This paper reviews the different perspectives that have been utilized to shed light on the phenomenon of ethnicity in Nigeria, arguably one of the world's most ethnically diverse countries. From an overview of the literature, this paper argues that while these perspectives have benefited from debates on ethnicity worldwide, Nigerian responses to historical developments such as the gruesome civil war in Nigeria have enriched the study of ethnicity. It notes, in particular, the dominance of instrumentalist interpretations in the literature that privilege the role of elites in ethnic mobilization and conflicts. The paper also suggests that such a position needs to be substantiated through a consideration of the connections and disconnections between elite and mass interests through a systematic study of horizontal inequalities.
CRISE Working Paper 12, 21 pp.