general hospitals, supplemented by 16 maternity and/or pediatric hospitals, 11 armed forces hospitals, 6 teaching hospitals, and 3 prison hospitals. Altogether they accounted for about 44,600 hospital beds. In addition, general health centers were estimated to total slightly less than 600; general clinics 2,740; maternity homes 930; and maternal health centers 1,240.
Ownership of health establishments was divided among federal, state, and local governments, and there were privately owned facilities. Whereas the great majority of health establishments were government owned, there was a growing number of private institutions through the 1980s. By 1985 there were 84 health establishments owned by the federal government (accounting for 13 percent of hospital beds); 3,023 owned by state governments (47 percent of hospital beds); 6,331 owned by local governments (11 percent of hospital beds); and 1,436 privately owned establishments (providing 14 percent of hospital beds).
The problems of geographic maldistribution of medical facilities among the regions and of the inadequacy of rural facilities persisted. By 1980 the ratios were an estimated 3,800 people per hospital bed in the north (Borno, Kaduna, Kano, Niger, and Sokoto states); 2,200 per bed in the middle belt (Bauchi, Benue, Gongola, Kwara, and Plateau states); 1,300 per bed in the southeast (Anambra, Cross River, Imo, and Rivers states); and 800 per bed in the southwest (Bendel, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, and Oyo states). There were also significant disparities within each of the regions. For example, in 1980 there were an estimated 2,600 people per physician in Lagos State, compared with 38,000 per physician in the much more rural Ondo State.
In a comparison of the distribution of hospitals between urban and rural areas in 1980, Dennis Ityavyar found that whereas approximately 80 percent of the population of those states lived in rural regions, only 42 percent of hospitals were located in those areas. The maldistribution of physicians was even more marked because few trained doctors who had a choice wanted to live in rural areas. Many of the doctors who did work in rural areas were there as part of their required service in the National Youth Service Corps, established in 1973. Few, however, remained in remote areas beyond their required term.
Hospitals were divided into general wards, which provided both outpatient and inpatient care for a small fee, and amenity wards, which charged higher fees but provided better conditions. The general wards were usually very crowded, and there were long waits for registration as well as for treatment. Patients frequently did not see a doctor, but only a nurse or other practitioner. Many types of drugs were not available at the hospital pharmacy; those that were available were usually dispensed without containers, meaning the patients had to provide their own. The inpatient wards were extremely crowded; beds were in corridors and even consisted of mattresses on floors. Food was free for very poor patients who had no one to provide for them. Most, however, had relatives or friends present, who prepared or brought food and often stayed in the hospital with the patient. By contrast, in the amenity wards available to wealthier or elite patients, food and better care were provided, and drug availability was greater. The highest level of the Nigerian elite frequently traveled abroad for medical care, particularly when a serious medical problem existed.
In the early 1980s, because of shortages of fuel and spare parts, much expensive medical equipment could not be operated. Currency devaluation and structural adjustment beginning in 1986 exacerbated these conditions. Imported goods of all types doubled or tripled in price, and government and public health care facilities were severely affected by rising costs, government budget cuts, and materials shortages of the late 1980s. Partly as a result of these problems, privately owned health care facilities became increasingly important in the late 1980s. The demand for modern medical care far outstripped its availability. Medical personnel, drugs, and equipment were increasingly diverted to the private sector as government hospitals deteriorated.
Government health policies increasingly had become an issue of policy debate and public contention in the late 1980s. The issue emerged during the Constituent Assembly held in 1989 to draft a proposed constitution. The original draft reported by the assembly included a clause specifying that free and adequate health care was to be available as a matter of right to all Nigerians within certain categories. The categories included all children younger than eighteen; all people sixty-five and older; and all those physically disabled or handicapped. This provision was, however, deleted by the president and the governing council when they reviewed the draft constitution.
In August 1987, the federal government launched its Primary Health Care plan (PHC), which President Ibrahim Babangida announced as the cornerstone of health policy. Intended to affect the entire national population, its main stated objectives included accelerated health care personnel development; improved collection and monitoring of health data; ensured availability of essential drugs in all areas of the country; implementation of an Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI); improved nutrition throughout the country; promotion of health awareness; development of a national family health program; and widespread promotion of oral rehydration therapy for treatment of diarrheal disease in infants and children. Implementation of these programs was intended to take place mainly through collaboration between the Ministry of Health and participating local government councils, which received direct grants from the federal government.
Of these objectives, the EPI was the most concrete and probably made the greatest progress initially. The immunization program focused on four major childhood diseases: pertussis, diphtheria, measles, and polio, and tetanus and tuberculosis. Its aim was to increase dramatically the proportion of immunized children younger than two from about 20 percent to 50 percent initially, and to 90 percent by the end of 1990. Launched in March 1988, the program by August 1989 was said to have been established in more than 300 of 449 LGAs. Although the program was said to have made much progress, its goal of 90 percent coverage was probably excessively ambitious, especially in view of the economic strains of structural adjustment that permeated the Nigerian economy throughout the late 1980s.
The government's population control program also came partially under the PHC. By the late 1980s, the official policy was strongly to encourage women to have no more than four children, which would represent a substantial reduction from the estimated fertility rate of almost seven children per woman in 1987. No official sanctions were attached to the government's population policy, but birth control information and contraceptive supplies were available in many health facilities.
The federal government also sought to improve the availability of pharmaceutical drugs. Foreign exchange had to be released for essential drug imports, so the government attempted to encourage local drug manufacture; because raw materials for local drug manufacture had to be imported, however, costs were reduced only partially. For Nigeria both to limit its foreign exchange expenditures and simultaneously to implement massive expansion in primary health care, foreign assistance would probably be needed. Despite advances against many infectious diseases, Nigeria's population continued through the 1980s to be subject to several major diseases, some of which occurred in acute outbreaks causing hundreds or thousands of deaths, while others recurred chronically, causing large-scale infection and debilitation. Among the former were cerebrospinal meningitis, yellow fever, Lassa fever and, most recently, AIDS; the latter included malaria, guinea worm, schistosomiasis (bilharzia), and onchocerciasis (river blindness). Malnutrition and its attendant diseases also continued to be a refractory problem among infants and children in many areas, despite the nation's economic and agricultural advances.
Among the worst of the acute diseases was cerebrospinal meningitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord, which can recur in periodic epidemic outbreaks. Northern Nigeria is one of the most heavily populated regions in what is considered the meningitis belt of Africa, stretching from Senegal to Sudan and all areas having a long dry season and low humidity between December and April. The disease plagued the northern and middle belt areas in 1986 and 1989, generally appearing during the cool, dry harmattan season when people spend more time indoors, promoting contagious spread. Paralysis, and often death, can occur within forty-eight hours of the first symptoms.
In response to the outbreaks, the federal and state governments in 1989 attempted mass immunization in the affected regions. Authorities pointed, however, to the difficulty of storing vaccines in the harsh conditions of northern areas, many of which also had poor roads and inadequate medical facilities.
Beginning in November 1986 and for several months thereafter, a large outbreak of yellow fever occurred in scattered areas. The most heavily affected were the states of Oyo, Imo, Anambra, and Cross River in the south, Benue and Niger in the middle belt, and Kaduna and Sokoto in the north. There were at least several hundred deaths. Fourteen million doses of vaccine were distributed with international assistance, and the outbreak was brought under control.
Lassa fever, a highly contagious and virulent viral disease, appeared periodically in the 1980s in various areas. The disease was first identified in 1969 in the northeast Nigerian town of Lassa. It is believed that rats and other rodents are reservoirs of the virus, and that transmission to humans can occur through droppings or food contamination in and around homes. Mortality rates can be high, and there is no known treatment.
The presence of AIDS in Nigeria was officially confirmed in 1987, considerably later than its appearance and wide dispersion in much of East and Central Africa. In March 1987, the minister of health announced that tests of a pool of blood samples collected from high risk groups had turned up two confirmed cases of AIDS, both HIV Type-1 strains. Subsequently, HIV-2, a somewhat less virulent strain found mainly in West Africa, was also confirmed. In 1990 the infection rate for either virus in Nigeria was thought to be below 1 percent of the population.
Less dramatic than the acute infectious diseases but often equally destructive were a host of chronic diseases that were serious and widespread but only occasionally resulted in death. Of these the most common was malaria, including cerebral malaria, which can be fatal. The guinea worm parasite, which is spread through ingestion of contaminated water, is endemic in many rural areas, causing recurring illness and occasionally permanently crippling its victims. The World Health Organization (WHO) in 1987 estimated that there were 3 million cases of guinea worm in Nigeria--about 2 percent of the world total of 140 million cases- -making Nigeria the nation with the highest number of guinea worm cases. In affected areas, guinea worm and related complications were estimated to be the major cause of work and school absenteeism.
Virtually all affected states had campaigns under way to eradicate the disease through education and provision of pure drinking water supplies to rural villages. The government has set an ambitious target of full eradication by 1995, with extensive assistance from the Japanese government, Global 2000, and numerous other international donors.
The parasitic diseases onchocerciasis and schistosomiasis, both associated with bodies of water, were found in parts of Nigeria. Onchocerciasis is caused by filarial worms transmitted by small black flies that typically live and breed near rapidly flowing water. The worms can damage the eyes and optic nerve and can cause blindness by young adulthood or later. In some villages near the Volta River tributaries where the disease is endemic, up to 20 percent of adults older than thirty are blind because of the disease. Most control efforts have focused on a dual strategy of treating the sufferers and trying to eliminate the flies, usually with insecticide sprays. The flies and the disease are most common in the lowland savanna areas of the middle belt.
Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes, which use freshwater snails as an intermediate host and invade humans when the larvae penetrate the skin of people entering a pond, lake, or stream in which the snails live. Most often, schistosomiasis results in chronic debilitation rather than acute illness.
Welfare concerns in Nigeria were primarily related to its general lack of development and the effects on the society of the economic stringency of the 1980s. Given the steady population growth and the decline in urban services and incomes since 1980, it was difficult not to conclude that for the mass of the people at the lower income level, malnutrition, poor health, and overcrowded housing were perpetual problems.
Nigeria had no social security system. Less than 1 percent of the population older than sixty years received pensions. Because of the younger age of urban migrants, there were fewer older people per family unit in urban areas. Official statistics were questionable, however, because at least one survey indicated a number of elderly living alone in northern cities or homeless persons living on the streets and begging. There was some evidence that the traditional practice of caring for parents was beginning to erode under harsh conditions of scarcity in urban areas. In rural Nigeria, it was still the rule that older people were cared for by their children, grandchildren, spouses, siblings, or even ex-spouses. The ubiquity of this tradition left open, however, the possibility of real hardship for urban elderly whose families had moved away or abandoned them.
Traditionally, family problems with spouses or children were handled by extended kinship groups and local authorities. For the most part, this practice continued in the rural areas. In urban settings, social services were either absent or rare for family conflict, for abandoned or runaway children, for foster children, or for children under the care of religious instructors.
As with many other Third World nations, Nigeria had many social welfare problems that needed attention. The existence of a relatively free press combined with a history of self-criticism-- in journalism, the arts, the social sciences, and by religious and political leaders were promising indications of the awareness and public debate required for change and adaptive response to its social problems.